The Broncos will aim to carry over momentum from their Week 1 win as they head to Jacksonville for a matchup with the first-overall pick, Trevor Lawrence.
The Jaguars suffered a 37-21 loss in Houston in Week 1, but a trip to the East Coast to face a still-talented Jacksonville team is not a guaranteed win. Denver will have to lock in on both offense and defense to ensure they take care of business in a game they're favored to win.
Due to several injuries, that may be more difficult than initially imagined. Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and cornerback Ronald Darby were placed on injured reserve this week, guard Graham Glasgow is doubtful to play after suffering an irregular heartbeat and outside linebacker Bradley Chubb is listed as questionable for the Week 2 game. All told, Denver could be without four starters for their trip to Jacksonville this weekend.
With a win, the Broncos will improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2018, continue their newfound September winning streak and keep pace in the AFC West, where all four teams won their Week 1 games.
In the Broncos' first trip to Jacksonville since 2016, Denver will aim to start faster than they did in New York, where the team didn't score a touchdown until just before halftime.
They'll also aim to limit Lawrence and a Jacksonville offense that's capable of hitting the big play.
These are the questions that will determine if the Broncos can earn the win over Urban Meyer's Jaguars and keep their young undefeated season alive.
HOW WILL PAT SURTAIN II PERFORM HIS FIRST NFL START?
A week ago, the Broncos' first-round pick played just 16 snaps in Denver's win over the Giants, and Head Coach Vic Fangio inserted Surtain into the lineup in the first half to ensure he would get some playing time.
"He's too good of a player to only play in the dime package," Fangio said Monday.
Due to an unfortunate injury to Ronald Darby that will keep him out at least three weeks, Fangio won't have to worry about how to get Surtain on the field. The rookie is expected to make the first start of his career on Sunday against the Jaguars, and he should see plenty of snaps.
Though Surtain has learned a variety of positions during training camp, the Broncos will make life easier on him by leaving him solely at the right cornerback position. When the team shifts into a nickel or dime package, Surtain won't slide into the slot or the dime linebacker role. The decision should limit Surtain's responsibilities and allow him to focus in his likely matchup with DJ Chark, who caught three passes for 86 yards on 12 targets in Week 1. The former second-round pick hauled in a deep touchdown pass from Lawrence, and Surtain will be challenged to limit the big play.
A week ago, Surtain was unable to shove Sterling Shepard out of bounds following a reception on a crossing route, which allowed a moderate completion to become a 37-yard reception. Against Chark or the Jaguars' other talented receivers in Marvin Jones Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr., Surtain must make sure to avoid giving up a game-changing catch.
Of course, Surtain's talent also makes it possible that he could alter the game with a big play of his own. He showed that capability against the Vikings in the preseason and could make his debut memorable with a similar moment in Week 2.
One thing is for certain: Surtain won't back down from the increased pressure.
"I'm going to approach it like a regular week — getting out here and getting prepared, taking it day by day, working hard in practice," Surtain said Wednesday. "It's a new opportunity for me to step in and fill in the role, so I'm going to be ready."
CAN VIC FANGIO STUMP ANOTHER ROOKIE QUARTERBACK?
Lawrence may not have come away with a win in his NFL debut, but he showed enough potential to suggest that the Broncos could have their hands full in Week 2. The Clemson product pushed the ball deep on several occasions, as he recorded nine competitions of at least 15 yards. He made his share of mistakes — Lawrence threw three interceptions, which could be attributed to both poor throws and defensive scheme — but he improved as the game continued.
After going 10-of-21 for 133 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the first half, Lawrence was 18-of-30 for 199 yards, two touchdowns and an interception after the break. The Texans' defensive strategy likely changed, as they held onto a 20-point halftime lead, but Lawrence's ability to rebound was impressive.
With 300 passing yards this week, Lawrence would become just the fourth rookie with at least 300 yards in each of his first two starts.
The Broncos, though, should have reason to believe they can fluster Lawrence again. Fangio has posted an 18-9 career mark against rookie quarterbacks as either a defensive coordinator or head coach, as his defensive scheme is not easy for a young player to decipher.
And while some may believe the best way to get after a rookie is to send elaborate blitzes, Fangio has found that it can be better to sit back and play coverage.
"Hopefully we do a good enough job disguising our intentions and that helps," Fangio said Wednesday. "A lot of people think pressuring a rookie quarterback is the way to go, but sometimes that makes it easy for him. It identifies the coverage; he gets the ball out quick. You just need to have a good mix of pressure and coverage."
The Broncos appear to match up favorably against the Jaguars and should be in position to earn a win, but Lawrence is talented enough to wreck those plans on his own. Denver must come to play against the first-overall pick.
WHO STEPS UP WITH JERRY JEUDY ON IR?
The Broncos' 2020 first-round pick looked as advertised during Denver's Week 1 matchup, as he totaled six catches for a team-high 72 yards in less than three quarters of action. And a year after Jeudy caught fewer than half of his 113 targets, he was far more efficient, racking up his six catches on just seven targets. Put simply, Jeudy looked like the best player on the field for much of Sunday's game, and he'll be a difficult piece to replace.
The Broncos' wide receiving corps, though, should be built to withstand Jeudy's absence for a few weeks. Tim Patrick continued the momentum from his impressive 2020 season with four catches for 39 yards and a touchdown, KJ Hamler recovered from a deep drop to make several key catches and Courtland Sutton made a critical fourth-down catch to set up the Broncos' touchdown before halftime.
Sutton and Hamler, in particular, could be poised to take steps foward. As Sutton continues to get more comfortable in his return from an ACL injury, he should see more than the three targets he received in Week 1. That should help get the 2019 Pro Bowler back into a rhythm, and he could be firing on all cylinders by the time Jeudy returns. Hamler, meanwhile, should continue to serve as both a deep threat and a player who can make contested catches from the slot. Hamler revealed this week that Bridgewater had the equipment staff move Hamler's locker next to his, and he lauded Bridgewater's leadership ability.
"Teddy's been awesome and amazing, like a big brother to me," Hamler said. "He told the guys to move my locker next to him just so he can take me under his wing. And I ain't never had that before. … I've never been next to my quarterback."
In Week 2, perhaps we'll see that chemistry continue to display itself on the field.
It's also worth noting the Broncos' receivers will have help in replacing Jeudy's production. Denver's tight end group of Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam and Eric Saubert caught a combined 10 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown against the Giants. Bridgewater could also turn more to Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams in the passing game.
There's no doubt the Broncos will miss Jeudy. WIth their depth, though, it seems quite possible they can withstand the loss.