Broncos’ run game will dominate the Jets defense

Denver Broncos

Royce Freeman and the Denver Broncos running game will dominate the New York Jets defense in Week 5.


Todd Bowles won’t like the numbers as he tries to figure out how his New York Jets defense can stop the Denver Broncos’ dominant running game in Week 5.

The Broncos can run wild at MetLife Stadium because the numbers say so. Denver’s ground game is the third-best in the NFL through four weeks, averaging 148.2 yards per game.

It’s an attack led by a two-headed backfield monster comprised of rookies Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay:

By contrast, the Jets are 16th against the run. Bowles’ defense has yielded 108.2 yards per game.

The Jets are only giving up 3.8 yards a carry, but the Broncos will still feel confident about ripping off big gains. Freeman and Lindsay are finding plenty of room before they take hits:

Something has to give and recent weeks suggest it will be the Jets defense. There’s talent in the trenches in the form of tackles Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson, but opponents are creating too much push against Gang Green’s front.

The problem is inconsistency. Williams has weeks where he looks like ‘Mean’ Joe Greene fused with Warren Sapp. Trouble is he also has games where he looks as though he would find semi-pro ball a challenge.

The Jets need Williams to tap into his A-game against the Broncos. Denver runs the ball effectively because the offensive line wins its matchups at both the first and second levels.

Left guard Ronald Leary has replicated the form he showed as one of the groundhogs who used to clear the way for Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas. The tandem of Leary and center Matt Paradis is the fulcrum of this rushing attack.

They can control Williams and nose tackle Steve McLendon. Those blocks will create the cutback lanes inside Lindsey and Freeman are already adept at exploiting.

Freeman, Lindsay and holdover Devontae Booker are also helped by the presence of fullback Andy Janovich. In a tip of the cap to the NFL’s bygone era, the Broncos are one of the few who still feature a lead-blocker in the backfield.

Janovich’s ability to get to and delete linebackers Darron Lee and Avery Williamson in the open field will prove key for the Denver ground game.

Scheme has been just as important as personnel in reviving the Broncos’ run game. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and backfield coach Curtis Modkins are challenging defenses with run-heavy formations based on two-back and multiple-tight end sets.

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There’s also more variety to the run plays being called. The outside zone stretch first made popular in Mile High Country by Mike Shanahan in the 90s remains a staple play.

Musgrave also calls inside zones, power plays and sprint draws. Defenses are left guessing about which gaps to fill and where to set force.

The Jets will struggle to work things out this week. Problems stopping the run mean there’s less chance of putting Case Keenum in pass-first mode.

Bowles designs some of the most sophisticated pressure schemes in the league. He’ll needs to make the Broncos one-dimensional first.

The numbers indicate it won’t happen.

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