Broncos LB Josey Jewell Points to Roster Depth as Team's Saving Grace
Looking ahead to Sunday's Week 3 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Denver Broncos can't get caught up in all the outside noise. Narratives can be easy to indulge in, but the Broncos must guard against it and shield themselves from the whirlwind.
Hopefully, the return of fans to Empower Field at Mile High this week gives the Broncos an emotional lift because reality has bitten down hard on the team, more viciously than any possible outside distraction might. Since 1980, only 3.4 percent of NFL teams starting 0-3 have battled back to make the playoffs.
Let’s first assume that the Broncos still consider themselves alive despite the astonishing glut of injuries. Simply put, Denver has to post a win now or start battling extremely long odds.
Facing a future Hall-of-Famer like Tom Brady will undoubtedly provide its own special brand of motivation to spur on the Broncos. The buzz around the team facility this week has been to stress all the positives of the depth further down the roster and maintaining locker-room morale.
Head coach Vic Fangio hasn't given up on the season and that motivational message was preached by linebacker Josey Jewell on Tuesday.
“It’s just—Coach [Fangio] kind of talked about it a little bit today," Jewell said on Tuesday. "Starting at the first game, we lost quite a bit of guys even before that. We had a couple guys out then after Week 1, we had a couple more guys out. It’s just next man up mentality. I think everybody’s keeping their head high. They understand that even the guys after each [player] like after Von [Miller], we had a couple guys that can come in and step in. As you’ve seen, they’ve done a pretty good job."
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Jewell continues to buy into the belief that the Broncos can successfully readjust to losing key players by pointing to the depth they have at wide receiver.
"Even other positions like in the wide receiver room, they’re pretty good depth-wise," Jewell said. "It’s just a 'next man up' mentality. I think they’ve been doing a pretty good job. I think it’s going to continue through the season. It happens every season, but as you’ve seen, there have been a lot of injuries this season. We don’t know why, probably with the shorter stuff. No matter the team really—there have been a lot of injuries on other teams too. Really just being able to have that next man up mentality and being able to come in and not miss a step.”
It's true that depth-wise, the Broncos are in a significantly better place than at any point in the post-Super Bowl 50 era. That doesn't mean this team can afford to lose all its star players and still field a winning product but with the quality of depth still on the roster, the Broncos can at least compete.
Rolling with the punches in an NFL prizefight is one thing, but at the elite level, you're never far from suffering the fatal knockout blow. Staying in the hunt with backup QB Jeff Driskel at the controls of the offense was already an unenviable task that’s been made all the more difficult by Courtland Sutton's recent season-ending knee injury.
The battle to remain the playoff hunt could well morph into one of attrition as injuries continue to mount across the league. To that end, the Broncos have been hit the hardest already, but with Brady next up, the levels of difficulty only continue to rise.
Learning to win the close games is something young teams often struggle with in the early going. In order to not fall into an even bigger hole, like last year’s 0-4 start, this Sunday is the definition of a must-win game for Fangio, Jewell, and the Broncos.