Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange, Caroline Hendershot and John Pullano will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: What is the Jets' biggest challenge at Denver on Sunday?
EA: The Broncos might be 2-4, but they have an elite defense. They are fourth in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing 16.5 points a contest. In five of six games, they've allowed fewer than 20 points. They've lost their last two games, to the Colts and the Chargers, and allowed a combined 25 points in regulation play. They have excellent players on all three levels, starting with NT D.J. Jones in the middle of the defensive line and OLB Bradley Chubb (5.5 sacks) off the edge. Alex Singleton, a former CFL standout, was credited with an astounding 19 solo tackles (21 combined) Monday night against the Chargers. Will Josey Jewell (knee) return to the lineup? In the secondary, Patrick Surtain (5 PDs) is a lockdown CB, and Justin Simmons, a two-time second-team All-Pro, pairs with solid vet Kareem Jackson at safety. And for all their problems this season, the Broncos are 2-1 at home and they're allowing 10 points a game at Mile High. With a balanced attack, the Jets will have grind it out at times.
EG: The Broncos' secondary. It features one of the best corners in the NFL in Patrick Surtain II and one of the league's best safeties in S Justin Simmons. According to Next Gen Stats, Surtain II has allowed 142 yards on 35 targets this season, the second-fewest yards allowed in the NFL (min. 30 targets). This is the same defense that shut out the Green & White last season in Denver and surrendered 160 passing yards. The Jets didn't move the ball well through the air last week at Green Bay partly because they didn't need to. Zach Wilson completed 55.6% of his passes against the Packers, throwing for 110 yards. No player had more than 2 catches. After Corey Davis' 52 yards, TE C.J. Uzomah had the second-most with 17. The Green & White could lean on RBs Breece Hall and Michael Carter, who averaged a combined 6 yards per carry last week at Green Bay to help Wilson and avoid a Broncos defense that ranks No. 5 in passing.
RL: Besides the mile-high thin air, the Jets will have to succeed in processing the game plan, which could be quite similar to the Green Bay plan. The Broncos' pass defense is No. 1 in the NFL in yards/pass play. The Packers were No. 1 in pass yards/game. The Broncos' run defense appears stronger than the Pack's but can still be creased — it yielded 212 rushing yards to the Raiders in Vegas. They're giving up 4.41 yards/carry, the Jets are gaining 4.37, which led to a season-high 179 rush yards at Lambeau. Another measure of ground game growth: In back-to-back games, the Jets had a plus-8 margin between rush and pass TDs only once, an 8-0 difference in the middle of 1968. And they had a plus-7 only once — the past two weeks, 7-0 vs. the Dolphins and Packers. In short, the Green & White pass-catching group, as talented as it is, may have to wait for an opponent with a different defensive balance before OC Mike LaFleur and QB Zach Wilson cut the passing game loose. But the Michael Carter/Breece Hall run game could help the Jets climb to 5-2.
CH: The Jets biggest challenge this Sunday will be the Broncos defense. The Broncos' defense is ranked first in red zone defense, second in yards allowed per play, fourth in scoring and sacks, and fifth in passing and big plays. They are ranked third in total defense and have kept the Broncos in close games. While the Jets offense has had a lot of success in the fourth quarter, leading the NFL in offensive expected points added (27.74) and ranking third in yards (722), the Jets will need to and get by the Broncos defense much earlier than the fourth quarter to get a win. One Broncos pass rusher to keep an eye on is Bradley Chubb. He has 5.5 sacks, 8 QB hits and 18 QB pressures this season. If Chubb gets going it could hurt the Jets offense. With the Broncos coming off a short week after playing on Monday Night Football in California, I think the Jets need to take on the Broncos' defense early and keep their foot on the gas all four quarters.
JP: Overcoming Denver's imposing secondary. The Broncos have surrendered the fewest passing touchdowns this season (3), the fifth-fewest passing first downs (59) and the fifth-fewest passing yards (1,107). They boast a talented defensive backfield trio of CB Patrick Surtain II (6-2), S Kareem Jackson (5-10) and Pro Bowl player S Justin Simmons (6-2), who all have technique and impressive size. Surtain II has emerged in his second season allowing 147 yards and no touchdowns in coverage according to Pro Football Focus. Denver, however, has committed the second-most pass-interference penalties in the NFL this season. A flaw, the Jets receivers can try and exploit. "We have got to make some plays at the ball and draw some penalties and get some free plays," rookie WR Garrett Wilson said. Additionally, in a Monday victory against Denver, Chargers QB Justin Herbert targeted his halfbacks 20 times and completed 14 passes. I think the Jets can mitigate the Broncos' stout pass defense by employing a similar plan with rookie RB Breece Hall who has 19 catches for 218 yards – the fifth-highest among running backs (11.5 yards per catch).