ENGLEWOOD — Inept. Awful. Embarrassing.
These have been some of the words used to describe the state of the Broncos' offense.
The Broncos boast a 2-4 record entering Sunday's home game against the mercurial Baby Jets. Denver ranks last in scoring (15.2) and red zone touchdown percentage (20.2) and 30th in third down conversions. You know, all the meaningful stats that define a play-caller and a quarterback.
It has been a clumsy start for coach Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson — a baby giraffe on roller skates comes to mind — as the offense has no identity. Wilson will watch Sunday from the sidelines. The Broncos ruled him out with a sore hamstring that did not have time to heal in a short week.
Wilson is on pace for career lows in touchdown passes (14) and completion percentage (58.6). Brett Rypien replaces him, making his second career start after beating the Jets in October 2020.
The flip side to the league's most disappointing team? They have been close in every game, something emphasized internally as the Broncos try desperately to execute a U-turn. In their four losses, Denver has been outscored by 16 points.
Can the Broncos, on a weekend they are honoring the Super Bowl XXXII championship team, shake this malaise?
My Denver7 keys to a victory:
Find an offensive identity
Who are the Broncos offensively? They are not doing anything particularly well. "Broncos Country, Let's Ryp!" is the mantra Sunday. Brett Rypien offers Wilson a chance to recover, with hope the backup can play the role of Dallas' Cooper Rush, a little-known player who went 4-1 this season filling in for Dak Prescott. To help Rypien, the Broncos must establish the run, get under center and use quick-hitters in the passing game. The Broncos were in shotgun 46 of 53 snaps vs. the Chargers, leading to blitzes that overwhelmed a struggling offensive line. The Jets line looks a lot like the 49ers who gave Denver fits last month.
Beware of flying objects
The Broncos must be fast, but not in a hurry. Forcing the passing game against the Jets will prove a disaster. New York has seven interceptions, tied for fifth in the league, with rookie Sauce Gardner adjusting seamlessly from press coverage in college to nuanced zone concepts. In a low-scoring game, the Broncos must win the turnover battle. They should feature slants and timing routes.
Line it up
The offensive line has regressed under new coach Butch Barry. Interior blitzes have given the group hell all season. The Jets love to run games and stunts. If the Broncos don't find a way to slow defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Sunday will feature a cascade of boos from the home fans.
Slow their roll
The Jets have won three road games after winning one last season. Their running attack is proficient, posting 110.7 yards per game. Rookie Breece Hall is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and has three touchdowns. Stuffing him is critical to an ugly win.
Zach Attack or Attack Zach?
Quarterback Zach Wilson has returned from knee surgery, providing a lift for the Jets. But he's functioning as a game manager. He is 3-0 with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Broncos mauled him in Denver last season. Anything less than four sacks will be a disappointment.
Don't stand Pat
The Broncos' defense is playing at an elite level. The group is getting sacks, takeaways and no one is better in the red zone. How can the D do more? How about a pick six? The Jets will test Pat Surtain II a few times with receivers Garett Wilson and Corey Davis. Can he turn a pass deflection into a touchdown? Surtain has been Denver's best player this season — former Bengals coach Marvin Lewis compared him to Deion Sanders this week — and it would be fitting he provides a rocket boost.
Stop messing up
The Broncos' special teams, strong early on, are struggling. Montrell Washington cannot afford another muffed punt. There can be no more blocked kicks. In close games there is no margin for error. And no excuses or the heat up will turn up on coach Dwayne Stukes. The Jets are the only team with a longer playoff drought than the Broncos' six-year absence. If you can't beat the Jets at home, then a crisis of confidence becomes a full-blown crisis.
Renck's prediction: Broncos 19, Jets 16