2017 NFL Season Preview- Denver Broncos
Denver entered the season as defending Super Bowl champions, but finished in disappointment.
Following a 4-0 start, the team sputtered down the stretch, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010, as well as having their franchise record streak of five consecutive playoff appearances and five consecutive AFC West titles snapped.
Quarterback Trevor Siemian showed poise and leadership for much of the season but was hindered by shoulder and foot injuries and must learn to avoid big hits. He was solid for a first year starter but finished ranked 25th out of 36 quarterbacks. Running back CJ Anderson looked to be getting back on track before tearing his meniscus midway through the year. Tight end Virgil Green is a solid blocker but doesn't offer much as a pass catcher. Jeff Heuerman final stayed healthy late to show he could be part of the team's future plans. Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both went over 1,000 yards receiving but only combined for 10 touchdowns. The team invested a lot in tackles Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson but both struggled.
Defensive end Derek Wolfe is still productive despite battling neck injuries throughout the year. Vance Walker tore his ACL in training camp and was lost for the year while Sylvester Williams was a non factor. Outside linebacker Von Miller was his usual self while DeMarcus Ware struggled with injuries and finished on IR. Middle linebacker Brandon Marshall missed four games with hamstring issues but Todd Davis led the team in tackles in his first season as a starter. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. are simply the best cornerback tandem in the league and Bradley Roby is a solid nickel corner.
The team produced six Pro Bowlers in wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, outside linebacker Von Miller, cornerback Aqib Talib, cornerback Chris Harris, and safety Darian Stewart. Thomas made his fifth straight Pro Bowl trip despite having his lowest production since 2011. Sanders made his second Pro Bowl in three seasons. Miller made his fifth Pro Bowl after recording 13.5 sacks. Talib and Harris combined for 23 passes defended and five interceptions. Stewart made his first Pro Bowl after a three interception season.
The rookie class leaves a lot to be desired. Quarterback Paxton Lynch is still a raw project after struggling to learn the offense and playbook. Running back Devontae Booker hit his rookie wall late in the season and had trouble running through tackles.
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 21st
NFL Rank- 27th
NFL Rank- 1st
NFL Rank- 28th
NFL Rank- 27th
NFL Rank- 4th
Going 9-7 in his second season, head coach Gary Kubiak shocked everyone when he announced his retirement from coaching due to health concerns a day after the season ended. Kubiak suffered a mini-stroke in 2013 while coaching the Houston Texans, as well as a migraine condition that forced him to miss one game during the 2016 season. On January 11, the Broncos hired former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph to be the new head coach.
After offensive coordinator Rick Dennison left to take the same position with the Buffalo Bills, Denver hired former San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy to be the new offensive coordinator. McCoy also served as Denver's offensive coordinator from 2010-2012.
When defensive coordinator Wade Phillips left to take the same position with the Los Angeles Rams, the team promoted defensive backs coach Joe Woods to be the new defensive coordinator.
Notable Additions- RB Jamaal Charles, RB Bernard Pierce, RB Stevan Ridley, T Menelik Watson, G Ronald Leary, NT Domata Pekoe
Notable Departures- RB Justin Forsett, WR Jordan Norwood, T Russell Okung, NT Sylvester Williams, OLB DeMarcus Ware
Broncos Defense 2016 Highlights
2017 NFL Draft
Holding the 20th overall pick going into the draft, Denver has some key positions to fill under the new coaching regime. Most importantly at tight end, offensive lineman, and nose tackle.
Virgil Green is just a blocking tight end and Jeff Heuerman and AJ Derby came on late after some setbacks. Although this year's tight end class is as deep as any in recent memory.
Signing Menelik Watson and Ronald Leary bring immediate help, but the offensive line needs long term solutions. A strong offensive line will help take pressure off the defense.
Sylvester Williams was a disappointment and that's why Denver let him walk. The team needs a big body in the middle to generate push. Domata Peko is a solid player, but he will be entering his 12th season.
On draft day, Denver selected Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles with the 20th overall pick. Bolles was viewed as the quickest offensive tackle prospect in the class but tends to get lazy in his fundamentals in pass protection.
The Broncos also notably drafted Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker in the second round, Michigan tight end Jake Butt in the fifth, and Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly with the "Mr. Irrelevant" pick. Walker was seen as the top tackling defensive linemen in the draft but lacks the bulk teams look for in defensive tackles and the length teams like for in defensive ends. Butt was said to be the best route running tight end in the class, but fell in the draft due a torn ACL he suffered in his final college game. Kelly has top shelf arm strength and has NFL bloodlines being the nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly but has sketchy off the field concerns as well as multiple injuries in his college career and being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.
DeMarcus Walker Highlights
What to Expect
Denver needs to play the way they did the first four weeks last year if they expect to return to Super Bowl form.
With Mike McCoy calling plays in the offense again, it will be interesting to see if Trevor Siemian retains his starting job or if Paxton Lynch is ready to take the next step in his development. CJ Anderson has been really inconsistent over the course of his Broncos career and even though Jamaal Charles is coming off another torn ACL, he has been more consistent runner. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are still playmakers, but the rest of the receivers need to step up. With Jake Butt's availability at the start of the season in question, it will be up to Jeff Heuerman and AJ Derby to make plays in the middle of the field. Garett Bolles and Menelik Watson are capable tackles but the rest of the offensive line is still an enigma.
Adding DeMarcus Walker and Domata Peko to the defensive line will help take a lot of pressure off Derek Wolfe and return the line to their 2015 form. With DeMarcus Ware retired, it will be up to Shane Ray to replace his production and play opposite Von Miller. The secondary is signed long term and should continue to be the top pass defense in the league.
The reality is, given the questions on who will start at quarterback, Oakland and Kansas City are still really talented teams. Denver has the potential to match up well wit Kansas City and supplant them for a wildcard spot.
Best record they can hope for: 10-6