The Donatell Diary: Denver Dominates Urban Meyer’s Overmatched Jags

Dec 12, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer watches quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) against the Tennessee Titans during pregame warmups at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

In Week 2 of the 2021 NFL season, the Denver Broncos took down the Jacksonille Jaguars by a score of 23-13. The score suggests the game was closer than it actually was. Following the opening drive, the Jaguars offense couldn’t do anything well. They spent the day looking completely overmatched by the Broncos defense.

The Positives

Similar to Week 1, Denver had some coverage issues, which we’ll talk about in more detail below. Nevertheless, the defense had a really strong day.

Trevor Lawrence didn’t get any help from his head coach. It looked like he continually was trying to make plays that were unnecessarily difficult. For this reason, it can be tricky to distinguish between Urban Meyer doing a poor job coaching and Denver doing a nice job defensively. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

The Broncos defense commonly began with a 2-high look. Once the ball was snapped, a safety commonly rushed toward the LOS. Sometimes, that safety had a receiver to pick up man-to-man in coverage. At other times, the safety would take the flats as his zone. Still other times involved the safety flying up to make a tackle in run defense. Vikings fans are going to have a great time seeing Harrison Smith moving all over the field.

Denver lost Josey Jewell and Bradley Chubb for the day. It didn’t stop them from playing well. Kareem Jackson had a nice interception in the third quarter; Patrick Surtain II had a sensational pick in the fourth. Take a look:

Lawrence finished the day having gone 14/33 for 118 passing yards, a TD, and 2 INTs. For some reason, James Robinson only had 11 rushing attempts even though he had a healthy 4.3 yard per carry average.

Oh, and one more thing: the second score was a kickoff returned for a TD. Jacksonville went for 2 but were stopped. So, the Broncos only allowed 7 points as a defense. They played the game on the road.

The Negatives

Bunch formations present some issues. Receivers move in different directions, often creating some chaos and picks near the LOS. It can therefore be difficult for the DBs to stick with their assignments. Expect well-coached teams to lean on bunch formations to try to exploit Minnesota.

Once again, we got to see what happens when a corner loses his one-on-one battle:

The Jaguars went after Kyle Fuller and Patrick Surtain at different points. The above clip shows Fuller misreading things, failing to open his hips to get depth early enough, instead trying to get his hands on his receiver. That decision allowed Marvin Jones to get a step on him. In other words, a mental error in man coverage can be the difference between a TD and incompletion.

Going after Bryce Callahan didn’t work; he had a really strong game.

Early in the game, Jacksonville targeted Surtain underneath. The rationale was sound. Make him step up multiple times for a tackle after a relatively short completion. Then, toss one deep to see how he manages. It’s like delivering body shots before trying to land your upper cut. The strategy worked. Jacksonville targeted Surtain in the second quarter, drawing a PI in the process.

It’s also notable that Trevor Lawrence picked up a critical 4th down with his legs. For the second week in a row, a young, underperforming QB moved the sticks with his legs. Again, one wonders about a spy in these moments.

Closing Thoughts

I still need to wait and see how Denver does when it faces a competent offense. To their credit, they looked strong in two consecutive road games. The second one even featured them losing talented players to injury, but they still played great.

So far, the early indicators are that Denver’s defense was impressive. We know, though, that things ended up going poorly for the Broncos, so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond once their own offense begins to struggle more. Plus, competent offenses await on the schedule. Unfortunately, we’ll need to wait another week before seeing one. Their next game comes against the Jets.

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