2018 NFL Season Preview- Denver Broncos
Less than two years after hoisting the Lombardi trophy, the Broncos completely collapsed to fall to the bottom of the AFC West.
The team lost 10 of the final 12 games to fall to 5-11 on the year. During the losing streak, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was fired and replaced by quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave.
Offensively, Denver was sometimes inconsistent, sometimes inept, and sometimes both. The team suffered their first shutout in almost 25 years and finished with the second most turnovers in the league. After a fast start, quarterback Trevor Siemian faded into obscurity. Brock Osweiler wasn't much wasn't better and Paxton Lynch barely got a shot until the season finale. The running backs were the one form of consistency in the offense. C.J. Anderson played injury free and posted his first 1,000 rushing season. Devontae Booker proved to be a spark as a receiver out of the backfield. The tight ends are solid blockers but not the receivers they need to be. Virgil Green was solid and Jeff Heuerman finally showed promise after being injured his first two seasons. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas had his first sub 1,000 yard receiving season since 2011 and Emmanuel Sanders struggled with a high ankle sprain all year. Even though the line played well for the most part, offensive line coach Jeff Davidson was dismissed after the year. The interior of the line improved with the addition of guard Ronald Leary, but the tackles continue to cause problems for the offense with four different starters at right tackle.
Defensively, the Broncos remained among the league leaders in total yardage allowed, but buckled under the pressure of carrying the offense. The defensive line was the most improved part of the team as newly acquired defensive tackle Domata Peko proved he still has a lot in the tank. Linebackers Todd Davis and Brandon Marshall were great against the run and helped make them a top five defense. Shane Ray had a disappointing season after hurting his wrist and never got back on track. Opposing the teams didn't test the cornerbacks, but the safeties were exposed a lot allowing 29 touchdown passes. Justin Simmons was an ok replacement for TJ Ward, but Darian Stewart struggled without Ward.
The team produced two Pro Bowlers in outside linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Aqib Talib. Miller posted his sixth double digit sack season and also made his sixth All-Pro team. Talib made his fifth Pro Bowl and took his only interception for an 103 yard touchdown.
The rookie class was a real disappointment for the most part. Tackle Garrett Bolles showed flashes but was also plagued with penalties. The team could decide if DeMarcus Walker was a defensive end or outside linebacker and his season was a waste. Tight end Jake Butt and quarterback Chad Kelly spent the year rehabbing from injuries in college but both could be factors in 2018.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
After going 5-11 in his first season, head coach Vance Joseph deserves a chance to get the Broncos back to playoff form. Part of the changes made were the dismissal of six assistant coaches. Given the team's struggles at quarterback since Peyton Manning retired, general manager and team president John Elway has failed to get a long term quarterback to carry the team into the future.
Notable Additions- QB Case Keenum, T Jared Veldheer, DT Clinton McDonald, CB Tremaine Brock, CB Adam Jones, S Su'a Cravens, P Marquette King
Notable Departures- QB Trevor Siemian, QB Brock Osweiler, RB C.J. Anderson, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Cody Latimer, TE Virgil Green, T Ty Sambrailo, CB Aqib Talib
Broncos 2017 Highlights
2018 NFL Draft
Holding the fifth overall pick going into the draft, Denver had to upgrade their weaker roster spots at quarterback, wide receiver, and offensive tackle.
The team signed Case Keenum in the offseason, but you can't expect him to do for Denver what he did for Minnesota last year. With Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler gone, Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly can compete for a backup up role, but the Broncos need a long term answer at quarterback.
Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are still productive but both having been taking some big hits and both will be entering their ninth seasons. With Cody Latimer lost to free agency, youth is needed in the receiving corps.
Four different players started at right tackle on the year and Garrett Bolles went through growing pains in his rookie season. The team traded for Jared Veldheer but the team should still look for another body if Bolles doesn't pan out.
On draft day, the Broncos ended up taking the best player available in North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb with the fifth overall pick. Chubb was viewed as the top run defending edge rusher in the draft, but lacks elite level get off burst and pad level.
Denver also notably drafted Southern Methodist wide receiver Courtland Sutton in the second round, Oregon running back Royce Freeman in the third, Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell in the fourth, and Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli in the fifth. Sutton had the build of the prototype number one wide receiver, but lacks the quickness to make defensive backs scared. Freeman finished his college career holding every major rushing record in Oregon history, but he doesn't play with the style his size would suggest. Jewell had the best read and react skills of any linebacker prospect this year, but lacks athleticism and wherewithal to avoid high hits and penalties. Fumagalli has all the skills to be a capable receiver and consistent blocker, but lacks explosive speed and is also missing part of his left index finger due to a birth defect.
Bradley Chubb Highlights
What To Expect
I think ultimately Denver has talent to win games, but not to the point where they are capable of winning a championship.
Case Keenum has played well for much of his career all things considered, but he's a journeyman for a reason. Having a solid receiving corps helps, but with questions about the running game and offensive line, I don't know if he'll be more Keenum with the Vikings or Keenum as a Ram. With C.J. Anderson being a cap casualty, a lot of pressure will be put on Royce Freeman and Devonate Booker. Freeman I see will be more of the main back with Booker being a nice speed back and receiver out of the backfield. Adding Courtland Sutton like means that he will play opposite Demaryius Thomas with Emmanuel Sanders being moved to the slot. The interior of the offensive line I expect will remain solid. The big question is at left tackle and whether or not Garrett Bolles is the long term answer at left tackle.
The defensive line should remain solid if Derek Wolfe can return strong from his neck injury and if Shelby Harris can continue to develop strongly. Pairing Bradley Chubb with Von Miller gives the team two fierce edge rushers that they missed when DeMarcus Ware retired. Tremaine Brock isn't the talent Aqib Talib is, but he is a suitable starter to play opposite Chris Harris. Bradley Roby is as good a nickel corner as any in the league and Darian Stewart should be bounce back from a rough 2017. It will be interesting to see how the team uses Su'a Cravens as a safety/ linebacker hybrid.
In all, the Broncos have better offensive talent to the point where the defense doesn't constantly have to carry the team, but with the growing talent the Chargers, they will be hard pressed to regain the AFC West crown and might come up just short of a wildcard spot.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 9-7