The Denver Broncos are coming off of arguably one of the worst defeats in team history, a blowout 34-16 loss to the New York Jets. After that humiliating defeat by the Jets, the 2-3 Denver Broncos don’t have much time to lick their wounds as the 5-0 Los Angeles Rams come to Denver this week.
Much of the attention after the team’s loss has been centered around Denver’s run defense, which allowed 323 rushing yards to the Jets last week. But, the Broncos pass defense has been equally suspect throughout the early season. Many speculated the Broncos’ elite defense from previous years would see a small regression, but the team insisted that Denver was still home to the “No Fly Zone.”
Despite the team’s confidence, the Broncos secondary has been anything but elite thus far in 2018. Poor play, the loss of an All-Pro cornerback, and various injuries have plagued the Broncos secondary this season. With a matchup against the hottest team in the NFL looming, time is running out for the Broncos to re-establish the “No Fly Zone.”
In the 2018 offseason, the Broncos decided to move on from Aqib Talib by trading him to the Los Angeles Rams for a mid-round pick. Trading Talib was seen by many as a crucial loss on the field, but also a loss in the locker room. However, stepping into the role of No. 1 cornerback would be Roby, who was entering the final year of his contract. It was a make-or-break year for Roby. The Broncos would finally know if Roby could be the successor to Talib as the team’s lockdown cornerback.
So far in the 2018 season, the loss of Talib has been felt greatly in the Broncos’ secondary. Roby had been playing inconsistently through the team’s first five games of the season. After the team’s week five game against the New York Jets, the absence of Talib’s departure was never more apparent. Roby had perhaps the worst game of his professional career, surrendering two long touchdowns to both of the Jets starting receivers. By the end of the day, the Broncos had allowed 512 total yards to an offense led by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold.
The Broncos secondary struggles shouldn’t be pinned entirely on Roby. Aside from All-Pro Chris Harris Jr., the rest of the Broncos cornerbacks have either dealt with injury, or struggled when on the field. Veteran signings Tramaine Brock and Adam Jones were brought in to lessen the blow of Talib’s departure and to provide some veteran experience in the secondary. Both Brock and Jones have struggled with staying healthy, and each have done little on the field to provide quality play at the cornerback position. Jones is currently questionable for Sunday’s game as he deals with a thigh injury.
The Broncos face a tall task heading into Sunday’s game against the 5-0 Rams. The Rams enter week six ranked third in the NFL in points per game, and ranked second in passing yards per game. Rams quarterback Jared Goff has had a fantastic start to the season, leading the Rams to their undefeated record. The Rams enter the game as heavy favorites over the reeling Broncos.
While the Broncos’ front seven will have its hands full stopping running back Todd Gurley, the Rams have quietly assembled one of the best wide receiver trios in the NFL. Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp have tormented opposing defenses all year. Each receiver is more than capable of winning a one-on-one matchup, which creates mismatches in coverage across the field.
Expect Goff to challenge Roby early and often, regardless of whichever receiver Roby ends up covering.
If any team in the NFL needed a miracle win to turn their season around, that team would be the Denver Broncos. While the entire team would benefit from the enormous upset, the secondary in particular has a lot to prove before the team can start using the “No Fly Zone” mantra once more. Containing one of the NFL’s best offenses is the perfect opportunity to do so.