Eleven items, one for each of safety Kareem Jackson’s 11 NFL seasons, entering Monday night’s Tennessee-Broncos lid-lifter at Mile High:
1. Broncos outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu’s first three seasons coincided with John Pagano’s final three years on the Chargers’ staff. Pagano is now coaching the Broncos’ outside linebackers and Attaochu’s role will increase due to Von Miller’s ankle injury. “I’ve always had great respect for Jerry as a pass rusher,” Pagano said early in camp. “I’ve seen his knowledge of the game (grow) and the more he understood certain things, the more it helped him out. Last year, for the limited amount he played here, he played well and did a lot of good things. We need Jerry to keep growing and keep making plays.”
2. The point-spread flipped five points — from Broncos minus-2 1/2 points to the Titans being made a 2 1/2-point favorite — after Miller’s injury. The Broncos will be a September home underdog for only the eighth time in 36 years; they are 4-3 overall and 5-2 against the spread in those games. They were a three-point dog against Chicago in last year’s home opener and lost 16-14 as time expired.
3. The Titans’ red zone offense vs. the Broncos’ red zone defense is strength vs. strength. Tennessee led the NFL with touchdowns on 75.6% of its red-zone possessions (the next-closest team was Baltimore at 67.2%). The Broncos led the league in preventing red zone touchdowns at 39.1% (the next-closest team was Minnesota at 43.8%).
4. “They do a great job running the ball (in the red zone), which most teams that are successful in the red zone can do,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “With the threat of that running game, it just opens up the passes when they choose to call them. (Quarterback Ryan) Tannehill does a good job of understanding how the red zone works and where the ball has to go when the field is tightened up like that.”
5. Cornerback A.J. Bouye will be playing his first Broncos opener and his ninth overall. Still cool after all these years? “Most definitely,” he said. “You haven’t been on the field against another team in a while. You definitely get excited for that. You want to see where your team is at when you’ve been grinding all camp. This is going to be a great test against a great offense and a great team.”
6. During his media availability Thursday, receiver Courtland Sutton wore a Broncos sweatshirt with “R.D.A.” on the front. “It’s ‘Ruthless. Decisive. Aggressive,’” he said, referring to receivers coach Zach Azzanni’s slogan. “Anyone who’s watched our group, we hold ourselves to a different standard. (The saying) is like (Azzanni’s) baby. He brought it with him from college. I like it. It sticks with you.”
7. Quarterbacks coach Mike Shula on backup Jeff Driskel, signed during the offseason: “He’s a gritty competitor that has a strong arm, can anticipate well and is very accurate. When you watched him as you prepare for free agency, the thing that stood out more than anything was that he got better. With every game and every snap, he continued to get better and better and was making good decisions. And he’s very mobile, too — a big, strong guy who can run.”
8. Fangio enters his second opener with the Broncos. Is this Vic any different than Year 1 Vic? “The one thing I know about Vic, he’s been the same and consistent all his life,” tight ends coach Wade Harman said. “He’s a good football coach, he’s a good human being, he’s very detailed and he knows his stuff. I’ve learned a ton of football from him over the years. He’s going to work every year to improve. I would guess he’s more comfortable in his second year, but knowing Vic, he was probably comfortable from the outset.”
9. Harman on new tight end Nick Vannett: “He fills a role for us as a big, physical player. A little more of a traditional in-line tight end guy but he has versatility — he can catch the ball and he’s tough, smart and works hard and I just think he has a leadership presence for the group that can be a positive.”
10. Pagano was Houston’s outside linebackers coach last December when the Broncos’ offense had their best game — they led by 35 points in an eventual 38-24 win. “Dynamic players who were explosive,” Pagano said when asked about Sutton, quarterback Drew Lock and tight end Noah Fant. “We got our (butts) handed to us. They were play-makers and they came in there and basically whipped our butt.”
11. Fangio has opted for game-to-game captains again this year. I would have gone the full-season captain route with Lock/Sutton (offense), Chubb/Jackson (defense) and kicker Brandon McManus (special teams).
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