And while the “any given Sunday” mantra holds true for any matchup, the Broncos (4-4) won’t have a chance against the vaunted Cowboys (6-1) if their stars don’t shine and consistently win one-on-one matchups.
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Sutton Needs to Dig(gs) In
The plight of being a team’s WR1 means they constantly draw the attention of the opposing team’s CB1 — and there’s perhaps no better cornerback playing in the NFL in 2021 than Trevon Diggs. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Diggs is one of the most physically imposing players at the position, as he’s a rare breed in that he can match the equally impressive 6-foot-4, 215-pound Sutton in size and line-of-scrimmage physicality.
Sutton, who is having an NFL Comeback Player of the Year-type season, has racked up 40 catches for 579 yards and two scores — even more impressive considering he missed nearly the entire 2020 season after tearing his ACL in a Week 2 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The former SMU star will certainly have his hands full with a player like Diggs, who currently leads the league in interceptions (7). But if there is a weakness to Diggs’ game, it’s his penchant to gamble and guess wrong on routes, leaving him susceptible to double-moves and play-action. Sutton is a master route runner who has the potential to break free from the sometimes-freelancing Diggs.
If the Broncos can get the running game going as well, it’ll only enhance the passing game and give Sutton a favorable matchup against Diggs. Pro Football Focus certainly thinks Diggs can be had, as their overall rating of the former Alabama star is just 57.4 — and that’s after taking into account his impressive interception numbers.
Diggs’ coverage rate is 65.5, with a 61.2 completion allowed rate, but he’s also allowing a gaudy 18.5 yards per reception, so there will be opportunities for Sutton to have big moments.
Mr. Catch Everything
Sutton is known for his crafty route-running, but it’s what he does after getting open that is among the game’s elite. PFF has him rated an overall mark of 80, with receiving rate of 80.6. Sutton also has an 88.1 passer rating when targeted, meaning he catches everything thrown in his catch radius — everything.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will only need minimal space to connect with Sutton, even if Diggs is blanketing the wideout.
Not Just a Possession Receiver
Hands and precise route running are Sutton’s calling cards, but if the Cowboys sleep on the wideout’s sneaky speed, they’ll be in for a long afternoon.
According to a tweet by Next Gen Stats, Sutton’s game-play speed rivals some of the game’s most notorious burners.
That’s a group of mighty-fast receivers. And while Sutton hasn’t been known to stretch the field (he only possesses a career 15.7 yards per reception mark), he can burn an unsuspecting secondary if they’re not careful.
Sutton’s fastest play in 2021 was highlighted by a 21.07 miles-per-hour jaunt against the Las Vegas Raiders, on October 17. His speed numbers lead the Broncos.
Drew Lock Out for Week 9
Should something happen to Bridgewater, though, whether it’s an injury or inefficient performance, the Broncos won’t be able to turn towards backup quarterback Drew Lock.
The team announced hours prior to the November 7 tilt against the Cowboys that Lock, who has been embroiled in Covid-related issues before, will not be available.
Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8