Twelve things entering Sunday’s Broncos-New England game, one for each Broncos player on injured reserve:
1. If Drew Lock starts at quarterback, as expected, it will be interesting to see if he is more conservative in trying to extend plays. He injured his wrist last August and his right shoulder last month trying to buy time outside the pocket. The Broncos’ best chances at being competitive is having No. 3 as QB1.
2. When I asked Lock on Wednesday if he had to adjust his style, he said: “I can definitely give or take some of those. (But) that’s kind of who I am and how I play. … I automatically want to get out and run rather than automatically stepping up and working in the pocket and delivering a ball for maybe four or six yards rather than rolling out and trying to throw a deep bomb and make something crazy happen. I feel like I can put that more into my game.”
3. The challenge for coach Vic Fangio, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and quarterbacks coach Mike Shula: Teaching Lock to realize it’s OK to live for another down and taking a short profit means not going broke. But they also want him to play his game, the game that allowed him to shine at Missouri and be a second-round pick by the Broncos. It’s a tough balance for a young player.
4. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Fangio is the sixth coach in the Super Bowl Era to start five different quarterbacks in his first 20 games. The others: John McKay for expansion Tampa Bay (1976-77; 0-20 record), Indianapolis’ Rod Dowhower (1985-86; 5-15), Detroit’s Wayne Fontes (1988-89; 8-12), Chicago’s Lovie Smith (2004-05; 6-14) and Minnesota’s Leslie Frazier (2010-11, 5-15).
5. Fangio is 8-12 while using Lock (seven starts), Joe Flacco (eight), Brandon Allen (three) and Jeff Driskel and Brett Rypien (one apiece). The Bears’ five quarterbacks under Smith all started at least three games.
6. Patriots receiver Julian Edelman has 46 catches for 449 yards and four touchdowns in eight career games against the Broncos. He has 18 catches in four games this year and is expected to see plenty of Bryce Callahan when lined up in the slot. “He’s experienced, he knows the game, he knows defenses and he’s a shifty little guy who can catch the ball,” Callahan said. “Put that all together makes him dangerous.”
7. It was a long time ago (Oct. 1), but outside linebacker Bradley Chubb will look to build on his re-breakout game against the Jets (2 1/2 sacks, two knockdowns and three pressures). Watching from back home in Colorado was Von Miller. “It was great,” he said. “I’ve been talking to Bradley throughout his process (coming back from a torn ACL) and he’s been talking me through my process. I’ve seen him going through his rehab and the struggles he had to overcome and to see him have success, it was definitely uplifting to me.”
8. During an interview on Oct. 7, Miller was asked how he can lead the outside linebackers even though he’s injured. “I have to do it through my rehab,” he said. “When they see me, I want them to see no give up in me and no moping around because I’m hurt. I know for a fact that I work hard every day and hopefully that rubs off on them.”
9. Last week, I wrote about how Patriots coach Bill Belichick makes life miserable for young quarterbacks by disguising defensive looks. An NFL offensive assistant gleaned some insight this week. “He is able to disguise simply off his personnel,” the assistant coach said. “His hand-picked players are all flexible and work off his, ‘The more you can do,’ mantra. … Adrian Phillips is a guy known to play multiple spots so on a play, is he a defensive back or a linebacker? Play to play, you don’t know.”
10. Another Belichick hallmark is putting his best cornerback (Stephon Gilmore in this case) on an opponent’s No. 2 option. “He’s historically used his best guys on the team’s second-best threat and used double teams and sacrificed his pass rush to take away your best player,” the assistant coach said. “If you’re third or fourth option can’t beat man coverage, you’re in trouble.” If the Patriots put Gilmore on Jerry Jeudy, that means Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton will get one-on-one matchups and need to win.
11. So, the assistant coach was asked, what are the ways the Broncos’ offense can combat the Patriots’ pre-snap machinations? “You want to stress their communication by using formations, different personnel groups and shifts/motions,” the coach said. “Motion in and out of empty to get checks or avoid checks. Stacks and bunches are always a problem because they can only play that one way. Using no-huddle calls adds pressure on them.”
12. The Broncos will have several roster decisions to make entering the Week 7 game against Kansas City. If Lock is healthy, cut down from four to two quarterbacks? And on defense, if cornerback A.J. Bouye and defensive ends DeMarcus Walker and Dre’Mont Jones are healthy, that means cutting three players.