How do the Broncos get a win on Sunday against the Commanders?
Sep 16, 2023, 8:57 AM
(Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images)
The Denver Broncos have played one game, and they are still looking for their first win in the Sean Payton era. After falling to the Las Vegas Raiders 17-16 in Week 1, the Broncos now face a team some may not think is as good as I think they are.
The Broncos are at home in Week 2, and the crowd is hoping things turn out better than they did last week against the Raiders. Things have been bad around Denver for six seasons, and things were supposed to be different under Payton. The offense was efficient against the Raiders with multiple long drives, but this team failed to score 20 points again – something they haven’t done regularly in years.
The Commanders have a young quarterback with a gunslinger mentality. The Broncos’ defense is going to have opportunities to get their hands on turnovers, and perhaps a scoring defense could help the team get past 20 points this week.
How will the Broncos attack the Commanders on both sides of the ball? Let’s take a look.
When the Broncos Run the Ball
The phrase ‘meat on the bone’ was used quite a bit this week when describing the rushing attack in Week 1. Starting LG Quinn Meinerz was the first to say that when describing what the film from the season opener showed the team. After Meinerz, TE Chris Manhertz, and RB Javonte Williams all reiterated similar sentiments when talking about their ground game.
The Broncos can lead the way on the ground. That potentially means a lot of Williams. He came back from a major knee injury suffered less than a year ago, and against the Raiders last week Williams almost looked like his old self. As the Broncos use both Williams and RB Samaje Perine, there seems to be plenty of work for both. Williams can be the lead back, and Perine can get enough work to register as a co-starter.
That duo is all about power. In fact, it’s the best way for the Broncos to begin and end these games. The team is not built to run away with games, so winning ugly means they’ll have to win with physicality. Against the Raiders, the Broncos did not run enough – especially when they were in the red zone. I believe that changes this week. Denver can have long drives under Payton, but the exclamation point might be with Williams or Perine plunging into the end zone.
Javonte Williams believes there were yards left out there for the running game last Sunday. “We could have had a lot more explosive plays,” he said. pic.twitter.com/kXoqF0reHZ
— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) September 14, 2023
We’ll see if the Broncos can get all that extra meat on the bone. I’d like to see more from rookie RB Jaleel McLaughlin – since his game is built on speed and explosiveness. However, I just want to see Denver lead the way on the ground, something that I believe can lead to multiple wins.
When the Broncos Pass the Ball
Since they’re going to run the heck out of the ball, that doesn’t leave much for the Broncos’ passing attack. We should once again see QB Russell Wilson manage the game and use dink-and-dunk passing to move the chains regularly. Fans may want more deep passes, but that’s not going to be the design of this offense.
The Broncos can move the ball between the 20s, but they need touchdowns when they get near pay dirt. Losing TE Greg Dulcich for at least a few weeks with a hamstring injury means that others are going to have to step up in that red-zone role. That means WR Courtland Sutton, and his large frame could get more looks in the end zone. However, I believe TE Adam Trautman and WR Lil Jordan Humphrey could also get more targets when the team is in position to score.
Something that could help short passes turn into long gains is the return of WR Jerry Jeudy. He’s been practicing this week, and Jeudy should be out there after missing Week 1 with a hamstring injury. Jeudy is a favorite of both Payton and Wilson. He wins early in his route, and Payton’s system gets the ball out of Wilson’s hand quickly. Add it up, and it equals a big role for Jeudy if he’s healthy. One player does not make a team, but Jeudy’s return could be among the biggest differences we see from Week 1 to Week 2.
Jerry Jeudy balls in 3 days pic.twitter.com/k4502m9HUw
— Bryce 🎸 (@HamlerMileHigh) September 15, 2023
If Jeudy does play, he’s likely to lead the team in receiving and be the big-play threat this team needs. I still don’t think Wilson fills the air with footballs, but getting Jeudy the ball should be a priority.
When the Commanders Run the Ball
The Commanders have a couple of options when it comes to running the ball – and they’re both good. Once again, we’ll see RB Brian Robinson as the team’s starter with RB Antonio Gibson backing him up. Neither back had a great game in the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals last week, but Robinson was able to snare one touchdown pass in Week 1.
This week, Robinson should be utilized as a battering ram to soften up the Broncos defense and set up play-action passing opportunities. In addition, Robinson can slow the game down for the Commanders if the Broncos start out hot. He could also close out the game with consistent running between the tackles if the Commanders have a late lead.
The mystery here is the usage of Gibson. He could start for many teams in this league, but he’s fallen out of favor in Washington. A converted wide receiver, Gibson isn’t just a good receiver – he’s a great receiving option out of the backfield or even lined up in the slot. Gibson has good size and can take advantage of defenders in open space and after contact. If the team trusts him more, Gibson could be an under-the-radar weapon to beat the Broncos. Rookie Chris Rodriguez, also a power back like Robinson, can get a few carries here and there too.
The first TD for the Commanders regular season is an 8 yard Howell pass to Brian Robinson Jr, like we all planned!
— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoTWW) September 10, 2023
If the game is close, and I expect it to be, the Commanders will be able to have long drives – like the Raiders did last week – if they can run the ball effectively. To stay safe with the football, bludgeoning the Broncos inside with the rushing attack makes a lot of sense. Denver must be ready for a physical game.
When the Commanders Pass the Ball
I believe Commanders QB Sam Howell is better than most think. He’s a gunslinger, and he will take a bunch of chances, but Howell can make big plays happen. This is going to be much different than what the Broncos faced in Week 1 against a safe, efficient, and get-rid-of-the-ball quick Jimmy Garoppolo. There will be opportunities for plays to be made by the Broncos defense, and perhaps one of those plays could get them into the end zone.
Howell will spread the ball around, and he’s got quite a few weapons to distribute the ball to. It’s an offense ran by former Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, so there’s going to be a mixture of short passes and deep shots. Howell has only played two games in the NFL, one last year and one so far this year, so there’s not a lot of film on him to reveal tendencies. I’d say WR Terry McLaurin may be his priority target, but second-year pro WR Jahan Dotson can make big plays too.
McLaurin is the steady player in this offense who can move the chains regularly. He’s more than a possession receiver, but his traits are so reliable that he should be looked to early and often. Dotson is a speed merchant, and that downfield ability should be highlighted against Broncos CB Damari Mathis. In addition to McLaurin and Dotson, guys like WR Curtis Samuel and TE Logan Thomas can be threats in the passing game.
Commanders WR Jahan Dotson has this CB in the blender. He's such a tough cover. pic.twitter.com/s8Mq0ikakg
— JetPack Galileo (@JetPackGalileo) September 13, 2023
The pressure is on this week as Howell will take more chances down the field than Garoppolo did against the Broncos in Week 1. It’s time for the Broncos defense to make the opposing quarterback pay for such decisions.