The Denver Broncos have won with defense so far in the young season, and as they prepare for their home opener Sunday against the New York Jets they will try to keep rolling despite a growing injury report.
After recording a pair of sacks and a forced fumble in stuffing the New York Giants 27-13 in Week 1, the Broncos (2-0) ntercepted Trevor Lawrence twice while surrendering just 189 total yards in a 23-13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday.
The Broncos’ defense ranks third in the NFL in yards surrendered per game (251.5) and fifth in points per game (13.0).
Unfortunately, those numbers have come with a cost, in the form of a rapidly expanding injury report.
Starting linebacker Josey Jewell sustained a season-ending pectoral injury in the Jaguars game, and Pro Bowl impact pass rusher Bradley Chubb underwent arthroscopic surgery to have a bone spur removed from his left ankle, knocking him out for the at least 6-8 weeks.
Denver will also be without cornerback Ronald Darby (on injured reserve with a hamstring) and guard Graham Glasgow is listed as doubtful with an irregular heartbeat.
Despite those challenges, the Broncos are still confident about playing well.
“I would say the difference between this team and years past is that we do have the depth behind key players,” defensive end Shelby Harris said. “Everyone from coaches to players feel confident with these guys stepping in. …
“All the years past, whenever an injury would happen, it’d be like, like, âDamn, what are we going to do?’
“But this year, I feel like with the young guys we have and the veteran presence and what we expect out of our players and how we hold our players to the highest standards, I think that’s all going to come into play on Sunday when these guys get to play.”
To help mitigate the losses at linebacker, the Broncos signed linebacker Micah Kiser off the Los Angeles Rams practice squad Wednesday. Kiser started nine games for the Rams in 2020, registering 77 tackles and a forced fumble.
Star linebacker Von Miller and his team-leading three sacks will also factor in as the Broncos look to keep the defensive intensity up against a Jets team struggling through a winless start with a rookie quarterback.
New York (0-2) is averaging just 294 yards and 10 points a game (26th and 31st in the league, respectively) and has turned the ball over five times while struggling to protect its quarterback.
Zach Wilson, who was taken No. 2 overall in the draft this spring, has been sacked nine times and hurried another 17 times in two games while throwing five interceptions (tied with fellow rookie Lawrence for most in the league).
And the Jets have some of their own injuries to deal with. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder, defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers and linebacker B.J. Goodson missed practice Wednesday.
The challenge against Denver is clear: run the ball to protect your young quarterback.
The Jets average 98.5 yards on the ground, led by Ty Johnson’s 65 yards on 16 carries. Rookie Michael Carter also came on to rush for 59 yards against the Patriots last week.
“You know they have a great defense, but they can be exposed at times as well,” Jets right tackle Morgan Moses said. “The thing is we have to come out there prepared; we have to run the ball.”
The Broncos would appreciate a fast start as they look to add to their all-time series advantage of 20-16-1.
“It’s going to be great arriving there 2-0,” Miller said. “I know the fans can appreciate that. We’re just going to keep trying to ride the wave. … We’ve got a great squad. We’ve got great fans.
“It’ll be good to get back in Mile High and play in front of those guys. I know it’s going to be rocking and I’m looking forward to it.”