For the past five years, analysts have looked at the Denver Broncos and said, “This is a talented roster that’s missing one thing: a franchise quarterback.”
That was then. This is now.
The Broncos obliged those analysts and orchestrated a blockbuster trade with the Seattle Seahawks to acquire nine-time Pro Bowl defensive end Russell Wilson. Surely now the national experts can rate this list, right? right
Ben Linsey from Professional football focus ranks the Broncos roster as the 14th most talented in the NFL. Lindsey writes that Denver’s secondary, oddly enough given Wilson’s arrival, is its biggest strength.
It’s not quite a no-fly zone, but Denver has assembled a nice collection of talent in its secondary. Pat Surtain II looked like a veteran in his first season out of Alabama last year as he gave up almost nothing on the field in 2021 with just one reception allowed in his coverage on 14 targets of 20 or more yards. He and Justin Simmons headline the unit heading into 2022, but there aren’t many weak spots on offense with veterans Ronald Darby, K’Waun Williams and Kareem Jackson rounding out the starting group.
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Sure, the Broncos secondary has a few big names that Lindsay highlighted, but I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call him the strength of the team. This isn’t 2015.
If I’m ranking Denver’s strongest strength, I’m going straight for the offensive side of the ball. Specifically, I’d say the Broncos’ shining strength comes down to the skill positions. Namely, quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end — all the dudes (outside center) who touch the ball.
What about the weaknesses though? Lindsay points to the defense as the biggest glaring vulnerability.
Linebacker was one of the most common connections for the Broncos in the 2022 NFL Draft, but they didn’t prioritize the position. That leaves Josey Jewell and either Jonas Griffith or Alex Singleton as the expected starting tandem with some depth behind them, especially with Barron Browning expected to move into the outside linebacker role. Teams could benefit from Singleton in coverage over the middle of the field after he earned just a 39.3 coverage grade with the Eagles in 2021.
I would agree with Lindsey on this one if we put the issue solely around staff. The Broncos are banking on Jewell returning to the same form he showed early last season before his season-ending injury.
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The Broncos chose not to re-sign Alexander Johnson in large part because of Griffith’s emergence at the end of the 2021 season. As impressive as he was (averaging over 10 tackles per game), Griffith is the epitome of unproven, and while I expect him to won the other starting off-ball position next to Jewell, that’s not a guarantee.
That makes the team’s decision to move Browning to emergency linebacker even more questionable, as the Broncos have plenty of bodies to protect the edge, especially in light of signing Randy Gregory and drafting Nick Bonito. What the defense lacks is real talent off the ball.
Finally, Lindsay has put his finger on the Broncos’ biggest “X-factor” in 2022.
In four NFL seasons, Bradley Chubb has had two fairly productive seasons with at least 50 quarterback pressures with two injury-shortened campaigns (2019 and 2021). He still hasn’t developed into the type of player Denver was looking for when they drafted him fifth overall in 2018. Offseason additions like Randy Gregory and Nick Bonito should provide a spark in the Broncos’ pass rush, but they would also like to see more of a healthy Chubb this season.
What does it mean
We’re literally in the midst of the slowest period in the NFL calendar — that six-week stretch between the end of the offseason and training camp. “Tis the season for random lists like PFF’s.
Is No. 14 too low for Denver? Considering Wilson’s arrival and which teams have registered higher than the Broncos, those who answer yes to that question have an argument.
At the end of the day, though, it’s absolutely pointless off-season fodder. But at least we have something Bronco-related to sink our teeth into while killing time before training camp.
For that, perhaps some thanks are in order to PFF.
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