FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The last time the Broncos lost eight straight games The Monkees topped the charts with “I am a Believer.” Few Broncos fans share their optimism.
Adversity lurks in every shadow, MRI tube and injury in the NFL. However, the Broncos have plunged into an abyss only a diehard can recall. The Broncos last dropped eight straight in 1967. And only twice in team history has the franchise gone winless on the road.
Both stare the Broncos in the face as they clumsily clomp into Hard Rock Stadium against the Miami Dolphins. Amazingly, the Broncos are favored facing a Miami team that owns a five-game losing skid.
Denver has not a won a road game since Dec. 4 last year at Jacksonville. When the Broncos claimed Super Bowl 50, they went 6-2 in visiting parks. They need to simmer to reach six wins for the season.
The players insist they believe in, and respect, first-year coach Vance Joseph. And the Broncos would prefer not to make another coaching change, leading to four bosses in five seasons. However, the players have to win for him. It’s hard to imagine Joseph returning if the Broncos lose out. Change will define the offseason, with the expectation the Broncos will add personnel to their front office where they have one of the smallest groups in the league, according to multiple NFL sources.
It leaves the final five weeks as American Idol auditions (which is coming to Denver7 on Sunday, March 11, 2018). Which coaches and players will compromise the core moving forward?
As such, my look not at the Denver7 Keys, but the Denver7 things I want to see in this buzz-free game:
There’s no good reason not to incorporate uptempo, no-huddle principles. The Broncos showed life in the fourth quarter last week with the hurry-up attack. Pushing the pace is a must for any Colorado sports team, and even on the road it can help minimize the pass rush against quarterback Trevor Siemian, who will have newcomers protecting him at right guard (Connor McGovern) and right tackle (Donald Stephenson).
Booker as bellcow
It makes little sense to rotate three backs at this point, unless the Broncos finally, shockingly, decide to use Jamaal Charles in the pass game. Devontae Booker has five games to show he can be a feature back. C.J. Anderson’s salary makes it almost certain he won’t return. Booker has played well in the passing game, but has yet to show he can make the first defender miss consistently. And if Charles is not in the plans, free D’Angelo Henderson over the final stretch.
More Latimer, please
Cody Latimer (pictured above) has a longterm future in this league as a special teams whiz. The Broncos did not draft him for that role. And his lack of productivity led to spending money on Emmanuel Sanders that he earned, but would have been better allocated for offensive line help. Latimer is finally receiving his chance. He has shown he can make plays. Target him six times a week going forward to see if he can be counted on next season.
Kerr is a keeper
Zach Kerr had bone spurs removed from his knee before signing with Denver. And after a strong training camp, the defensive lineman hurt his knee in late August. He found his stride last week, telling me he finally understands how Bill Kollar is coaching him. Kerr was a disruptive force last week. “We are tired of losing, tired of all that BS,” he said. Given Derek Wolfe’s growing injury history and Domata Peko’s age, the Broncos need to learn over these next five games if they can count on Kerr next season.
Play DeMarcus Walker
I don’t care if he can’t play special teams. I don’t. He needs to get snaps at defensive end. The outside linebacker experiment has not worked. Walker deserves blame for not finding a way onto the field. I get it. But injuries have created an avenue to snaps. Give him his share to build confidence going into the offseason.
Joe Woods’ learning curve
Joe Woods puts in the time. He is a film rat. He deserves credit for helping the No Fly Zone reach its potential. He appeared ready to take over as defensive coordinator. However, he has struggled too many times, especially against good teams. If he’s part of the core group, he needs to demonstrate growth from his experience over the final five weeks.
Effort and attitude
Players control effort and attitude. And if they want Joseph to return, they must remain positive and play hard for him down the stretch. Joseph inherited a flawed team, but the mark of a coach is how his team competes. This is an important stretch for the players to demonstrate Joseph is the right man for the job.