MILE HIGH MONDAY

Mile High Monday: The Broncos have a Nathaniel Hackett problem

Nov 14, 2022, 6:30 AM
Nathaniel Hackett...
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos came out of their bye week with hopes they could improve and learn from the first half of the season. That didn’t happen as they fell to the Tennessee Titans by a score of 17-10, so now their record falls to 3-6.

I like it when the Broncos find a rhythm, and that’s not happening this season. In fact, it seems like this team learned little to nothing about what they needed to change moving forward.

I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep TJ! The following is a result of those trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.

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Super Genius

The Broncos have a Nathaniel Hackett problem. They have a lot of problems, but their biggest issue is the shortcomings of their head coach. Everything starts at the top, and Hackett seems to be in over his head when it comes to all the responsibilities of his position.

It’s frustrating because Hackett is a nice man. He is a good person, and he really cares about his players, but Hackett is not good at his job. Not only that, but we are also not seeing much if any improvement in the areas that plague him the most. The system is fine, although I can argue that it is not a great fit for quarterback Russell Wilson. However, it’s the playcalling that presents the largest problems for the Broncos – and that is on Hackett’s shoulders.

During the emotions of the game, I tweeted out that Hackett was the NFL head coaching version of Wile E. Coyote. He’s going to make plans, and he’s going to spend time crafting something he thinks will work perfectly. Instead, just like the famous cartoon character, Hackett’s plan fails miserably, and he ends up losing.

You wanted to see a difference after the bye week, and that just didn’t happen against the Titans. Hackett is failing the test that is the NFL regular season, and he’s running out of time to turn things around. Whereas they could have gone on a three-game winning streak after the bye to turn their season around, this game against the Titans further shows it’s a lost season. I believe it also shows that Hackett is a lost cause when it comes to being a head coach for the Broncos in 2023 and beyond.

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Undrafted Gem

The Broncos have had a knack for finding talent from the college free agent pool after the draft for some time now. In 17 of the last 18 seasons, the team has had an undrafted rookie make its initial 53-man active roster. This year, that player was Appalachian State wide receiver Jalen Virgil. I liked his game coming out of college, and I felt Virgil would be a nice gem as a Day 3 pick in the draft. Instead of hearing his name called, Virgil chose to sign with the Broncos and on Sunday it looks like he might be another gem found from the college free agents.

Virgil caught the first pass of his NFL career against the Titans, and it was a doozy. Streaking down the right sideline against a Cover Zero look, Virgil slowed to catch a pass from Wilson and raced 66 yards into the end zone. Once he caught the pass, Virgil turned on the jets and could not be caught from behind. It’s that type of big-play ability that has been missing from the Broncos offense, so it was nice to see Virgil make that play.
With Courtland Sutton getting a lot of attention from opposing defenses, it opens things up for other receivers on the roster. Kendall Hinton came through with some clutch catches, but he’s more of the reliable underneath target while Virgil can be a downfield weapon. Virgil is raw as a route runner, but his speed is incredible, and he’s got incredible ‘my ball’ mentality when going after a catch.

He certainly flashed on Sunday, so perhaps the Broncos plan moving forward will include more of Virgil. He’s got a tremendous size/speed combination, and Virgil was known as a playmaker in college at both the wide receiver and kick returner positions. With the continuous struggles of Montrell Washington, perhaps using Virgil as the primary return man – and using him more on offense – would be the best plan.

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Need More Chemistry

I like what we’ve seen from rookie tight end Greg Dulcich. Against the Titans, Dulcich only caught 1-of-4 targets for 11 yards in the Week 10 loss. In four games this season, the 11 yards was the rookie’s lowest output. The last time out, Dulcich had four catches for 87 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars and looked to be trending in the right direction.

His production crashed on Sunday against the Titans, but it wasn’t because of lack of opportunity. Late in the first quarter, Dulcich broke free on a deep route but an errant pass from Wilson caused the play to be broken up. With a better pass from Wilson, Dulcich might have scored a long touchdown on that play. That play was a sign to me that the chemistry if off between quarterback and tight end, but there were other plays that showed that as well.

Two times against the Titans, Dulcich did not sit down in the soft spot of the zone. It’s a savvy move that veteran players know how to set up. Dulcich kept running on his routes rather than recognizing the coverage and stopping to turn to his quarterback. Wilson threw the ball where Dulcich should’ve stopped, so the passes looked like they were behind Dulcich. That’s not on Wilson, that’s something Dulcich needs to learn. I know he can, but it must come with time.

As the season goes on, we’ll see Dulcich create better chemistry with Wilson. Part of the problems we saw on Sunday against the Titans stem from Dulcich missing most of the offseason and training camp with a hamstring injury. Since he missed that much time, Dulcich and Wilson must build a stronger rapport when the games count.

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All the Feels in Wakanda Forever

There is no doubt the Marvel Cinematic Universe had a monster hit with the movie “Black Panther” when it was released back in 2018. It was a huge hit, and “Black Panther” made over $1 billion in worldwide box office. A large part of the success of that movie was the performance of the main star Chadwick Boseman. Tragically, Boseman passed away from cancer in 2020 as the plans for the sequel to “Black Panther” were first being put in place.

On Thursday, the sequel “Wakanda Forever” hit theaters and it is a movie that makes you feel the loss of Boseman. I won’t spoil the movie, but they kill off Boseman’s character T’Challa in a way that is a gut punch to the audience. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the theater during the first 10 minutes of the movie.

Overall, I think “Wakanda Forever” is a triumph. It’s a heavy movie because it deals with grief and the loss of a loved one. Any of us who have lost someone close to them will get all the feels during this movie. As a comic book fan, I can see how the general public may have “superhero fatigue” from all these movies. However, “Wakanda Forever” is the type of movie that everyone needs to see. It’s an instant classic that makes you run the gamut of emotions while you watch.

If you saw “Wakanda Forever” what did you think of it? Hit me up on social networking and let me know!

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