Kiz: One scene was sadder than the rest from a bad Broncos loss. After the Broncos lost 17-10 to Tennessee, I walked into the locker room. At the far end of the room, defensive players sat in small groups, chatting and chuckling, satisfied they had done their job against Derrick Henry and the Titans. From across the way, standing amid the silence of offensive players with downcast eyes, guard Dalton Risner stared disapprovingly at his happy defensive mates. Has this locker room splintered?
Gabriel: Certainly there’s a gulf in production between the sides of the ball. Denver is last in the NFL in scoring at 14.6 points per game and leads the NFL in scoring defense at 16.6 points allowed per game. An enterprising Twitter user suggested that it’s been since the 1946 Pittsburgh Steelers — as in, the year after World War II ended — that the same team allowed the fewest points and scored the fewest in professional football. If that doesn’t sow seeds of division or derision, what will? At the least, it’s easy to pick up on the fact that defensive players are long since tired of trying to explain why the losses keep coming despite the fact they’re one of the best groups in football.
Kiz: There’s no avoiding it. Unity and morale are going to suffer when one half of the team can’t hold up its end of the bargain. There’s plenty of blame to be shared by coach Nathaniel Hackett and quarterback Russell Wilson for Denver’s horrific offense. But this much is apparent: Hackett has no clue how to get the most out of his $245 million quarterback. If all of Broncos Country can see that sad truth, how can the locker room not have lost trust in Hackett?
Gabriel: Right. Nine games of evidence suggest that the Broncos are not going to find major solutions on offense this fall. It’s not getting easier given the injury toll and they’ve already put themselves behind the 8-ball. On top of that, the defense has a unit leader in Ejiro Evero who is putting on a splendid debut season as a coordinator as his best friend and head coach struggles in his rookie season as the boss. Defensive players rave about Evero.
Kiz: Injuries have wreaked havoc on the Denver offense, from receiver Tim Patrick to running back Javonte Williams to a line now unable to protect Wilson. But when it’s obvious the Broncos must lean on their defense to win, I don’t understand why Hackett insisted on building a game plan around a three-wide receiver alignment with Wilson in the shotgun. What’s the bigger problem with this inept offense? Lack of talent or poor coaching?
Gabriel: I do think that Wilson, Hackett and the offensive staff overestimated what they had. Whether that would have changed the preseason approach or maybe just softened the talk of expectations, who knows? But the fact is they don’t have a gamebreaker on offense. Patrick really would have helped. Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Greg Dulcich can each do good things — Williams, too, when he was healthy — but which one of them are opposing defensive coordinators losing sleep over? Denver ran the ball more times than it threw it in a win against Jacksonville. Against a Tennessee defense itself down several front seven players including star tackle Jeffery Simmons? Wilson dropped back 48 times compared to 25 rush attempts.