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Bronco notes: Opposing defenses have say in keeping Wilson in pocket

Courtland Sutton is by far No. 1 receiver which means attention. Wilson lets rookie keep souvenir.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Even if Justin Outten has been deemed not ready for play-calling responsibility, the Broncos’ offensive coordinator is an established teacher on the finer points of an NFL offense to a weekly class of otherwise clueless media members.

He holds class each Thursday before practice and his subject this week is how to get quarterback Russell Wilson to operate outside the pocket. It’s not that Wilson can’t pass from the pocket – his 19-yard toss from his backside to Courtland Sutton in the fourth quarter Sunday in a 23-10 loss at Carolina was as impressive as it gets.

It’s just there are times when the edge rushers bat the ball away or the interior collapses that it appears Wilson’s 5-foot-11 stature is a factor. He is still quick and agile enough to move outside, but the feeling is he doesn’t do it enough.

Getting outside, though, is easier said than done against defenses who scheme to keep Wilson in the pocket.

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) against the Las Vegas Raiders of an NFL football game Sunday, November 20, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/Bart Young)

“If you look back probably about three years ago, the boots, the keeper game, they were all over the place on the video,’’ Outten said as he began his tutorial in his weekly news conference. “It seems like defenses are really getting better at stopping that. I know our defense struggled with it early in OTAs and they made an adjustment.

“You look at the video from week 1 all the way till now with each opponent, they are doing a really good job as far as taking away that issue. You have a lot more stand-up defensive ends compared to years prior. You don’t see a lot of those four-down fronts…You get these mammoths on the edge that set the edge and they see everything. That’s the advantages these defenses have when they have these big guys on the edge, they can kind of control what happens on that side.

“You’ve got to get a little bit more creative with the sprint outs. You have to get a little bit more creative with the keeper game. But that is something we’re always trying to search to find because that’s typically an easy completion, it gets people moving and then it gets people in space.”

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton (14) at the snap during an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. Broncos defeated the Jaguars 21-17. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

Courtland and the Kids

Speaking of easier said than done, head coach Nathaniel Hackett said after the loss at Carolina that his offense needs to get to the ball to Courtland Sutton more. Sutton leads the Broncos by a wide margin with 52 catches for 688 yards through 11 games. With Jerry Jeudy apparently about to miss this third consecutive game Sunday at Baltimore with an ankle injury, the No. 2 leading receiver is Kendall Hinton with 18 catches for 262 yards. The No. 3 receiver is rookie Brandon Johnson with three catches for 12 yards.

Given the drop-off to Sutton, opponents figure to pay him extra attention.

“He definitely gets a lot of attention,’’ Hackett said. “He’s a guy that everybody we’re going to face knows that we want to get him involved as much as we can – which should give some guys some other opportunities that they need to win. But we have to be as creative as we possibly can to try and get him the ball.”

Credit: Jacob Kupferman/AP
Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Johnson celebrates after scoring during the second half of an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)


On the same play late in the fourth quarter at Carolina, Wilson threw his 300th career touchdown pass and Johnson caught his first career touchdown. Both milestones were deserving of keepsakes but only one ball.

“I talked to Russ, he wanted me to keep the ball,’’ Johnson said. “He took a ball from the game so I was able to keep it.”

Hamler setback

The plan was for big-play receiver KJ Hamler to return from his hamstring injury this week but that has been scratched.

“He had a setback, yes,” Hackett said.

Hamler has just 7 catches for 165 yards –with receptions of 55, 42 and 52 yards in three separate games.


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