BRONCOS

Three observations from the Broncos ugly Week 2 win over the Texans

Sep 19, 2022, 6:40 AM
Eric Saubert...
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos played at home for the first time this season on Sunday in Week 2 against the Houston Texans. They came away with the win by a score of 16-9, but this might have been the most disappointing win in Broncos team history.

The Texans are not a good football team, but the Broncos did everything to try and give the game away. Problems with discipline, penalties, inefficiency in the red zone, and game plan issues continue to plague this team. It’s only been two games, but the Broncos have not looked as good as I thought they would.

Here are my three biggest observations from the win over the Texans.

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Who Do You Trust?

The Broncos’ offense is all about using two-TE sets early and often. At least, that’s the way it would be if they had the right guys in place at the position. Whether it’s injury (Greg Dulcich) or inconsistency (Albert Okwuegbunam), the Broncos aren’t set at tight end at this time. Even though that’s the case, the design of the offense could be huge if Dulcich gets healthy or Okwuegbunam becomes a more well-rounded player.

The game of football comes down to trust. You need to trust the teammate you’re in the huddle with that he will come through with a play when called upon. Since the starters didn’t play in the preseason, Russell Wilson is trying to find out which players can earn his trust. Early in the game, Wilson tried to hit a wide open Okwuegbunam and the young tight end dropped the ball. He was either thinking about running after the catch, or Okwuegbunam was thinking about the incoming contact, but the play ended up with a disappointing result.

Over the course of the game, Okwuegbunam was targeted twice but he failed to come down with either pass. Wilson is out there trying to make plays under duress, and he needs receivers to come through for him when the chips are down. While Okwuegbunam disappointed, veteran Eric Saubert did make a big play for Wilson. In fact, Saubert caught Wilson’s only touchdown pass of the day. He was only targeted once, but Saubert came up big and caught the touchdown (while being well covered) for a 22-yard scoring catch.

It’s not just Okwuegbunam, but all receivers need to earn the trust of Wilson. Dating back to training camp, Saubert has earned that trust. In fact, he might be the most consistent of all the tight ends on the roster. Saubet is not the biggest or fastest, but that consistency could get him more snaps. Earning Wilson’s trust will likely get him more targets and more involvement in the game plan.

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Randy Gregory Coming Through

I was curious when the Broncos signed Randy Gregory earlier this offseason. Denver giving Gregory a $70 million contract over five years means he’s going to be a big part of their plans. However, I was critical of the move because of a couple of reasons.

First, Gregory’s career high in sacks is six. He’s hit that mark two times in his career (2018, 2021), but Gregory has not pushed past that. Second, Gregory has battled injuries and suspensions and has never played a full season in his pro career. Finally, Gregory’s style with the Dallas Cowboys included a lot of freestyling and not the precision I felt was necessary for him to take that next step.

On Sunday, Gregory made a believer out of me. Now, it’s one game against a bad team, but I saw everything I needed to see from the veteran pass rusher. People will focus on his sack numbers, but Gregory was making plays the box score won’t reflect. He did get 1.0 sack, but Gregory also had 3 quarterback hits. In addition to what he did against the quarterback, Gregory did a good job stopping the run. He didn’t even need to make the tackle, but I like the way Gregory set the edge for the run defense. He didn’t let the ball-carrier get to the outside, instead turning his opponent to the inside where the rest of his teammates were.

Gregory is off to a good start this year. The Broncos have not been perfect on defense, but it helps to have a player like Gregory put forward such a strong effort on a weekly basis.

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Gadget Plays Equal Desperation

Hackett broke out a few trick plays on Sunday against the Texans. None of the plays seemed to work the way they were intended, and overall, I think they made the team look desperate. The Texans are not a good team, and the Broncos didn’t need to pull out all the stops to get this win, but they did, and they did win. However, I think it was a mistake to try and get the kinks worked out when you didn’t need to.

I could list all the plays, but I want to highlight a terrible design that can be summed up as sprint option right. However, instead of the quarterback carrying the ball with a running back just outside of him, the Broncos used tight end Andrew Beck as the primary ball-carrier. Beck is a fullback and not necessarily a tight end, and his versatility is something the team covets. I like him as a blocker or receiving/H-back option, but as a ball-carrier, Beck just doesn’t make for an exciting option.

The carry was only the second of his pro career, and Beck didn’t even finish the run. Instead, he flipped the ball at the last second to Williams and he was promptly tackled for a small gain. The option play doesn’t work at the pro level unless you have an elite athlete like Lamar Jackson. Using a fullback to run that play just doesn’t make sense, and the results speak for themselves.

I hope the Broncos cut down on the trick plays and get back to playing smart football. You want to show future opponents something else to prepare for, but it’s about picking the right time to make that happen. Hackett was rushing the trick plays, he was getting too cute, and the team struggled because of his decisions to break out these plays at the wrong time.

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