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The Broncos’ stripped-down pass-rushing unit is a blessing for the Packers

Since moving on from veteran talent in-season, Denver has been relying on inexperienced edge defender depth to get them through the year.

Denver Broncos v Chicago Bears Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

There will be no Maxx Crosby on the field for the Denver Broncos when they take on the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. In the Packers’ last game, the Las Vegas Raiders’ edge rusher completely took over, recording four tackles for loss and a sack that tipped the balance of the Monday Night Football matchup and earned Crosby the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Week honors in Week 5.

The Packers’ next opponent, the Broncos, is on the opposite side of the spectrum in terms of edge-rushing talent. In recent weeks, Denver has let go of both Frank Clark (release) and Randy Gregory (trade). Those two players were supposed to be the team’s top edge threats this season.

So who is left? I’m glad you asked.

Last week, on Thursday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs, here were the edge defender-type bodies that saw the field for the Broncos:

  • Nik Bonitto: 55 defensive snaps
  • Jonathan Cooper: 47
  • Ronnie Perkins: 28
  • Drew Sanders: 13

Bonitto has made three career starts in his two seasons in the league. For that, he has seven career NFL sacks to show for his efforts. Last week, he played 55 defensive snaps, which was a career-high for him, good for 77 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, another career-high.

Jonathon Cooper has made 20 starts over 36 games and three years in the NFL. He still only has 8.5 sacks to his name. Ronnie Perkins, who was originally drafted by the New England Patriots in 2021, has only played in two games during his career. 28 of his 43 defensive snaps over three NFL seasons came last week against the Chiefs.

The other name to note here is Drew Sanders, a rookie linebacker who is technically a stack linebacker for the Broncos but has some background on the edge. Sanders originally was a pass-rusher for Nick Saban’s Alabama squads, but transferred to Arkansas — where he moved to an off-ball linebacker position in a move for immediate playing time. With so few bodies — particularly experienced bodies — at the position, don’t be surprised if Sanders gets some burn on the edge against the Packers, even if he didn’t play there much against the Chiefs.

Green Bay’s offensive line played nearly perfectly through the first three weeks of the season, at least in terms of pass protection. Since then, though, they’ve faced some struggles.

Against the Detroit Lions in Week 4, the left side of the line was held out of action due to injury and the right side of the line was playing through injury on a short week. To make a film review short: It was ugly. Unfortunately, with Elgton Jenkins back in the lineup at left guard, the team didn’t fair much better against Crosby and the Raiders the following week.

Coming off of a bye week, the Packers’ offensive line landing this matchup on the edges could provide a much-needed “get right” game for the squad. If they don’t win the line of scrimmage in this matchup, it should raise a red flag for both the coaching staff and front office.