3 Big questions for the Broncos ahead of their Week 3 matchup with the Buccaneers

Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant (87) celebrates with fullback Andy Janovich (32) after Janovich scored a touchdown in the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Nov 17, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant (87) celebrates with fullback Andy Janovich (32) after Janovich scored a touchdown in the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks into the season and the Denver Broncos have raised far more questions than they’ve answered, due to a plague of injuries that forced reserve players into the starting lineup. In this article, we’ll take a look at three of those big questions, that could determine Sunday’s outcome.

Can the Broncos create pressure without Von Miller?

The Broncos defense was expected to be one of the best in football, but that hasn’t been the case as they’ve been just a solid unit instead. The loss of pass rusher Von Miller is a big reason as to why.

Without their perennial All-Pro edge rusher on the field, the Broncos haven’t been able to create pressure on any sort of consistent basis through two weeks. Against the Titans, the Broncos sacked Ryan Tannehill just once, but were able to pressure him on 15 of his dropbacks. Week 2 was much worse, as against the Steelers, the Broncos created just nine pressures, one of which was a sack. In Week 2, no Broncos created more than two pressures, which is unacceptable given the fact that the right side of Pittsburgh’s offensive line was in shambles.

Now with the Buccaneers and Tom Brady coming to Denver, that trend has to change. If Brady gets to operate from a clean pocket all day, it will spell a lot of trouble for the Broncos and their young, inexperienced cornerback group.

Can Noah Fant carry Denver’s offense for four quarters?

2019 first-round draft selection Noah Fant has been the lone bright spot on an otherwise disappointing Broncos’ team. He’s easily been the best player on the offensive side of the ball, and has arguably been the best player on the entire team so far.

Fant so far has nine receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns, which puts him on pace to finish the season with 72 catches, over 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns. Putting up those numbers were put Fant in the Pro Bowl and potentially in the All-Pro conversation. What makes that stat line even more impressive, is the fact that Fant didn’t reel in a pass in either the first half of Denver’s Week 2 game or the second half of their Week 1 game.

The difference in the offense’s production when Fant is rolling, and when he isn’t, has been stark.

In halves where Fant has a reception, the Broncos have outscored their opponents 25-16, and that’s with Jeff Driskel playing half of those snaps. In halves where Fant didn’t make a reception, the Broncos have so far been outscored 26-10.

Let’s see Denver make Fant the focal point of the offense for all four quarters this weekend.

How much can Denver’s young secondary limit Tampa Bay’s superstar receiving core?

Against the Steelers in Week 2, third-round rookie cornerback Michael Ojemudia played every snap for the Broncos defense, while undrafted rookie cornerback Essang Bassey played almost every slot cornerback snap, totaling nearly 75 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.

That’s a lot to ask of two rookie cornerbacks following an off-season that was shortened and marred by Coronavirus. Things won’t get any easier this week, as Mike Evans, Chris Godwin line up on the other side of the ball.

To keep a limited, Jeff Driskel-led offensive attack in this ball game for four quarters, Ojemudia and Bassey can’t allow the Buccaneers to victimize them for big plays.