- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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Air defenses: The Broncos got cornerback Champ Bailey back Sunday, and linebacker Von Miller, who returns next week, says he’s ready to be the impact player he was before his six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse program. During their absences, opposing quarterbacks have found room to work in these pass-happy times. The Jaguars' Chad Henne had the fourth 300-yard passing game the Broncos have surrendered this season -- he’s 29th among league starters in passing yards. In the past two games, the Broncos have surrendered 809 passing yards and registered three interceptions. Last season, the Broncos did not surrender a 300-yard passing game until their playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens in January, when Joe Flacco threw for 331 yards in the Ravens' win.
More pressure: To that end, the Broncos have to find a way to consistently pressure opposing passers. Miller should help if he has done the work he and those around him keep saying he’s done, but Malik Jackson had both Broncos sacks Sunday, and the two plays came during the same series in the third quarter. And that was against a battered Jaguars offensive line that has surrendered the fourth-most sacks in the league (22) after Sunday’s games.
Catch-and-run: With defenses consistently dropping at least seven players into coverage, including linebackers often sprinting away from the line of scrimmage at the snap, the Broncos have picked their spots and still found big plays. Quarterback Peyton Manning has been patient much of the time with at least 15 completions of 10 or fewer yards in each of the past five games and at least 18 completions of 10 or fewer yards in four of those games, including Sunday, when he had 19 completions of 10 or fewer yards against the Jaguars. Yet, the Broncos still lead the league with a gaudy 8.7 yards per pass attempt.
Power up: The Broncos again showed they can go big on offense, with two- and three-tight-end sets effectively moving the ball. After right tackle Orlando Franklin left the game in the third quarter, the Broncos used tight ends Julius Thomas, Joel Dreessen, Virgil Green and Jacob Tamme in a variety of situations, including a pile of snaps on scoring drives in the third and fourth quarters. Thomas played all 74 snaps on offense against the Jaguars, while Dreessen played a season-high 19 snaps on offense, Green played 15 and Tamme nine. Using more of these sets may be something the Broncos give a long look at since Franklin is expected to miss several weeks.