Good morning, Broncos Country!
If you happened to watch the Thursday Night Football shootout between the Raiders and Chiefs last night, you probably came away with two thoughts:
“Holy #&*@! That was actually a good Thursday night game!”
“Holy #&*@! There is no way the Broncos offense could compete with either of these teams, and the Broncos defense is definitely going to struggle.”
OK, that’s way more pessimism than I can handle, so I’ll back off the ledge and remind you to do the same.
But I won’t lie - I long to see a Broncos offense someday very soon look like either of those teams last night (and I pray our defense is up to the task of reminding both of them very soon that neither has any business trying to score so many points).
Thankfully, the Broncos’ opponent this weekend is not yet the Chiefs or Raiders, but they do play another big AFC West rivalry game against a down-but-not-out-and-on-the-way-up Chargers team.
The Chargers are hot right now, having won their last two in dramatic comeback fashion after an 0-4 start (including a bit of a fluke loss to the Broncos at Mile High) while the Broncos are trying to snap out of their funk from the last three games that include two losses and one skin-of-their-chinny-chin-chin wins.
In this week’s news conferences there were a few hints that the Broncos coaches and players have done that and will be ready to beat a hungry Chargers team desperate to win, desperate to win at home, desperate to beat their old coach.
And they have some pretty good weapons to make their case, so here are three keys for the Broncos to go into the smaller-than-your-college Stubhub Center field and get the W.
Take the $%!@ ball away
So far our “ball-hawking defense” has been more like a bluebird picking at some random seeds than a bird of prey locking on its victim and having no mercy - and that needs to change if this defense is going to have the effect on the entire game the way it is designed to.
Broncos have just four takeaways across five games. This time last year, the defense had nine takeaways, while the previous year it had a jaw-dropping 14 through the first five games.
Defensive coordinator Joe Woods noted that teams recognize the dangerous pass-rushing duo in Von Miller and Shaq Barrett and are getting rid of the ball quickly to negate QB pressure AND No Fly Zone prowess.
“We’re creating a lot of incompletions, but we don’t have a lot of opportunities to make plays on the ball. That’s the negative part,” Woods said. “The positive is if you look at third downs, we’re second in the league in third downs. If you look at fourth downs, we’re first in the league. So, we’re getting off the field and we’re doing what we need to do, they’re just not giving us a lot of opportunity to get turnovers in terms of interceptions.”
(psst, Coach...they’re not likely to “give” us more opportunities as the season goes by either)
We may have the @NFL's No. 1 defense (261.8 ypg).— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) October 20, 2017
But we're still not satisfied.
"We've got to get turnovers."
But even if I’m a little concerned about this stat, Von Miller is not.
“You just have to think about it. It just has to be conscious. It has to be a conscious effort to really go out there and try to strip the ball,” Miller said, noting a few strip sacks in the Giants and Raiders games he definitely missed. “I guess, we just haven’t had our break yet. But, we’re definitely working on it. It’s definitely a priority of ours. If we could still play the same defense that we’ve been playing and add on some turnovers, we’d be more than good.”
As Adam Malnatti and Ian St. Clair point out in their podcast, the No Fly Zone ranks 14th among all NFL secondaries. Given the talent on this squad, it should easily be top five.
Give the ball to Jamaal Charles. Give the ball to Jamaal Charles. Give ...
I never pretend to be a savvy Xs and Os girl, but I do know that running up the middle into a bunch of big guys pushing you backward is not a sound strategy.
C.J. Anderson doesn’t seem to notice this often enough, but you know who does?
That’s right, Jamaal Charles.
The speedy pants running back has been given the ball 10 times or less each game, despite an average of 5.1 yards per carry.
Keeping the nearly 31-year-old running back on a snap count to save his body and protect his knees is fine. But if No. 28 sits too long without a chance to show off that speed and shiftiness, not only will those knees get stiff, the chance for a legit running game and a semi-competent offense will vanish.
Plus, with the super stout pass-rushing duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa bearing down on Trevor Siemian, the Broncos offense must get rid of the ball quickly. Handing off to a guy who still leaves a trail of fire behind him will be crucial for Trevor Siemian and will possibly be the offense’s best chance of survival on Sunday.
Not to mention, Charles can freakin’ block.
Jamaal Charles chip block de-cleats the edge rusher #Broncos pic.twitter.com/Opypble8cg— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) August 31, 2017
Getting him more involved in the game - while keeping his effort still slightly limited -can only mean good things for Denver.
“They’re two of the best in the league,” Mike McCoy said of Ingram and Bosa. “You have to do a great job of making good, quick decisions with the football. You have to help in protection certain times. ...You can see the success they’ve had this year and it doesn’t surprise me one bit.”
Good. Now let’s game plan so it doesn’t surprise our right tackle, shall we?
Both McCoy and Joseph have praised Charles’ talent, and both were coy about how much they’d like to use him going forward.
But Joseph hinted on Wednesday that he’d definitely like to see more of Charles.
“That’s always the plan with Jamaal as we go forward in the season,” Joseph said. “He’ll get more and more touches.”
Jamaal Charles has forced 11 missed tackles on 38 carries.— Heath Cummings (@heathcummingssr) October 19, 2017
C.J. Anderson has forced 13 on 82.
Have a plan for Hunter Henry
It is no secret that possibly our weakest link on defense now is covering the middle - which generally means allowing athletic tight ends to take advantage of their strength and speed in open space across the center for big gains.
The Chargers’ Hunter Henry has played a big role in the team’s success the last two games, and there’s no reason to think the Chargers won’t dish him up again, particularly since his ability threatens to expose a major Denver weakness - coverage over the middle.
Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 defenses this week, giving the Broncos a sixth-place listing. While Miller was its highest-ranked defensive player for the Broncos with 88.4, linebacker Brandon Marshall was the lowest at 62.7.
Many critics are blaming the increased use of zone by the Broncos this year as a reason for this coverage problem, but that could be more an issue of execution and discipline by the inside linebackers than a scheme fit.
Joseph says the Broncos defense has a plan for Henry as well as Antonio Gates - but he’s not telling.
“The problem when you have tight ends like that, if you play coverage and they hand the ball off you’re kind of soft in the run game. If you play the run game, you’re soft in pass coverage. You have to decide by down and distance and by parts of the game how you play those guys,” Joseph said. “I won’t share that with you. We do have a plan for those two guys.”
.@raiders will begin stacking W's when they stop making critical errors. No way #HunterHenry should get this much space #BaldyBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/XSmgXLKm3a— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) October 17, 2017
Horse Tracks - docllv’s picks of the day
Chiefs vs. Raiders final score: Wild ending as Kansas City loses, 31-30 | Arrowhead Pride What a way for the Kansas City Chiefs to lose. The Oakland Raiders win, 31-30. This game had a little bit of everything, including one of the wildest endings I remember.
Party like it's 1988! Enrique Hernandez, Dodgers slam Cubs to seal first World Series trip in 29 years
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Albert Wilson's big TD draws social media reaction - NFL.com
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Marshawn Lynch ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct - NFL.com
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Steelers' Mike Mitchell fined $48,620 for Alex Smith hit - NFL.com
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Packers' Aaron Rodgers has surgery on collarbone - NFL.com
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Hunter Henry emerging as go-to guy in Los Angeles Chargers offense
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Trevor Williams is the unsung hero on this Chargers team - Bolts From The Blue
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Jordan Taylor and Hunter Sharp will return punts for Broncos | Broncos Wire
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Nick Novak stabilizes kicking game for Los Angeles Chargers
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Broncos hope TE Jake Butt can play within next two weeks | Broncos Wire
Denver Broncos rookie tight end Jake Butt could make his NFL debut in Week 8 or Week 9 this season.
Ranking all 32 NFL defenses after Week 6 | NFL Analysis | Pro Football Focus
Ranking the NFL's defensive units utilizing play-by-play grading for every player on defense by facet of play (run defense, pass-rush, coverage, etc.), and weighting them by how much each area correlates to wins and losses through PFF research.
With Sanders and McKenzie out, the Broncos turn to others to step up
With two key weapons out vs. the Chargers, the Broncos are looking to their reserve receivers to fill in for Emmanuel Sanders and Isaiah McKenzie.
Vance Joseph gives update on Broncos QB Paxton Lynch | Broncos Wire
Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph gave an update on injured quarterback Paxton Lynch on Thursday.
Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson gives back to Houston families impacted by Hurricane Harvey
The Texans' rookie quarterback has shown how good he can be on the football field, but the 22-year-old proved he can have an impact in the community as well.
Spotlight on Johnson Bademosi as DB gets bigger role for Patriots - New England Patriots Blog- ESPN
Filling in for injured starter Stephon Gilmore has meant lots of attention for cornerback Johnson Bademosi as he prepares for another Patriots start.
Cleveland Browns 2017 quarterback play among worst of last decade - 2017
You thought our QB situation wasn't too hot. At least we aren't the the 2017 Cleveland Browns who have collected a Total QBR of 21.9, which would be the fourth worst of the Total QBR era.
Jared Goff raising money for CA wildfire relief efforts - NFL.com
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff launched a GoFundMe page to help rage money for disaster relief for victims of the wildfires in Northern California.