BRONCOS

The Broncos game plan to beat the Chargers in Week 6 on “MNF”

Oct 16, 2022, 6:15 PM
Inglewood, CA, Sunday, January 2, 2022 - Los Angeles Chargers free safety Derwin James (33) is pena...
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos were embarrassed the last time they were on the football field. It seems like forever since the Broncos lost to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5. Ten days between games will do that, and it feels even longer since the 12-9 loss was so bad.

The Broncos are 2-3 and teetering on the edge of a lost season. They have three games before their bye week, and with a good showing on Monday night against the Los Angeles Chargers they could

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

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When the Broncos Run the Ball

The Broncos are going to use a running back by committee against the Chargers. We should see Latavius Murray get his first action with the team since he didn’t have enough time with the Broncos to make his debut against the Colts. Murray is a big back with a swift running style, and he can gash a defense for big plays given his patience and footwork.

I like the way he wastes little time to get to full speed. Therefore, I think runs up the middle are the best for Murray’s skill set. Murray can take the handoff and burst to and through the hole before defenders can respond accordingly. The wide zone system is great for his patience as a runner, and Murray knows how to regularly pick the correct hole to attack. Many times, this hole can be the first one as soon as he gets to the entry point.

In addition to what he does as a runner, Murray can be productive as a receiver out of the backfield. The Broncos are bound and determined to use Melvin Gordon and Mike Boone in the backfield rotation as well. Gordon has a fumbling problem, so the team can’t trust him as the lead back. Boone struggles in pass protection, so it’s kind of a tell when he’s on the field that a run is coming. Either that or they risk exposing quarterback Russell Wilson to more pressure – and that’s not a good thing.

I can’t stand the “hot hand” approach, especially if none of the backs are given time to actually get hot. However, it seems like that’s the way the Broncos are going to go. I hope Murray is the back that gets hot, but there’s no way to tell before the game. That means Murray, Gordon, and Boone will all be involved on varying levels.

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When the Broncos Pass the Ball

Wilson is banged up, but he’s going to play through the lat injury he hurt against the Las Vegas Raiders a couple of weeks ago. He’s a tough player who will grind through the injury by his throwing shoulder, and hopefully it doesn’t impact his ability to throw. Wilson has been under pressure too often and losing left tackle Garett Bolles for the season won’t help that. In addition to dealing with pressure, Wilson’s passes have been off the mark compared to what we’re used to. I think that comes from poor footwork, which likely comes from feeling pressure too soon in the play development.

Courtland Sutton is Wilson’s favorite target, and he has been all season. Wilson does need to look elsewhere, and he needs another receiver to come through for him. He’s so focused on Sutton that Wilson will overlook a play design to get another receiver open as he waits for Sutton to get open (see the final play against the Colts). Wilson will lean on Sutton again, but he needs to find a connection with another receiver.

I think K.J. Hamler should get more involved. Hamler has the speed to take the top off the defense, and you can scheme him open with ease because of his incredible speed. Hamler has better ‘my ball’ mentality than Jerry Jeudy, and he is more dangerous than Jeudy after the catch. If Jeudy is the player who can play better than so be it. The physical talent is there with Jeudy, it always has been there, but for whatever reason the consistency in his performance is missing most every week. Against the Chargers, the best place to attack is down the sidelines, and I think ‘sail’ concepts are the best method of attack in Week 6. That could mean big things for Jeudy if he can come through.

The Broncos receivers could help Wilson by having fewer drops. Sutton, Jeudy, and Hamler are the top three targets, and if they can get contributions from any of the tight ends that would help. The tight ends have had some key drops as well, so no matter who is getting the target they need to come through and help their quarterback who is doing what he can to play at a high level through injury.

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When the Chargers Run the Ball

The Chargers have Austin Ekeler as their lead back, and he’s one of the most dangerous players in the league with the ball in his hands. It doesn’t matter if he’s running the ball or catching the ball out of the backfield, Ekeler is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Ekeler is built low to the ground, and he can burst into an open part of the field quickly with great foot frequency. Ekeler is not a pile pusher, but the Chargers can go to Joshua Kelley in those situations.

While Ekeler is a smaller/explosive back, Kelley is a big-bodied back who can win by striking down a defense between the tackles. Kelley is not as fast as Ekeler, but he’s swift and gets to top speed in a hurry. He can live in the middle, and Kelley is a player the Chargers can close out the game with if they build a lead. In addition to their running backs, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert can be dangerous with his legs. He’s mainly known for being a great passer, but he can pull the ball down and pick up significant yards if needed. If they can, the Broncos should put a spy on Herbert as he’s a threat to run.

Against the Browns in Week 5, Ekeler had a whopping 173 yards rushing and one touchdown. Kelley had 49 yards and a rushing touchdown in that game as well. With the season kicking into high gear, it seems like the Chargers are doing a better job of figuring out their rushing attack. That comes with featuring Ekeler on the edge and Kelley up the middle. However, if Ekeler sees a hole in the middle develop he can exploit it quickly.

We’ll see if the Broncos sell out to stop the Chargers’ passing attack (more on that in a bit) which means the rushing attack will produce. No matter who is running the ball, the Broncos defense must be on their toes.

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When the Chargers Pass the Ball

Herbert can sling the rock, and he will test every level of the Broncos’ defense. There is no doubt that Herbert is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL when it comes to pass placement. He doesn’t feel pressure, and Herbert keeps his eyes downfield where he can attack the defense. Unlike some quarterbacks, Herbert wants to attack, and he does not throw checkdowns unless he absolutely needs to. Herbert will not abandon the play, and he has no problem standing tall in the pocket and taking a hit to throw the right pass.

Keenan Allen is likely to miss another game with a hamstring injury. He’s been limited in practice all week, but Allen told reporters he’s unlikely to play in Week 6. As of this writing, Allen has not officially been declared out, and he’s a game-time decision for Monday night. If Allen doesn’t play, the Chargers will continue to lean on Mike Williams as their primary wide receiver.

Williams is a huge target, and he can be incredibly dominant at the catch point. He’s well versed in using his frame to box out defenders, and Williams catches passes naturally with arms extended. He times the high point of the pass, and Williams has the strength to rip away contested catches. With cornerback Patrick Surtain on Williams, that’s going to be a tough one for the Chargers to exploit. Herbert will test Surtain, but he might go away from the young corner as the game goes on.

The injuries to the cornerback position will likely show this week against the Chargers. If they put together the correct game plan, the Chargers will be able to attack the corner opposite of Surtain early and often. In addition to what Williams and Ekeler can do as receivers, the Chargers could go to tight end Gerald Everrett more if they want to.

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The Broncos game plan to beat the Chargers in Week 6 on “MNF”