Four Down Territory: Broncos biggest keys for Monday night

The stage is set for the Monday night opener between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Denver Broncos. What does Denver need to do to start the season 1-0?

Oct 30, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) tackles San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) as outside linebacker Corey Nelson (52) defends in the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 27-19. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

1st Down: Slowing down Melvin Gordon

The Chargers will enter the Mile High City loaded with playmakers on offense. Philip Rivers remains the steady arm pulling the trigger coming into his 177th consecutive start. Rivers is coming off a season in which he finished fourth in the league with 33 touchdown passes. Rivers will also get his go-to receiver Keenan Allen back exactly one year after tearing his ACL.

However, it’s the guy lining up behind Rivers that will make the biggest impact come Monday night. Melvin Gordon pleasantly surprised the Chargers last season with a total of ten touchdowns and more than 1,400 yards from scrimmage in just 13 games. New head coach Anthony Lynn is ready to deploy his bell cow against a Denver run defense that struggled to contain Gordon a year ago. Gordon became the first running back since week two of the 2015 season to rush for more than 100 yards against Denver’s defense.

It will be up to added veteran Domata Peko and the rest of the Bronco’s interior line to clog up the holes. Todd Davis is in line to see plenty of action as well. Gordon only needs a crease to break loose. This game is won or lost between the trenches.

2nd Down: Containing the Chargers’ pass rushing tandem

The Chargers are loaded with talent up front with Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Ingram has been a staple for the defense the past two years starting all 32 games and recording 18.5 sacks. Add in Joey Bosa, who is coming off a solid rookie year, Denver’s revamped offensive line will be put to the test right out of the gate. The tandem already displayed its game changing ability in the preseason after Bosa forced a Jared Goff fumble only to see Ingram scoop and score for a 76-yard score.

3rd Down: Keeping drives alive

The Broncos may not have the star in Gordon, but they have plenty of depth at the running back position. If Anderson is your banger between the tackles, Jamaal Charles is your spark that will play a key role on third downs. Three and outs were clearly an issue for Denver a year ago. The team finished 31st in the third down conversion rates at 34.2 percent. For a defensive team, you can’t afford to send your defense back out again and again and again. Charles will have to make a splash out of the backfield as a safety net for Trevor Siemian.

4th Down: Star receivers step up

On paper, the Broncos have one of the best wide receiver duos in the league. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders finished 13th and 17th respectively in receiving yards a season ago. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has high expectations for this tandem and it starts on Monday night.

“I have huge expectations for him (DT) he understands and I understand what the expectations are for this organization and the type of offense and the type of team we have to have,” noted McCoy. “He’s the leader of the group. He and Emmanuel both, they set the standard for the offense the way we are going to work.”

Look for the offense to go high tempo to slow down the Chargers pass rush including plenty of bubble screens that have been a staple of McCoy’s offense in previous seasons.  Thomas did return to practice Wednesday (groin).

News and notes

The Broncos running back room just became a little more crowded. The team came to terms with former Bills running back, Jonathan Williams. Williams is set to join the team’s practice squad at an astounding $30,000 per week.  Williams is a former fifth round pick out of Arkansas. Williams often flashed last season, but finished with just 95 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries.

The team also announced their 2017 captains: Von Miller, Aqib Talib, Demaryius Thomas, Trevor Siemian, Brandon McManus.





SOURCE– Luke Snyder is the Managing Editor for cover32/Broncos. He covers the NFL and Denver Broncos. Like and follow on
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