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Monday Night Football Preview: When the Broncos Have the Ball

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NFL: Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers don’t have to win the game on offense. They just need to move the chains and limit turnovers and the 3 and outs. Timely scores and a few sustained drives will go a long way in winning the game. The side of the ball where the Chargers are going to have to win is on defense. Simply put, they’re better than the Broncos on this side. Put it this way, the best thing the Broncos have to offer on offense is a pair of 2 very good receivers. 1 is borderline great. The Chargers combat that with a pair of top 10 corners. Not great, but elite. Last year when against the Broncos Casey Hayward was targeted 9 times and gave up 4 catches. He also had an interception returned for a touchdown and 2 separate passes that he broke up. Not to mention a pass interference that he drew.

That 99 guy is pretty good, & we’ll get to him. Hayward has great situational awareness. He knows were the sticks are and he just sits on routes. I’d guess if they were to track receivers Hayward would follow the bigger, stronger, Demaryius Thomas. Thomas turned the corner last year. He was a handful. He finally developed as a route runner which was much needed to complement his top end speed and strength. The Chargers have a luxury of keeping their corners on one side because the other corner’s name is Jason Verrett. Verrett didn’t make it to either of the Denver games but in his history he hasn’t had any issues with bigger receivers. Here he is against 6’3 Allen Hurns to the top of the screen:

Verrett is too quick for the taller receivers and he has no issue beating them to the ball. Ironically, it’s the quicker, faster receivers that give him issues. Against TY Hilton and the Colts Verrett gave up 6 of 8 passes his way including 2 1st downs and a touchdown.

Judging by the preseason the Chargers defense will be a bend but don’t break and really make their living off of turnovers. What they can’t do against Denver is surrender the big play. Make things easy on them. Knowing the Broncos offense is putrid, and struggles to generate explosive plays, the defense needs to avoid any mental mistakes like coverage busts or their 1st round edge rusher jumping offsides on 3rd & 6 and keeping the drive alive like week 8 last year. They’ll also have to do something they haven’t done well the last 4 years; tackle. CJ Anderson is a load to bring down and newly acquired Jamal Charles looked like his old self in the preseason. Denver’s playcaller will know exactly who and where to target as well. If the defense can consistently win on 1st down then they shouldn’t have too much trouble containing the offense. Trevor Siemian is not built for 3rd and 7 or longer.

Will we finally see a pass rush?

The Broncos were 6th worst in the NFL in adjusted sack rate. Now they’ve made some key changes along the offensive line. They drafted the Chargers #2 player on their board in the 1st round in Garrett Bolles at left tackle. They also brought in Cowboys guard Ronald Leary. Leary should be very good for them and give them some much needed toughness. Like most linemen, Bolles will have a rocky rookie year but he’s already shown some much needed fire that’s been lacking along the line.

The Broncos have a very smart playcaller and he’ll know that his tackles are either green or not very good. That’s what Menelik Watson is, not very good. He played well in the 4 games he played in last year but prior to that he wasn’t anything to write home about. I would be surprised to see very many plays that involve 5-7 step drops. If I’m Gus Bradley I’m putting immense pressure on this offensive line and quarterback. I trust my secondary. I also know that the more guys I bring the more 1-on-1 matchups I get with their tackles and by edge rushers. Ingram did a great job in the 2nd game last year against now Chargers left tackle Russell Okung. I won’t show those plays for sake of staying optimistic. Bolles is more athletic but Ingram’s athleticism is on another planet from any offensive lineman he’ll face this year.

Bradley’s system gives Ingram more freedom as we saw in the preseason. He can be a little more wild and reckless. Bosa will be on the strong-side and in a favorable match-up he’ll get a tight end. You saw above what happens when he sees a tight end. He manhandles them. Denver will likely throw plenty of screens to both their running backs and receivers to slow down any sort of pass rush the Chargers can muster. It also keeps them out of long distance situations and gets the ball in their best players hands without their worst player having to make real-time decisions. As the game goes along I can see the Broncos opening up more on offense but they’ll start slow. Aside from a big play, bonehead penalties, or poor tackling, it’s hard to imagine the Broncos moving the ball consistently up and down the field.

Goals

  • Under 35% 3rd down conversions
  • 3 or more sacks
  • More than 1 turnover
  • 3+ pass deflections/interceptions
  • 2< explosive plays

Stop Denver on 1st down. Get them in situations where the entire stadium knows you have to throw the ball past 5 yards. Let your best players make plays. Simple, right?