Broncos special teams unit a difficult group to figure out

Chris Harris picks up the blocked field goal. Credit: Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports.
Chris Harris picks up the blocked field goal. Credit: Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports.

How good are the Denver Broncos special teamers? The simple answer is we just don’t know.

Some will point to the fact that Denver blocked two kicks in Sunday’s 27-14 loss to the Ravens — a punt and a field goal — to say the Broncos special teams is spectacular.

Yes, that punt block by Joseph Jones was special, and so was the block by Justin Simmons, jumping over a lineman without touching him to swat away a field goal which was likely to be made. Sensational, really.

But, on that play, an illegal block meant Chris Harris’ touchdown return was then off the board.

And Marquette King was more like a jester for much of the game; his first three punts went for a mere 38, 40 and 35 yards. Finally, his fourth went 55 yards, flipping the all-important field position, but his 35-yarder set up Baltimore with a short field, allowing them to make a field goal before half.

On the day, King’s seven punts averaged a mere 39 yards; which would be in the bottom third of the league if he regularly punted that poorly.

Add in the 37-yard kickoff return early and it was an up-and-down day for the special teams against Baltimore.

Coming into the game, the special teams unit was again, up-and-down. Their 4.5 yards allowed per punt return was 12th-best. And the 19.5 yards per kickoff return allowed was 11th-best. However, the Broncos’ mere 3.3 yards per punt return were 26th in the league. While their first kickoff return of the year came against Baltimore, going 18 yards by Phillip Lindsay.

Also, Shaquil Barrett blocked an extra point against the Raiders, which ended up being the difference in the win for Denver. And, another positive has been Brandon McManus, a perfect 4-4 on field goals and 7-7 on extra points.

So, how good is the Broncos special teams?

It’s honestly difficult to figure out. Their return games are nonexistent, partially because they’ve had little chances at altitude and partly because they don’t have a game-breaker back there (even if Lindsay is special when he starts behind the line of scrimmage). Adam “Pacman” Jones looked decent in preseason, but he was unable to play Sunday due to injury.

That’s nothing new: Denver’s been 10th, 15th and 15th in punt return average the last three years, 23rd, 11th and 23rd in kickoff return average. And while McManus is rolling right now, his career 81.4 percentage means he’ll likely struggle at some point this season.

Simply, this Broncos team is still difficult to figure out on a whole; the defense is solid, the offense is highly inconsistent and the special teams are a toss-up. If Denver’s special teams can find a way to eliminate mistakes and make a few more explosive plays happen, they could turn the tide in some contests this year. And if they struggle like they have in recent years, they could cost the Broncos some games, too.

SHARE