This week we were lucky enough to catch up with Ian St. Clair of Mile High Report in advance of this Sunday’s matchup between the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos. Both teams had disappointing finishes to their Week 1 games and are looking to get into the win column on Sunday. Ian was kind enough to sit down and answer some of my questions about the upcoming matchup and season for the Broncos, who are 10.5-point favorites according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
The Texans and Broncos’ games ended in similar fashion with new head coaches choosing to kick at the end of the game rather than go for it on fourth down. I have a pretty good finger on the pulse of Houston following that decision. How does Denver feel about Nathaniel Hackett? Is there any buyer’s remorse there or do you feel this was just a blip on the radar?
Broncos Country is still in shock. After moving on from Vic Fangio, the thought was greener pastures were ahead. And then Denver added Russell Wilson. But even with a new quarterback, the same clock and game management issues are present and accounted for. Then you add the playcalling with two consecutive drives that hit the Seattle 1-yard line. There’s no buyer’s remorse. However, the honeymoon is over. The other big issue is the Broncos looked like a team that hadn’t played or prepared. And that was a decision made by Hackett not to play his starters in the preseason. In the end, it was one game and the issues are more than correctable. Denver did more than enough to win Monday’s game.
What do you see as the keys for the Broncos bouncing back and having a stronger performance against the Texans?
The red zone offense must improve. Denver was 0-for-4 in the red zone, with two straight drives at the Seahawks’ 1-yard line ending in costly fumbles. The playcalling did Wilson no favors either. Run plays out of the shotgun from the 1? Clock and game management need to get better and the Broncos need to cut back on the penalties. Minus the red zone issues, Wilson and Denver’s offense moved the ball at will. Defensively, the Broncos need to do what they did in the second half when they gave Geno Smith and Seattle basically nothing.
Who are one or two Broncos players you don’t think we might be familiar with but will definitely know their names after this game is done?
I banged the drum for KJ Hamler heading into the Seahawks game, so I’ll do so again for Week 2. Hamler didn’t get many targets against Seattle, and I hope that changes. Hamler has great speed and adds another element to Denver’s offense. Based on his production/usage in Week 1, Andrew Beck. Troy Aikman said on the MNF broadcast that Hackett hopes to use Beck like Kyle Shanahan uses Kyle Juszczyk with the San Francisco 49ers. Obviously, if Beck can get anywhere near what Juszczyk is that’s another big threat for the Broncos offense. I’d expect Beck to get more action on Sunday.
The Broncos just shelled out over 200 million for Russell Wilson. How much blame do you send his way for this opening loss? How much blame goes to the coaching staff? The other players on offense? Do you feel the problems we saw on Monday night will continue or do you think they are easily fixable?
In the end, Wilson is the QB and the fact Denver didn’t get into the end zone once on four red zone attempts falls somewhat on his shoulders. In terms of the blame though, not much. As I said, the Broncos offense moved the ball and looked really good (outside of the 20s). The majority of what Broncos Country and everyone else saw on Monday is on Hackett and his staff. The team and the coaches weren’t prepared or ready. The good news, at least for the Broncos, is the issues are correctable. I wonder how different the team looks if Hackett had played his starters in the preseason.
Looking ahead past this Sunday, which team in the AFC West scares you the most? How do you see the division shaking out once all the dust has settled?
No doubt it’s the Chiefs. The Chargers are going to Charger at some point. But how could you watch Patrick Mahomes and that KC offense and not think they’re the best in the division? Wilson and the Broncos still have a great shot, but with how Mahomes and the Chiefs looked, there isn’t much more room for error. In the end, the Chiefs win the AFC West, Broncos and Chargers fight for the second spot and the Raiders sit in the cellar where they belong.
There is always a lot of disagreement here about who the Texans are and this past Sunday did little to settle any of those debates. As an outsider, how do you view the Texans this season? What are your general expectations from afar? Of course, we get to the finale. What are your expectations/predictions for this game?
The Texans are going to be one of those teams that surprise people because they’ll fight and scrap. That’s Lovie Smith’s mentality and how he coaches. So while it may not show up in the win column, they will compete each and every week and be in most games they play. I think the Broncos shore up some of the issues we saw on Monday. The key is for Wilson and the Broncos offense to get a lead. If they’re able to do that, that sets the defense up for success to get after Davis Mills and force him into turnovers. The Texans keep it close with their conservative offense and opportunistic defense. The spread currently sits at 10, I think it’s a push, 27-17 Broncos.
We want to thank Ian again for taking the time to talk to us this week. You can catch his work at the Mile High Report and follow him on Twitter (@IanStClair). We want to wish him and the Broncos the best of luck throughout the season in the rest of there matchups after Week 2.