From the Other Side: Five Questions About the Broncos
The Miami Dolphins will look to extend their winning streak to six games when they face the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High.
The Dolphins are coming off a 29-21 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers, while the Broncos are coming off a 37-12 loss against the Las Vegas Raiders to fall to 3-6 season on the season.
To get a better feel for the Broncos, we checked in with Mile High Huddle publisher Chad Jensen for his answers on these five key questions:
1) The Broncos are 3-6 after going 4-1 down the stretch last year with then-rookie Drew Lock at QB, so how do we explain the collapse?
Jensen: In a word, injuries. I hate to take the low-hanging fruit but the impetus for the Broncos' 2020 struggles really has been the injury bug. Literally every Pro Bowl player this team had has missed a game, three of whom have been on season-ending IR since Week 2 (Von Miller, Jurrell Casey, Courtland Sutton). Throw in Lock's injury to this throwing shoulder in Week 2, which cost him 2.5 games, and it only added insult to, well, injury.
The Broncos have been running on fumes. For the last two games, not one of their day-one D-line starters has been on the field. No. 1 corner A.J. Bouye has missed more games this year than he's played in and the same goes for Phillip Lindsay, almost.
The other issue is this: Vic Fangio made the fateful decision to fire 2019 OC Rich Scangarello, who did a phenomenal job developing the very raw Lock last year, in order to land Pat Shurmur, whom the Giants had just fired. Fangio didn't have a crystal ball to divine that a pandemic was imminent but, still, that decision has haunted this team. Not only did Lock have to learn a new system but he had to do so minus the 1,400 reps that were lost as a result of no OTAs or preseason. It's made for an unhappy formula in 2020.
2) Jerry Jeudy obviously had great success with Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama; how would you assess his rookie season so far?
Jensen: Jeudy has been up and down. But lately, he's been mostly up. He was expected to be the No. 2 wideout behind Sutton but, well, we covered that ground already. Early on, Jeudy struggled to acclimate to the NFL and expectations, got stuck in his own head, leading to a virulent case of the "dropsies." He's since bounced back in a big way. The dude is open on almost every route. Quarterback and schematic consistency would help Jeudy a lot.
3) The Broncos seemingly haven't been able to find a young franchise quarterback since John Elway retired (much like the Dolphins after Dan Marino), so what's the level of frustration among Broncos fans with that position with Lock struggling in his second season?
Jensen: The dam burst for Broncos fans after Lock's four-interception stinker last week in Vegas. The majority of fans are ready to turn the page. But that's not necessarily the view of the team. Lock is hurt. He could miss Week 11 vs. the Dolphins. But more likely, he'll play and get the remaining schedule to prove he can overcome adversity and at least assuage the front office's concerns to a point where John Elway would be willing to go 'all in' on him for one more year.
2021 is Elway's contract year himself, so it would make more sense to call 2020 a mulligan, considering the comedy of injuries this team has suffered, and hope that 2021, and the additional time on task with Shurmur, will be the difference in Lock turning the corner.
4) How you can put into words what the impact of losing Von Miller has been for the Denver defense?
Jensen: Near-cataclysmic. It wouldn't have been so bad if Bradley Chubb wasn't coming off a torn ACL himself, but Miller's absence crushed the Broncos' defense. Fangio has schemed his rear end off to manufacture sacks, but it's cost the Broncos in coverage because he's had to send blitzers. The Broncos are learning that Miller remains more integral to the team's success and relative viability than perhaps Elway surmised. I'd be stunned if Miller doesn't return to play out the final year of his deal, carte blanche.
5) The one thing the Dolphins defense hasn't done particularly well this season is stop the run; how concerned should they be about the Denver running game this weekend?
Jensen: Not concerned at all. Shurmur forgets what "running the ball" even means. He dropped Lock back 47 times last week and tossed less than 15 total carries Phillip Lindsay's and Melvin Gordon's way. Moreover, the Broncos' O-line (outside of Garett Bolles) has been a turnstile in pass pro and about as impotent as it gets in run blocking. Again, with two Pro Bowl running backs, the Broncos' lack of production on the ground is another glaring indictment on Shurmur as a tactician, game-planner, and play-caller. This season hasn't been just about Lock failing to live up to expectations. To quote Fangio, "Everybody's fingerprints" are on this failure to launch, and none more so than Shurmur's.