Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio was noncommittal Wednesday about Bradley Chubb’s availability for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Chubb practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, with Fangio saying the pass rusher will “give it a go.” Meanwhile, Patrick Surtain’s role in the Broncos’ defense and where he stands in their talented secondary appears more defined — particularly with CB Ronald Darby out.
Broncos defense hopes to have Bradley Chubb back for Week 2
In regards to Chubb’s status for Sunday, Broncos fans, without question, would prefer more certainty. But any positive injury news is a welcome improvement for a Broncos roster that lost two of its best players — Jerry Jeudy (ankle) and Ronald Darby (hamstring) — to injured reserve this week.
Both will miss a minimum of three games. Jeudy could miss up to six weeks.
Chubb has been dealing with issues to both ankles, including one that needed surgery. He was not yet healthy enough to play in Denver’s Week 1 win against the New York Giants. And still, Fangio’s defense limited New York to 314 total yards, including 60 on the ground, and Von Miller sacked Daniel Jones twice in his first game action since 2019.
Miller missed all of 2020 with a freak ankle injury, meaning the tandem of Chubb and Miller have not appeared together on the field since September of 2019. Does that streak end Sunday?
Jaguars’ rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who threw 3 interceptions in his NFL debut, surely hopes not.
Patrick Surtain could break out against the Jaguars
But even when high-end talent goes down on the Broncos’ loaded defense, qualified replacements step up.
For example, with Darby out, rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain II is in line for a showcase game against the terrible Jaguars defense. Surtain will start on the boundary — and stay there throughout the game, Fangio said.
Darby’s injury was a bit of a mystery. He played all 61 snaps, and Fangio didn’t even know about it when he spoke with reporters two days ago.
“He has kind of had some tightness of late, so I’m not exactly sure when it happened,” Fangio said. “… The MRI showed a little bit of a tear that he needs to miss some time.”
In a testament to the depth and talent of the Broncos’ secondary, Surtain (the ninth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft) was a spot player in his NFL debut, logging only 16 of a possible 61 defensive snaps.
Surtain, whose first game action came largely at the dime defensive back spot, was targeted just once — but that target went for a 37-yard touchdown by Sterling Shepard.
On Sunday, he’ll face a familiar adversary: Lawrence, whom Surtain first faced in the 2018 National Championship Game. Both started as freshmen.
“He’s the same,” Surtain said. “Same fundamentals. Same poise. I think they have a very young team out there, a very talented team.”
KJ Hamler should see added look in Jeudy’s absence
The drop-off from Jeudy to the next available Broncos receiver will probably be more severe than it will be from Darby to Surtain.
Expect to see more from KJ Hamler, a second-round pick from 2020 who had 30 catches for 381 yards as a rookie. Hamler wouldn’t lack for constructive input, however. A few weeks back, veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater asked the team to move his locker next to Hamler’s in a poignant display of leadership.
“He just wanted to take a young dude under his wing,” Hamler said. “I’m not going to listen to the guy who’s been in the league that long.”