Game Plan: How the Broncos can beat the Giants on Sunday
The Denver Broncos open their season with a road game against the New York Giants on Sunday. It’s a game they should win, but things in the NFL are not always so certain.
Denver needs to show an aggressive mindset on both sides of the ball as they kick off the new season. The Giants don’t have a great offense, and the good players they do have on that side of the ball are battling injuries. The Giants defense is tough, and they should lead the way for the G-Men – causing complications for a Broncos offense that is unlikely to dazzle.
How will the Broncos attack the Giants on both sides of the ball? Let’s take a look.
When the Broncos Run the Ball
The Broncos should be one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL this year. They’ll lead the way on the ground with Melvin Gordon and rookie Javonte Williams. How the carries and touches are distributed between the two is up for debate at this moment.
Gordon came into training camp reenergized, looking leaner and faster on the practice field. In the final preseason game, with Williams not playing, Gordon looked good as the starter. Gordon can gash defenders with speed in the open space, and he’s quite capable as a receiving back.
Williams has a game that is all about power. He wants to run over defenders, but he’s savvy enough to run by them as well. Williams does a good job setting up moves and has good footwork which allows him to change direction without losing his power. In addition to his skill as a power runner, Williams is capable in pass protection and as a receiving back.
We could see Gordon as the starter, but this is a full-blown RBBC. I expect the Broncos to give the Giants a heavy dose of both backs and ride the “hot hand” to victory.
When the Broncos Pass the Ball
While they soften up the Giants on the ground, the Broncos will be planning on going through the air when it’s called for. Play-action passing is going to be a good thing for starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. We could see the Broncos use two-TE sets (12 personnel) to give the Giants a run look but instead go over the top with a pass.
That type of personnel should highlight tight end Noah Fant and wide receiver Courtland Sutton. Fant should be able to take advantage of the Giants defense in the middle of the field – watch for a seam route to Fant if they’re running the ball well. Sutton benefits from play-action passing because it will put him in one-on-one situations where he can use his size to rip the ball away from smaller defenders.
Bridgewater is quite capable of running 3-WR sets (11 personnel) as well. This formation should better highlight second-year receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler. Jeudy and Bridgewater are on the same page as they both have great timing and precision to what they do. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Jeudy lead the Broncos in receiving in this game – and in this season. Hamler’s speed is almost unfair. He can take short passes on drag routes over the middle to the house from anywhere on the field.
The Giants defensive line is their strength. That means the Broncos offensive line will have their hands full when it comes to protecting Bridgewater. The veteran quarterback knows how to get rid of the ball on time and on rhythm. That skill should help his blockers keep the Giants at bay.
When the Giants Run the Ball
The best case for the Giants to win the game comes down to a player we didn’t see in the preseason – running back Saquon Barkley. If healthy, Barkley is a superstar in this league and one of the toughest backs to stop. However, Barkley hasn’t been healthy for quite some time, and he missed all the preseason dealing with the knee injury that cut his 2020 season short.
Barkley is the great unknown here. If he’s back to his old self that’s a problem for the Broncos – even with a tough defense like they have. Barkley can gash you with power, and he can get by you with speed as he’s truly a complete back. He’s also a great – not good, great – receiver out of the backfield…but again, that’s if he’s healthy.
If Barkley is not quite himself, the Giants will turn to a familiar face in the backfield – former Broncos running back Devontae Booker. While he was a bust with the Broncos, Booker has turned out to be a quality reserve in the NFL. He was a good option for the Las Vegas Raiders last year, and the Giants picked him up in free agency this season. Booker is a no-nonsense gap runner who has build-up power. Like Barkley, he’s also a natural receiving threat out of the backfield.
In addition to their top two backs, their quarterback Daniel Jones is a scrambler who can hurt you with his legs. Jones is playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league, so he should take off to run more than a few times against the Broncos. Most fans don’t think of Jones as a threat to run but they should – and the Broncos should have been preparing for this possibility.
When the Giants Pass the Ball
Jones is a scrambler and dangerous as a runner, but he is not a good quarterback when it comes to passing skill. His O-line isn’t going to do him any favors on Sunday against a Broncos team that loves to hunt quarterbacks. Jones also has a propensity to “see ghosts” and feel pressure when it’s not there – a byproduct of his poor line.
When Jones has time to throw the ball, which will be rare on Sunday, he’s going to be looking for a security blanket. That comes in the form of veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph. Regular starter Evan Engram is out with an injury, so the Giants turn to Rudolph. He’s a seasoned veteran with savvy and experience. Rudolph will know how to find the soft spot in the zone defense, and his size means he can box out defenders effectively. Kaden Smith is more of an “F” tight end (primarily a receiver) and can get more work with Engram out as well.
The wide receivers for the Giants aren’t great, and they’ll struggle to find space against this Broncos secondary. Add in the rush and the cover guys for the Broncos should be able to pick off Jones at least once. The main wide receiver to concern yourself with if you’re the Broncos is Kenny Golladay. The best free agent wide receiver on the market this year, the Giants paid handsomely to make him a part of their team. Golladay is good, but he’s battled a hamstring injury throughout training camp. This will be the first action we get to see from Golladay, so his chemistry with Jones may not yet be there.