Chiefs vs Broncos: How Kareem Jackson's absence will affect Denver's defense

The NFL announced a four-game suspension for Jackson earlier this week.

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs
Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The Denver Broncos were already facing an uphill battle for Week 8 (and the rest of the season) with a current 2-5 record and their position at the bottom of the divisional basement in the AFC West. The Kansas City Chiefs are coming to town in Week 8 (at 6-1, by the way) hoping to sweep them again as they have since 2016.

To make matters worse, the Broncos learned they'll be without starting safety Kareem Jackson for the next four games after the National Football League levied a suspension against him for violating the league's unnecessary roughness rules.

With Denver already on its heels and the Chiefs' offense clicking again, we'd reach out for a better perspective to see how the Broncos might adjust and what this means. Our friend Lou Scataglia from Predominantly Orange gave us the rundown on Jackson's suspension, the adjustments that Denver could make, and who might step up.

For those who’ve not followed the sort of year Kareem Jackson has been having in 2023, can you bring us up to date?

Yeah, I certainly can. Kareem Jackson, to me at least, is having a pretty poor year. I think he's a massive liability in coverage and is really only good for a couple of big hits a game. I also was a huge advocate of him not returning to the team in 2023 as he's simply not an asset on the field and he's also 35 years old. He's been getting playing time over a couple of young players like PJ Locke and JL Skinner, which I find a bit confusing. 

Jackson has also been horribly irresponsible on the field, getting called for numerous unnecessary roughness penalties that have all been avoidable. I liken Jackson's situation to when Melvin Gordon was brought back to Denver in the 2022 season. He was so bad over the first two-thirds of the season that Denver just ended up cutting him with a ton of games left.  

Can you tell us more about the young guys?

I think guys like PJ Locke and JL Skinner could get more playing time in Jackson's absence and think Skinner could be an exciting player.  He's 6'4" and over 200 pounds, so he's a very big safety.  We have another young and exciting player in the secondary in Caden Sterns, but he's out for the year.  Sterns is probably the second-best safety we had coming into the season, but he's also struggled to stay on the field, so I think this is a huge position of need for Denver going forward.

What shifts will this demand from the secondary or the defense overall?

Since I don't think Jackson is much of a loss, I don't see any notable changes or shifts in responsibility from the unit. The Broncos' defense has actually played pretty good football over the past three weeks, holding opponents to just 22.3 points per game and only allowing four offensive touchdowns over that span.

Justin Simmons and Patrick Surtain II are the glue that holds this unit together, and the Broncos also recently turned to veteran CB Fabian Moreau as the starter opposite Surtain and benched Damarri Mathis in Week 7.  With a more stable situation at CB2, Simmons and Surtain being their usual great selves, I don't think the secondary takes a major hit and I don't think Vance Joseph has to do anything differently with Jackson out of the lineup.

So this doesn't move the meter for you in terms of hopes for the season?

As you can tell I'm pretty low on Jackson, so I don't think him being out changes anything. Denver did hold the Chiefs to just 19 points at Arrowhead a couple of weeks ago, and the Broncos average 22.3 points per game at home this year.  Am I crazy to think that the Broncos can keep the Chiefs at 20 points again at home?  Perhaps I am, but we Broncos fans do this every year; we find those pockets of hope in our brains that the team can finally beat the Chiefs, but obviously, it hasn't happened in eight years.  I think it can be a close game given that the defense has played much better recently and given that this game is in Denver.

I like to give this tidbit of information to put into perspective just how bad it's been for Denver vs. Kansas City: the last time the Broncos beat the Chiefs, I was a senior in high school, and I now teach high schoolers for a living. I will say though, if the Broncos do squeak it out on Sunday, I think you should invite me back on the AA Podcast so I can wear my Russell Wilson jersey and say "Let's Ride" over and over.  I think I deserve that.