The Denver Broncos game plan this week against the Oakland Raiders could be simplified down to two things — stop the run on Defense and convert on 3rd downs on Offense.
In Week 9 when the Broncos visited the Black Hole, the Raiders ran for 218 yards and 3 Touchdowns on the worst field in the entire NFL. The Broncos managed 33 yards on the ground, mostly because Running Back C.J. Anderson and Fullback Andy Janovich were lost to Injured Reserve. Regardless, that rushing success allowed Oakland to hold the ball for 41:28 of a 60:00 contest and that makes for a long day, especially in the Defensive trenches.
Denver has struggled on Run Defense for most of the season. The Plan ‘A’ replacement for losing Malik Jackson to Free Agency was supposed to be 75-80% absorbed by Vance Walker, but that dream ended during Training Camp after the first preseason game as Vance tore an ACL and went on the Injured Reserve List. Jared Crick was signed to take up the other 20-30% of the snaps as a 3-technique Defensive End opposite of Derek Wolfe. Jared’s role was to be a complementary run stuffer that could penetrate into the backfield. Crick has done more than what was expected of him. Per Pro Football Reference, Crick has started 14 of 15 games, with 52 Total Tackles, 3 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles and 6 Batted passes.
An interesting tidbit for argument’s sake was that the Broncos had the rights to Crick back in 2012. Denver traded their 2012 4th round pick (126th overall) which turned out to be Jared, along with their 2012 1st round pick (31st overall) which became Doug Martin, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for their 2012 2nd round pick (36th overall) which became Derek Wolfe and the Buc’s 2012 4th round pick (101st overall) which turned out to be Omar Bolden.
As you digest that little item, I will add that there was no way John Elway was going to touch what Malik got. Von Miller’s contract had priority and that’s all there is to that. The Broncos were able to keep more key players under contract by not chasing Malik’s financial security.
So a Defensive Line that was already thin to begin with had to deal with injuries to Linebacker Brandon M. Marshall, who took over the position Danny Trevathan held and, Safety T.J. Ward which left a gaping deficiency defending the middle of the field. That is where the opponents have ran the ball on the Broncos and they have been successful at it.
On Offense, it’s real simple. Convert on 3rd Down, not lead the league in “3 and outs.”
Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison’s latest excuse came in Wednesday’s presser:
“I think the biggest issue is [wins and] losses. Whatever it takes to win the game. We didn’t score enough points to win games. Whether it’s yards or not, that’s how you judge yourself [and] that’s how other people judge you.”
I beg to differ, Rico. I’m not a rocket scientist like you, but your Offensive Line has one keeper out of five, your play-calling is stuck in a system instead of playing to your players’ strengths, your Offense is extremely brutal on Tight Ends and frankly, between whoever is scouting the Offensive Linemen and whoever is teaching them needs to find employment elsewhere. It’s true that the Broncos have had more injuries than last year and the breaks that went their way in 2015 didn’t have the same results this time around, but that’s all part of the game and all 32 teams have to deal with them.
Whatever happened to scripting the first 15-20 plays on Offense? Because, if that is happening, this is entirely on the coaching staff. When you repeatedly go 3 plays and punt (3 and out) on the first Offensive possession in multiple games, that points to preparation and the lack thereof. You can’t pin that on player execution, i.e., dropped passes. Even If it takes baby steps, prolong drives by converting 1st Downs and you will have a higher chance of scoring. At least then you give your team a hance to win.
Oakland’s starting Quarterback, Derek Carr suffered a broken leg last week, so Matt McGloin will be handing the ball off to Latavius Murray, or rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard until the Broncos stop the run and force McGloin to beat them with his arm. It’s a tough rivalry game, so it will be whoever can impose their will on the other.
Oh, and By the Way, to those knuckleheads who keep saying the Broncos need to get rid of Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas?
Know this: DT has topped 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last five seasons, joining Ring of Famer Rod Smith as the only players in franchise history to accomplish that feat. His five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons also ties for the longest active streak in the NFL.
To elaborate further, he also needs one reception to tie Lionel Taylor (543) for the 3rd-most catches in franchise history. A 100-yard receiving day for Demaryius will put him past Calvin Johnson for the 2nd-most 100-yard receiving games in the NFL since 2011.
Can the Broncos win this game?
I envision a Pick-Six by Aqib Talib and after scoring, he points his finger at the Offense and says, “That’s how it’s done!”
Hey, a guy can dream can’t he?
– Kaptain Kirk