The Broncos game plan for beating the Seahawks in Week 1
After a long, eventful offseason, the Broncos finally get to see what they’ve assembled for the 2022 season. A new head coach. A new quarterback. A slew of new players. All will be on display for the first time as a group when Denver travels to Seattle for “Monday Night Football.”
It’s Nathaniel Hackett’s debut as a head coach. It’s Russell Wilson’s return to Lumen Field. It’s the first time Ejiro Evero, Justin Outten and Dwayne Stukes will be entering a game as a coordinator.
It’s a big game, on a national stage. All season openers are important. This one is monstrous.
How will the Broncos attack the Seahawks on both sides of the ball? Let’s take a look.
When the Broncos Run the Ball
I feel this is going to be a good week for the Broncos rushing attack. The structure of this offense is built on the foundation of a strong ground game, something the Broncos have with Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. I fully expect a combination of these two backs to help build a lead, then keep a lead against Seattle on “Monday Night Football.”
Williams is one of the best young backs in the game today. Some in the media are proclaiming he could lead the league in rushing – and that is correct from a certain point of view. Williams does have the talent to do that, but the opportunity in the Nathaniel Hackett offense won’t be there for him to do that. The Broncos are going to use a “hot hand” approach at the position. Williams can be used to soften up the defense, and then Gordon could gash them with speed.
Gordon is a good receiving option out of the backfield, and he’s better than Williams in pass protection at this time. While the team loves Williams, and he is the starter, Gordon isn’t going anywhere, and he will get the opportunity on the field to prove what he can do. Gordon plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he’ll use his role as a backup to prove that perhaps he should be the starter. It’s this friendly competition at the running back position that could propel both Williams and Gordon to fine seasons in 2022.
Quick reminder that Javonte Williams is a HUMAN BOWLING BALL
— Heismans (@heismansIG) August 31, 2022
Williams and Gordon give the Broncos a fine duo at the running back position. Their talent is good for the Broncos, but the ‘hot hand’ approach is frustrating for fantasy GMs. This is not fantasy football, but instead it’s getting the Broncos a win in the first game of the Russell Wilson era. That “W” could be had by leaning on Williams and Gordon quite a bit on Monday night.
When the Broncos Pass the Ball
There are going to be a few times where we see Wilson let the ball fly down the field. The Broncos are going to use the rushing attack to set up the offense, and at the appropriate time, they will use play-action passing to go deep. Wilson throws the prettiest deep ball in the league, and he’s got the players to run underneath those “moon balls” for big plays.
Courtland Sutton is Wilson’s favorite. He should get plenty of work as the Broncos no.1 receiver, especially considering Seattle has two rookie cornerbacks (Coby Bryant, Tariq Woolen) in their secondary. I like both Bryant and Woolen (a player I wanted the Broncos to draft on Day 3), but neither is ready for what Wilson and Sutton could have in store.
I’m curious to see what Jerry Jeudy can do when the games count. We didn’t see him in the preseason, as the Broncos rested most of their starter, and in training camp Jeudy was inconsistent with his play. The talent is there, it always has been, but I’m sick of talking about that. It’s past time for Jeudy to take his natural skill set and produce at the expected level for a first-round wide receiver. Wilson pumps up Jeudy in public, and I think he gets on him in private to motivate him to be the best receiver he can be. We’ll see if that works against Seattle.
Albert Okwuegbunam should be the leading tight end, but the Broncos might use Eric Saubert as a receiving option as well. This offense should be 12 personnel (two TE sets) on around 70 percent of the snaps. Eric Tomlinson is a big-bodied blocker, so Okwuegbunam and Saubert will rotate in as pass-catching options. This offense is built for the tight end to have great succes, but it’s on either one of these pass catchers to make plays in the design of the system.
I can’t wait for the Russell Wilson/Courtland Sutton duo
— Dylan Feltovich (@dyfelt) September 2, 2022
Even though I feel the Broncos passing game will have to shake off some rust, there is a strong chance they can do that quickly in Week 1. As we saw with Josh Allen and the Bills on Thursday night, it might take a half or three quarters before things start clicking. What happened when the offense was firing on all cylinders was a beatdown of the Rams. Wilson might not be as sharp early in the game, but if they throw enough, we could see the veteran quarterback really light up those two rookie cornerbacks.
When the Seahawks Run the Ball
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll loves to run the ball. His philosophy as a head coach is to run early and often. It’s one of the reasons why Wilson is with the Broncos. The team feels they won a Super Bowl when Wilson was young because they leaned on the rushing attack and their defense. Carroll wants his team to get back there in 2022.
The Seahawks have former first-round pick Rashaad Penny as their starter and lead back. The plan was to have rookie second-round pick Kenneth Walker fill in to give Penny a breather, but that’s not going to be the case in Week 1. Walker is injured with a hernia injury, and he will not play against the Broncos. That means it’s going to be as much of Penny as he can possibly handle.
Last year, Penny finally stayed healthy and showed why the team selected him in the first round. At the end of the 2021 season, Penny had three games and almost 500 yards rushing in those contests combined. It’s not like Penny had to grind down opponents with 30 carries, but instead, he was ripping off long runs and those big plays led to big days on the ground.
Rashaad Penny pic.twitter.com/nzgk8U2ye8
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 2, 2022
If you let Penny shake free, he can build a head of steam and beat you. The Broncos must stay strong against the run, not only for this week’s game, but for the contests after that. The NFL is a copycat league, and Denver doesn’t want the Seahawks to have success running the ball. If that happens, expect the Texans in Week 2, the 49ers in Week 3, and so on to continue badgering the Broncos on the ground. Penny provides a challenge for the Broncos defense; one they must rise to or face more rushing in the coming weeks.
When the Seahawks Pass the Ball
With Geno Smith at quarterback, I’m not expecting much from the Seattle passing game. Last year, when Smith started three games for an injured Wilson, he averaged about 25 passing attempts per game and did not average 200 yards passing per game. During those starts, Smith didn’t push the ball down the field much, and he didn’t take many chances with the ball going three games with no interceptions and four touchdown passes.
Now, Smith is the starter after beating out Drew Lock for the spot in training camp. Smith is not going to change his game, so if things go according to plan, he will not be airing it out against Denver. If he does, the Broncos should be able to take advantage with their pass rush and the secondary behind them.
Smith has targets like wide receivers D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Add in speedy receiver Dee Eskridge and tight end Noah Fant, and you can see how Smith does have better weapons than some think. Metcalf is huge and fast, Lockett is small, quick and fast, and both will be a problem if the Broncos let them sneak behind them for a big play. The Broncos have Patrick Surtain who can cover with the best of them in the league, but opposite of him is veteran Ronald Darby. It would be wise for Seattle to use Metcalf to take the top off the defense, but a player like Lockett or Eskridge could do the same thing.
Rookie Dee Eskridge makes his first catch as a pro! @Seahawks
— NFL (@NFL) August 29, 2021
There might be a deep shot or two against the Broncos, and they need to be ready for that to happen. I think going against Darby will be the top target for Smith. Darby needs to be ready for the challenge of Metcalf or Lockett. If Darby plays well, expect Seattle to scheme a way to get Fant open against the linebackers. I expect the Broncos to get a lead on the Seahawks, and that will force them to pass more than they want.