ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When the Broncos line up across from the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon, they will be getting ready to play against one of the league’s most interesting teams.
Starting with the Broncos will have to wait until after the National Anthem to face them. The Dolphins don’t participate. They stay in the locker room during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, sending a message that the demonstration of standing or kneeling only creates more divide than unity.
While most NFL teams get poor grades for minority hiring, the Dolphins have the only African-American general manager/head coach duo in Chris Grier and Brian Flores.
This is the same franchise that wouldn’t pass Drew Brees on his physical because of his shoulder injury prior to 2006, but took a leap on Tua Tagovailoa with their No. 5 overall draft pick despite his devastating hip injury that prematurely ended the lefty quarterback’s career at Alabama.
They have rebuilt through a modified Patriot Way in that they have several players and Flores who were groomed in Bill Belichick’s system. After starting 0-7 last season and underdogs in all 16 games – a dubious feat the Broncos are on their way to equaling – the Dolphins rebuilt their defense into an aggressive unit that has harassed opposing quarterbacks into a sixth-worst 87.8 passer rating while their own quarterback Tagovailoa has five touchdown passes with no interceptions through three games.
And to boot the Dolphins have arguably the league’s most dangerous punt returner in Jakeem Grant.
This most interesting team the Broncos will face Sunday will bring a 6-3 record and five-game winning streak into Empower Field at Mile High. The Dolphins are as good an opponent as any for 5,700 Broncos fans to watch in person for the last time this season. After Sunday, the Broncos won’t allow fans to attend their final three home games.
“They obviously had a major overhaul in the last year and a half from a personnel standpoint,’’ said Broncos head coach Vic Fangio. “They found their identity on defense, they have a good secondary, good corners, which allows them to be aggressive up front. I think Brian and his coaching staff have done a good job of bringing this team along. They run a very efficient offense. They really excel in the kicking game, it's played a big part in a lot of their wins, and we're going to have to have our best game in special teams this week.”
Broncos receiver Tim Patrick was fined $4,412 for throwing a punch at instigator and Raiders' safety Johnathan Abram while Raiders cornerback Isaiah Johnson was fined $4,945 for throwing an open-handed punch back at Patrick.
Patrick and Johnson were both ejected. Abram wasn't fined or penalized for the incident, although he did receive a $15,000 fine for an unnecessary roughness penalty in the game.
Jeudy rookie watch
For all the positive impressions Broncos’ first-round receiver Jerry Jeudy has made on Broncos Country, he surprisingly is only sixth among rookies in catches and touchdown receptions this year, and fourth in yards.
Rookie receiver, team … G .… C ….… Y … TD
Justin Jefferson, MIN ….... 9 … 42 … 762 .… 3
Tee Higgins, CIN ………... 9 … 40 … 603 …. 4
CeeDee Lamb, DAL ….… 9 … 44 … 595 …. 3
Jerry Jeudy, DEN …...…. 9 … 34 … 552 …. 2
Chase Claypool, PIT ….... 9 … 35 … 500 .… 7
Brandon Aiyuk, SF ….…... 8 … 35 … 446 …. 3
Jeudy says he doesn’t peak in at the rookie scoreboard each week to see how he’s faring.
“No, I don’t really look at the stats,’’ he said. “Of course, I watch their plays and their games when I have the chance to see what they’re doing out there. As far as comparing, I don’t really do that.”
Josh Watson may lead the league in practice squad call-ups this season. The former Colorado State standout linebacker will likely get his fourth elevation Saturday, second as a COVID replacement for Shelby Harris. Watson came up with a terrific special teams stick on a kickoff return last week against the Raiders.
“Josh is very physical, Josh executes his assignment, Josh is a great tackler, Josh studies a ton—going into a game he knows his opponents,’’ said Broncos special teams coordinator Tom McMahon. “He’s really starting to grow into that special teams linebacker who just gets it. He understands that you can win games by preparing and he understands that work and win start with a ‘W’ for a reason.”
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Sports