BRONCOS

The Broncos game plan for beating the Texans in Week 2

Sep 16, 2022, 6:31 AM
Javonte Williams...
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos didn’t get it done in Week 1, falling to the Seattle Seahawks by a score of 17-16 on Monday Night Football. They wanted to start the Russell Wilson era off with a win, but too many mistakes on the field by the players and mistakes from the sidelines and the coaching staff caused them to drop that season opener.

The Broncos need to get on the winning track. They’re coming home to play the Houston Texans in Week 2. It’s a game they should win, but I said that last week and you saw the results.

How will the Broncos attack the Texans on both sides of the ball? Let’s take a look.

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When the Broncos Run the Ball

I’d like to see the Broncos have more of a commitment to the run. In a close game against the Seahawks, the Broncos only ran the ball 20 times. They did that while Wilson passed it a whopping 42 times on Monday night. This offense is built off the rushing attack and having more of a commitment to the run will help this scheme run more efficiently.

Javonte Williams is the starter, and he’s one of the best backs in the league. However, the team still wants to use Melvin Gordon in tandem with Williams. In fact, it was Gordon who led the team with 12 carries while Williams had just seven totes. That total rushes between the two (19) should be the bare minimum for what Williams gets on a weekly basis. Then, you can still bring Gordon on for 10 or so carries.

There are business decisions made during a football game. When a player like Williams punishes defenders early and often, towards the end of the game defenders will start turning it down. Williams is tough to bring down, and it’s statistically proven that he gets stronger as the game goes on. The Broncos need to get things right this week against the Texans, a team who surrendered 161 yards in Week 1 to superstar back Jonathan Taylor. To get that enormous number, Taylor had 31 carries. It will take Williams three more games to hit that number if he continues getting single digit carries. That’s simply wrong, and it needs to change.

We’ll see what they do against the Texans. Gordon is fine, but he’s not as good as Williams. Using Williams more, Gordon less, and having fewer than 35 passing attempts is the best recipe for success.

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When the Broncos Pass the Ball

The Broncos surprised me with the frequency they went through the air against Seattle. As aforementioned, Wilson threw the ball 42 times, and he ended the game with 340 yards passing. It’s great for your fantasy team, but that wasn’t a great plan for the Broncos. I think there are ways they can adjust what they do through the air and still be effective against the Texans.

First, Williams doesn’t need 12 targets and 11 catches out of the backfield. While former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur didn’t run screen passes, it seemed like Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett wanted to crush the Seahawks with screen passes. That’s a mistake, and those 11 catches should be mostly runs this week against the Texans. Williams could still catch a few passes, but 11 is just ridiculous.

Second, get the ball to the receivers earlier in the game. To begin the game against Seattle, Wilson didn’t target a wide receiver until the second quarter. When he did, big plays happened with Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton. Both of them had seven catches, but it was Jeudy who went past the 100-yard mark, most of that on his 67-yard touchdown catch. Jeudy needs to stay dialed into the game, as he had a late drop while Denver was trying to get the lead in the fourth quarter. Sutton is Wilson’s favorite, but he had a penalty in this game that was one of many that hurt this team.

In a game the Broncos should win, we might see a more balanced offense. They’ll still use the tight ends in the passing game, but that’s some the Colts did not do with only five catches going to two of their tight ends. Wilson needs to feed the wide receivers more than the running backs and the tight ends for the offense to truly be hitting on all cylinders.

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When the Texans Run the Ball

The Texans have a couple of interesting running backs to watch. One is a rookie with great upside, and the other is a seasoned veteran who can still be effective on all three downs. Dameon Pierce is a rookie who I saw down at the Senior Bowl where he impressed the scouts in attendance. He further impressed in training camp, and Pierce won the starting job out of training camp. However, in Week 1 it was veteran Rex Burkhead who led the position in touches.

Burkhead is one of the most versatile players in the game. He can contribute as a runner or receiver out of the backfield. Burkhead can also be lined up in the slot if need be. In the game against the Colts, Burkhead had 19 touches while Pierce had just 12. I like Pierce better as a runner, and just like the Broncos with Williams, I think the Texans should feed their young running back more handoffs. I like Burkhead more as a receiving threat. When the Texans need to go to the air, or when they need an outlet receiver, that’s when Burkhead can be counted on to make plays.

The Broncos didn’t let Seattle run wild in Week 1, but the Seahawks also didn’t go after them on the ground like I thought they would. We’re not sure if the Broncos rush defense is strong enough. In the preseason, the Broncos were gashed on a weekly basis by opponents’ rushing attacks. They have yet to be tested on the ground this year, and I think the Texans will try to slow down the Broncos offense by pounding them on the ground.

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When the Texans Pass the Ball

I think Davis Mills could be the future of the quarterback position in Houston. Mills, a second-year pro out of Stanford, was the Texans’ third-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Over 13 games as a rookie, Mills was efficient as a passer and went over 300 yards four times in 2021. Mills won’t blow you away with physical traits, but he’s smart and knows where to go with the ball ahead of time. His intelligence and anticipation make him a more formidable passer than some thought he would be coming out of college where he only had 11 starts.

One thing that helps Mills is the array of weapons around him. Brandin Cooks is a seasoned veteran receiver who can still fly. He’s got the speed to take the top off the defense, and his speed is going to make him the most dangerous player the Broncos face on Sunday. They’ll certainly have to notice where he’s at before the snap on every play. Nico Collins and Chris Moore are two big-bodied wide receivers who will get some targets opposite of Cooks. Their size/speed combinations make them dangerous targets in the red zone. These guys aren’t household names, but they are good pros with upside.

Former first-round pick O.J. Howard seems to have found a home with the Texans. Released by the Bills in August, the veteran latched on with the Texans and made a big impact in Week 1. Howard has always been a better receiver than advertised, and he showed that against the Colts on two plays. He was only targeted twice, but both of them went for touchdowns on similar play designs. The Broncos need to watch out for Howard when they get him in space. After getting worked by Colby Parkinson, Will Dissly, and Noah Fant in Week 1, the problem of covering tight ends still plagues the Broncos defense. In order to win, they’ll have to clean that up.

They have more weapons than most think. The Texans are not a great team, but they are not a pushover either. They played a really good Colts team tough last week, and they’ll be more of a challenge for the Broncos than some think.

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The Broncos game plan for beating the Texans in Week 2