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NFL Draft

Are The Broncos For Real?

  • The Draft Network
  • September 30, 2021
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Three consecutive victories have the Denver Broncos sitting pretty leading up to their Week 4 matchup against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. With wins over the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, and New York Jets to open up their campaign, a roster infused with veteran prowess and youth-inspired starters has quickly found itself atop its division alongside the Las Vegas Raiders.

Much was made over the summer relating to the ongoing quarterback dilemma between former second-round gun-slinger Drew Lock and league journeyman Teddy Bridgewater. While Lock’s willingness to explore options downfield in an attempt to hunt down the big play offered the sexy, exciting option, head coach Vic Fangio opted to explore the safe route with Bridgewater, who prioritizes the possession of the football.

After three weeks, Fangio’s decision looks like the correct one.

Bridgewater has been nothing short of excellent, finding himself second only to Dallas’ Dak Prescott in completion percentage (76.8%), has recorded zero interceptions, and contrary to belief, has stretched the football down the field, as highlighted by his 8.7 yards per attempt—that’s a higher number than Patrick Mahomes (8.5), Prescott (7.9), Tom Brady (7.7), and Aaron Rodgers (7.4), signal-callers known for their inkling to stretch the field. It’s been a match made in heaven for Bridgewater, whose arrival in Denver has presented a newfound confidence under center the Broncos haven’t had in seasons prior.

While the loss of Jerry Jeudy will hurt in the long run as teams continue to review film, and in turn, game plan the Broncos’ aerial attack accordingly, the presence of Melvin Gordon and first-year ball-carrier Javonte Williams has offered the ideal 1-2 punch in a backfield that has lacked such in the past. With 42 and 39 carries, respectively, Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has deployed his two backs equally through three games—a trend that looks to continue considering the skill set and uniqueness each talent brings to the Denver backfield on Sundays alongside Bridgewater. Out wide, it’s been a similar formula for Shurmur, as Courtland Sutton leads the way with 15 catches, followed closely behind by Tim Patrick and Noah Fant who each have totaled 12. 

Denver’s offense by no means stacks up on the scoreboard, or from a personnel standpoint, to their inter-division foes in the Kansas City Chiefs, but their ability to manage the game on the ground while placing the ball in Bridgewater’s hands at the most opportune times has created a smooth-flowing offense highlighted by their ability to churn clock, ultimately handcuffing the rock.

As consistent as Bridgewater, Shurmur, and the entire Broncos offense has been, the defensive side of the ball has become one of the most dominant groups in all of football. While three weeks is a relatively small sample size, numbers are numbers, and you’d be foolish to ignore the current status the Broncos have among the league’s elite, allowing the second-fewest total yards per game (221.7), second-fewest rushing yards per contest (59.3), and the third-fewest passing yards per game (162.3) so far this fall. However, and most importantly, Denver has allowed just 8.7 points per game, tops in football. A unit touting arguably the league’s premier secondary group, the continued success of the Broncos as they steamroll into the meat of their schedule will hinge on the preparedness and dominance from Fangio’s defensive group.

Week 4 will separate the pretenders from the contenders. With headline-worthy matchups across the league, a victory over the Ravens would announce the Broncos’ arrival loud and clear to the rest of football. With a roster hungry for the next step up the ladder, a 4-0 start for the first time since 2016 would put the Broncos in the driver’s seat toward their first playoff appearance since Peyton Manning led the charge more than a handful of seasons ago.

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