Denver Broncos: Behind Enemy Lines with GMEN HQ

With seconds left in the fourth quarter, Giants fans hope for a two-point conversion, but the pass was incomplete and their team lost to the New England Patriots, 22-20. Sunday, August 29, 2021Giants
With seconds left in the fourth quarter, Giants fans hope for a two-point conversion, but the pass was incomplete and their team lost to the New England Patriots, 22-20. Sunday, August 29, 2021Giants /

The Denver Broncos square off against the New York Giants on Sunday to kick off their 2021 season. I caught up with GMEN HQ’s John Esposito to ask him about things we should know, and his thoughts on the Broncos.

The Denver Broncos are hoping to kick off the 2021 season with a victory against the New York Giants on Sunday. Both teams struggled to win games in 2020—The Giants winning just one more game than the Broncos.

Running back Saquon Barkley tore his ACL last season and there’s speculation that he won’t be available in week one, which would be unfortunate for both teams. Barkley’s status has since changed and it looks like he will play in the game. The Giants for obvious reasons and the Denver Broncos because they don’t get the experience to face a top running back right off the bat.

It will be important for both teams to get off to a winning start in week one but only one team can win. It should be a pretty fun game to sit back and watch.

Here is the Q&A I did with John Esposito.

What do you think is the most improved position on the New York Giants in 2021 and why?

I think the most improved position would be a toss-up between WR and DB.  The signing of Kenny Golladay can make such a huge difference in the passing game.  The fact he is a true number one receiver and being 6’4 is both big wins. 

Bringing in first-round draft pick Kadarious Toney makes the offense very unpredictable because he can do so much.  When you look at DB adding Adoree Jackson on the opposite side of James Bradberry truly solidifies the outside.  Inside in the slot third-round draft pick Aaron Robinson, even though on the PUP list, will be a factor before the season is over. 

Trading for depth in Keion Crossen and Josh Jackson makes this group the most improved.

Which rookie draft pick could have the biggest impact in week one against the Denver Broncos?

Unfortunately, three Giants rookies have been hurt all preseason.  [Wide receiver Kadarius] Toney, [cornerback Aaron Robinson, and [linebacker] Elerson Smith being put on IR, doesn’t leave much.  Second-round pick Azeez Ojulari is my pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year and I think he will be the most impactful week one and for the season.  His pass-rushing skill and edge speed will make offenses pay close attention to him.

How about any undrafted free agent pickups?

I am a big fan of [defensive end] Raymond Johnson III.  Out of Georgia Southern, he is a 6-foot-3, 270-pound edge player.  He had a very good preseason and made enough of an impression to make the 53-man roster.  He provides great rotational depth for the defensive line and think he turn into a very good player.

How are you feeling going up against quarterback Teddy Bridgewater?

Anytime you play a quarterback that has the experience of someone like Bridgewater, you have to be cautious.  He has been great in the preseason and didn’t look like he showed any ill effects from that devasting knee injury.

He is very precise with the ball and makes good decisions. He can throw the ball downfield and the Giants will have to weary of that.  Getting pressure is the key and making him move around outside of the pocket, then hopefully they can force him into a couple of mistakes.

Both the Broncos and Giants decided against drafting Justin Fields. Do you feel that was the right decision for both teams?

I do think it was.  With Bridgewater playing like he has and I was a fan of Drew Lock as well.  I think letting Lock sit and letting Bridgewater mentor him and show him the ropes was smart and think it will be a good decision down the line. 

As for my Giants, I never had any thought in my mind that said the Giants would take a quarterback.  Daniel Jones is only in his 3rd year, second full year starting.  Has he had some issues, yes, but all young quarterbacks need to fight through that. 

He is on a rookie deal for another year and if he takes a nice step forward this year, it is all a moot point. That all being said, Justin Fields is a stud and will make some noise in the league.

How much of an impact do you see running back Saquon Barkley having in week 1 against the Broncos?

With Saquon being cleared to play I think he will have an impact.  I do not think the Giants will hand the ball to him 30 times, but I think he will get his carries and yards.  The big impact with Barkley is in the passing game, he had 92 receptions as a rookie and I think [offensive coordinator] Jason Garrett has to get to use him that way out of the backfield.  Linebackers and safeties cannot cover him and his hands are very good.  A great safety throw for Jones.

What do you feel are keys to victory for both teams?

I think the keys to the game are simple for both teams and they are polar opposites.  If the Giants can hold up the Bronco pass rush and give Jones time to throw, they win the game.  If Bradley Chubb and Von Miller ran ragged all over the line it is a long day for the Giants.  I think the Giants’ defense can hold up against the Broncos’ offense, but their offensive line is the question that holds the entire season limbo until they can prove they can stop great pass rushers, which the Broncos certainly have.

As part of the Giants’ trade-down in the 2021 NFL Draft, they took wide receiver Kadarius Toney. Do you think that was a smart decision or should they have gone a different direction?

Dave Gettleman had never traded down in his entire draft career and he did twice in that draft.  I personally was not a big fan of DeVonta Smith the eventual pick before the Giants traded down. 

There was a willing partner in the Bears and he jumped.  You have to look at it this way: is Smith better than Kadarious Toney AND an extra 1st round pick? The answer is simply no he is not.  If the Bears did not offer a 1st round pick and that trade was made, I may have had a different outlook, but you cannot argue with the return he got for what was traded.

Kickoff between the Denver Broncos and New York Giants is at 2:25 Mountain Time and 4:25 Eastern.

Thank you, John Esposito, for taking the time to answer some questions leading up to this matchup. You can check out John’s work at GMENHQ here.