It wasn’t what we expected, but that’s because our expectations of the Denver Broncos are too lofty at this point. In the end, they did what they needed to do by disposing the Jacksonville Jaguars 35-19, and the Jaguars were never really even in a position to win. Even when the score was 14-12 going into the half following Paul Posluszny‘s pick six, it never seemed like the Jags had a shot. But kudos to them for playing hard and playing excellent defense. Gus Bradley’s men had a great gameplan going in, as they played press coverage all day long and stayed aggressive. Below are five takeaways from the game.
1. RT Orlando Franklin
The Denver Broncos are already without star left tackle Ryan Clady, but they have certainly made it work with Chris Clark starting. The Broncos coaching staff touted Clark going into this first start, and he hasn’t disappointed since then. But if the Broncos lose Orlando Franklin for a significant period of time, then there could be trouble. Franklin had a rough rookie season, but he made a huge leap in his second year (he’s not the first tackle to do this) and has been one of the best tackles in the league in pass protection. In order to replace Franklin, the Broncos had to bounce veteran Louis Vasquez to the outside and start Chris Kuper in Vasquez’s stead at guard. Let’s cross our fingers on Franklin’s status, as he was spotted on crutches after leaving with a left knee injury.
2. A hungry secondary, Champ Bailey‘s triumphant return
Chad Henne suits the Jacksonville Jaguars well, because he plays into the strengths of star receivers Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon due to his strong arm. Henne takes a lot of risks and it’s honestly not a bad thing, but he does need to take risk management lessons from someone other than George Costanza (we’ll make good friends if you got that reference). The Denver Broncos secondary is one of the best in the league at defending passes, and they broke up a grand total of 13 passes. Danny Trevathan came away with a pick and so did Kayvon Webster, but the best work was done by the corners. Champ Bailey tipped away three passes in his season debut, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie tipped away two as well.
3. Meet Malik Jackson
It seems like the Denver Broncos have a penchant for finding solid contributors on defense out of nowhere, and you can add Malik Jackson to the list. A fifth-round pick out of Tennessee in last year’s draft, the 6’5″, 293 pound backup defensive end had a whale of a ballgame against the Jaguars. He recorded two sacks and an additional tackle for loss in three straight plays. Three straight friggin’ plays. With 4:02 left in the third quarter, Malik Jackson sacked Chad Henne for a loss of seven, stuffed Maurice Jones-Drew on a shotgun rush for a loss of one, and then he clocked Henne for a loss of five on another sack. Jackson finished the game with two sacks, three tackles for loss (all earned on those three straight plays), a pass defended, and seven total tackles.
He’s a different player. He just has to be. Knowshon Moreno had another excellent game, as he had a monstrous three touchdowns on the ground and also made a huge impact in the passing game with seven receptions for 62 yards. Those are impressive numbers, and the 2.8 yards per carry average is skewed. As he has done all year long, Knowshon Moreno did an excellent job of getting the yardage the Denver Broncos needed based on down and distance. Heck, he got them three touchdowns they needed. Moreno led the Broncos with seven receptions and ten total targets, too.
5. Julius Thomas is the “man” in the red zone
Even though Wes Welker is the one putting up the mind-blowing red zone statistics , Peyton Manning seems to have his eyes set on Orange Julius when looking to score. Thomas is such a beast with his mesh of size and athleticism, and that combination is at its most lethal in the end zone. His breakout season is 100% on him, because Manning has always been there. Thomas has just finally been able to show his vast talents, and he came away with yet another touchdown reception and was targeted often in those situations.