The Broncos travel all the way out east for the dreaded 1:00pm kickoff for a west coast team as they seek to avoid a three-game losing streak. Having won close games against Seattle and the Raiders, Denver lost comfortably to Baltimore and then found themselves on the wrong end of a Patrick Mahomes-led comeback by the AFC’s hottest team.
Let’s review how their roster shapes up:
Having enjoyed a career year with the Vikings last year, Case Keenum has had an uneven start to his Broncos career. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since week one and has six interceptions already, having only thrown seven all year in 2017. He has also been sacked seven times in the last two games.
Kevin Hogan, who had a decent performance against the Jets while with Cleveland last year, is listed as the third stringer behind Chad Kelly. The former seventh round pick had a decent preseason but has yet to throw a pass in a regular season game.
Denver has used the draft to build up part of its offensive line with center Matt Paradis, guard Connor McGovern and tackle Garrett Bolles all being recent draft picks. Bolles, last year’s first rounder, had some issues last year with 15 penalties and eight sacks surrendered. He has already had four penalties this year too.
Free agent guard Ronald Leary was brought in to bolster the unit, which has shown some good run blocking over the first month.
Right tackle Jared Veldheer rounds out the starting lineup but he’s injured so Billy Turner will most likely fill in. Turner has 14 career starts. Max Garcia, another recent draft pick, had started every game over the last two years, but has been relegated to a reserve role since the addition of Leary.
The Broncos’ offense has been driven by an impressive rookie running back tandem. Phillip Lindsay is more of a smaller, speedy scat back type who is currently on course for a thousand-yard season and had a 100-yard game a few weeks ago. He’s averaging almost six yards per carry. Royce Freeman, who was expected to start, is more of a power back and he’s averaging five yards a carry with a team-high three touchdowns.
Devontae Booker was expected to get a bigger role with the departure of thousand-yard rusher CJ Anderson, but has remained as a backup due to the success of the two rookies.
Fullback Andy Janovich has been doing an excellent job as a lead blocker.
Demaryius Thomas is still only 30 but seems to be on the downside of his career. His average per catch this year is just 8.4 yards, which would be a career-low by some margin. In fact, this would be the fifth year in a row that this number has been lower than in the previous season. Nevertheless, he still caught 83 passes last year and almost had a thousand yard season, so he’s still a threat.
Emmanuel Sanders is leading the Broncos so far, with 314 yards in the first four games. He caught 10 passes for 135 yards in week one. Sanders is the type of player who could kill the Jets on crossing routes, like Dede Westbrook did last week, but don’t be surprised if the Jets pay extra attention to those, leaving themselves susceptible elsewhere instead.
Rookie Courtland Sutton is Thomas’ heir apparent and, although he only has eight catches in the first four games, he looks the part and has shown an ability to get deep and make highlight reel catches in the games so far and in preseason.
Another rookie, DaeSean Hamilton is an option off the bench and can contribute in the slot.
Having lost Jake Butt to another ACL tear, the Broncos have Jeff Heuermann as their top tight end now. He’s backed up by two players who were briefly Jets; Matt LaCosse and Brian Parker. Parker is a good blocker.
Derek Wolfe is the Broncos’ best interior lineman, as he enters the third year of a $36 million contract extension. He’ll anchor the run defense along with another veteran; 33-year old nose tackle Domata Peko, who is in his second season with the team. Adam Gostis is the other starter, but he’s listed as questionable for Sunday.
In reserve, Denver has DeMarcus Walker, last year’s second round pick, former Indianapolis Colt nose tackle Zach Kerr and Shelby Harris, who is another Jets’ cast-off. Harris had 5.5 sacks out of nowhere last year.
For the third week in a row, the Jets will face a major challenge in pass protection, as pro-bowler Von Miller is already having a productive year with four sacks and two forced fumbles. Miller isn’t the only talented pass rusher Denver has though.
Bradley Chubb, the fifth overall pick, has already had 1.5 sacks and is starting across from Miller. Chubb has had most of his reps on the right side, so he would match up with Kelvin Beachum, while Miller usually plays on the left so will mostly face Brandon Shell. They do swap sides from time to time though.
In reserve, Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett also have plenty of talent.
At inside linebacker, Brandon Marshall was the Broncos’ leading tackler by a mile last year but so far this season they’re being led by their safeties.
The other starter is Todd Davis but he’s been listed as questionable, so one of their tandem of rookie reserves - Josey Jewell, AJ Johnson and Keishawn Bierria - might have to step up.
Denver only intercepted 10 passes all last year and two so far this year, but they’ll be looking to force some turnovers against rookie Sam Darnold on Sunday.
Despite having lost Aqib Talib in the offseason, the Broncos still have two solid starting cornerbacks in Bradley Roby and Chris Harris. Roby’s had some issues with missing tackles so far this season though.
In reserve, they have two experienced veterans in Adam Jones and Tramaine Brock, along with a rookie; Isaac Yiadom.
The starting safeties are Darian Stewart and Justin Simmons. Stewart was a pro bowler in 2016. The backups include Will Parks and yet another Jets cast-off; Shamarko Thomas.
Kicker Brandon McManus has been perfect so far this season, but did miss eight field goals last year. Punter Marquette King is solid, but he’s injured and looks unlikely to play so Colby Wadman might have to make his NFL debut.
In the return game, Lindsay is listed as the kickoff returner and Jones as the punt returner. Hamilton and Booker could also be options in the return game.
In kick coverage, reserve inside linebacker Joe Jones leads the team with five tackles already. Simmons and Janovich were among those who were productive last year.