Three keys to the Broncos getting a win over the Colts in Week 5
he Denver Broncos have a .500 record after four weeks. They’re coming off a disappointing road loss to the formerly winless Las Vegas Raiders, and they want to get back on the winning track. It’s a good thing they have a short week so they can get the bad taste out of their mouth.
On Thursday, the Broncos are at home to take on the Indianapolis Colts. It’s not a great matchup between teams with new quarterbacks trying to find their way. The Broncos only average 16.5 points per game, but the Colts are even worse at a paltry 14.3 points per game. NFL fans tuning in on Thursday night should not expect a ton of offensive fireworks in this contest.
The Colts are 1-2-1 after four games, and like the Broncos they are coming off a loss to a divisional foe. To make things worse, their best player – superstar running back Jonathan Taylor – has a high ankle sprain and could miss the game.
Here are three keys to victory in Week 5.
Stop the Run
The Colts have a superstar running back in Jonathan Taylor. He has been out of practice this week due to a high-ankle sprain sustained in Week 4 against the Tennessee Titans. Taylor is a game-time decision, and there is a chance he does not play. Even if Taylor is out there against the Broncos, his role might be limited due to this injury.
If Taylor cannot play, the Colts will turn to Nyheim Hines and Deon Jackson in their backfield. Hines is one of the best receiving backs in the game today, and he’s a threat to score anytime he touches the ball due to his quickness and speed. Jackson was undrafted out of Duke in 2021, and he is a larger back with good burst and intent as a runner. Neither Hines nor Jackson is on Taylor’s level, but they are good backs who could produce against the Broncos.
Last week, the Broncos allowed Raiders running back Josh Jacobs to rush for a career-high 144 yards. On the season, the Broncos allow an average of 114 rush yards per game. The Colts will want to run the ball against the Denver defense. At his press conference on Tuesday, Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett didn’t answer the question about how the Colts would look different without Taylor.
“Jonathan Taylor is a special player. He is a violent runner. He hits the holes with speed. He looks for contact but also has the speed to get down the field. So he’s a very good football player. That’s what I’ll say there,” Hackett said.
Hang Onto the Rock
Hackett wouldn’t reveal the plan at running back this week, but others did say Melvin Gordon would carry the load for the Broncos going forward. Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson said Gordon was going to have a large role. Then, offensive coordinator Justin Outten said Gordon would lead the way on the ground. If Hackett wanted to keep his plans for Gordon under wraps, it seems like Wilson and Outten may have spilled the beans.
Like most fumbling problems, Gordon’s issue is largely mental. He needs to somehow maintain his confidence and make sure he doesn’t fumble again – and certainly not in this contest on Thursday against the Colts. The Broncos did not waste any time, and they were able to steal Latavius Murray off the Saints practice squad on Monday. While Gordon has fumbled in five straight games, Murray has only fumbled once over the last five seasons.
Hackett was frank when it came to talking about the mental side that Gordon must clean up in order to eliminate his fumbling problems.
“I just think it’s about finishing the play with the ball tucked up. It’s that simple, wrist above the elbow, all that kind of stuff. He just sometimes wants to get an extra yard and sometimes that’s not as important. But he’s running hard, he’s doing a great job. He came today with a vengeance. We had a great mental day with him, and so we’re ready to go with it,” Hackett said.
Deal with Three
The Colts have a unique tight end room as they have three players at the position who can get after you. Most teams have one tight end, and some are lucky to have that. Some teams have a couple of tight ends who are threats to an opponent. The Colts have the rare trifecta, and they’ve drafted well at the position in recent years.
Mo Alie-Cox is the lead tight end for them, and he’s a receiving threat as their starter. A former basketball star at VCU, Alie-Cox made his way to the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Colts in 2017. He’s worked diligently to become a solid starter, and he brings that basketball skill set to the gridiron. Alie-Cox uses his frame to box out smaller defenders, and he can play ‘above the rim’ which makes him a great target in the red zone.
Kylen Granson was a fourth-round draft pick out of SMU in the 2021 NFL draft. A converted college wide receiver, Granson has toughness for the position. He brings versatility to the field as well since he can line up in-line, out wide, or from the backfield as an H-back. Granson may not be as large or athletic as Alie-Cox, but he can make plays in space as a receiver.
Rookie Jelani Woods was one of my favorite tight ends in this draft class. Coming out of Virginia, he was added as a third-round pick in the 2022 NFL draft. Woods has a good size/speed combination, and he is too big for safeties to cover and too fast for linebackers to cover. Already as a rookie, Woods has shown the ability to be a stable target near pay dirt.
The Broncos have historically struggled to cover tight ends. These three could create problems for the Broncos they don’t usually face. On Tuesday, I had to ask Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero about the three tight ends the Colts bring to the field that can make plays.
“Yeah, we just have to do a good job of identifying what they do with those guys and how they utilize them. We have to put them in good positions, understand how they utilize those tight ends, and the guys have to recognize it and go play,” Evero said.