NFL - AFC WEST
2021-2022 TEAM LEADERS
Denver Broncos News and Picks
Some of the offseason talk was about the player and position the Broncos failed to pick. They could have had Justin Fields, and they could have drafted their quarterback of the future. Instead, Denver used its top pick on Patrick Surtain II, a great cornerback prospect. And to succeed in a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, you need a great pass defense. The other top pick in Denver was running back Javonte Williams.
Largely undone by injuries to Courtland Sutton and Von Miller – and a host of other players – the Broncos played all of 2020 short-handed. They also didn’t get the growth out of young quarterback Drew Lock, as they hoped. The Broncos finished 5-11, and in the last place in the AFC West. And for the fifth straight season, Denver finished the season in the lower third of points scored. All five of those years have come after Peyton Manning led the Broncos to Super Bowl 50.
The aforementioned Von Miller is a future Hall of Famer, and he is critical to the success of what looks to be a really great defense. Miller showed some age in his last full season in 2019, finishing with 8.0 sacks. But when healthy is still a guy the offense must account for. Part of what makes the return of Miller so important is the continued growth of Bradley Chubb. As a rookie in 2018 he had 12 sacks. Without Miller last year, Chubb’s production dropped to 7.5. With these two bookends healthy and rushing the passer, the Broncos defense becomes scary. After 1,112 yards as a second-year player in 2019, Courtland Sutton was expected to star in 2020. Instead, he was hurt, pushing his stardom breakout to 2021. There are a lot of weapons on the Broncos roster, but none of them are as good as Sutton.
For a bit, it was going to be Deshaun Watson. Then Matthew Stafford. Then Aaron Rodgers. In the end the new quarterback in Denver is the less exciting Teddy Bridgewater, but a player that has the respect of everyone who’s played with him. Of all of the offseason additions in Denver, none is as important as the new quarterback. With good wide receivers, at least two tight ends which show potential stardom, and great pass-catching running backs, Bridgewater has all the tools he needs to succeed. Cornerback Kyle Fuller was an All-Pro the last time he played for Vic Fangio. Now that they are reunited, look for Fuller to make a good secondary even better. Adding even more depth to the cornerback room is Ronald Darby, who signed with the Broncos for 3 years and $30 million.
As good as Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams will be at running back, this team will miss Phillip Lindsay. He was a good change of pace out of the backfield and a fan favorite in Denver. He’s been replaced with Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller, but cornerback A.J. Bouye has been a consistently good corner in the NFL, and he’s now in Carolina. Elijah Wilkinson started 26 games for the Broncos, including 19 games at right tackle. He’s now a Chicago Bear. Five-time Pro Bowler Jurell Casey played just one year in Denver and was cut this offseason in a salary-cap saving move.
With Kansas City as the reigning five-time division champion, there is no expectation that the Broncos will be competing for the AFC West title. The Chiefs haven’t come back to earth enough for an improved Broncos team to make a serious challenge. However, the playoff expectations in Denver are realistic. They are healthier on offense, and better on defense. And if Teddy Bridgewater really can improve the play at quarterback, this team could be one of the three wild card teams. Outside of the Chiefs, the Broncos should do well against both the Chargers and Raiders, and a second-place finish isn’t out of the question. Ten wins is also a possibility because of a fourth-place schedule.
Denver Broncos Team Offense
The Broncos have the wide receiver depth to push the field and move the ball quickly. But what’s held them back since Peyton Manning retired after the 2015 season is bad quarterback play. If that changes, this offense becomes dynamic. Melvin Gordon is still a valuable dual-threat asset out of the backfield, and rookie Javonte Williams gives the running back room tons of great depth. Even as a second-round pick, Williams might be a steal.
Denver Broncos Team Defense
This defense is so good on the backend that things become much easier on the front end. Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson form one of the best safety combos in the NFL. Add in cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, and rookie Patrick Surtain II, and the secondary of the Broncos is easily the team’s greatest strength. If that five-some keeps wide receivers covered, Von Miller and Bradley Chubb will feast on opposing quarterbacks.
Frequently Asked Questions
John Elway and Peyton Manning make it look worse than it actually has been. Those great quarterbacks make it seem like what is happening in Denver is unique. In truth, finding a good quarterback is hard.
Still, Bridgewater is the 11th different QB to start a game for the Broncos in the last five years.
He has to be. He was 7-9 in his first season, and he dropped to 5-11 last year. And that was with an awful defense, which is supposed to be his specialty. Another year of unrealized expectations could be his last year in Denver.
Drew Lock had a great preseason and worked hard in the offseason. He also took his demotion to QB2 in stride. If Bridgewater falters, Lock can come in, and he can win.
Based on 2020 records, Denver’s schedule is tied for the fifth easiest in 2021.