Play-making has been in short supply in the last three weeks for quarterback Case Keenum and the Denver Broncos.
Keenum threw for three touchdowns in Denver’s season-opening 27-24 win over Seattle but he hasn’t throw any since then, a span during which the Broncos have gone 1-2. They’re going to need more consistency from Keenum and the rest of their offense if they hope to turn it around Sunday at the New York Jets.
Broncos coach Vance Joseph said he’s not concerned about the lack of scoring passes from Keenum in the last few weeks.
“Our concern is winning football games,” Joseph said. “How we score touchdowns is my concern—running or throwing—but Case is going to get better and better with time. We’re figuring out who we are as an offense. It’s been a month into the season. I’ve been proud of how Case has played. Our O-line is playing well, so we’ll see. He’s going to get better and better with time.”
In last Monday night’s 27-23 loss to Kansas City, the Broncos struggled to sustain drives, settling for field goals three times. And the most talked about pass from Keenum was his second to last when he slightly overthrew an open Demaryius Thomas in the final seconds. If the two had been able to connect, Thomas had an open path to the end zone. For what could have been a go-ahead score in the final moments. Instead, Keenum threw one more incompletion on Denver’s final offensive play, and the Broncos turned the ball over on downs to Chiefs, who ran off the final few seconds to seal Denver’s most recent loss. In the long run, though, Keenum anticipates the two will have more hits on passes than misses.
“It was a great play call by [Offensive Coordinator] Bill [Musgrave] trying to take a shot at the end zone,” Keenum said. “They played two high safeties, I threw it where I wanted to, just a little high. It was just a little bit off, and that’s the game, it’s a game of inches.
“Would I like to have that one back? Heck yeah! But I know we’re going to make a lot more of those than we don’t. I gave it my best shot, and I can’t lose any more sleep over it. We’ve got more games to play and we have a tough test this week. So, I’ve squashed it, I’ve learned from it and I’ve moved on. I think we’re going to make a lot more of those plays than we don’t.”
Overall, Keenum has thrown twice as many interceptions (6) as touchdown passes (3).
It will be important as the Broncos gear up to play at the New York Jets on Sunday that Keenum focuses on getting wideouts Emmanuel Sanders and Thomas and youngsters like rookie wideout Courtland Sutton more involved in the passing game in hopes of stretching or testing opposing secondaries.
At the same time, Keenum said he’ll be happy no matter how the Broncos score touchdowns as long as they’re scoring more than they have in the last three weeks
Denver has averaged 19 points in the last three games while the opposition has averaged nearly 25 points in that same span.
“I don’t care how we get into the end zone,” Keenum said. “Obviously, I like throwing touchdowns. I like when those guys are running them in, too. We have two great ba cks—they’re doing a great job—but we’ve got a bunch of targets. I think receivers and tight ends, they want to get in the end zone, too. Whatever it takes—I know that the whole team is that way. Whatever it takes to score more points than the other team. Whether it’s run or pass. But yeah, we’d love to get more passes going.”
Denver will be seeking its first win away from home this season when they travel to play the New York Jets on Sunday. This will be the 36th meeting between the teams in the regular season. Denver leads the series 19-15-1, including an 8-7-1 mark on the road.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Notes and Quotes
--QB Case Keenum is 241 yards passhing shy of 10,000 for his career.
--WR Emmanuel Sanders is one reception shy of taking sole possession of ninth place on the franchise’s all-time list
for career receptions. He enters the game tied with Brandon Marshall for ninth place (327).
--K Brandon McManus is one field goal short of 100 for his career. He kicked three field goals in last week’s loss to Kansas City. Overall, McManus as made 109 of 131 field goal attempts for best field goal percentage (83.2 percent) in team history.
--With a team-leading four sacks, Von Miller is on pace for another double-digit sack season. He has had at least 10 sacks in each of the previous four seasons, the longest active streak in the NFL. He is one of three players in NFL history to record double-digit sacks in at least six of their first seven seasons in the league.
--CH Chris Harris Jr. says he sees some similar attributes in Jets quarterback Sam Darnold and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. “He’s extending plays like [Chiefs QB Patrick] Mahomes,” Harris said. “Great footwork. The Jaguars dropped about three picks last week, so that’s something. I definitely noticed that. He’s going to force it in there. He’s going to try to make all the throws. He has no fear and he’s playing to win. That’s one thing you like from a rookie.”
--RT Jared Veldheer missed practice time this week because of a knee injury suffered in Monday night’s loss to Kansas City and he remains iffy for the Jets game. T Billy Turner saw action against the Chiefs in Veldheer’s place and he’s expect to start if Veldheer is unable to go this week.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Broncos continue to have concerns about punter Marquette King, who shanked a 35-yard punt at a key part of Monday Night’s game against Kansas City, allowing the Chiefs a somewhat short field ahead of one of their fourth-quarter two touchdowns. On top of that, King has missed practice time this week with a thigh injury. In four games with the Broncos, King is averaging 39.7 net yards per punt and 44.1 yards per punt overall. Both numbers are career lows for the former Oakland Raiders punter.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Broncos Linebackers Todd Davis and Brandon Marshall vs. Jets RBs Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell: The Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt ran for more than 100 yards and made key receptions in Kansas City’s victory over the Broncos last week. Against the Jets, Marshall and Davis face a change of pace tandem in Crowell and Powell with Crowell capable of the breakaway play while Powell can pound the ball between the tackles. The Broncos first defensive priority is to contain the run and Davis and Marshall will have to channel speed and power tackling depending on whose in the Jets backfield.
WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders vs CBs Trumaine Johnson and Morris Claiborne: The big play from Denver’s wideouts has been largely missing in the last couple weeks and Thomas in particular has had several dropped passes at critical moments in games. As such Denver has struggled to stretch opposing defenses. Both Sanders and Thomas have shown before that they are capable playmakers and it may just be a matter of gradually improving chemistry between new quarterback Case Keenum and his wideouts before they start connectingwith more frequency on downfield plays. Pass defense, though has been a strength for the Jets, whose six interceptions fifth in the league.
The Broncos hope to complement what has been a very sturdy running game with more productivity in their passing game, disappointingly feeble in recent weeks. Quarterback Case Keenum is in his first year as the Broncos’ starter and is still developing a rapport with his receivers. But the hope is now, a month into the season, that Keenum and especially wideouts Sanders and Thomas are getting close to being on the same page.
The Broncos pass rush has its eyes on rattling the Jets’ rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and company hope to take out some of their frustration in their failures against the Chiefs’ elusive Patrick Mahomes by getting to Darnold, getting stops and-or turnovers and giving their offense more scoring opportunities.