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Broncos’ Sean Payton: Have to ‘throw it better to win’

Denver ranks 20th in the NFL averaging 200.3 passing yards per game, despite the 1-5 Broncos playing from behind in each of their first six games this season — often by multiple scores.

“We’ve got to be able to throw it better to win in this league,” coach Sean Payton said Monday, four days after the Broncos managed only a fourth-quarter touchdown in a 19-8 loss to Kansas City.

Payton was quick to add that his analysis “wasn’t directed at any one player,” but quarterback Russell Wilson is 28th in the NFL with a 39.7 total quarterback rating while completing 59.1 percent of his passes.

Wilson has generally protected the football but is coming off a two-interception performance against the Chiefs and has averaged just 145.5 passing yards over the past two weeks while being sacked eight times.

Denver has scored an average of 7.6 points in the second halves of their five losses.

“It’s been a handful (of things). It’s hard to point to one specifically,” Payton said when asked to assess the passing game struggles. “You want to have confidence in the pocket, and we need to find ways to get guys open. Typically speaking, that has to happen efficiently on early downs. It can’t be just on third down.”

Courtland Sutton leads the Broncos with 37 catches for 275 yards and four touchdowns.

However, fellow wide receiver Jerry Jeudy has yet to reach the end zone while catching 29 passes for 222 yards — an average of just 44.4 in the five games he has played. The 2020 first-round pick has not topped 52 yards in the past three games.

Jeudy has been criticized by multiple NFL analysts this season while rumors continue to persist that he could be moved ahead of the trade deadline. Denver has already parted ways with veteran pass rushers Randy Gregory and Frank Clark in recent weeks.

“He’s frustrated, I’m sure,” Payton said. “He’s a talented player. We need to continue to look for ways to get him throws — not only in the slot, but outside.

“The other stuff, I don’t try to keep track of as long as it’s not a distraction to what we’re doing as a team. That being said, he’s very competitive, he’s smart and he’s a playmaker for us. We have to continue to look for ways to put him in positions to make plays.”

The Broncos do have a pair of home games against Green Bay on Sunday and Kansas City in Week 8 ahead of the Oct. 31 trade deadline.

“The focus is on the schedule and winning the next week,” Payton said. “Certainly, every year when this time comes, there’s speculation. People call, and people call teams that aren’t playing well or are struggling to see if they’re interested in moving players. That would be the only thing.

“It doesn’t require a four-day summit relative to what the plan is. (General Manager) George (Paton) would bring any information to (Owner/CEO) Greg (Penner) and myself. But right now, our focus is on playing Green Bay.”

One player who figures to still be in Denver come November is Wilson, whose contract makes it infeasible to trade him — performance notwithstanding.

However, his future in Denver will be a major discussion point ahead of a critical decision the franchise needs to make in five months.

Wilson’s contract calls for a $37 million base salary in 2025. It’s already guaranteed against injury but becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2024 league year in March. The Broncos would have to trade or release Wilson before then, which would then bring a $10 million cap charge for next year.

While Denver could be facing $85 million in total dead money across the 2024-25 seasons, Wilson’s total $39 million due next year is already guaranteed. According to an NBC Sports report last week, the Broncos could incur $37 million less in cash payments and $5.4 less in cap charges by cutting Wilson next offseason.

–Field Level Media

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