Eagle eye view on the enemy: Denver Broncos
4 November 2017 Opinion
Sunday’s game is between 2 teams that rarely meet. The last time they played was during the Chip Kelly era in Denver back in 2013. The Eagles got crushed 52 to 20 that day. Thankfully that terrible era is over and the Philadelphia Eagles are a different animal this time around. There is also some history on the Eagles side for Sunday. According to Broncos Wire, the last time the Broncos got a win in Philadelphia was way back in September 1986.
Let’s take a look at the rosters for Sunday’s matchup:
Carson Wentz is already being talked about as an MVP candidate for the season. He has made a lot of progress and is clearly becoming a star in the league right before our eyes. The defensive opponents he faces know this too. Wentz has been blitz a lot this season but still manages to get some plays off to make coordinators re-think their strategy of sending guys at him. He will need to do that this Sunday versus a very stout defensive pass rush and secondary. Wentz’ security blanket happens to be coverage weakness for this elite defense- the tight end position. I anticipate Wentz being in duress at least to begin the game but with the home crowd advantage, he should settle in, adjust protections and make critical plays to stay on the field and wear down the Denver defense.
Brock Osweiler was just given the keys to the Broncos offense on a short week after the team’s original starting quarterback’s terrible performance on MNF. Osweiler knows the offense, he has started for this team and been successful before but it has been 2 years since that was the case. He has had one short week working with the starters so expect him to target the guys who were on the 2016 roster. Namely: Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The Denver offense has largely leaned on the running game utilizing CJ Anderson and Jamaal Charles. I do not expect the Broncos to change this approach by Sunday even with a change at the QB position.
When the Eagles lost their starting LT Jason Peters I worried a lot about the future success of the offense. It is a difficult blow to overcome halfway through the season; however, in Big V’s debut starting at left tackle position, I believe he showed a lot of promise. He allowed one sack on Wentz versus a very strong 49ers pass rush. In his second start at left tackle, Big V again has the advantage of playing at home. In live game action, it is difficult for linemen to get adjusted and listen for playcall changes but with the crowd on his side, Big V should be able to understand his assignments in order to protect Wentz. Overall, the offensive line has played well. They will be challenged by one of the best defensive fronts in the league and need to do all they can to keep Wentz up right throughout the game.
Eagles defensive line has already played some of the top offensive lines in the league, according to PFF. Broncos rank in the middle of the pack for the start of the 2017 season. Broncos prioritized the OL in the offseason by drafting LT Garrett Bolles in the first round, signing free agent RG Ron Leary and trading for Eagles former OG Allen Barbre. I won’t say the Broncos have a bad offensive line because it has been successful at developing a strong run game vs opponents in past weeks; however, they’ve also allowed 25 sacks on the QB this season and largely have struggled in pass protection.
The Eagles defensive front currently has 22 total sacks this season and is looking to increase that number before the bye week. With Fletcher Cox playing at the top of his game versus a familiar foe in Allen Barbre, expect the Broncos run game and QB to be squashed. Brock Osweiler is not a mobile quarterback by any means and Jim Schwartz knows this. The pass rush is going to be all about meeting at the quarterback on Sunday. Without a run game, the Broncos offense will have a difficult time staying on the field. As mentioned earlier, the pass protection for Osweiler will likely be lacking against one of the best defensive lines in the league so far this season and allow for more turnover opportunities in the secondary.
The Broncos defensive front is nothing to joke about. Von Miller alone is one of the best defensive players in the game. Period. Miller is known to lineup against right tackles but I anticipate him taking a few snaps against Big V to generate some disruption for the Eagles offense. Denver’s DL has 17 total sacks this season. Coming off a 3 game losing streak, this defense has to be frustrated and looking to create turnovers. As other teams have tried, I expect Wentz to see a lot of blitzes Sunday.
With Ronald Darby likely out for the Eagles again, the secondary’s makeup will look similar to what we’ve seen the past 7 weeks. For a weak secondary, according to every sports analyst, this corps has gotten 9 total interceptions thus far. The one player I expect to see add his name to this season’s interception list on Sunday is safety Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins has been playing at a high level since signing with the Eagles back in 2014. This year has been no exception to that fact. With a QB entering live action for the first time in a while, expect Jenkins to take full advantage of Osweiler’s missteps.
They are called the ‘no fly zone’ around the league. The Denver secondary is loaded with talented threats especially at the cornerback position. So far this season the Broncos’ secondary has 5 interceptions versus opponents. I do think their biggest weaknesses are at the safety and linebacker positions and this has allowed tight ends to be very productive against them this season. Working the middle of the field, being able to get the RB to the second level is what can kill this elite defense and I foresee Pederson using this approach on Sunday.
Both teams have versatile receiving corps and a running backs by committee. Eagles have been very successful in passing and rushing the ball whereas the Broncos have relied on the running game and struggled in the passing game. The Eagles and Broncos but have 4 rushing TDs so far this season; however, Eagles have 19 passing TDs to Broncos 9 passing TDs. The Broncos will be fortunate to have Emmanuel Sanders back in the lineup on Sunday as a prime receiving threat for their offense while Eagles give newly acquired RB Jay Ajayi a chance to get acclimated to this new offensive system.
Broncos have been struggling the past few weeks. If Eagles defense is able to maintain their dominance versus the run game, the Broncos strong defense will be forced onto the field more often to be worn down by Carson and company. Relying on the strength of Eagles offense, I anticipate Wentz will be throwing Zach Ertz’ way early and often to create big plays and move the chains on Sunday. Broncos are coming off a tough division loss in Kansas City and now tasked with traveling again on a short week for an early game on the east coast. Eagles must stay focused and hungry as they have in weeks’ past in order to head into their bye week at 8-1. I expect a competitive but overall low-scoring game where the Eagles will win.