The Denver Broncos have started the season zero and two in the Sean Payton era, could week three be their opportunity to turn it around and get the ship headed in the right direction? After losing to Las Vegas, and Washington in heart breaking fashion, by a combined three points, can Denver rally to beat arguably their toughest opponent yet?
Week Two Causes for Concern
Russell Wilson looked far less efficient in week two than he did in week one when he completed 79.4%. In week two Wilson went 18 of 32 although he managed 4.4 more per attempt in this game nearly doubling his total yardage from week one. This was a step in the right direction due to taking more deep shots, but he didn’t quell concerns due to the completion rate.
Mike McGlinchey has been terrible since coming to Denver specifically in the passing game. His overall grade after two weeks is 49.4, but what is especially scary is his 36.7 pass blocking grade. This has been the worst start of his entire career so far and if he can’t get this turned around it’s just the latest in a long line of huge misses at the right tackle position. So far in 87 pass blocking snaps, he has allowed 12 pressures, 8 hurries, 2 QB hits, and 2 QB sacks. He has also been penalized twice already. Not a good start for a man Denver paid $52 million guaranteed to solidify this position for the Broncos. They got better production the last two seasons spending a couple million a year on mid to low level replacement players.
The rushing game forced Russell Wilson to take control of this game and fans should be impressed that the soon to be 35 year old quarterback can still break off big runs when he is forced to. On 6 carries Wilson collected 54 yards leading the team in rushing. His long was only 15 yards, which displays his efficiency as a runner. However the fact that the Broncos who employ Javonte Williams, Samaje Perone, and Jaleel McLaughlin were led by 34 year old Russell Wilson in the running game is a problem. At best Wilson should be running 3 times a game and even that should be only when necessary. Wilson has been one of the smallest quarterbacks in the league since being drafted in 2012, and as he gets older his body won’t absorb hits, and heal as quickly as he once did. Jarrett Stidham might be a solid number two but Denver didn’t spend $250 million to watch Wilson rehab from injury while Stidham starts.
The wide receiver room, once touted as one of the deepest groups in the league has been absolutely dismantled due to injury forcing guys like Marvin Mims, and Brandon Johnson to step up in a big way. They combined for 4 receptions for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns on the day. However it’s how quiet Jerry Jeudy was this week, and how ineffective Courtland Sutton has been through two weeks that will prove to be concerning going forward. Having your depth pieces step up is great, having them do so as your top weapons fail to stand apart is something that needs to be corrected.
Jerry Jeudy is just coming off an injury but there was a stretch last season when he looked like he was well on his way to being a top 5 NFL wideout. After week 2 and his pedestrian performance perhaps we need to pump the brakes on that thought. Sutton has suffered many injuries and has never really been much more than the second option in this offense but 9 receptions for 98 yards and 1 touchdown is not exactly the performance that was expected from him either. These two players and their respective roles are crucial to the overall success of the Broncos. In my mind, the Broncos will go as Jeudy goes and right now it looks like this Ferrari is stuck in the mud to begin 2023.
Let’s start with the most obvious point, the Broncos just allowed 35 points to Washington and an offense led by a quarterback drafted in round 5 last season making his third start. Now obviously Sam Howell being 3-0, and his performance so far isn’t an accident, he was clearly under-drafted. However Washington is far from the most talented offensive unit, or play caller that Denver will face this season. This defensive performance was quite frankly unexpected, and very disappointing to say the least.
Death by 1,000 slant routes is the storyline coming from this week. The Broncos defense can be beat on short to intermediate routes that get the ball in the receivers’ hands early and on the run. It wasn’t any one player that took over the game. Howell simply did an amazing job of finding the open receiver. His average depth of target was 6.0 yards on the day but his adjusted completion rate which accounts for dropped passes was 87.5%. He was delivering the ball on-time, and accurate.
The frequency that this kept drives alive and allowed Washington to keep moving the ball down field 7.7 yards per pass attempt. This is a sustainable offense in itself, but then consider that Brian Robinson ran for 4.9 yards per carry this offense was way too comfortable against Denver this week. Adjustments must be made if this team is going to go anywhere, the problem is facing an arguably better offense in week three could make this tough.
How Can Denver Beat Miami?
The Secondary Has to Step Up
Miami has no shortage of weapons at wide receiver with Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, River Cracraft, Braxton Berrios, and Durham Smythe. This is a large part of why we see Miami ranked as the top offense in the league. The problem with this is that Denver has a very glaring hole at their second cornerback spot with Damarri Mathis who has played horrible so far. He is graded 29.9 overall, and 95th out of 95 qualifying cornerbacks this season.
Meanwhile Essang Bailey has been better than Mathis but he is primarily a slot cornerback and the Broncos seem to want him to primarily play there. If they’re hesitant to play him outside more why not take a longer look at Ja’Quan McMillan. McMillan has played well in very limited defensive playing time but why not get him in on a few more snaps a game here and there to see how he responds to more playing time? This may be the game we see more of him due to the four wide set Miami can and will run.
They have to figure out a way to deal with the wideouts for Miami. If you’re allowing Jaylen Waddle to see man coverage against Mathis, the Broncos will be in for a long day. Waddle has averaged over 20 yards per reception against Asante Samuel Jr, and the Patriots who have three different cornerbacks ranked 44th or better. Playing against Mathis at this rate is like playing a DIII school for Alabama.
This offense has been fairly balanced running the ball 44% of the time. This has helped Tua average nearly ten yards per pass attempt so far this season. This might seem crazy, but making Miami one dimensional by shutting down the run might be the best bet for success against this team. The thing is, you can’t afford to commit extra defenders to the box to do this.
If you begin dropping your safeties down to stop the run, Tua will light it up deep all game. So Denver’s defensive coordinator who once coached in Miami, has to get creative Sunday. It looks like Terron Armstead will be playing his first game this season for Miami in week 3, although if he can’t go Kendall Lamm has played fairly well given his status as the “backup”. Connor Williams and Robert Hunt have been the strengths of this line.
This is supported by the fact that Raheem Mostert has collected 67 rushing yards in two games running between Williams, and Hunt. This has been their most productive run gap so far this season. With that in mind, and the return of Terron Armstead at left tackle, Denver should focus more attention on attacking the interior of this line. Isaiah Wynn is their staring left guard, and he is off to his worst start of his professional career as a run blocker.
Shifted from left tackle to left guard for the first time in his career, it looks like on paper he is still adapting to his new position. Primarily using the zone running game, this hasn’t yet helped Wynn. Hunt since focusing on right guard has developed into a solid guard, while Connor Williams seems to be a better center than he was a guard.
This front three for Denver will need to do their part to keep Jewell and Singleton clean and allow them to flow to the play and stop it as quickly as possible. So far Jewell and Singleton have looked like two of the top linebackers in the league. This has been due in part to the performance up the big men upfront. If they can get a good push throughout this game, Denver could force Miami to abandon the run early. This eliminates the threat of play action,
Eliminating play action is taking away one facet of the game where Tua has thrived. With an adjusted depth of target of 13.2 yards, it’s his highest for any passing concept Miami runs. He has been the most efficient in this category in terms of completion rate as well with 68.4%, or an adjusted rate of 77.8%. He has produced 2 big time throws, 1 touchdown, while being pressured less often and being given his highest time to throw. This will go a long way toward making Tua uncomfortable in this game.
Regardless of how you try to stop Miami it will be a tall task they didn’t achieve the top ranked offense by accident. They paired a talented quarterback with electric playmakers, and gave them one of the best play callers in football so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’re finding success. The surprising feat would be slowing this offense down enough to win this game without the offense having a big day as well.
Let’s Take a Look at the Injury Reports
Frank Clark, and Justin Simmons have been ruled out for this game. Meaning we will see more of Nik Bonito, and Delarrin Turner-Yell or possibly Fabian Moreau. If ever there was a game Denver could use Moreau’s 4.35 speed on the back end it’s this one against Hill, and Waddle. This could also lead to him playing some outside cornerback in place of Mathis.
Mike Purcell did not practice until Friday, and even then he was limited. He is designated as questionable, but Denver needs him in this game, desperately.
While no one is officially ruled out, running back Salvon Ahmed is listed as doubtful and it is expected he misses this game. Miami has plent of depth to weather this absence. This just means third round pick De’Von Achane will likely get more opportunities against Denver.
LT Terron Armstead, TE’s Julian Hill, and Tyler Kroft, WR Jaylen Waddle, DT Raekwon Davis, LB Jaelan Phillips, and DB Elijah Campbell. Nearly every level of this roster has been affected by injury and it could end up being a deciding factor this weekend. Waddle was limited on Friday due to a concussion, and Armstead was limited all week. Keep an eye on these two one or both could be ruled out of this game.
Betting Odds and Prediction
Right now our sponsor BetUS.com (get your 125% match bonus for signing up today) has Denver has 6.5 point underdogs. The over/under is 48 points, and the money line for Denver is +256. It’s hard to disagree with this perspective given that we are looking at a 2-0 team facing an 0-2 team. I would love to see Denver collect their first win but I just don’t think it’s coming against Miami.
Miami 35 to 24 Denver
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