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Three things the Broncos must do to beat the Jets on Thursday night

(Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)

The Broncos could only win a small handful of games this year – yes, things are really that bad. Now, injuries are mostly to do with these huge problems – well, that and a lack of depth. But the point is the Broncos season is quickly swirling down the drain.

Good things they play the Jets on “Thursday Night Football” in Week 4. While the Broncos are banged up and bad, New York is just plain bad. They might be the worst team in the league, so this could be one of a few wins the Broncos collect in 2020.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio believes his team’s morale is good considering all that has happened this year.

“I think the morale of the guys is good. We understand the situation we’re in. We can’t change anything that’s happened. All we can do is look forward and prepare for our next game which is coming here quickly on Thursday. I think our attitude is good,” Fangio said.

The Jets are playing to perhaps save their head coach’s (Adam Gase) job. They could present more problems for the Broncos than some think. Here are three things the Broncos must do to beat the Jets.

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Do Not Be Ghostbusters

Jets starting quarterback Sam Darnold does not look like a franchise player. This was not the way the Jets wanted things to work out when they selected Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Darnold was a star in college at USC and has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback – but in his third season, his game has regressed.

Darnold was bold in college, but this year after three games, it seems like he is seeing ghosts out on the football field. That’s a scouting term that basically means Darnold is feeling pressure that is not there. This is an issue that some quarterbacks can never shake, and it severely impacts their performance as they are constantly worried about getting hit instead of making a play. This is why Darnold has rarely looked good this season.

Fangio sees Darnold a bit differently.

“I see a very talented and a good quarterback who is a good runner. He has really good arm strength and makes a lot of plays for those guys. I was watching tape from not just this season but last season, and they’ve got their quarterback,” Fangio said.

The Broncos defense doesn’t create much pressure. After three games, the defense has 4.0 sacks with 3.0 of those registered by defensive linemen. Going up against Darnold could make the Broncos defense look like the ‘85 Bears. Well, maybe not that dominating but I would imagine the Broncos get to Darnold at least a few times – or he will bail on plays early since he’s seeing ghosts.

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50 Shades of Shurmur

Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has been married to his system for quite some time. Because he’s married to his system, things have gotten a little (or a lot) stale for his offense. Instead of being innovative and leading with trends like Texas routes or slot fades, Shurmur runs a three-wide receiver set with routes that take time to develop. This puts a lot of pressure on the offensive line as they must block longer.

The Broncos quarterbacks have been under constant pressure this year. That’s why they’re on their third starting quarterback this season in just four games as second-year pro Brett Rypien is starting for the Broncos on Thursday night.

Shurmur seemed a bit defiant when talking about his offense’s performance so far this season.

“Listen, the whole idea is to put together a plan to beat your next opponent. Ryp is going to be our starter on Thursday night and we’re going to do everything in our power to help him have success and help him lead us to a victory. When that game is over, you reassess, and you get ready for the next game and move forward. We as coaches, we are educators by trade, so we feel challenged to be able to teach even better in situations where you’re facing adversity like we are. I’m going to keep from talking about our team in terms of youth and injury because those are excuses. The players we have, we have to get ready to play, and we as coaches feel challenged and inspired to put a winning effort on the field every week,” Shurmur said.

Simply put, Shurmur needs to be a better teacher. His offense has lacked creativity and it shows as opposing defenses know how to figure out what the Broncos want to do quickly. If Shurmur can spice things up on offense, then the team would have a better chance of getting in the ‘W’ column in Week 4.

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More Melvin Please (or Feed Phil?)

The Broncos paid Melvin Gordon $8 million this season and are not getting a good return on their investment. In three games this year, Gordon has rushed the ball 42 times for only 174 yards. In Week 3, Gordon only ran the ball eight times for 26 yards, where he was a non-factor against the Buccaneers.

If the Broncos want to win, they need to get more from Gordon. The Jets defense ranks No. 24 in the league with 399 rush yards allowed in just three games. You can pick on them with the rushing attack, and that’s what the Broncos should do.

Shurmur feels like the ground game is even more important with a young quarterback like Rypien under center.

“I think the run game is important, and when we run the ball early, we have to get more out of the runs early in the game. We have to use the runs to help us get in the end zone. We have to do a better job of running the ball throughout the game, especially early in the game in my opinion. With regard to why Brett gets the ball out quickly — that’s just his nature. He has a pretty good idea of what we want to get done. He knows what he’s looking for, he knows when he sees it and he’s willing to pull the trigger,” Shurmur said.

In order to get back on the winning track, the Broncos need to lean on their rushing attack. I’d like to see Melvin Gordon look like the high-priced free agent the Broncos wanted when they paid him that hefty salary. We’re waiting to see if Phillip Lindsay can return from his toe injury this week after missing the last two games. If Gordon can’t get it done, then perhaps Lindsay (if healthy) can.