Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- We’ve talked about teams still trying to find their identity in other writeups this week, and that sentiment could not be more true than when talking about these two teams.
- Something has got to give in this spot – sharp money would appear to be on the Broncos, who somewhat quietly have a top 10 offensive line and have blocked to 2.0 yards before contact on the ground (fourth in the league).
- Nothing from this game truly pops on paper regardless of the current state of each defense.
How denver Will Try To Win ::
The Broncos have looked competent (competent, not spectacular) against lesser competition (Las Vegas Raiders and Washington Commanders) and have been historically embarrassed by the lone top end team they have played this season (Miami Dolphins). Sean Payton is very clearly still working through how he wants this offense to look and run, with his most explosive play-maker (Marvin Mims) topping out at 17 offensive snaps this year, practice squad players Brandon Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey thrust into legitimate roles due to injury, Jerry Jeudy missing Week 1 and working his way back into game shape the following two weeks, Greg Dulcich’s trip to injured reserve, and a backfield that very clearly needs to feature Javonte Williams (who might be limited by his health after working back from a torn ACL suffered last season). From a top level perspective, this team has played with a modest pace (19th-ranked 28.5 seconds per play) and moderate pass rates (10th-ranked pass rate over expectation (PROE) through three weeks), but we have to question when those tendencies are going to change considering the team’s performance to this point in the season and the coaching staff in charge. Payton has long been hailed for his ability to extract the maximum amount of talent from the players on his roster. The problem with just assuming those tendencies will immediately present themselves on the football field is that sweeping schematic changes take time to institute, and the shortened offseason does these teams with significant changes no favors. I have confidence that things will eventually turn around for the Broncos, but we have to realize we have no idea when (or if) that happens this season.
Javonte Williams is far and away the most talented back on the Denver roster, but he has played between 42 percent and 45 percent of the offensive snaps in each game through three weeks. Again, we have no idea if or when that changes moving forward, but we have to assume that Payton and Joe Lombardi have been forced back to the drawing board after last week. There’s also the uncertainty regarding Williams’ health after suffering a torn ACL in week 4 of last year. What we do know is that the team wants Williams in their primary early down role. A low route participation rate (32.7 percent, 42nd in the league amongst running backs) means Williams should primarily be viewed as a yardage-and-touchdown back, one that has seen only 36 carries through three weeks due to the low overall snap rate. Can that change in an instant? Of course it can. Are we going to know when that is likeliest to happen? Nope. Samaje Perine’s offseason hype was quickly extinguished this season, accounting for just 12 carries and 11 targets through three games. He is the unquestioned change of pace and clear passing down back, but that hasn’t translated to much on the opportunity or box score front just yet. As far as red zone usage, Williams has seen four red zone opportunities, Perine has seen five, and rookie Jaleel McLaughlin has seen three of his own (one of which he converted to a five-yard touchdown plunge). The matchup on paper could not be better against a Chicago defense allowing 34.7 DK points per game and seven total touchdowns to opposing backfields this year. One final note here – the Broncos offensive line is actually above average this season, allowing pressure at a below average rate and blocking to 2.0 yards before contact, the latter of which ranks fourth in the league.
In this offense’s current state, only Courtland Sutton is playing close to every snap. Jeudy has not seen the snaps just yet, but his 94.3 percent route participation rate is acceptable and he has transitioned back to a heavy slot snap rate. I will continue dying on the “Marvin Mims is the skeleton key to unlock this offense” hill, as his downfield ability would allow Sutton more space and one-on-one coverage on the perimeter in the X-type role and allow Jeudy to run routes more optimized to his skillset out of the slot. And yet, two practice squad wide receivers (Brandon Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey) continue to play over the electric rookie. Again, when or if Mims sees more involvement in the offense remains to be seen, keeping a high level of uncertainty attached to this offense until further notice. Per Scott Barrett on Twitter, eight of the Broncos 10 longest plays this season have come via Mims, who has touched the football just 12 times total (seven catches and five kick returns). Adam Trautman has been forced into a role he is not best suited for following the injury to Greg Dulcich and would be optimally used as a blocker moving forward.