Three key elements to look for in the Broncos’ opener at the Giants.
1) Immediate urgency
A complete list of NFL teams that went undefeated in September 2019 and ’20: Cincinnati, New York Jets and Broncos. Ouch. Even the Bengals had a draw to start 0-2-1 last year. The Broncos, under coach Vic Fangio, have never come out of the blocks, starting 0-4 in ’19 (two last-minute blown leads at home) and 0-3 in ’19 (injuries galore). Weeks 1-3 opponents this year (Giants, Jacksonville and Jets) combined for nine wins in ’20. “Our guys, they know everyone knows what happened here, the last couple starts,” Fangio said. “I’m sure they feel a little urgent.” That should be reflected from the opening kickoff Sunday. The Broncos should train with urgency and call the game aggressive to put the Giants on their heels.
2) Who plays what role?
The intrigue of Week 1 is that teams reveal for the first time what they think of their staff other than the starting lineup. For the Broncos, there are many questions. Will inner linebacker Justin Strnad have a role in downsizing in sub-kits? Will cornerback Pat Surtain II be limited to skill (six defensive back) tasks? How much will outside linebacker Von Miller and receiver Courtland Sutton get their playing time cleared after missing last year with ankle and ACL injuries respectively? What is the snap-count / rushing attempt being shared between tailbacks Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams? Will inside linebacker Baron Browning and outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper have roles in their NFL debut? As coaches like to say, “You’ll find out on Sunday.”
3) Giants’ LT fights
The Giants drafted left tackle Andrew Thomas fourth overall in 2020, and he started 15 games and played 96% of the offensive snaps (only two holding penalties). But in the final of the preseason against New England, Thomas was dusted for two sacks and committed a penalty. Now he meets outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, whose No. 55 is healthy (ankle), and the Broncos continue to hire him over left tackle. “As an offensive lineman, there are (always) techniques to get better at, and when you focus on one thing, there may be something else you need to work on,” Thomas told reporters Monday. “When you play in the NFL, guys will reveal it. They watch movies so you have to do your best to get everything taken care of. ”