The Broncos have much to prove, not the least of which is head coach Nathaniel Hackett finding his feet and establishing a cohesive plan for how his offense will convert in the red zone.
On defense, Ejiro Evero's unit is trending up and has now gone six consecutive quarters without surrendering a touchdown. So, where better to serve notice that the Broncos' defense may truly be elite than in front of a national TV audience?
The Broncos' edge-rushing tandem of Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory are providing a major key to success. By setting a powerful perimeter, the Broncos have become a top-five unit against both the pass and the run in the early going.
Sunday night vs. the Niners presents a different kind of challenge now that veteran signal-caller Jimmy Garoppolo is stepping in for the done-for-the-year Trey Lance. Getting after the less-mobile Garoppolo might have the likes of Chubb licking his chops. Still, if that is indeed true, Chubb is remaining more guarded on account of the veteran quarterback's familiarity with the system.
“They are probably a little bit more comfortable when he is leading it. [QB] Trey Lance is still new to it, trying to figure out what they wanted to do,” Chubb admitted on Wednesday. “‘Jimmy ‘G’ has been the guy for a couple years now. I saw them get into their groove of things and on track with how they throw the ball. He's into that quick three-step, get the ball out, and then hit the receivers where he wants to hit him. We just have to do a good job on the front seven of getting our hands up when he does those quick passes. When our time and opportunities present themselves, we just have to make sure we get after them.”
Coach Hackett is proceeding with the utmost caution heading into the Week 3 fixture and is focusing on Garoppolo’s strengths rather than weaknesses.
“You kind of focus now on Jimmy. I know there was a lot more of quarterback runs with Trey,” Hackett detailed. “But I think Jimmy now brings that drop-back mentality that he's always had and that we've always seen. It's really good.”
Having a more orthodox drop-back passer presents a challenge in terms of adjusting from what the extra mobile Lance would have brought to the party. At least it's a tweak the Broncos have had a full week to prepare for, and of course, also conjure up an attacking defensive game plan of their own.
Given the unique chemistry that is rapidly developing between Chubb and Gregory, they should be pretty optimistic about winning their matchups. Chubb appears to be thoroughly enjoying working in tandem with Gregory, who is turning lots of heads with his performances.
Beyond heavily influencing games, Chubb revealed that his tag-team partner is bringing a complete package to the table for the Broncos thus far.
“Just his energy, who he is, and walking around making people laugh. [He’s] quiet at first, but when you get to talk to him, when you get to know him, he's a great dude,” Chubb said of Gregory. “[He’s] always finding stuff to laugh about, stuff that he'll say, and make sure he's always on a positive note. When he comes out here on the football field you all see what he’s done—the two forced fumbles, the sack, all the things he does as a player. He's just as great a person.”
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithC_NFL.
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