ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The late Floyd Reese, former general manager of the Tennessee Titans, used to describe life with a rookie quarterback as "headache, heartache and the pursuit of the good times."
Over the next two games, including Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1 p.m. ET, CBS), the Denver Broncos hope to cause some headaches, some heartaches and to limit the good times for Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson. The Broncos first will face Lawrence -- selected No. 1 overall by the Jaguars in this past April's draft -- and will follow Sept. 26 with Wilson -- selected No. 2 overall -- and the New York Jets in Denver's home opener.
"[Lawrence] always seemed like he had this calm, poised demeanor while he's back there progressing what the defense has given him," said Broncos safety Justin Simmons. "There's always a learning curve almost at every single position, especially the quarterback position in the NFL. I'm really excited to play against him and see how we match up going down there in Jacksonville playing their offense."
Many in the league say Broncos coach Vic Fangio, who calls defensive plays during games, plays a collection of fronts and coverages that are difficult for any quarterback to consistently move the ball against. And that is expected to be more difficult this season given the upgrades the Broncos made, especially in the secondary.
Fangio can now play a bigger variety of personnel groupings in a bigger variety of ways than during his first two seasons with the Broncos.
And even in last season's 5-11 slog, the Broncos won two of those games against rookie quarterbacks and were 2-1 against teams with rookie starters overall -- they were 1-1 against the Chargers and rookie Justin Herbert. The Dolphins benched Tua Tagovailoa in the second half of a Broncos win last November after Tagovailoa had gone 11-of-20 passing for 83 yards and been sacked six times by the Broncos.
Fangio said he doesn't reserve special treatment for rookies with an emphasis on fooling the first-year players, but rather he prefers to keep the comfort level high for his own players. His strategy has been effective: Teams coached by Fangio -- as a head coach or defensive coordinator -- are 6-2 against teams with rookie starters at quarterback over the past four seasons.
Since he was named the Carolina Panthers' defensive coordinator in 1995, Fangio's teams are 18-9 against teams starting rookie QBs. Those wins include the likes of Peyton Manning (1998) and Russell Wilson (2012).
"We play the defense that we're comfortable playing," Fangio said. "[There is] no sense in making our guys uncomfortable for the sake of that. Hopefully we do a good enough job disguising our intentions and that helps. A lot of people think pressuring a rookie quarterback is the way to go, but sometimes that makes it easy for him. It identifies the coverage; he gets the ball out quick. You just need to have a good mix of pressure and coverage."
Lawrence threw for 332 yards in the Jaguars' loss to the Houston Texans last weekend. The rookie was forced to put the ball in the air 51 times -- the Jaguars trailed 27-7 at halftime -- and threw three interceptions while also throwing a 41-yard touchdown to D.J. Chark.
The Broncos sacked Giants quarterback Daniel Jones twice last Sunday -- both by Von Miller -- forced a fumble and had held the Giants to 169 total yards through the end of the third quarter in a 27-13 win. For his part Simmons said success against the league's younger quarterbacks can be had if Denver puts a rookie in enough uncomfortable situations.
"A lot of it is just eyes, and sometimes -- especially with someone that has great arm talent -- they tend to try and force things when they don't need to be forced," Simmons said. "That typically is -- in my opinion, I could be wrong -- but that typically always seems to be somewhat of the problem here and there."
Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who started 12 games as a rookie first-round pick in 2014, has seen it from the other side of the equation. The Vikings went 6-6 during his starts that year, including a three-interception, eight-sack game against the Detroit Lions to go with four starts with two touchdowns.
"You're a rookie but to the other guys on the field, man, you're a polished vet and the expectation level is so high," Bridgewater said. "I think with the guys we're facing these next two weeks, I think they welcome those expectations. They welcome the challenge, and you watch them, and they go out there and play, especially with Trevor [Lawrence] this week. I haven't seen much of the Jets but focusing on Jacksonville with Trevor I think last week was his first loss since Pop Warner or something like that -- a regular-season loss. He's a guy you can tell he's a competitor. He has that 'it factor' and I'm pretty sure they don't see him as a rookie."