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Burning Questions: Can Russell Wilson's return boost the Broncos' offense in London?

LONDON — The Broncos have changed up their routine this week.

They've spent the week in London, where they've adjusted to the seven-hour time change and practiced at the alma mater of Sir Winston Churchill.

They'll flip their uniform combination, as well; Denver will don its white jerseys with navy pants on Sunday.

Of course, they've also driven on the left side of the road.

Nothing about the week has been routine — and the Broncos hope they can also get out of the rut in which their season is currently stuck.

In the midst of a four-game losing streak, the Broncos will aim to earn a win against the Jaguars (2-5) to gain a bit of momentum before the bye week.

They'll aim to do so at Wembley Stadium, a historic venue — but they'd be happy with a win, no matter the location.

"We just want to win the football game," Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said this week. "It doesn't matter what spotlight we're in right now. We want to go out there, execute as a team and play at a high level. In this situation for us, especially before a bye, it would be great to get a win. It's going to be a heck of a challenge. Jacksonville is a very good football team. It's going to take all of us."

These are the questions that will determine if the Broncos can earn their third win of the season.


The Broncos have averaged the fewest points in the league through seven weeks, and Russell Wilson's absence in a Week 7 loss only amplified those issues.

In a loss to the Jets, the Broncos failed to crack the 10-point mark for the second time this season, and they'll need to be far better against the Jaguars.

Wilson will return on Sunday, barring any setbacks, and Denver will aim to build on the success it found in the early portions of several recent games. In Wilson's last start, he completed his first 10 passes as Denver jumped out to a 10-0 lead on the Chargers. Wilson also found success early in Denver's road loss to the Raiders.

Hackett said the key to building off that success will be to focus on the basics and fundamentals of the offense.

"I think that's what we did great in that beginning," Hackett said. "He was able to get some completions early. He had a bunch of them in a row. I think that it was about nine or 10 in a row to a bunch of different guys. We just want to continue that. We want to spread the ball around; we want to be efficient and take the shots when we can take them."

With or without Wilson, the Broncos need to perform better at every level of the offense to put the team in position to succeed.

"It's not just one thing, as you can see," General Manager George Paton said Thursday. "I think [it's] a lot of newness — a new coaching staff, a lot of new players, new quarterback, new schemes. It doesn't come all together. I knew it wasn't going to be a well-oiled machine. I thought it would take time. It has, but there's a lot we have to work on. Then you have some injuries on offense. Our staff is trying to learn each other, and our players are trying to learn each other. It's just a lot. No excuses — we need to play better. The offense hasn't been good enough to win games. [The] defense has kept us in it, but the offense has to play better."

Against the Jaguars' 10th-ranked scoring defense, Wilson and the Broncos will be challenged to find some of that success this weekend in London.


The Broncos faced high expectations ahead of the season, and they're now battling the criticism that comes with a 2-5 start.

As the trade deadline approaches, that includes the inevitable trade rumors. Several Broncos players have had their names floated, and while Paton said this weekend's game will not have an impact on the team's decisions, the Broncos' ability to focus amid those rumors will be critical.

Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb is among the players who has been mentioned in media reports, but Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero said he's seen Chubb block out the noise this week.

"Locked in," Evero said of Chubb. "He's not worried about it. We aren't either. It's part of the business at times. Those things happen and we just have to focus on what we control. Right now, we're about the Jags."

Chubb said he "100 percent" would like to remain with the Broncos, but he emphasized his focus remains on this weekend's game.

Paton, for his part, noted that the Broncos hope to keep all of their core players, and he again identified Chubb as being in that group.

To beat the Jaguars, the Broncos will need their key players to be at their best. If Chubb — and other players who have been mentioned, like Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler — can push aside the distraction, the Broncos could be poised to succeed.


It sounds quite simple and elementary, but in reality, the Broncos are still searching to learn how to close out games.

"What we've learned is that we need to make plays at the end of games to win games," Paton said. We haven't done that. In all our games, we've either fumbled a punt or didn't make a catch. There's just a lot that goes into it. Even last year, I felt this team needed to learn how to win We're still learning, unfortunately."

There's no easy way to turn the tide, other than to start with just one win. Then, it's possible that a slew of close games could lean in their direction.

"You need to win to be able to understand that," Hackett said. "You look back at every single play that we've had this year. We do that all the time as coaches. It's a play here, it's a play there. They just have to learn from that and see how close we really are. It might not look like it at times, but a couple plays make a game look completely different. They just have to feel that and understand that. Once those plays start coming, you're able to grow off that."

Hackett said he believes that once the Broncos get a taste of success, more could quickly follow.

"Without a doubt," Hackett said. "That's the key. In this game you have to make plays when those are there. Sometimes they're not there, so you have to create it yourself. That's part of learning how to play the game, learning how to win consistently. Like we always say, sometimes [you] just have to make a play."

There's no quantitative way to measure the Broncos' ability to learn to win. It's not as simple as limiting Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence or making timely catches. It's simply about the ability to come up with the big play in the big moments.

The Broncos will aim to turn the momentum in their favor this weekend against Jacksonville.

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