Football is the ultimate team game. However, each play consists of individual matchups. To win week-in-week-out, the Denver Broncos must have their key players grade out well when matched up one-on-one.
What are the key individual matchups between the Broncos and the New York Jets?
Unlike Denver, the Jets are reeling and at the bottom of their division. To have a chance to be competitive, New York must play better than it has to date after two blowout losses.
The Broncos are beaten up with injuries, and several players must step up to avoid a letdown. To start 3-0 for the first time since 2016, these individual players have to play big at home in front of the soldout crowd in Empower Field at Mile High.
Dalton Risner must handle Quinnen Williams
To be successful offensively, the Broncos’ interior offensive line has to get a push in the run game. To date, they have been pushed around by two less than stellar defensive fronts in the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Enter the Jets’ young star interior defender, Quinnen Williams.
Like Leonard Williams of the Giants, the Jets’ Williams is a handful. His ability to create pressure had not resulted in sacks yet, but his pressure rate is impressive.
Quinnen Williams has 6 pressures on 45 pass-rush snaps this season
Better than his 2020 rate (10.3%) and would have ranked 5th-best among IDL last year
He's doing well, the splashy moments will come in due time
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) September 20, 2021
Williams finished 2020 with seven sacks on a poor defense but now with new head coach Robert Salah, Williams is now in a more complimentary 4-3 scheme. This season, the former Alabama star has benefitted from being used to rush the passer from a three-technique position.
The lack of sacks to this point of the season does not tell the story of how good of a player Wiliams is, and the Broncos must adjust their game plan accordingly.
For a guy who was “invisible”, I sure saw a lot of Quinnen Williams in the backfield on Sunday 🥱🤷🏼♂️
Intentional grounding. Run stops for no gain. QB pressures. Doubled all day long.
— Luke Grant (@LukeGrant7) September 21, 2021
The Broncos’ best interior offensive lineman is Dalton Risner. So far this season, Risner has been serviceable but has not dominated as anticipated.
Risner must play well against Williams to help keep Teddy Bridgewater clean. The Broncos left guard has everything you need as a pass blocker; quickness and intelligence coupled with adequate strength are why he has not given up a sack since the 2019 season per Pro Football Focus.
— The Scouting Academy (@TheScoutAcademy) August 25, 2020
For Risner to win in this strength versus strength matchup, he must get a push in the run game. Running backs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams have had little running room in the first two weeks of the season. Center Lloyd Cushenberry III will likely help whoever plays at right guard (Natane Muti or Graham Glasgow), leaving Risner on an island with Williams.
Risner has been a road grader since entering the league. His ability to get a push and a seal against his defender was on full display in this clip against the Buffalo Bills last season.
Denver takes advantage of the fumble
Touchdown, Melvin Gordon 🐎💪
— PFF (@PFF) December 19, 2020
If Risner can get movement against Williams in the running game, the Broncos offense should have a big day.
Vic Fangio and Broncos look to stymie another rookie quarterback, this week, Jets’ Wilson
This season’s second overall selection Zach Wilson has struggled early in his NFL career. Following a four-interception performance in Week 2, Wilson experienced his first chorus of boos from the home crowd at Met Life Stadium.
Wilson’s interceptions were a perfect example of a young quarterback doing young quarterback things.
MR INT STRIKES AGAIN
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 19, 2021
Defensive play caller Vic Fangio has had tremendous success against rookie quarterbacks. Last week, his defense stifled Trevor Lawerence after a rough first drive. The rotation of coverages after the snap along with mixing up pressures create challenges for quarterbacks seeing this defense for the first time.
There seems to be little chance the struggling Jets can do what is necessary on offense to score enough points against the Broncos to win this Sunday.
However, Wilson is a special talent for a reason. The BYU product was drafted near the top of the 2021 class because his arm talent is through the roof. Additionally, his athleticism is a perfect fit for the Mike LaFleur system.
Lefleur runs a quarterback-friendly “Kyle Shannahan” offense and will use Wilson’s athletic profile to get him outside of the pocket to put pressure on the defense. Quarterbacks who can create outside the pocket add a different dimension and create problems regardless of who they play.
Simply, the Broncos cannot come out flat two weeks in a row. Last week, the Broncos came out flat against the Jaguars and Lawerence diced up the secondary during their first quarter touchdown drive. Wilson can create plays and the Broncos must make him uncomfortable early and often. Not only do the Broncos need to slow the Jets and Wilson, but create consistent pressure against a poor offensive line. Look for Fangio to use similar pressure looks as the Patriots did last week to create turnovers.