Since the retirement of Peyton Manning, the list of starting quarterbacks for the Denver Broncos have included Trevor Siemian, Case Keenum, Drew Lock, Joe Flacco and Teddy Bridgewater. It took a pair of first-round picks, two second-round selections and three players going to the Seattle Seahawks to pry away Super Bowl winner and Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson.
With the offense likely to improve with Wilson at the controls, there are lofty expectations, considering that Denver finished third in the NFL in scoring defense, and ranked in the top 10 in total and passing defense last season. Top five tacklers return from that unit. The NFL predictions view Denver as a playoff team in 2022.
The Broncos (+250) are tied for second-lowest in the current odds to win the AFC West Division title. According to Las Vegas odds, the Broncos (+1600) have the fourth-lowest odds among AFC teams to win the Super Bowl.
- 2021 record: 7-10 (fourth in AFC West)
- Playoff results: Did not qualify.
- Season opener: at Seattle, Sept. 12, 8:15 p.m. EDT
Playoff teams on 2022 schedule: HOME – Arizona, Kansas City, Las Vegas, San Francisco; AWAY – Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles Rams, Tennessee
Key newcomers: QB Russell Wilson, LB Alex Singleton, DE Randy Gregory, DL D.J. Jones, OL Tom Compton, OL Billy Turner, LB Nik Bonitto (second-round pick), TE Greg Dulcich (third-round pick).
Key losses: TE Noah Fant, CB Bryce Callahan, LB Kenny Young, QB Drew Lock, QB Teddy Bridgewater, DE Shelby Harris, CB Kyle Fuller, DT Shamar Stephen.
Award candidates: Bradley Chubb, +3300, NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds; Russell Wilson, +4000, NFL Offensive Player of the Year odds; Jerry Jeudy, +5000, NFL Offensive Player of the Year odds; Javonte Williams, +5000, NFL Offensive Player of the Year odds; Nik Bonitto, +6000 , NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year odds; Randy Gregory, +6000, NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds; Patrick Surtain, +6000, NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds; Courtland Sutton, +6000, NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds; Justin Simmons, +8000, NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds.
Broncos on Offense
Denver is more than a new quarterback running the offense. There are some skilled pieces as well.. Second-year running back Javonte Williams could be set for a breakout season, although his ceiling might be limited a bit by the decision to bring back veteran Melvin Gordon.
Wilson won’t be throwing to Tyler Lockett or DK Metcalf as he did in Seattle, but Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick are solid options. however. Jerry Jeudy, who had some off-field issues recently, averaged more than 16 yards per catch as a rookie. He slumped a bit last season. K.J. Hamler has just 35 catches since being a second-round draft pick in 2020. Could this be the season he makes more of an impact?
Tight end Noah Fant headed the other way in the Wilson trade. Perhaps that opens the door for Albert Okwuegbunam, who caught 19 of his 21 targets over his last seven. The Broncos took former UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich in the third-round. He will have an opportunity to play.
Wilson was behind a leaky offensive line during his latter years with the Seahawks. Ks the Denver line any better? Guard Dalton Risner is probably the top player on that unit, while fellow guard Quinn Meinerz showed some potential as a rookie. Jury’s still out on Lloyd Cushenberry at center, however, Billy Turner, who previously played in Denver from 2016-18, returned in the offseason, while the other tackle spot is manned by former first-rounder Garrett Bolles.
Not that Wilson needs to be led around by the hand, but new Denver coach Nathaniel Hackett has a reputation of bringing of the best in his quarterbacks.
“He’s a well-respected quarterback whisperer who has proven he can help field generals thrive in the pocket.”@BuckyBrooks breaks down how favorable the Broncos’ situation is for Coach Hackett » https://t.co/8g8n1Ikvz8 pic.twitter.com/AVrdt9lW23
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) June 21, 2022
Broncos on Defense
The strength of the Denver defense figures to be the secondary. Justin Simmons and Patrick Surtain combined for nine interceptions in 2021, while Kareem Jackson was the top tackler on one of best defenses in the NFL. Ronald Darby has proven to be a corner who’s solid.
The Broncos did have to send defensive end Shelby Harris, who led Denver with six sacks last season, to Seattle as part of the Wilson trade. Randy Gregory was signed away from the Dallas Cowboys, and the hope is second-round pick Nik Bonitto will help with the pass rush. Linebacker Bradley Chubb had 12 sacks as a rookie, but only 8½ in 25 games over the last three seasons. Jonathon Cooper is another player with potential as a pass rusher.
Linebacker Alex Singleton, who had 137 tackles last season with Philadelphia, was a key offseason acquisition. Josey Jewell, Baron Browning and Malik Reed are other ‘backers to watch.
Broncos’ 2022 Outlook
There’s a new quarterback as well as a new coach in Denver. Nathaniel Hackett, a former offensive coordinator in Buffalo, Jacksonville and Green Bay, replaced the fired Vic Fangio. The staff doesn’t have quite the NFL experience as the previous group of assistant coaches. The exception being former Carolina Panther and Houston Texan coach Dom Capers, hired as a senior defensive assistant.
There’s a sufficient number of good players for Denver to make a run at the franchise’s first playoff appearance since winning the Super Bowl after the 2015 season. Hackett’s lack of head-man experience is may concern those who bet online.
They’re in one of the toughest divisions in football, led by six-time defending AFC West champion Kansas City. Offseason acquisitions by the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers make it more challenging for Denver in its quest to snap a run of five consecutive losing seasons.
Expect a circus-like atmosphere when Denver opens its season at Seattle, since Wilson happened to be the face of the Seahawks franchise for quite a few years. The second game comes against a Texan team projected to be among the worst in the NFL, so there’s a chance for the Broncos to bust out to a 2-0 start before the degree of difficulty increases.