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Denver Post Broncos writer Parker Gabriel posts his Broncos Mailbag periodically during the offseason. Click here to submit a question.
Hi Parker, I have three observations and three questions.
1. Denver is not running the ball enough with Javonte Williams and Perine, only 34 carries through 2 games. I realize they want to bring Javonte along slowly but shouldn’t they lean more on Perine and Jaleel McLaughlin?
2. The Defense has looked terrible and I know it’s killing Broncos fans that they’re being led by Vance Joseph. Is Joseph in over his head and being exposed? Or is he doing the best he can under the circumstances?
3. The lone bright spot was Marvin Mims! Will his emergence along with Jerry Jeudy being back open things up for the offense?
— Brandon Brown, Rogers, Minn.
Hey Brandon, thanks for getting us going this week and, yeah, you covered some ground.
Let’s do this quick-hitter style.
1. I have to say I am surprised at the rate at which the Broncos are running the ball. Namely, the fact that Williams and Perine only combined for 14 carries Sunday against Washington. Now, Denver did see its lead evaporate quickly. They went from totally in control to trailing without a whole lot of offensive snaps in between. But even still, I do think you’ll see the Broncos try to lean on the run game a little bit more going forward. Or, at least, you’d think so considering the way all parties involved, including Sean Payton, talked about it all offseason.
2. In over his head is too strong — Joseph’s coordinated NFL defenses the past seven years — but it’s not a great start. Linebacker Alex Singleton on Monday really downplayed Denver’s issues in terms of tackling and communication, saying it’s just part of getting on the same page. Maybe we’ll look back later in the year and come to the same conclusion. But at the moment, it’s fair to have a level of concern about the way Joseph’s group has played. Especially with Miami’s explosive offense on deck.
3. Indeed, Mims had a big game. Amazingly, he’s the first Bronco since the AFL/NFL merger to have two catches of 50-plus in the same game. And he added the 45-yard punt return to boot. Don’t mean this as a slight to Courtland Sutton at all — he’s going to have a big role in the offense — but Mims, Jeudy and Brandon Johnson have different body types and different skill sets, but they can all really run. They have the makings of a pretty good receiving group, though it’ll be for naught if they don’t get some other things figured out quickly.
Why don’t the Broncos trade DangeRuss to the Jets for Aaron Rodgers? We would win just as many games this year and would have a real QB next year.
— Tim Monroe, Kingston, Idaho
Hey Tim, thanks for the question and the laugh. This is not going to happen for several different reasons, but it’s fun to ponder the degree to which it would melt the NFL news cycle.
The simplest reason this trade is impossible is because it would blow up both teams’ salary caps. Remember, you can’t just trade a guy and get out from his entire contract. According to OvertheCap, trading Wilson would leave $82 million on Denver’s cap and trading Rodgers would leave $70 million dead on the Jets’ cap.
On top of that, nobody’s taking Wilson’s contract. He’s signed through 2028. Remember, the five-year extension he signed with Denver doesn’t even technically start until next year. At the same time, Rodgers’ restructured deal with the Jets includes a bunch of void years to manage the cap, but currently includes a $63 million cap number in 2026. Short of Denver or New York cutting their guy, neither Wilson nor Rodgers is playing for anybody else any time soon.
It seems to me that Russell Wilson has trouble reading a defense. Dating back to last year his best plays are off script. He seems to not see open receivers multiple times each game. Maybe Jarrett Stidham would be a better stop gap while we wait for our top-three pick to walk in the door next April.
— Jeff, Meridian, Idaho
Double Idaho questions this week, nice! Thanks for writing in, Jeff. Certainly, Wilson hasn’t been asked to play quarterback the way some of the best processors have. Drew Brees would be a good and relevant example given his long history with Sean Payton. But Wilson’s had a tremendous career in his own right, and no matter how many plays he’s made off schedule, you can’t play that well for a decade without being able to decode what defenses are doing to you. A good example: He checked out of a play Sunday recognizing that Washington was going to blitz both of its corners and it turned into a 60-yard touchdown to Marvin Mims, Jr.
It would be very interesting to learn more about how Wilson sees the game, but he’s not typically interested in talking about it in much detail. Some quarterbacks like to show off their recall or talk specifics about circumstances. He’s not really like that.
As for Stidham, Broncos coach Sean Payton likes him, saying this spring that Denver had a “pretty crystal clear” evaluation on him. But this isn’t the way if you’re trying to win games this year. Ask anybody who watched training camp and the preseason consistently this summer, and you’ll hear the same thing: Denver thinks it could sneak a win or two with Stidham if he had to start, but Wilson is easily the best option the Broncos have.
Love your column. I’ve been watching the Broncos for almost a half a century, and in the last 23 years it blows my mind that no matter what defensive coordinator we have, our corners lineup consistently 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. How can Vance Joseph play our corners in off coverage on almost every single play? It makes it too easy. Giving receivers like Terry McLaurin a free release made Sam Howell look like Joe Montana. Why don’t we ever play press or bump coverage in your opinion? To me we are not giving our defense a chance because not only does it make life easy on the receivers but it negates the pass rush to play our corner so far back on every play. Thoughts?
— Shep, Boulder-grown
Shep, good to hear from you. This is one of those topics that fans and coaches always tend to feel differently about. It’s a nice idea that you’re going to get up in guys’ faces and play physical, bump-and-run coverage all the time. But it’s just not the reality in the NFL. Teams have to mix coverages, looks and disguises.
That said, it’s a good question for Joseph this week about if he thinks there’s room to dial up the aggressiveness a notch. While that tight alignment can cause issues for receivers, it can also hurt your rush if you are beat quickly and give quarterbacks early options to get rid of the ball. And remember, not every six-yard cushion at the snap is the same. Sometimes they’ll pat their feet and stay patient as a receiver begins his route. Sometimes they’ll start in an aggressive spot and then turn and bail on the snap.
Bottom line, of course, is that Jimmy Garoppolo and Sam Howell have both found success against the Broncos so far. They’ve combined to complete 72.3% of their passes for 499 yards. Denver’s defense through two weeks is No. 29 in EPA (expected points added) per opponent drop back. Not good.
When Vance Joseph was the Broncos head coach, our defense was good, very good sometimes. But the V. Joseph defense could never stop the opposing team when it really counted. When the Cardinals hired him as the defensive head coach, it was the same thing. The Cardinals had a good defense that never could stop another team when it counted. Now we have Vance Joseph back again with the same old, same old. Our defense was good enough to stop the Raiders but when it came down to playing defense to win the game, we were not good enough. I believe Vance Joseph is a good defensive coach, but he is not good enough. Am I overreacting? I fear that the same old Broncos are back again for another season.
— Larry, Navajo Nation and Mesa, Ariz.
A lot of Vance Joseph consternation among the readers today, which is understandable. But let’s not go too far just yet with it. It’s two games. There are reasons for concern, but also an understandable lack of panic from players and coaches so far. Maybe the group underestimated the learning curve since it was framed as a relatively smooth transition from Joseph to Vic Fangio to Ejiro Evero and back to Joseph. Maybe something really is amiss. But given how prevalent the tackling issue has been so far, let’s give it a couple more weeks and see if the same guys who played well overall last year get back to doing that this fall.
This year we have a beautiful new scoreboard, though a trend that started a couple years ago still remains. Why, since a majority of the fans can’t determine if a field goal is good or not based on their seating, do the Broncos black out the scoreboards end zone shot during FG attempts?
— Curt Hanlen, Bosque Farms, N.M.
Great one to end on Curt. In fact, from my perch in the press box, the only chance I have of knowing if a ball goes through the uprights is watching the crowd and then the referees under the goal posts. So I was pleasantly surprised when, as Washington’s Joey Slye lined up for a field goal going toward the giant new video board, it showed the end zone camera from behind the play as he got lined up.
This is just a guess, but it’s possible they won’t do that when the Broncos are kicking in that direction because, this just in, that video board is enormous and it must be in the kicker’s field of vision. But it was up there as Slye tried kicks in that direction.