The Denver Broncos are riding high for the first time in a while after starting off this season a perfect 3-0. The Broncos have not faced any truly formidable opponents.
Denver is also not only beating these bad teams, but handling them beyond questionable doubt. The Broncos have looked like what playoff teams do against obvious pretenders.
While the Broncos are currently on a heater and one of only five remaining undefeated teams, they're are also continually taking blows on the injury front, losing yet another starter for the year. After a rare errant throw from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater late in the second quarter, Broncos’ second-year wide receiver KJ Hamler came up clutching his left knee and was taken to the team’s locker room.
After being ruled out for the rest of the game, the Broncos waited for an MRI to confirm how serious the knee injury was. Unfortunately, the testing confirmed one of the worst possible outcomes as Hamler suffered a season-ending ACL injury per Adam Schefter.
"Broncos’ WR KJ Hamler tore his ACL Sunday and is out for the season, per source," Schefter tweeted.
The Broncos are now without both their top draft picks from last year with Hamler out for the season and 2020 first-rounder Jerry Jeudy nursing his way back from an ankle on injured reserve. Hamler is also the second high-impact player to be ruled out for the season starting linebacker Josey Jewell getting hurt in Week 2.
While Hamler was not yet putting up big numbers in the Broncos’ offense, his loss will be felt on the field. Far and away the Broncos’ most explosive pass-catcher, he forced teams to think long and hard about stacking the box and playing single-high coverage.
Without Hamler's speed, it is very possible that spacing could become an issue for the Broncos’ offense that wants to run the football because teams likely won’t feel as threatened without the big-play receiver on the field and can allocate resources to crowd the box.
This could create issues for Bridgewater as well, who, while he is playing fantastic football currently, is limited in terms of the velocity he can put on the football. More bodies on the second level of the defense could create problems for the highly efficient horizontal passing attack Denver has deployed through three weeks. Even if the ball wasn’t going Hamler’s way, opposing defenses had to reckon for his presence on the field.
Losing Hamler is a huge blow to the Broncos’ offense and its ability to create field-flipping explosive plays in the pass game. Now Denver will either have to rely on extremely unproven depth in Kendall Hinton and Diontae Spencer — or go out and make a move for a wide receiver.
While Denver was dealing from a position of strength in the offseason, the trade of Trinity Benson to the Detroit Lions for a fifth-rounder is looking less stellar today in hindsight. With Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick being big-bodied, physical, catch-point receivers, if the Broncos add another body at the position, look for someone who can win with speed and decompress defenses vertically or a player who can win and uncover quickly.
On paper, it would be shocking for Denver to be interested in an X receiver such as Josh Gordon given the types of receivers the team already has on the roster.
Hopefully, Hamler, who is still just 22 years old, can recover fully and make a positive impact on the Broncos in 2022 and 2023, but for now, the team must figure out what to on offense to create space now that the second-year wideout is officially done for the season.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickKendellMHH.
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