Tue, 28 Sep 2021

Ask Aric: How will Jerry Jeudy's injury impact the Broncos

Denver Broncos
15 Sep 2021, 10:38 GMT+10

Aric DiLalla

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - That's how to start a season.

The Broncos went on the road and handled the New York Giants with relative ease to earn their first season-opening win since 2018, and they'll look to push their record to 2-0 against the Jaguars this weekend.

As they prepare for that matchup, we're taking a look at some of Broncos Country's best questions about the win over the Giants, how Denver will handle the injury to Jerry Jeudy and how hopeful we are after a Week 1 win.

If you'd like to submit a question for a future mailbag, click here or send me a tweet.

How will the Jerry Jeudy injury affect the Broncos going forward? - Eric D.

Eric, I think if you told me before Week 1 that Jerry Jeudy would be placed on IR and miss a handful of games, I would've been quite disappointed. But after seeing the injury, I almost feel relieved that he'll still be back this season. Will it hurt the Broncos' offense? Sure, of course. Jeudy looked like the best skill player on the field in Week 1. But Denver still has plenty of depth. Tim Patrick continued to look like the player he was last season, and KJ Hamler recovered from a drop on a deep pass to make some big plays in the second half. Courtland Sutton had just one catch, but it was a big one on fourth down.

I suspect Jeudy's injury may help Sutton be more involved in the passing game, and it should also be a chance for Hamler to grow into more of a role. Plus, Denver still has Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam and Eric Saubert - and it's clear Teddy Bridgewater is comfortable throwing to his tight ends. Mix in a few more passes to the running backs - they had four combined catches on Sunday - and this team should still have plenty of weapons.

Based on early reports, it seems like Jeudy will be back by the time the Broncos reach the most critical part of their schedule: a stretch of five division games in seven weeks. They'll need to be at their best at that point, and it will be great to have Jeudy back in the mix.

After the Week 1 performance, are you hopeful about the upcoming games? - Harry A.

Heck yeah, Harry. Aren't you? I predicted a Broncos win on Sunday and when taking a look at the season schedule, but it's the _way _that Denver won that has changed my expectations. They went on the road to an emotionally charged stadium and had the edge in nearly every category. Teddy Bridgewater was the better quarterback. The Broncos' run game was more successful. The offensive line held up better, and the Broncos' pass-catchers were open more often. On defense, the Broncos' pass-rush got home and Denver's linebackers were better in space. Perhaps the only area you could call a draw was the backend of the defense, where New York's defensive backs played pretty well. The Broncos looked like the better team from the start, they didn't panic when they fell behind in the second quarter and they just methodically put the game out of reach. This win was no fluke; the Broncos were clearly the better team. It impressed me greatly for the Broncos to have that kind of performance against a team that nearly won its division last year, albeit at 6-10. If Bridgewater can continue to play at that level - and I think somewhere in the neighborhood is reasonable, even if he doesn't have the daring escapes on third and fourth down - then the Broncos should win a lot of games.

The players and coaches have to stay focused on one game at a time, but if I'm allowed to look forward, it wouldn't surprise me if the Broncos surpass their win total from a season ago by the end of October. The Baltimore game in three weeks already looms as a major test; if the Broncos can earn wins the next two weeks, that could be an electric day in Denver.

I really enjoyed the aggressive approach on third- and fourth-down plays. Should we look forward to more of those based on how the offense is moving the ball? - Brandon W.

Brandon, as long as the Broncos continue to show they are capable of moving the ball, I think Fangio will continue to push the envelope. He did note that relying too much on fourth-down conversions can be a team's downfall - he pointed to the Ravens a couple of years ago - but as long as he has confidence in this offense, he should still pick his spots. I'm not sure if he'll go for it three times every week, but I could certainly see a fourth-down attempt every week or two. Especially when you're in a big game against the Chiefs, Browns, Cowboys or any other contender, it may be necessary to help flip the script in your direction. Let's be clear, though: Fangio's willingness to go for it on fourth down has not happened in a vacuum. The offense's performance and ability to move the ball on early downs has given him faith to take chances. If they were struggling to move the ball at all, I don't think you'd see the same sort of aggressiveness.

With the emergence of Teddy Bridgewater, do you see Lock being traded away at or before the trade deadline? - Chigaru G.

I'd be highly surprised, no matter how the season goes. If the Broncos continue to play well and are in the playoff hunt when the trade deadline arrives before Week 9, Lock is a valuable insurance policy. If Bridgewater had to miss a few games due to injury - *knocking on wood* - you wouldn't want your season to fall apart and playoff chances to disappear because you traded Lock. Alternatively, if the Broncos are really struggling at that point in the year, it's possible the team would want to turn to Lock to see if he could save the season. Hopefully, the Broncos are thriving and Bridgewater stays healthy. But as we've seen already with injuries to Jeudy and Ronald Darby, it's always better to have depth just in case.

Even though [the] Broncos have one of the easiest schedules this season, could they still have a challenging year to keep up with the division? - Jeremy P.

Jeremy, there's no question the AFC West is going to be difficult. All four teams started out 1-0, and they looked good while doing it. The Chiefs came back from a double-digit deficit at home, the Chargers beat a solid Washington team on the road and the Raiders upset the Ravens in a crazy "Monday Night Football" opener. The key for the Broncos - in addition to winning at least three of its division games - is to take advantage of the rest of the schedule. The Broncos benefited by finishing last in the AFC West in 2020; they'll get to play the fourth-place finishers in the AFC South (Jaguars), AFC East (Jets) and NFC North (Lions). The Chargers, in comparison, will play the Texans, Patriots and Vikings, while the Raiders face the Colts, Dolphins and Bears. The average DVOA - a Football Outsiders ranking - of those opponents? 14th for the Chargers, 21st for the Raiders and 27th for the Broncos. There's certainly an opportunity there for Denver to make up some ground.

Mahomes & Herbert are on the Broncos schedule 4 games....Are they looking to UPGRADE the pass rush at the DT spot? - @Jermain90922702

I'm not concerned with the defensive line's ability to pass rush, especially when we're talking about the starting unit. In passing scenarios, Denver has two viable defensive linemen who can rush in Dre'Mont Jones and Shelby Harris. Jones posted a career-high 6.5 sacks last year and had several good rushes against the Giants. Harris, meanwhile, had six sacks in 2019. Mike Purcell just returned to the lineup after a season-ending foot injury, but he showed last year in Pittsburgh that he can rush the passer, as well. Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert will be tough opponents, without a doubt; Denver's pass rush, though, should be prepared to do its part.

Took three 4th down conversions to score 17 of their points. The league average on 4th is 50%...playing behind the chains isn't a recipe for continued success. How do we address this later on in season against tougher defenses? - @turtle4614

Well, the Broncos did need a fourth-down conversion to get their touchdown before the half, but it's not unrealistic to think McManus could've made a 54-yarder on the team's first scoring drive and he definitely would've made a chip shot in the third quarter. That means the Broncos would've had 16 points instead of 27 during the game, but you could just as easily make the argument that if it weren't for a bad call on the Giants' fumble recovery, Denver would've scored another touchdown. Regardless, it seems to me like Denver would've won with or without the fourth-down conversions. Does Denver need to be better on third down? Sure, teams can always work toward that, but it's not like the Broncos were awful. Their 46.7 conversion rate was tied for 10th in the league, and the Giants' defense is no pushover. The unit ranked ninth in scoring defense and second in red-zone defense a year ago. If the Broncos were able to be effective against New York, they should be able to move the ball against most teams.

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