Thirteen things about the Broncos entering Sunday’s home opener against the New York Jets:
1. Broncos coach Vic Fangio spent the week lamenting his team’s penalty problem. Through two games, the Broncos are tied for 10th in enforced penalties (15) and tied for fourth in yards (152). But Vic’s team isn’t alone. The flags are flying around the NFL.
2. Average penalties/yards per team over the last five years: 2017 — 13.6/116.8. … 2018 — 14.5/124.3. … 2019 — 15.8/130.6. … 2020 — 11.8/108.2. And this year — 13.6/119.1. So, up compared to last year, but pretty steady compared to recent seasons.
3. The Broncos’ penalty breakdown is two on offense, nine on defense and four on special teams. Defensive end Dre’Mont Jones and cornerback Mike Ford have two 15-yard penalties apiece and cornerback Pat Surtain II’s 36-yard pass interference penalty skews the yardage total. They have the fewest offensive penalties and tied for third-most defensive penalties.
4. Fangio said he shows a “good bit,” of the penalties during team meetings. “We stress it,” he said. “Trust me, if anything, I stress it too much. I showed the whole team early on in camp where we ranked in penalties last year and we were ranked to-the-good on defense (27, third-fewest) and kind of in-the-middle on offense (39, 14th) and now it’s flipped. Our offense has done a great job; they’ve hardly been penalized, and we’ve had a couple of rough outings on defense.”
5. Fangio disagreed with cornerback Kyle Fuller’s illegal contact penalty on Jacksonville’s first drive when receiver Marvin Jones essentially tried to run Fuller over. “Really bad call,” Fangio said.
6. Speaking of really bad, that’s been the Broncos’ first-down offense. They rank 21st in yards per first-down snap (5.09) and have 32 plays that have gained less than four yards (tied for eighth-most). The lack of efficiency is setting up second and third-and-long plays.
7. “We want to be more efficient on first and second down, for sure, to make sure that we’re in those third-and-manageable (plays),” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said.
8. Despite going 2 of 11 on third down, the Broncos still held possession for a whopping 38 minutes, 52 seconds against the Jaguars and enter Week 3 first in the league with a 37-minute average. Last week’s possession time was their 10th-highest since 2000 and the most since 39:22 in 2016. Out of their top 20 games in possession time since 2000, the Broncos are 18-2.
9. An unintentional youth movement will be present defensively against the Jets. Starting or playing rotational roles will be six first- or second-year players: Inside linebacker Justin Strnad (second year, but first playing) and rookies Surtain, safety Caden Sterns and outside linebackers Jonathon Cooper and Andre Mintze.
10. Strnad has a terrific opportunity to show he can hold up as a run defender and therefore, rarely leave the field. The Broncos signed inside linebacker Micah Kiser off the Los Angeles Rams’ practice squad on Wednesday and his reputation is as a run-stuffer. In theory, Fangio could use Kiser on early downs and then Strnad in sub-package situations.
11. If Fangio follows his script from last week, he’ll lean on a four-man rush against Jets quarterback Zach Wilson. The Broncos rushed five players on only nine of Trevor Lawrence’s 40 drop-backs (22.5%). In two games, Lawrence and the Giants’ Daniel Jones have a 0.0 passer rating against extra rushers (3 of 14 for 25 yards and two interceptions).
12. Just about a year ago, the 0-3 Broncos traveled to play the Jets on a Thursday night. Brett Rypien made his first (and only) NFL start and was 19-of-31 passing for 242 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in the Broncos’ 37-28 win. Rypien had been promoted from the practice squad the week before after Drew Lock’s shoulder injury. He finished the Tampa Bay game after Fangio had seen enough of Jeff Driskel.
13. I asked quarterbacks coach Mike Shula what he remembered about that week. “No. 1, (Rypien) just coming in on a short week without much physical preparation with the other starters,” he said. “And then No. 2, his command, right when he took the first snap of the first walk-through, of the other players around him and the confidence that was manifested at the line of scrimmage and in the huddle and his positive energy and calmness.”