The Denver Post’s Nicki Jhabvala answered your questions about the Denver Broncos in a live Lunch Special chat. Here are the highlights:
If you were the special teams coach, who would you send out to return punts against Cincinnati and why?
Nicki: I would look to Brendan Langley, the rookie cornerback listed at No. 2 on the depth chart. Isaiah McKenzie ranks fifth in the league with 186 punt return yards and is a bullet when he finds his holes. But he’s muffed five times and turned it over twice. The giveaways have cost the Broncos more than his return yards have benefitted them. At this point, they just need someone who catch the ball back there.
Last week special-teams coordinator Brock Olivo said returning requires as much confidence as talent and, after Sunday, I think it’s fair to wonder if McKenzie’s confidence has been dinged. If it has been, the Broncos need to make a switch — for his sake and theirs.
What is really wrong with Paxton Lynch?
Nicki: He’s not ready. Simple as that. He suffered a shoulder sprain in the third week of the preseason and only started throwing again a few weeks ago. He still isn’t throwing deep passes, according to Vance Joseph. Though Lynch has come off the injury report, he’s been inactive on game days because it doesn’t make sense to suit up three quarterbacks.
This is what Joseph said about Lynch on Monday: “Health-wise, he’s still recovering from the shoulder. I think it’s going to be almost two weeks now coming up to this week of practice. We’ll see where he’s at. But, he’s still recovering from his shoulder injury. He’s still throwing intermediate passes and not really deep passes, yet. We want to make sure he’s totally healthy before he plays again. That time-frame, I’m not sure when it’s going to come or end.”
The Broncos are sticking with Brock Osweiler for now, and really, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. If there was a bright spot last Sunday against the Patriots, it was the play of the offense. Osweiler had one interception, but he managed the game well and moved the chains. That’s what the Broncos need from him.
If they continue to lose and if the offense struggles again, they could turn to Lynch, if anything to see what they have in him. Trevor Siemian beat out Lynch twice in offseason competitions, but Lynch has started only two NFL games. At some point, the Broncos may want to give him more game experience and to see how he handles it and what he can be for the franchise moving forward.What happened in the bye week that caused such a drastic change for this team? Seriously, they looked like they were playoff-bound and just a few pieces away from possibly contending. Now they’re the butt of the NFL.
Nicki: That’s the million-dollar question. It’s jarring to look back at how efficient the offense was in Weeks 1 and 2 and how quickly they fell apart after the bye. But the issues were exposed in their first loss, in Week 3 at Buffalo. Opponents figured them out. Trevor Siemian had 40 attempts and two really bad interceptions. Siemian should not have been throwing 40 times.
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The loss to the Giants after the bye was, in my opinion, the dagger. Had Denver won that game — and they should have, playing at home — they would have gone into their three-game road stretch 4-1. But since that loss, everything has snowballed. The turnovers piled up, the run game fizzled, the defense gave up big plays and special teams faltered.
The biggest difference in the early part of the season was the balance on offense. Running the ball helped their quarterback, limited turnovers and helped them score. When the Broncos fall in early deficits, it makes it harder for their defense.
Nicki, I think we can all agree the last five weeks have been a trainwreck. That said I look at the next six games on the schedule and I really think they are winnable games. You follow this team closer than anyone. Do you think it’s realistic to think the Broncos still have hope this season or am I just drinking too much orange Kool-Aid?
Nicki: I agree with you that the last five weeks have been a trainwreck and the next six games can play into their favor. I think the players believe that, too. They can and should beat the Bengals at home. (The last time the Broncos lost to the Bengals in Denver was in 1975.) Their toughest matchups looking ahead may be their last two — on the road against Washington and then back home against the Chiefs.
There’s still hope. Not much. But there’s still some. If they lose Sunday against Cincinnati, however, their window may close.
Could Vance Joseph be one and done?
Nicki: He could be, sure. It’s the NFL. But a number of well-respected and successful head coaches struggled in their first year, too. I think the key for Joseph will be the locker room. If the losses continue to pile up and players no longer play for him, his job will be in jeopardy. I don’t think players have quit on him yet. They’re frustrated, sure. They hate losing, especially the WAY they’ve lost the past few weeks. But I don’t think they’ve quit.
A lot can change between now and December though.
Why haven’t we seen any of D’Angelo Henderson this season? He looked great in preseason. Are they waiting until the Broncos are out of contention to see if he can play at this level?
Nicki: The Broncos have an enviable problem of depth at running back. C.J. Anderson is their starter, Devontae Booker is the No. 2 back (and possibly the team’s future at the position), and Jamaal Charles is on a one-year deal and used on situational downs. That pushes Henderson to No. 4 on the depth chart, and the Broncos can’t suit up four backs a game.
Which press box has the best food?
Nicki: Haven’t been to all of them yet — and I’m guessing other NFL writers will disagree with me here — but I’m a big fan of CenturyLink in Seattle. They have a Starbucks barista in the press box, which, for me, is both dangerous and awesome.