Broncos Matchups: Rookies Williams and Sterns key vs Chargers

Sep 19, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams (33) runs with with ball in the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

After a two-game skid, the Denver Broncos may have had their worst defeat of the season. Just a week after a thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys, Denver laid an egg against the Philadelphia Eagles.

At 5-5 with five matchups within the division, Sunday’s matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers is a must-win situation.

The Chargers are coming off of an exciting 41-37 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This Sunday, young Broncos will be called on to perform and be dynamic against the L.A. The Chargers boast one of the NFL’s stingiest pass defenses while owning a prolific air attack. For Denver to get to six wins and play for first next week in primetime against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Every game week MHS highlights individual matchups the Broncos must have the advantage in to come out victorious. This week, two rookies are in the spotlight for the Broncos versus L.A.

Williams must eat against vulnerable Chargers run defense

As good as their pass defense is, the Chargers are near or at the bottom of the league in virtually every rushing defensive category.

Using DVOA, the Charger defense ranked dead last heading into Sunday’s matchup with the Broncos. DVOA is a method of evaluating teams comparing each player and team to a league-average baseline based on the situation. “DVOA measures not just yardage, but yardage towards a first down,” Per Football Outsiders. For example, “five yards on third-and-4 are worth more than five yards on first-and-10 and much more than five yards on third-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays.”

The performance of the defense is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent. DVOA is a percentage that measures scoring, thus defenses are better when they are negative.

The Chargers are 5.2 percent worse than the league average and significantly behind the Jets who are next in line.

Los Angeles struggles upfront to handle their caps and the linebackers struggle to read and fill the gaps. Linebacker Kenneth Murray is an athletic player who can come downhill fast. His struggles in coverage have led to a change in responsibilities. Yet, that change has not equaled success as of yet.

“Even though he was given more downhill responsibilities, Murray struggled with them” stated Gavnio Perez from Yahoo Sports. “While opportunities were there, he often missed tackles, over-pursued ball carriers, and struggled to shed blocks and work off contact.

Additionally, Murray has a propensity to overrun a play and leave a crease for a running back to get through. His poor play earns him a grade of 53.7 per Pro Football Focus (PFF).

Enter Broncos rookie sensation, Javonte Williams.

The first-year player has shown time and time again he dynamic back who is tough to bring down. Furthermore, Williams is breaking tackles at a historic rate per PFF.

The Broncos’ offense has been successful rushing the ball most of this season. The team averages 4.5 yards per attempt. Additionally, when the running backs are fed the Broncos offense has an identity.

Look for Pat Shurmur to use Williams early and often to help get the offense in rhythm. Denver has to like their chances when Murray is matched up one-on-one with Williams. If the Chargers’ 2020 first-round selection is unable to corral Williams when the two meet in the hole, the Denver offense should see a lot of success moving the ball.

Broncos’ Sterns must hold his own and create a big play versus Herbert

Justin Herbert has continued to play well this season. The second-year phenom boasts a QBR of 66.2 and has thrown for almost 3,000 yards in 10 games this season.

Herbert has mastered his new offense and knows where to go with the football. The Chargers love to attack downfield with large targets Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Co.

The desire to push the ball downfield puts a great deal of pressure on rookie Caden Sterns.

Sterns will start in place of Kareem Jackson.

Jackson’s ability to impact brings a physical presence to the middle will be sorely missed.

However, Sterns shows to be an effective and heady player that could cause the young quarterback problems. Additionally, Sterns shows a tremendous ability to blitz the quarterback.

Head coach Vic Fangio should continue to call pressure looks for his defense, which may cause Herbert to get rid of the ball sooner than he’d like or force a throw.

Sterns has shown to be a playmaker, and if the ball is in his facility he’ll come down with it and change the course of the game.

The key for Sterns will be communication and being in the right spot.
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The Broncos are confident in Sterns and believe he’s ready for the opportunity. If Sterns can make a big play early or in crunch time, the Broncos could be able to rattle the Chargers’ offense and come away with a much-needed win Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High.

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