Ten things to know about the Broncos’ entry into Sunday’s game in Dallas:
1. Had Carolina drafted cornerback Pat Suren II eighth overall, would the Broncos face a decision at No. 9: quarterback, trade down, or perhaps linebacker Micah Parsons? “We really liked[Parsons],” said coach Vic Fangio. “If we didn’t take Pat, he was a guy who was right there for us.”
2. The Cowboys rolled the dice, traded No. 10 to 12 with Philadelphia (adding a third-round pick) and still got Parsons, who is tied for the team lead with 42 tackles (11 in Minnesota in Week 8). Parsons, playing 83% of the Cowboys’ defensive snaps, also has 2 1/2 sacks. “He plays in and out so he is unique,” Fangio said. “He has versatility in abilities, is a truly explosive athlete and he is a playwright.”
3. The Broncos’ defense has had to dress up for a super jumbo Dallas look. Against Minnesota last week, the Cowboys had several plays with backup offensive linemen L’El Collins and Conor McGovern in the backfield to create a diamond look. “It was something (Coach Mike) McCarthy did back in Green Bay,” said defensive coordinator Ed Donatelle. “These (coaches) have fingerprints they still show over the years.”
4. It’s not just me who thinks Broncos games have less assets this year. “It’s been a strange year,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “I used to say it was a 12-round fight. We played a few games when we were eight or nine.” In four games, the Broncos have eight or nine possessions compared to just one such game in 2020.
5. On Tuesday, Broncos general manager George Patton praised Fangio for his steady leadership during the up-and-down season. Fangio returned the favor on Wednesday. “I really enjoy working with George,” he said. “I think he does a tremendous job. I think he is, if not the best, one of the top assets of this franchise that is growing. No work is big, no work is small. He gets into it and gets behind it and I love working with him.”
6. Noah Fant’s COVID-19 absence will create more play time for second-year tight end Albert Okwegbunam, who returned after a three-game absence (hamstring injury) to catch three passes for 34 yards in 26 snaps against Washington Were. “He’s ready,” said quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. “The thing about Albert, he’s on a leash. You see him putting in extra work on Saturdays. On Fridays, he leaves early to go through a few different things and routes. He’s the kind of guy who But we will be very confident.”
7. One problem with the offense is not getting the phantom downfield enough. The same is true with Albert O, who has 12 catches for 91 yards and one touchdown in five games. He has forty-two yards post-catch and only one of his catches has traveled more than eight “air” yards – last week’s 19-yard catch (14 “air” yards).
8. Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell was injured last week in a fake field goal attempt in Cleveland. What are the Broncos contingency plans? Fangio said punter Sam Martin can place-kick, kicker Brandon McManus can punt, and quarterback Drew Locke is the backup holder (he gets practice reps every Friday). “Don’t ask me if both (Martin and McManus) are hurt,” Fangio said.
9. Overall, the Broncos special teams have turned a corner. Fangio said, ‘We have played very well. “The first (part of the season), we were playing well, except we would have a really bad game. In the last 3-4 weeks we have put an end to those bad plays. (Three) Despite the blocked area goals that have been great plays, other things have been solid. It would be nice to play big on special teams in the comeback game. “
10. The Broncos implemented seven special teams penalties in Weeks 1–5, but none in Weeks 6–8. But Fangio is right – they need a big comeback. He is seventh in punt returns (10.6-yard average, long of 25), but 28th in kick returns (18-yard average, long of 23).