The Broncos' defense has totaled just two sacks over the last two games after a hot start to the season, and the team looks to ignite the pass rush in the final seven games.
"When it comes to the pass rush, we obviously have to do better," Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said Monday. "That starts with the coaches and then the players. We have to get to the quarterback, and we're looking for ways to do that."
The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider noted that trading outside linebacker Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins was an indicator of the Broncos' confidence in their current group of pass rushers, which includes veteran Randy Gregory and three young, emerging players: Baron Browning and Jonathon Cooper, both in their second year, and Nik Bonitto, a rookie out of Oklahoma.
"The progress of Denver's pass rushers — Browning, Jonathon Cooper, rookie Nik Bonitto and, when he returns, Gregory — will be an important subplot over the final seven games of what is likely to become Denver's seventh straight season without a playoff appearance," Kosmider wrote. "When the Broncos traded Chubb instead of signing the Pro Bowl pass rusher to a long-term extension, Broncos [General Manager] George Paton pointed to the team's young, intriguing depth at pass rusher as one of the biggest reasons he was comfortable making a deal that brought Denver back a much-needed first-round pick."
Gregory had one of the highest pressure rates in the league before being placed on injured reserve ahead of Denver's Week 5 game against Indianapolis, and Kosmider explained that upon the veteran's return, he could particularly benefit defensive end Dre'Mont Jones' effectiveness.
"Dre'Mont Jones has seen his production dip since Chubb was traded," Kosmider wrote. "He managed only one pressure and no quarterback hits in Sunday's loss. Again, it's a small sample size, and Jones was instrumental in Denver's strong performance against Derrick Henry in Week 10, but he and Chubb — and he and Gregory before the latter's injury — had developed impressive chemistry, deftly running pass-rush games off one another. The Broncos, who have expressed a desire to keep Jones as he heads for unrestricted free agency in the offseason, need to find ways to help free him up for more prime pass-rush opportunities."
Kosmider noted that Gregory should not return to the field until he is fully ready, as the pass rusher is an integral part of the Broncos' defensive plan for several seasons to come. If he is at full health heading into 2023, Denver could be in a great position to start next season off strong.
"In the meantime, the final seven games are a pivotal evaluation period for the other young pass rushers on Denver's roster," Kosmider wrote. "Their time is now."
Below the Fold
In the rematch between cornerback Pat Surtain II and Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams on Sunday, Adams was able to find more success after being held to just four receptions for 46 yards with Surtain in coverage in Week 4. These two stars could battle it out for years to come, and Hackett expressed excitement for the budding rivalry between two of the best players in the league.
"Davante definitely likes to create some excitement there," Hackett said Monday. "I think it's great. We're going to see a lot of great battles with those two guys. That's one great thing about him being in this division. He's going to test Pat, and Pat is going to test him. I'm excited to continually watch it."