Even if it’s difficult to draw definitive overall conclusions on the 2017 Denver Broncos based on their near fourth quarter collapse but 24-21 season-opening win Monday night against the Los Angeles Chargers, there were two encouraging signs.
One, they ran the ball and two, they stopped the run.
Both were weaknesses last season. The Broncos rushed for 140 yards against the Chargers, the league’s 5th-best week 1 total. Last year, the Broncos ranked 27th in the 32-team NFL with 92.8 rushing yards per game.
The Denver D also allowed just 64 rushing yards on 2.9 yards per carry Monday night, which is tied for 10th in the league. Take away that first-play, 21-yard gain by Melvin Gordon and the Broncos allowed just 43 yards on 21 carries – 2.05 yards per.
What did old coach John Fox used to say? You get what you emphasize.
Broncos general manager John Elway fortified both fronts, especially on the offensive side, during the offseason and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy opened with a commitment to the run.
For starters, it does appear many, if not most of the Broncos’ offensive linemen are better run blockers than pass protectors.
“I thought our offensive line really played physical in the run game on double teams, moving those guys out and just getting movement up front,’’ head coach Vance Joseph said Tuesday. “Our backs ran north-south and found some open space to run. That part was very impressive as far as the running game.
“The pass protection was not that good. Again, we were facing two elite rushers in (Melvin) Ingram and (Joey) Bosa. We knew it was going to be a chore, but we have to be better there. It was too much pressure on Trevor (Siemian). There were too many whiffs as far as blocking those speed rushers. It’s got to get better.”
Von sack skid
Make that five consecutive games, dating back to last season, Von Miller has not had a sack. It's the longest drought of his career. Previously, he had never longer than three games without a sack.
That doesn’t mean he hasn’t had an impact. With the Chargers so focused on not allowing Miller to beat them, a conservative game plan restricted Philip Rivers to just 60 yards passing entering the fourth quarter.
“We went into the game with a clear game plan to free Von up, but they wouldn’t let us,’’ Joseph said. “They double-chipped both sides. They chipped both rushers (Miller and Shaq Barrett). When that happens, in my opinion, the coverage has got to take over. Now they are down to three-man routes. We’ve got six defenders on top of three guys. The coverage has to take over when they are chipping both sides and we can’t get pressure. That is going to be the way it is all year.’’
“In the past, there has been a great pass rush here. But now we’ve got to kind of reverse it. We’ve got to play tighter coverage to get the rush home more often.”
McManus contract details
9news has obtained details on kicker Brandon McManus’ new four-year, $14 million contract.
Until his new deal, he was going to draw a $2.746 million salary as a second-round tendered restricted free agent.
That salary was reduced to $1 million. To make it up for it, the Broncos gave him a fully guaranteed $5 million signing bonus -- $3 million to be paid out now and $2 million in March.
McManus then makes a $2.25 million salary in 2018, $2.75 million in 2019 and $3 million in 2020.
Because his current year payout was altered, it is technically a new four-year deal rather than a three-year extension. His $3.5 million annual average ranks 5th among NFL kickers.
Find Wolfe some shoes
Denver standout defensive end Derek Wolfe is frustrated. He’s having trouble finding a size 15-wide pair of game shoes he likes.
“I went through three pair of cleats tonight,’’ he said after the Broncos’ 24-21 win Monday against the Chargers. “I don’t know, Nike’s not making good cleats this year. I rolled my ankle because of their cleats (during practice August 12). I had to wear cleats that I’ve never worn (Monday). This is the second year in a row I can’t find a cleat. It’s driving me nuts.’’