After a hot start to the season, the Broncos' pass rush has been considerably less effective over the last three games, recording just two sacks and 10 QB hits as a unit. The Denver Post’s Parker Gabriel noted that as the team enters a stretch of games against tough teams to close out the season, the pass-rush unit must be better at affecting the quarterback.
"They're doing everything that they can, and they are going to continually try to get to the passer," Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said Monday. "You have to affect the passer. It starts with stopping the run across the board to be able to put them in passing situations, so we have more [pass-]rushing opportunities. We didn't have a lot of those [Sunday], but we have to get to the passer."
Denver remains without Randy Gregory, who is on injured reserve, and the team traded Bradley Chubb to Miami at the deadline.
The Broncos' remaining pass rushers, though, understand the importance of getting back to their level of production from earlier in the season, particularly as they prepare to face several mobile quarterbacks in the coming weeks.
"We've just got to rush better, understand the game plan and rush together more as like, us and the D-line working together to make sure we're putting as much pressure on the quarterback, not giving him too much field or too many lanes and things like that," outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper told Gabriel. "We have to get after it. The standard stays the standard regardless of whether we have guys out or not."
Denver will travel to Baltimore this weekend to face the Ravens, and it is imperative that the Broncos' pass rushers find a way to get to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Gabriel noted that while Jackson has taken 24 sacks this year, his quickness and craftiness allow him to beat defenses with his legs. Averaging 6.8 yards per carry, Jackson is on pace to rush for more than 1,000 yards for the third time in his career.
"When it comes to Lamar Jackson, you have to try to find a way to contain him," Hackett said. "He's an incredible football player in this league. He can throw the ball down the field, and we see how many times he can run the different run schemes that they have. Watching their tape — [Ravens Offensive Coordinator] Greg Roman ... has done a great job with all the different kinds of schemes, motions, shifts and different personnels to be able to utilize Lamar in the run game and hand it off. It's going to be a great challenge for our defense."
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The offense will also need to find a rhythm as they prepare to face Baltimore, but the Ravens could make it difficult for Denver to get the run game going, as their 902 rushing yards allowed are the second fewest of any team in the league.
While running the ball effectively could be difficult, Broncos running back Latavius Murray is heating up; the nine-year veteran rushed for 92 yards on 13 attempts in Sunday's game against the Panthers, including a breakaway for 52 yards. Despite his individual success in that matchup, Murray said after the game that as an offense, they will have to find ways to significantly improve going forward.
"I think every offense will struggle at some point," Murray said. "But obviously for us we have been kind of consistently going out there and kind of hurting ourselves. So, the only thing we can do is keep working. Figure it out. Dig deep. Figure it out within. Everybody look at themselves individually. See what you can do to be better and help this thing move forward. Myself included, honestly. I think we all can be better at something."