Posted Fri Sep 21st by Jon Heath
The Denver Broncos will take Houston Texans this week (First Look); here are six notes for your consideration going into Week 3.
(1) Quarterback Peyton Manning’s go-to-guy seems to be receiver Demaryius Thomas.
Throughout the first two weeks of the season, Thomas has led the team in catches (13), yards (188), and scores (2). In fact, only one other offensive player—tight end Jacob Tamme—has been on the receiving end of a touchdown pass leading up to Denver’s third game of the season. Look for that to change as the season progresses and the Broncos look to get fellow receiver Eric Decker more involved in the offense.
Manning seemingly has had a tendency to target Tamme on first down, Thomas on second down and veteran Brandon Stokley on third down. (I say seemingly because I haven’t had the time to actually study film of Manning’s targets; I’ve merely observed while watching the Broncos’ first two games that Manning’s tendency seems to have been targeting Tamme/Thomas/Stokley — in that order, but that could change at any time.)
Despite not being a focal point on offense, Decker has caught nine passes for one hundred, eighty-seven yards, behind only Thomas in both categories. It’s only a matter of time before Decker returns to the end zone that he visited eight times last season. Decker and Stokley have both fared better than Andre Caldwell, who was inactive the past two weeks. Which brings us to our second note.
(2) Denver’s running game has been solid despite Moreno’s struggles and Hillman’s absence.
Rookie running back Ronnie Hillman has been inactive thus far this season, with Knowshon Moreno assuming the No. 2 RB role. The Broncos are currently near the middle of the pack in terms of rushes (54) and yards per game (106), ranking fifteenth overall in the league in both categories. Leading the way has been starting running back Willis McGahee, who has rushed 38 times for 177 yards (4.7 YPA) and two scores. McGahee has been productive, but his backups have been dismal when called upon.
Moreno has rushed eight times for fifteen yards (1.9 YPA) and fumbled in Week 2 after scoring in Week 1. Inconsistent, Moreno hasn’t been able to find his grove yet. Given only three carries, Lance Ball has rushed for 18 yards (6 YPA) and has seen little playing time. With Moreno struggling to find running lanes, expect Hillman to play in his first NFL game as early as this week, or sometime soon thereafter.
(3) Manning says, “I am what I am,” in response to arm strength concerns and Brock Osweiler’s would-have-been Hail Marry attempt.
You may have noticed towards the end of the Broncos’ Week 2 match-up in Atlanta that rookie quarterback Brock Osweiler was warming up on the sidelines as Manning sat on the bench. If the Broncos had gotten the ball back late in the game, Osweiler—a twenty-one year old gunslinger from Arizona State—not Manning, was going to attempt a Hail Mary pass towards the end zone. The Falcons ultimately got a first down and ran the clock out, eliminating Osweiler’s chance of getting in the game. But that didn’t stop the media from questioning Manning’s arm strength.
“Ya’ll look for something negative after every loss,” Stokley told the Denver Post in defense of his quarterback. ”No one talked about arm strength after the Pittsburgh game. It’s just like a couple weeks ago, they were talking about how he couldn’t throw to his right. And then the next game (against San Francisco) all he did was hit passes to his right. I’m telling you, in here, it’s not even a topic of discussion. It’s the last thing on our minds.”
Manning added, ”I mean, I am what I am. It is what it is. Whatever expression is appropriate for that. I don’t really know what to tell you.”
The folks at ProFootballTalk pointed out that in 2000, Bill Belichick pulled starter Drew Bledsoe and left Tom Brady on the bench to give the stronger-armed backup Michael Bishop a shot at a Hail Mary — pulling a starting quarterback in such a situation is not unprecedented. With that being the case, Osweiler may get some playing time in Year 1, even if Manning stays healthy throughout the season.
(4) The Texans’ defensive line knows Manning well, and they’ll be chasing him down on Sunday.
Manning has already been sacked five times this season and Houston’s defense has recorded the fifth-most sacks (6) in the league, with defensive end J.J. Watt leading the way with three sacks. What is Watt’s goal for Sunday’s showdown in Denver? “I want to have No. 18 on my sack list,” Watt told Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle. “That’s my goal.”
That’s something the Broncos’ offensive line should take note of. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the o-line should also take note that Watt has batted down five passes this season and passes being deflected at the line of scrimmage was something Manning struggled mightily with during the preseason and again in Week 1 against the Steelers. If there is one player that Manning needs to be worried about throwing passes over, it’s J.J. Watt.
(5) Will John Fox be fined?
We all noticed how atrocious the replacement officials were while calling the game in Atlanta last week. Understandably, Coach John Fox let out his frustration with the refs on numerous occasions. Because of that, Fox may be fined.
(6) Broncos stand at second place in AFC West race.
In the AFC West Watch, the Broncos (1-1) sit below the Chargers (2-0) and above the Raiders (0-2) and Chiefs (0-2). While the Broncos take on the Texans, San Diego will battle Atlanta, Oakland will host Pittsburgh and Kansas City will travel to New Orleans. If the Broncos win in Week 3, they could find themselves atop the AFC West thanks to their rivals’ respective tough games on deck.
Weekly Notes is a new installment I hope to be able to do, as the name suggests, on a weekly basis this season (starting this week). Please forgive my absence in recent weeks, I’ve had medical issues coupled with the first few weeks of classes, leaving little time for blogging. I am settling into a routine now, however, so my goal is to get blogging back into my schedule. Enjoy the weekend, folks!