The Denver Broncos were off to a 3-0 start to the season, which left a fan base cautiously optimistic about turning the corner. However, the three wins were against the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the New York Jets—three of the worst teams in the NFL. They’ve now lost their last four games and failed to score more than 20 points in three of the four, leaving them to ponder what’s contributed to their downward spiral.
For starters, injuries to wide receivers KJ Hamler and Jerry Jeudy have taken their toll on the offense. In the first game of the season, Jeudy caught six of seven targets for 72 yards before being carted off the field for a high ankle sprain. It is now Week 8 and he is scheduled to return against the Washington Football Team. Let’s take a look at how Jeudy’s return will positively affect the Broncos’ offense.
Jeudy was lauded for his big-play ability coming out of Alabama. His uncanny ability to separate against man coverage may be his strongest attribute. His ability to threaten a defense in the passing game opens up everything for the Broncos’ offense. Since Jeudy has been hurt, Denver’s offense has converted only 22-of-78 third downs, a rate of 28%. This is in the bottom tier on third downs in the entire NFL. Jeudy’s ability to consistently win his one-on-one matchup gave Teddy Bridgewater a viable option in third-down situations. With weapons like Pro Bowler Courtland Sutton aligning opposite of him and Noah Fant being one of the best young talents at the tight end position in the NFL, the passing offense should be much improved. At the rate that Jeudy uncovers, it can only free up Sutton on the opposite side as well as Fant in the middle of the field.
The other area of the offense that his return will assist is in the running game. The Broncos have been largely ineffective in the run game this season. However, they have two talented running backs in Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, but the team’s inability as an offense to be effective on early downs has put them in many 3rd-and-long situations. In fact, they are second-worst in the NFL in terms of the most yardage needed for a first down in third-down situations. The Broncos’ offense is also second-to-last in the NFL in the number of 3rd-and-short situations they’ve been in. They’re also near last in converting these 3rd-and-short attempts. Jeudy’s return from injury means the running backs will see lighter boxes due to his presence in the passing game.
However, the one unit that needs to play much better regardless of Jeudy’s presence is the offensive line. They’ve struggled since the start of the season. Bridgewater was never the most agile quarterback, but he’s taken some hits in the last few weeks at the expense of the offensive line. The running backs are also taking too many hits in the backfield. The offensive line will benefit from seeing lighter boxes and might even have more favorable matchups on the interior.
In football, everything is tied together on a proverbial string. My prediction is that the Denver offense scores more than 20 points and has one of their better yardage outputs of the 2021 season in Week 8 with Jeudy back.