ENGLEWOOD -- For starters, the Broncos need better.
The beginning of games offensively last season was akin to turtles crossing the desert. Denver did not score a touchdown in the first possession of a game. A goose egg in 16 attempts, tied with the Dallas Cowboys. Worse, the Broncos posted only nine points on those drives.
"We have to coach better and play better right from the get go," coach Vic Fangio said Wednesday.
The Broncos adopted a sense of urgency this offseason, determined to snap the franchise's eight-game September losing streak. Viewed through a narrow lens, the Broncos must caffeinate their offense on first drives and first quarters, where they ranked 29th in scoring. I asked Teddy Bridgewater, the Broncos' fifth different starter in five years on opening day, the key to serving as, well, the bridge over troubled water.
"You’ve got to sell hope to the guys. This might be our first time out here, 'but, listen, we’ve been doing this since we were six years old, five years old.’ You continue to exude that confidence in guys, make them have that self belief," Bridgewater said. "Once they know somebody else believes in them, the sky is the limit.”
The Broncos are 9-13 in road openers. First games remain unpredictable. No one has played four quarters together. Conditioning is an issue. And non-scouted looks will surface, making perseverance and adaptability paramount. This is where Bridgewater should help. He operates in a fluster-free bubble, possessing a slow heart beat.
"His calmness brings calmness to the whole group," running back Melvin Gordon said. "He's just Teddy B. He's never too high, never too low."
Bridgewater will make history as the first Black quarterback to start an opener for the Broncos. He sees it as a chance to inspire others, but his focus is on one thing: a victory. He claimed the quarterback job after a spirited battle with Drew Lock. He understands Lock has many fans who wanted him to keep the spot.
"I appreciate the fans," Bridgewater said. "You win over fans by winning games."
Bridgewater has never won an opener, going 0-2 with Minnesota in 2015 and Carolina last year. He wasn't the reason his team's stumbled. He completed 45 of 66 passes for 500 yards, one touchdown and one interception. A 68% completion percentage and an even turnover margin would be welcomed by the Broncos after Lock finished last in accuracy and tied for the most picks last season.
It starts at the beginning for these Broncos. With September. With the first game. With the first drive.
"I could sense it back in the spring. Guys have a sense of urgency," Bridgewater said. "Guys want to change the narrative around here. And we get that opportunity on Sunday."
Pro Bowl outside linebacker Bradley Chubb is officially racing the clock to play against the Giants. He did not practice Wednesday because of a lingering ankle injury that is not healing as quickly as expected. He participated in stretch and was wearing a small brace, it appeared, on his left ankle. If Chubb cannot go, the Broncos boast depth. Top backup Malik Reed led the team with eight sacks last season, and rookie Jonathon Cooper was one of the best stories in camp with his effort and production. ...
Tight end Noah Fant (leg) is on track to start, well ahead of Chubb in his recovery. But will he be a factor? The Broncos did not target him in the first two preseason games. I would expect that to change against the Giants. ...
Broncos coach Vic Fangio was asked about the Los Angeles Times report that revealed that the Broncos quarterbacks violated COVID-19 protocols last season by placing their tracking devices in the corners of the room to try and fool the system. It led Denver to use Phillip Lindsay, Kendall Hinton and Royce Freeman at quarterback. "That was last year. We have moved on," Fangio said.