(CBS4) – The first month of the Denver Broncos’ season has not gone according to plan. The team sits at 0-4, with a lackluster offense and a porous defense. It faces many more questions than answers, and lacks the leadership to flip that equation. Their Week 4 last-minute loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars — the second of the season — adds another question to the list.
What exactly does Vic Fangio need to do to get a win?
Some uncertainty was to be expected in the early going under a new coaching staff in a new system. New faces dot the roster, including starting quarterback Joe Flacco, who arrived from the Baltimore Ravens in the offseason. Familiarity and cohesiveness take time, which the Broncos are fast running out of.
NFL On CBS analyst and former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon has seen it before. “They’ve had a lot of change, and not just with the head coach, coordinators and schemes. You’re bringing the quarterback in. You brought in some free agents. The dynamics of the locker room changed significantly.”
But the team has to help themselves, on the field and off of it.
“Where is the leadership right now,” Gannon wonders. “There was a quote from Chris Harris Jr. earlier in the week about, something to the effect of ’13 more weeks,’ which, coming from one of your better players, one of the veterans on that defense, that’s not the type of message you want to get out there.”
That leadership on offense starts with Flacco, who has been inconsistent so far. “You look at them offensively,” says Gannon, “I think they’re just hit and miss. Flacco has had his struggles over the last couple years. He’s a guy that, if you’re running the ball well and you’re playing well on defense and you still have the kicking game, he can be effective. But if it’s not that way and he has to carry a team and throw the ball 35 or 40 times, then I think you’re going to struggle.”
And they have struggled, even with a reasonably productive ground game, featuring Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. “The offensive line hasn’t been as good,” Gannon observed. “The left tackle (Garett Bolles) has had his struggles.” Bolles is among the most penalized offensive linemen in the NFL.
The defense has its own problems. Leonard Fournette of the Jaguars just torched them for 225 yards on 29 carries. They sacked quarterback Gardner Minshew five times, but he was the first QB they sacked this season. More generally, the defense has struggled to hold a lead, on the occasion that they have one. And now they’ll be without linebacker Bradley Chubb, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
What do the Broncos have to do to right the ship?
“You have to get back to the fundamentals,” says Gannon, “the basics, the techniques of tackling and running with the football and catching and blocking, those type of things, which quite frankly, they haven’t done well. The turnovers, the penalties, the missed assignments, the mental errors … that’s really what’s held back the Denver Broncos.”
It won’t get any easier in Week 5, when they travel to Los Angeles to face the AFC West rival Chargers. Philip Rivers leads a banged up unit that’s managed two wins in its quest to heal and stay afloat. This week they welcome back running back Melvin Gordon to the field after his early-season holdout.
The Broncos play the Chargers in Los Angeles at 2:05 MT on CBS.