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(Graphic by K.J. Rigli/Bonneville Denver)
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Mile High Monday: O-line woes, a wideout blossoms and Breaking Bad

(Graphic by K.J. Rigli/Bonneville Denver)

The Broncos have yet to get into the win column in the 2019 season. They fell to the Packers on Sunday by a score of 27-16 and now have a record of 0-3 for the first time in 20 years. Not only that, but they become the first team in NFL history not to record a sack or have a defensive takeaway in the first three weeks of the season.

I like only a few things the Broncos are doing at this time. There are some bright spots, but it’s difficult to get excited about the prospects for this team the rest of the year.

I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep TJ. The following is a result of those trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.


Sacking Flacco

Joe Flacco has been playing for 12 years in the NFL and he’s never been sacked six times in a game – until Sunday against the Packers. He was under duress all game long, and that certainly impacted his play. Flacco didn’t take care of the ball on Sunday, with one interception and one fumble that led to Packers points.

Broncos head coach Vic Fangio had an idea why Flacco took so many sacks.

“There was definitely a few of those where he held onto it for a long time. There’s only so much time you can hold it back there, and Joe’s got to do a better job of getting it out quicker. The routes have to be run crisper. Everything’s got to be better; it’s not just that he’s holding it. Maybe he’s holding it for other reasons, too. I thought our line, for how many passes we ended up throwing, blocked pretty good,” Fangio said.

Flacco didn’t throw the ball as much against the Packers as he did against the Bears in the previous week. On Sunday, Flacco launched 29 passes and was sacked six times. In Week 2, Flacco tossed 50 passes yet was only sacked twice by a defense that is much better.

The Broncos were off on Sunday, not every part of the team, but the line did not “block pretty good” in my opinion.


Better Than You Think

The Broncos offense is lacking in talent at certain spots, but they are not hurting when it comes to starting wide receivers. Veteran Emmanuel Sanders is well-known and an established star in the league. However, second-year pro Courtland Sutton is a rising star and much better than some people think.

Sutton had a career-high in receiving yards to kick off the season with his 120-yard performance against the Raiders. He had another good game on Sunday against the Packers. Sutton was targeted eight times, catching five passes for 87 yards. He made several tough catches all over the field for the Broncos against a young and athletic Packers secondary.

One of his best catches actually was incomplete because Flacco pushed the ball too far outside. Sutton was able to dive and do some sort of superhero pose to reach out and snare the pass. Too bad it was out of bounds, but it shows his incredible athleticism. His best catch has to be the 52-yard pass where Sutton made a good stop/start move on the outside to gain separation, then Sutton made some moves to get extra yardage after the catch.

Add in Sutton’s blocking ability, and you have the makings of a well-rounded receiver who has yet to play up to his full potential. If Sutton continues to develop then the sky is the limit for this young playmaker.


Shaq Attack

The Broncos have a knack for finding quality talent from the ranks of the college free agents available after the draft. There are too many examples to list here, but one player they picked up undrafted a few years ago was Colorado State linebacker Shaquil Barrett. Coming out of CSU in 2014, Barrett was known as a sack artist and I called him a “forced fumble specialist” because of his track record with the Rams.

He fell undrafted because scouts felt he was a bad-body prospect, but Barrett worked well as a reserve pass-rusher for the Broncos for a few seasons. In his first season playing in the NFL (2015), Barrett collected 5.5 sacks for the Broncos defense with a limited role. During four seasons with the Broncos, Barrett had 13.5 sacks, but he wanted a starting job.

That’s one of the main reasons why he bet on himself in free agency earlier this year. Barrett didn’t get a lot of attention, but he did end up getting a one-year, $4 million contract from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Barrett has wasted little time making an impact in Todd Bowles’ defense.

During the first three weeks of the season, Barrett has a whopping 8.0 sacks. He’s showing no signs of slowing down and is currently leading the NFL in sacks. Even if he doesn’t get any more sacks in 2019, Barrett has made himself a ton of money with his performance. If I’m the Bucs, I try to wrap up the talented pass-rusher before he leaves as an unrestricted free agent in 2020.

While the Broncos still have zero sacks over three games, Barrett has been getting after the quarterback early and often. With his head start, one could easily predict that Barrett will finish with more sacks than either Bradley Chubb or Von Miller in 2019.


Doing the Math

I don’t get a lot of time to watch TV shows, but I did make an exception when “Breaking Bad” was still on AMC. It is hands down one of my favorite shows of all-time, and it may be the greatest television series in the history of the genre. I try to re-watch the series once per year, usually by playing it on Netlfix in the background while I’m writing. Not only do I love the show, I also love the spin-off series “Better Call Saul.”

On Sunday, we got to see a new trailer for the “Breaking Bad” movie called “El Camino.” After watching this trailer, I started to do some quick math in my head. I won’t spoil anything if you haven’t seen this trailer, but there is a key phrase that has all “Breaking Bad” fans going back to watch the series finale (or just cheating and searching for the answer on the internet).

Oct. 11 can’t get here soon enough! Let me know on social media if you’re as excited about this movie as I am.