Three keys to the Broncos getting a much-needed win over the Jaguars
The Denver Broncos have lost their last four games in a row. They’re looking for a “get right” game, but the bad thing is they have now become another team’s “get right” game and are seen as an easy win by most others in the NFL.
On Sunday, the Broncos will play the Jacksonville Jaguars in London, England. Like the Broncos, the Jaguars have a 2-5 record, but there have been times when they’ve looked explosive on offense – something Denver has yet to do this season.
The Jaguars have beat two teams (Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers) that the Broncos lost to. In fact, Jacksonville was able to hammer both the Colts 24-0 and the Chargers 38-10 in their two victories. In their losses, much like the Broncos, the Jaguars have been close.
Here are three keys to victory in Week 8.
No Explosive Plays
The Jaguars are no longer the pushover they used to be. They have a potential franchise quarterback in second-year pro Trevor Lawrence, and around him they have a bunch of weapons that can make big plays.
Travis Etienne is arguably the most dangerous player on the roster. The second year running back was a college teammate of Lawrence, but he missed his entire rookie season due to injury. Now healthy, Etienne has taken over in the backfield. He’s doing so good the Jaguars decided to trade former starter and 1,000-yard rusher James Robinson to the New York Jets earlier this week. Etienne has speed, speed, and more speed to his game. If he gets a little bit of daylight, he can gash the Broncos defense for a touchdown from anywhere on the field.
At the start of free agency in March, the Jaguars spent a lot of money on wide receiver Christian Kirk. He was a reserve player in his career with the Arizona Cardinals, but the Jaguars have made him the centerpiece of their passing attack. Kind of like Emmanuel Sanders with the Broncos years ago, Kirk is flourishing with his new team. Kirk has never had 1,000 yards receiving in a season, but he’s on pace to beat that number in 2022. He’s quick, fast, and Kirk can be a threat after the catch.
Marvin Jones Jr has always been a downfield threat. He’s no longer the player he used to be, and there was a time he’d average nearly 20.0 yards per catch, but Jones can still fly down the field. Jones has come through as a reliable target for Lawrence, and even though his deep targets aren’t as frequent as they used to, they can still be there if the Jaguars want them to be. The Broncos need to be cognizant of Jones’ ability to track passes deep over his shoulder.
Don’t Be Afraid to Commit
We’ll see what kind of commitment the Broncos have to the ground game this week. The Broncos are going to have quarterback Russell Wilson back on the field after he missed last week’s game against the Jets. Wilson is still battling a partially torn hamstring, but after a week off he is feeling better and ready to start. In addition to his hamstring injury, Wilson still has a shoulder injury on his throwing side. He’s not healthy, and the team needs to help him as much as possible – they can do that with the rushing attack.
The Broncos offense has problems. One of their largest problems is the lack of commitment to the run. They have the third least efficient rushing attack in the NFL by all metrics. They don’t block well, and they don’t stick with the run.
Melvin Gordon has been the starter for the Broncos since Javonte Williams was lost for the season. Behind him, Latavius Murray has filled in admirably so much that I think he should be the lead back. With Mike Boone (ankle) on Injured Reserve, the Broncos added Marlon Mack off the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad.
As I’ve said and previously written, I don’t care who runs the ball. I don’t care if they split carries. I don’t care so long as the team runs early and runs often. I’m a fan of ‘bellcow’ backs, but the Broncos clearly want to use multiple backs. That’s fine, I guess, but they need to stick with the run. All the games they have lost have been close enough to continue running the ball to wear down an opponent and keep your defense fresh.
Broncos offensive coordinator Justin Outten commented on the challenges of the running back room through all the injuries this season.
“We’re blessed to have [RB Devine Ozigbo] on the practice squad, going through the installations and all that and being with us. It’s next man up opportunity. You can’t have excuses for situations that we’re in right now. You just got to get those guys up to speed and put them in when they can help us out. It comes down to the execution, the rules and understanding everything. We limit those packages. They’re pretty small for those guys.” Outten said.
Pressure Bursts Pipes
I like what Lawrence has shown this year. When he came out of Clemson, I believed Lawrence to be the ultra-rare generational talent we’ve only seen from guys like John Elway, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck. After his first season, I was worried about how Lawrence looked. Other than the 2021 season finale, Lawrence looked lost as he stumbled through a rough first season.
This year, Lawrence is looking much more secure. Part of that is his maturation as a player, and part of that is the protection that is much improved for Lawrence this season. He was under pressure on 22.6 percent of his dropbacks as a rookie. This season, that number is only 16.8 percent. Lawrence is staying clean, and he’s finding the improved weapons around him in timing and rhythm with the offense.
The Jaguars are mostly using Lawrence as a pocket passer. Of his 246 passing attempts in seven games this season, Lawrence has only attempted 42 passes from play action. They don’t move him around, but if they need to Lawrence can be a threat with his legs. If the defense can stay fresh, they can put pressure on the young passer.
Justin Simmons doesn’t feel any extra pressure playing in front of an international offense.
“No, not at all. I’ve said it a few times, Chargers’ week we were heading to LA for the Monday night game was a must-win but I mean this, this one’s the biggest game. By far, a chance for us to get a win heading into the bye [week]. Hopefully get some guys back, that are kind of thing up and injured. Get them back healthy and make a late run here in the latter half of the season. To give ourselves a fighting chance to get into the playoffs. But all that starts with this game, on Sunday. Finding a way to win. We have to walk out of this stadium with a win,” Simmons said.