The Denver Broncos are 2-0 thanks in large part to the impressive performance of veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. With his first two starts in the Orange and Blue under his belt, Bridgewater has completed 77.1% of his passes for 592 yards and four touchdowns with a QB rating of 120.7.
If there's a fly in the ointment, it's been the Broncos' lackluster execution on third down and the fact that Teddy has been sacked five times already. Were it not for his elusiveness and veteran savvy in the pocket, that number would be significantly higher.
With the New York Jets next up on the docket in the Broncos' home-opener, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur believes it's Bridgewater's poise that allows him to do so much, including evading the pass rush and staying on-schedule.
“I think Teddy has poise," Shurmur said on Thursday. "I think our guys up front have done a nice job of blocking the pressure, so there’s a confidence that comes with that. Each week it’s different. Today’s a big third-down day for us, and the Jets present a lot of different pressures that are unique to them that we’ve got to get honed in on. I think Teddy’s presence, his ability to make a play when it’s not perfect, and then he’s getting a better feel each week for the guys he’s throwing to.”
The Broncos currently are tied at No. 23 in third-down percentage, moving the chains on just 34.6% of tries. That's not a tenable figure if the Broncos want to truly be able to go toe-to-toe with the AFC's juggernauts like the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, and Buffalo Bills.
One of the reasons for Denver's struggles on third down has been opponents stacking the box on first and second down, giving Bridgewater and the running backs little room to work with. However, in the Broncos' favor is the fact that Teddy has made opponents pay for not playing Denver honestly, so it'll be interesting to see if the Jets take a more measured defensive approach.
Another thing helping Bridgewater get off to this phenomenal start has been his decision-making and more precisely, how he's taken care of the ball while being sure to distribute touches to almost every eligible receiver suited up. Reading between the lines, Shurmur's trust in Bridgewater to walk that line between being aggressive and not giving the ball away played a big role in the Broncos supplanting Drew Lock for him.
“Decision-making is huge for the quarterback," Shurmur said. "The timing is huge, and you’ve got to be a good decision-maker as a quarterback early in the down and late in the down. Late in the down, he’s finding these receivers, and then I would expect if they’re not available, then he just throws it away or runs with it. I think that’s part of Teddy’s charm—he’s a good decision-maker.”
That's not the first time in the past couple of weeks that Shurmur revealed how 'charmed' he's been by Teddy. If Bridgewater can continue to be both a good game manager and playmaker, it's only a matter of time before opponents are forced to stop loading the box. That's when Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams can come alive and really give the Broncos a balanced offensive attack.
That'll also help on third down. Time will tell whether Sunday's action sees Shurmur and Bridgewater improve on these key areas vs. the Jets. It may be the closest thing to a litmus test the Broncos will get before having to take on a murderous four-game slate featuring Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in Week 4, Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5, Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 6, and Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns in Week 7.
If the Broncos close out September having won the games they were supposed to, it'll set the team up nicely to weather that gauntlet of a stretch.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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