New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Denver Broncos

Week 3 sees the New York Jets made a trip to the Rockies to battle the Denver Broncos, who are also facing a lengthy playoff drought.

The Opponent: Denver Broncos
The Dates: Week 3, September 26, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS
The Series: Denver leads 21-16-1 (last meeting: 2020, 37-28 DEN)

Much like Elaine Benes’ heartbreaking revelation that she was turning into her incompetent friend George Costanza, the Denver Broncos may be coming to a similar epiphany of depression: they’re slowly transforming into the New York Jets.

Denver’s extended Super Bowl hangover…they haven’t reached the NFL postseason since their triumph over Carolina in Super Bowl 50…is only at five years compared to the Jets’ five-plus decades. That postseason drought, however, is tied for second-worst in the league (Arizona and Cincinnati are likewise shamed) behind only the Jets’ decade-long disappearance. What’s particularly troubling in Denver is the fact that their post-Super Bowl rut has stationed them at the bottom of the NFL’s standings. An active streak of four straight losing seasons is their longest such since a nine-year tally mostly accumulated during their AFL days. The 23 wins gained in that span best only four other teams.

The Broncos are a franchise in flux, cursed with both a quarterback controversy and a dominant thrower stationed in a divisional rival’s camp (Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City) with no end to his reign in sight. Head coach Vic Fangio is entering his third season, the proverbial make-or-break campaign, with only a dozen wins under his belt. A once-proud defense is struggling to regain its footing.

Their matchup against the Jets is the conclusion of an intriguing September slate. The Broncos have a prime opportunity to start 3-0 as a Week 2 matchup in Jacksonville is sandwiched by showdowns against the reeling New York franchises. Gang Green’s visit will serve as their 2021 home opener.

Denver and New York will square off for the second straight season. A Thursday night get-together, won by Denver in a 37-28 final, was overshadowed by late extracurriculars said to be exacerbated by ousted defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Skinny on the Broncos

Quarterbacks old and new have taken center stage in Denver’s endeavors of the new decade. Life after Peyton Manning proved to be too much for franchise legend John Elway, who stepped out of the general manager role over this offseason, passing the affair over to George Paton, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings’ front office.

Paton raised the heat on incumbent franchise thrower Drew Lock by acquiring brief Jet Teddy Bridgewater for a day three pick. Bridgewater is by far one of the most inspiring stories in recent NFL memory: last season saw him return to the brotherhood of NFL starting quarterbacks in Carolina after suffering a devastating non-contact injury in Vikings camp in 2016. Paton is very familiar with Bridgewater’s work, as he was the assistant general manager when Minnesota made him a first-round pick in 2014.

Lock is in a precarious position as he, like Fangio, enters his third season in the Rockies with a lot to prove. He tied for the league lead in interception with Carson Wentz (15) last season and is threatening to become the latest failed franchise project in the post-Manning era (joining washouts like Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, and Trevor Siemian). The Missouri alum ended the year on a strong note, posting a 92.1 passer rating over his last four games, but the upcoming preseason slate will be crucial for him to prove can still be a long-term solution for an NFL franchise.

The ultimate shame about Denver’s quarterback issues is that they have a strong, skilled arsenal to work with. Courtland Sutton missed all but two games in 2020 due to a torn ACL, but the Broncos enjoyed promising showings from Tim Patrick, Jerry Jeudy, and tight end Noah Fant. Elsewhere in the backfield, the team lost Phillip Lindsay to Houston but is set to welcome back accomplished veteran Melvin Gordon.

Defensively, the team is set to welcome back franchise face Von Miller, who returns from a devastating peroneal tendon injury that kept him out of the 2020 season entirely.  Bradley Chubb rose to the occasion in Miller’s absence, earning his first Pro Bowl nomination and approval on his fifth-year option. The Jets felt Chubb’s wrath firsthand, as Sam Darnold was victimized for 2.5 sacks in the aforementioned Thursday night get-together.

New York Giants, Patrick Surtain
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New in Denver?

The Broncos had an early draft pick to work with, choosing to use the ninth overall pick on Alabama defender Patrick Surtain II. His arrival was part of an expensive renovation project in the Denver secondary, as the Broncos bestowed over $65 million in guaranteed money to Justin Simmons, Kyle Fuller, Kareem Jackson, and Ronald Darby.

At $61 million over four seasons, Simmons (Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked safety in 2021 and earner of 16 interceptions since his 2016 entry) is now the highest-paid safety in football. Once Fuller was let go from Chicago, reuniting with Fangio, his former defensive coordinator with the Bears, was a de facto no-brainer. Fuller was added on a one-year deal worth nearly $10 million, it’s clear that Denver expects a lot of him in this prove-it year.

After Surtain’s selection, the Broncos also added Javonte Williams in the second round. The North Carolina alum shared the Tar Heels’ rushing duties with fellow rookie and current Jet Michael Carter. With Gordon in the latter part of his two-year deal, Denver could begin a transition plan that would make Williams their ground man of the future.

How to Beat Them

-Corral the QB

The Jets’ pass rush has a brilliant opportunity to show how far they’ve come from the depths of the 2020 season. That nationally televised loss against the Broncos let America know just how far the Jets had fallen. They failed to take down Denver third-stringer Brett Rypien at any point during the night, letting up a whopping 37 points and 359 yards of offense.

Listing pressure on the quarterback as a key to victory is a football cliche, perhaps the football equivalent of “pucks deep“. But when you’re facing a team that’s dealing with uncertainty in the most important role in football, dealing with a battle that could well extend into the regular season, the pressure becomes more important than ever. The Jets spent this offseason further bolstering a pass rush that was one of the rare silver linings of a 2020 season. If there’s any unit on their current depth chart that can be considered “elite”, that’s it.

Week 3 could also be a breakout for the New York pass rush because of Denver’s issues on the offensive line. Ja’Wuan James opted out of the 2020 season and was later released after suffering a torn Achilles in May. Another former Bear, Bobby Massie, is expected to take over. Division III standout Quinn Meinerz should also raise a little heat on incumbent center Lloyd Cushenberry. Granted an opportunity to build long-term momentum, the Jets must take advantage.

-Neutralize the Weaponry

Denver has stockpiled several offensive weapons that the quarterback, be it Bridgewater, Lock, or someone from the 2022 draft class, could work wonders with. The Jets found out about the group’s potential the hard way last fall: going up against Rypien, an undrafted second-year man making his first NFL start, Patrick tallied 113 yards on six clutch receptions, while Jeudy literally stole his first NFL touchdown from Pierre Desir.

The showdown against Denver will be one of the Jets’ biggest challenges in the early going, especially with Sutton’s potential return to the lineup. But with so many areas to improve after the horrors of 2020, it was almost a guarantee that one or more areas of the roster were going to be neglected. That turned out to be the secondary, which is set to see Bless Austin and Bryce Hall headlined at cornerback. Projected top strong safety Ashtyn Davis is already out for Week 1, while rookies and undrafted journeymen are expected to receive major snaps.

This visit against Denver presents a major opportunity for Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich to show their impact. Whether the Jets capitalize remains, as always, the question.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Should the New York Giants draft CB Patrick Surtain at 11?

New York Giants, Patrick Surtain

The connection between New York Giants head coach Joe Judge and the Alabama football program is obvious. As a former disciple of Nick Saban, Judge has brought over a ton of tendencies and disciplines from his former mentor. In fact, the way he’s run the organization over the past year speaks volumes about the methods he was taught and how to translate them to the football field.

Despite the Giants finishing the season 6-10, there is room for optimism and hope. The defense ranks ninth in overall points allowed per game, far above their expected efficiency. While the offense struggled,  injuries and a lack of talent disrupted their flow and production.

However, the Giants went out and signed Kenny Golladay to be the WR1 for quarterback Daniel Jones and landed CB Adoree Jackson to pair with James Bradberry on the opposite side of the defense. Ultimately, the signings open up the draft for the Giants completely, allowing them the flexibility to go BPA or fill an essential need on the offensive line, for example.

The media has reported many different players in connection with Big Blue, but their intentions are hidden for now. With that being the case, there is one player that would make sense for the Giants based on Judge’s connection with Saban at Alabama. You could make the argument that both Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith will be considered, but cornerback Patrick Surtain is also in consideration.

The Giants reportedly like Surtain, who is a five-star recruit out of college and a three-year starter at Alabama. He is projected as an outside corner, a position to Giants filled with Jackson in free agency. However, cornerbacks often take a few years to develop in the NFL, and giving him that cushion behind Jackson would not only set the Giants up perfectly for the future but give Patrick Graham plenty of weapons to work with on defense.

With Jackson’s problematic injury history the past few seasons and Graham’s desire to rely on man-coverage historically, Surtain could 100% be the selection, but it might not be the most efficient one. Either way, they would be getting a skilled press-man-coverage corner who can fit most schemes and is fantastic at interrupting passing lanes.

While it might not be the sexy pick, it would be a long-term solution at a position that is widely considered weak across the NFL. Having three potential CB1s on any given team holds astronomical value.

New York Giants: The Athletic changes mock draft pick to Alabama CB

New York Giants, Patrick Surtain

The New York Giants have already addressed both the wide receiver position and bolstering the tight end spot in free agency, and because of that, we’re seeing mock drafts shift away from previous ideas. It was though the Giants would have playmakers as their top need going into the draft, but it’s less clear now which direction they intend to go after signing Kenny Golladay. Or if the Giants will even stay at number eleven at all.

The Athletic, at least, does see them not trading the pick. Their new beat writer mock draft has the Giants remaining at eleven and taking a player on the opposite side of the ball from their new offensive additions.

Giants will take a promising Alabama cornerback?

The player linked with the Giants in this mock draft is Patrick Surtain II, one of the top cornerbacks coming out this year. Surtain, interestingly enough, played his college ball at Alabama – it’s a system that Joe Judge has been a part of himself before, and based on what other players have said, Judge has already brought plenty of Crimson Tide energy to the Giants.

Surtain could be the next player to further the connection if the Giants choose to target improving the secondary and finding their elusive second cornerback to play next to James Bradberry. This is what The Athletic had to say about their prediction.

Signing Kenny Golladay makes it a lot easier to stomach all of the top receiving options being off the board. Though the Giants agreed to a deal with former first-round cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, the first round is about finding a player for the next 10 years, not just the upcoming season. James Bradberry only has two years left on his contract. Teams can never have enough cornerbacks, especially one with the pedigree of Surtain, who could become a Pro Bowler like his father. It was tempting to take Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater, but Surtain’s upside was too much to pass up.

The Giants could have a majorly improved secondary in 2021 if they go this route due to bringing back their major playmakers but also adding Adoree’ Jackson, giving them more depth at their thinnest spot – the second and third cornerback positions.

However, that could also be an argument against the Giants drafting a corner here. We might just see the Giants address another area and stick with Bradberry and Jackson for this season. It remains to be seen still. But with free agency adding a lot to the offense already, a defensive pick is starting to look likely.

New York Giants: The Underrated Benefit of Drafting a Cornerback

New York Giants, Patrick Surtain

As the 2021 NFL Draft swiftly approaches, the New York Giants are doing their best to make sure they get the No. 11 overall pick correct. Following a 2020 season that saw the team make strides towards competitiveness for the first time in years, it’s vital Big Blue makes the correct choice. Most mock drafts have suggested the team take an offensive-playmaker, a pass rusher, or an offensive lineman. While all of those options would greatly benefit the Giants, there’s one position that would kill two birds with one stone – cornerback.

The Underrated Benefit of Drafting a Cornerback at No. 11 Overall

The Role a Strong Secondary Plays in the Pass Rushing Game

On paper, a cornerback’s main duty is to defend against the opponent’s passing game. Whether that be via soft-zone, press-man, or any other scheme that Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham draws up, that is their job. A strong secondary-unit does more than just wreak havoc on opposing receivers and quarterbacks though. It allows the pass rush to get after the QB and forces the opponent to adjust their style of play. The Giants would reap the major benefits of this style of play by taking a defensive-back in round one this spring.

Following the 2019 season, the Giants knew they needed to improve their secondary. They allowed the fifth-most passing yards per game in the NFL and consistently failed to get off the field in crunch-time. To fix this issue they went out and signed James Bradberry. Bradberry outperformed all expectations in his first year with Big Blue in 2020, earning the first pro-bowl nod of his career. But it wasn’t only Bradberry who enjoyed a successful season – the entire Giants secondary improved significantly. The team allowed 26.2 less yards per game through the air and finished as the 17th-ranked unit in the league. Along with the improved pass defense came an uptick in pressure on the QB.

The Giants finished 2020 tied for the 11th-most sacks in the NFL with 40, 11 spots higher than their ranking in 2019. Despite not signing a dominant pass rusher in free agency last offseason, their pass rush improved. How? Strong play from the secondary. It’s not a coincidence both sections of the defense improved either. Almost all of the best passing defenses rushed the passer effectively in 2020.

The Correlation Between a Strong Passing Defense/Sacks

Of the six-best defenses against the pass in 2020, three of them finished in the top-six for sacks. On the other end of the rankings the correlation is relevant as well. Of the 10-worst pass defenses, five of them were in the bottom-10 for total sacks. A strong secondary allows the defensive line to produce something called a “coverage sack.” That is when a team forces the QB to hold onto the ball for an extended period of time, allowing the pass rushers to blow the play up.

The biggest example of a player benefitting from strong secondary play, and converting on “coverage sacks” is the Giants own Leonard Williams. In eight games with the team in 2019 Williams posted a measly 0.5 sacks. He did, however, register 11 hits on the QB. It was clear in 2019 that Williams needed only one more second to turn those hits into sacks. And when he received that extra second this past season, he made it count.

In 16 games with Big Blue in 2020 Williams was simply dominant. His 11.5 sacks led the team and were the 7th-most in the NFL. Nothing much about the former No. 6 overall pick changed heading into 2020. He was the same player but this time around had a group of high-football-IQ players behind him. He pounced on his secondary’s success and showed everyone why he was taken so high back in 2015.

Who Would be in Play at No. 11

If the Giants were to go the CB route in round one, which I strongly endorse, there are two players on the table: Patrick Surtain from Alabama and Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech. Both are projected to be lockdown corners at the next level, and with good reason. Each played against top-tier competition while in college, possess nearly identical long, rangy frames, as well as a wealth of skill to play in almost any type of defense. They’re each projected to go in the top-15 of the draft this April.

Let’s say the Giants like Surtain a bit more because of coach Judge’s connection to Alabama, and take him at No. 11. He would immediately slide into CB2 opposite Bradberry. It’s fair to say the Giants would have one of, if not the best CB duo in the NFL with that pairing. It would be extremely difficult for an opposing to QB to find an open receiver each play, thus giving the d-line time to do their job.

There’s no need to draft an edge rusher at No. 11 overall or overpay for one in free agency this offseason. Continue to build up the secondary and the sack production will increase as a result. When there’s a chance to fill two positions of need with one player, you must take it.

New York Giants could target 2 cornerbacks with 11th overall pick

New York Giants, Patrick Surtain

While most are mocking offensive playmakers to the New York Giants with the 11th overall pick, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of them going defensive in the first round. In 2020, the Giants surprised everybody with a stellar defense, led by coordinator Patrick Graham. He installed a 3-4 scheme that relied on versatility and discipline. His players performed well above expectations, finishing as a top-10 unit in points per game allowed and represented one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Their main weakness was the secondary, or rather one spot in the defensive backfield.

The second cornerback position was a liability all season long, as the Giants started off with Corey Ballentine at CB2 and quickly moved on to Isaac Yiadom and Ryan Lewis. Yiadom ended up playing a majority of the snaps as the season progressed, but he remained a liability, and the Giants must do something to upgrade the position in 2021.

The team does have Sam Beal returning, and Julian Love did show a spark in the final two games of the season, but the Giants have an opportunity to grab a premium asset at the beginning of the 2021 NFL draft. They just have to figure out if it is more beneficial to add an offensive weapon or the final piece to the secondary, which would give them a premium defense capable of competing against some of the best teams in the league.

There are two top-tier CBs with fantastic potential that are worthy of being selected at 11, let’s take a look.

Two CBs, the New York Giants, can target at 11:

1.) Patrick Surtain

One fantastic option for the Giants if they elect to go to CB is Patrick Surtain out of Alabama. Playing in a pro-style defense has prepared Surtain for the NFL, and that 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds, he has great size and reach for a corner.

As a former 5 star recruit, he has elite athleticism and upside, and it runs in his DNA. He’s not the most aggressive player, utilizing finesse and a conservative approach is to his game.

Patrick’s primary weakness revolves around his deep speed when quarterbacks are throwing go-routes. If you he solve those issues and stack receivers properly, he can alleviate any concerns, but as of now, it is something that teams will have to work around at the next level. Having a solid deep safety would be helpful, and the Giants have Xavier McKinney preparing to take a larger role in 2021, and having experience with Surtain at Alabama, they could be a dynamic duo.

The Giants play a ton of zone defense, but that was primarily due to their weakness at CB2 in 2020. Patrick Graham played predominantly cover-1 while acting as the DC for the Miami Dolphins in 2019, which focuses on man coverage. Acquiring Surtain would allow him to go back to his roots, and with dangerous man-cover corners like Bradberry and Surtain in the secondary, it would allow the Giants to utilize more blitzers on passing downs.

2.) Caleb Farley

Another target is Caleb Farley out of Virginia tech. At 6-foot-2 and 197 pounds, Farley is a speedster corner that has unbelievable tracking speed. For defenses that are worried about getting beat over the top, Farley is the perfect fit, but he hasn’t had much diversity in his game. Farley has barely played in the slot and aligns on the left side for a majority of his snaps. In addition, injuries have taken their toll in the past, which represents a potential liability in the NFL.

Farley projects as an elite man-coverage corner with exciting tangible traits, but his actual film isn’t full of examples of why those traits will translate. Surtain is a more developed and fundamental option, but Farley has a higher ceiling.

New York Giants: Xavier McKinney high on Alabama teammates as prospects

New York Giants, Devonta Smith

There’s a connection between the New York Giants to Alabama through head coach Joe Judge and multiple players, and it might grow further with this coming draft. That’s because there’s a number of players from the national champion Crimson Tide that might end up as Giants.

That includes a pair of receivers as well as another player in the secondary that could join ex-Alabama and current Giants safety Xavier McKinney once again.

The big name being thrown around in connection with the Giants is Devonta Smith. The wide receiver won the Heisman this season and, while he left the field injured, had three touchdowns in the National Championship. Smith has been mocked to the Giants before, but it’s debatable whether he’ll fall enough for the Giants to take him at number eleven.

Another name at receiver to memorize is Jaylen Waddle. The receiver is another member of the Alabama offense and while he missed time with injury and only played in 6 games for his junior season, he still registered 591 yards and 4 touchdowns. This class of receivers has been called a deep one. If the Giants don’t get Smith, it’s possible they end up with a player like Waddle.

As a former college teammate of both, McKinney is confident about their prospects in the league.

What did McKinney have to say?

“They’re talented as everybody can see. Those are guys that work hard. They do what they need to do for the team to be able to help the team win. That’s what I like a lot about those two guys just being out there playing with them. When we played those harder games, they always showed up to play,” McKinney said of the two Alabama receivers headed to the draft. “Like I said, they’re talented guys and I can’t wait to see how things go on the next level for them.”

The Giants have a need at the position after Sterling Shepard hasn’t been enough as their sole number one receiver and Darius Slayton hasn’t stepped up to the plate either. In fact, Slayton somewhat regressed since his first year.

He did have slightly more yards, but only 3 touchdowns compared to 8. He was targeted more but the ball didn’t get to him more than it did last season, with only two more receptions compared to 2019. And with Slayton having more of a role in the offense and starting more games compared to 2019, those stats don’t look good on him.

Few believed at first that Devonta Smith will be available at the time the Giants pick. However, his injury in the national championship may change that. If other teams are more wary, the Giants might be able to fill their need for less than Smith’s true value.

A player in the secondary for the Giants

Another player from Alabama that might be on the radar for the Giants is Patrick Surtain. Surtain is on the defensive side of the ball rather than the offense, specifically playing the cornerback position. Like many players to come out of Alabama, he has a reputation for discipline and holds the accomplishment of not allowing more than 60 yards in coverage in a single game last season.

The Giants have one high level cornerback in James Bradberry, but the secondary would receive a big boost from having another one playing on the other side of him. That player could be Surtain, who is predicted to be one of the first corners off the board.

“That’s another one of those guys where he comes to work every day, he prepares how he should and he’s another talented corner,” McKinney said about his former teammate in the secondary. “It’s a guy that I love to play with when we were at ‘Bama. I thought he did a lot of things well. He’s a really talented corner. He’s one of the best technicianists that I’ve gotten to actually witness at corner. That’s my guy.”

Of course, some Giants fans might be nervous about drafting a cornerback in the first round given the team’s track record. The Giants will have some regrets at the position from taking Eli Apple and DeAndre Baker in the first round and having both those players off the team within a relatively short time span. In the case of Baker, he was only on the team for one year before the Giants moved on from him.

But with this prospect coming out of Alabama, a team known for it Patriots-like system and discipline, it seems less likely the Giants will find such problems with Surtain. After all, we’ve seen the products of that system work out for the Giants so far. When McKinney, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Joe Judge can all trace roots back to there, it must be doing something right.