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Mason's Mailbag: The search for improvement

Do you realistically think that we can dramatically improve on all three phases of the game? On paper we're great, but the team isn't playing well so far this season. #AskMase

-- @DerrickDobbins via Twitter

Sure. Teams improve from their early form all the time. Throughout the locker room, players refer to "execution." It sounds simple. The reality is a bit more complicated than that. But "execution" means that the path to improvement rests in their hands, as safety Will Parks noted when looking back at last week's loss to the Jets.

"It was all on us as players. All on us. We gave up things that are Day One things," he said. "You fix them, and then you get that spark, and then it's over with. It's a simple formula, but it's a formula that you have to stick with day in and day out."

It's not like the Broncos have vague notions of areas to fix. The flaws in the last three games have been clear -- missed tackles, penalties that torpedo promising drives, lost opportunities. The Broncos have improved in some areas compared with last year; for example, their current turnover margin is minus-2 -- not great, yes, but far better than the minus-5 margin they dragged into their sixth regular-season game of 2017.

On offense, they're up in most offensive metrics -- and in the case of the rushing game, significantly so. The special teams are not plagued by the giveaways that short-circuited multiple games. If the defense can solve its recent issues and execute better, it should find its footing.

#AskMase With Su'a Cravens' possible return from injury, will that help boost the Broncos defense?

@TRSpidey via Twitter

Absolutely. The ability to align Cravens in the box improves the defense's depth and flexibility, and gives the Broncos the player that they originally hoped to use in coverage against running backs and tight ends.

Giving him repetitions will allow the inside linebackers and safeties to rotate more liberally, keeping everyone fresher.

Can we stop being so dramatic about losing? We're only five games into the season! Nobody seems to be talking about what an opportunity it's going to be to beat up on Los Angeles here come Sunday. We don't have to have Pro Bowlers at every position to win smash-mouth football, and at some point if we can get the deep ball going we'll be good again. Think of the previous Ravens Super Bowl team. We have that kind of talent.

-- Phillip Marshall

I salute your optimism. At the same time, I empathize with the frustration of fans who call and text us on the radio each weekday. It's only natural to have negative feelings when a losing streak revives fresh memories of last year's eight-week spiral. Losing streaks of three games or more are rare for the Broncos; this current skid is just the third streak of three more games since the start of the 2012 season.

There is plenty of time for a revival. But the time is now. Since the NFL expanded to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, 35.3 percent (71 of 201) teams with a 3-3 record have made the postseason. Just 9.5 percent (18 of 190) of teams that started 2-4 qualified for the playoffs. (One of those teams was the 2011 Broncos, but I doubt that 8-8 will win the AFC West this year as it did that season.) The door will not be closed with a defeat to the Rams, but history and mathematics would not favor the Broncos.

Aaron Donald is obviously the focal point for the Rams' defensive line, but how much could Ndamukong Suh also be a problem Sunday?

-- Gary Knightley

Plenty, but the Broncos have an offensive lineman who is uniquely suited to the challenge -- and to helping his teammates -- in Billy Turner, who will start at right tackle in place of the injured Jared Veldheer.

Turner said that he faced Suh in practice daily when the two were teammates with the Miami Dolphins in 2015 and 2016.

"I learned a lot from him," Turner said. "I was able to go up against him every day in practice for those couple of years that me and him were down there together. He's a physical guy. He's a bully type of player. He loves to get off the rock on the snap count. He loves to bull-rush guys. That's kind of been his mentality of play throughout the course of his 10-year career, and he does a good job at it.

"I've got a couple of things in the tool bag that I think I learned down in Miami that I'll be able to break out in the game that he might not be ready for, but at the same time, he's a very experienced player."

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