Early in the week head coach Sean Payton reminded the media that there were a lot of learning opportunities from the Raiders game, so they looked at them.
And then they moved on.
“The first four weeks, we’re in this urgent race to improve, so hopefully that’s the case. I think it’s critical,” Payton said, adding that he was told a stat that three different times the Denver Broncos started with a loss and then went 13-3 or 13-3. “You are in this race to get better in the first quarter poll of the season.”
And Payton and his Broncos will have an early test of whether they improved when they host the Commanders on Sunday.
Washington boasts one of the best defensive fronts in the game right now, led by Chase Young and Montez Sweat, but the entire line is formidable.
And everyone knows it.
“They create a lot of minus plays,” Payton said. “I’m not even talking about rushing the passer. Just within the framework of the run game, they’re really active, and they’re athletic. ...They’re a handful. You have to look closely at what you want to do in the running game, and then, certainly in the protections, as well.”
Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi pointed out that they don’t have a complicated secondary but the pressure up front creates issues down the field for offenses.
“It starts with their pass rush. They don’t give you a lot of time. They’re not super complex on the back end, but they stay close to the receivers,” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “They make it challenging to get the ball out quickly, and then they’re on your quarterback quickly. It’s a good combination and good scheme, and they’re well-coached. It starts with the pass rush. There’s just not a lot of time to throw the football.”
#Broncos have a tough #Commanders— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) September 17, 2023
defense on tap today.
But having @jerryjeudy back on the field should give them a big boost.
Let's hope. It's Week 2 and we're already talking about must-win games #WASvsDENhttps://t.co/jMOnOh0b3M
But having Jerry Jeudy back in the lineup gives the Broncos options - and a chance.
“He’s a great route-runner. You feel really good when he’s matched up man-to-man, so when you recognize that, [he’s] someone you look to early as a quarterback. [He’s] a guy that consistently can get separation,” Lombardi added. “The more receivers that you have that can win those one-on-one matchups, the easier it is. It’ll definitely be good to have him back.”
Jeudy is the kind of receiver who could create what his quarterback likes to call GAP plays - “game-altering plays.”
“It could be a pass, it may be a catch, it may be a block, a kick, whatever,” Wilson said. “There’s usually two or three a game that changes the game, so let’s go find those and let’s win those moments.”
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos’ defense is hoping to disrupt quarterback Sam Howell a little more than it did Jimmy G last week.
Payton is particularly interested in Howell’s ability to extend plays - and his defense trying to stop it.
“He’s a playmaker. He’s got this ability to extend plays, and that can become problematic,” Payton said. “He’s a confident player, and you can see that they respond to him. ... A different type of player than we saw last week, and we just have to understand what are the things he’s comfortable with and maybe what are the things he’s not as comfortable with.”
Defensive end Zach Allen believes the defense is only going to get better as it plays more, and he looks at this week as an opportunity to test what they learned in last week’s loss.
“Guys did a really good job this week focusing on that and improving and still working and nobody was still hung up on that loss,” Allen said.
That’s a good thing because getting a win this weekend and finishing 1-1 in their two-game home stretch before heading to the sauna in Miami will be crucial.