Denver Broncos: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 3
The Denver Broncos continued their hot start with a 41-23 road win in Week 2 over the New York Giants. At home in Week 3, the Broncos will face off against the Oakland Raiders in their first divisional game of the year. This used to be one of the biggest rivalries in the NFL, but now it will feature two teams in very different places.
Anything less than a Super Bowl win will be a disappointing season for the Broncos. Meanwhile, the Raiders are just going to be happy to get a .500 record.
The Raiders were able to easily beat the Jacksonville Jaguars at home in Week 2. They are currently leading the NFL in rushing yards in large part due to running back Darren McFadden and quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
This team should be a pushover for the Broncos, but that may not be the case. It's important for the Broncos to face this type of run-heavy team early in the season. It's especially helpful with a game coming up against the run-heavy Chip Kelly offense in Week 4 against the Eagles.
The Broncos won't overlook the Raiders. Their defense will certainly be tested against the NFL's best ground game. Their offense will face a new challenge as left tackle Ryan Clady is likely to miss this game and possibly many more this season.
The road to the Super Bowl continues. The Broncos have faced plenty of adversity already this year and will have to prove they can overcome even more.
The Broncos may be in a bind if they lose left tackle Ryan Clady for a significant amount of time due to a Lisfranc foot injury. The Denver Post's Mike Klis reports that the Broncos might consider putting Clady on season-ending injured reserve. It's a huge blow for the offensive line as Clady is one of the best left tackles in the game today.
Broncos head coach John Fox would not comment on the rumors about the severity of Clady's injury.
I’m not into fortune telling or ti leaves or any of that good stuff. I’m of the reporting nature of how we report the game. Right now, it’s exactly what I said; it’s a left foot sprain. When we know something, we’ll let all the fortune tellers know.
Without Clady on the field, we'd see swing tackle Chris Clark in the starting lineup. The Broncos just signed Clark to a contract extension on Monday. Fox expressed confidence in Clark at Monday's press conference. "He got a lot of work [at left tackle] this training camp, as well as the preseason games. We have the utmost confidence in Chris Clark.”
Second-year strong safety Duke Ihenacho was also banged up late in the game against the Giants. He's got a right ankle injury that is considered minor.
Fox commented on the injury situations for both Clady and Ihenacho. "We’re still evaluating those injuries, and we’ll keep you updated as we progress during the week,” Fox said.
The team was without cornerback Champ Bailey in Week 2 due to a foot injury. His status for the Week 3 game against the Raiders is up in the air right now. There's a chance the team will continue to rest the veteran, hoping to strengthen his recovery.
Tight end Joel Dreessen also missed the game against the Giants as he continues to recover from two offseason procedures on his knee. He's the best blocker at the position, and the Broncos sure could use him on the field while Clady is out. Dreessen has been doing light running on the side of the practice field for the last two weeks and may be close to returning.
Rookie running back C.J. Anderson continues to rehab his preseason knee injury as well. We could see him mixed into the running back rotation when he's healthy.
What Must Improve
For a team as talented as the Broncos are, they still have a few areas they need to clean up. Ball security, penalties and dropped passes are all things that must be improved.
On the Broncos' first drive against the Giants, they marched down the field with ease. Rookie Montee Ball came in when the team was in the red zone because of his nose for scoring touchdowns. Inside the 5-yard line the rookie fumbled the ball, and it was recovered by the Giants in the end zone.
Fumbling is unacceptable in football. It was fumbling problems in the preseason that cost Ronnie Hillman his spot at the top of the depth chart. Ball is seen as their running back of the future, but fumbling the football will delay his start as the lead back.
After that fumble, we still saw Ball on the field for plenty of snaps. The rookie finished the day with 12 carries for 16 yards and two catches for 27 yards. On Monday, Fox commented on why he showed so much faith in Ball after the fumble.
It’s part of the game, something that we don’t like. I thought we had an excellent start to the game. We did have poor field position; we had an 11-play drive, went inside the five. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to finish it. But I think Montee understands that probably more than anybody. It’s something that [Running Backs Coach] Eric Studesville and [Offensive Coordinator] Adam Gase will address, and we’ll continue to work on it, try to minimize that as we prepare for the Raiders.
We'll see more from Knowshon Moreno if Ball can't hold onto the rock.
Penalties were a problem for the Broncos against the Giants. They were penalized a whopping 13 times for 132 yards on Sunday. This is unforgivable and will cost Denver games against quality opponents, especially in the playoffs.
Fox also had something to say about the amount of penalties the Broncos had in Week 2. He placed the blame on the coaching staff, saying "I think we’ve got to coach it better; we’ve got to do it better, execute better. That’s what practice is for, and I’m sure when we get back started, that will be an emphasis."
The Giants were in a tailspin during the second half, so these mistakes weren't costly. However, against a better team on top of their game, this many penalties would be devastating.
The Broncos also continue to drop too many passes. Yes, Peyton Manning has thrown nine touchdowns in the first two games of the season, but he's been let down by his receivers from time to time. Whether it's Eric Decker or Wes Welker, the concentration level needs to be higher on certain plays.
Coach Fox also commented Monday on the drops he's seen the first two weeks of the regular season.
It’s all a concern. You strive to play these games perfectly, and unfortunately that’s not always the way it works out—like everyday life. You’d like to not get in that car wreck. You’d like to not have that person rear-end you, but in reality, it happens. So you move on, learn from it, correct it and try not to let it happen again.
Against quality opponents, the Broncos can't afford to play with this many mistakes. They'll come out on the losing end if they don't improve these areas as the season progresses.
The Raiders are going to have their hands full when dealing with the Broncos' passing game. They'll try to use their ground game to play defense by keeping Manning off the field.
Defensively, the Raiders are going to try and get after the quarterback now that Clady is likely out. We'll have to see how the Broncos respond and if they run more two-tight-end sets to help the pass protection.
Overall, the Broncos should be able to score 35 or more points against the Raiders on Monday Night Football. They need to cut down the number of turnovers, penalties and dropped passes if they want to play up to their potential this week and for the rest of the season.
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand.
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