Are The Denver Broncos Back On Track?
February 3, 2023. That was the day that the Denver Broncos were supposed to start getting better. After trading a 2023 first-round draft pick and a second-round pick in 2024, the Broncos, owners of a 5-12 record in 2022, which placed them fourth in the AFC West and out of the playoffs for the seventh straight season, officially signed Sean Payton to be their new head coach.
Armed with a five-year / $18 million deal, Payton was supposed to come in and revitalize a disappointing Broncos roster and lead them back to the promised land. Or at the very least, contend for a playoff spot.
Currently sitting 3-5 and holding down a familiar spot as the last-place team in the AFC West standings, the Broncos dominated the Kansas City Taylor Swifts..err Chiefs on Sunday afternoon with a 24-9 victory. The question is, was that a Broncos victory or a Chiefs loss?
The problem facing the Broncos is that the victory, their second in a row, could give the franchise and their fans false hopes. Unless they truly have changed their ways (again, the win over the Chiefs may have had more to do with an ill Patrick Mahomes and an absent pop star than it did the Broncos), the reality is, that Denver is likely headed to a 6-10 / 7-11 record. While yes it would be better than last season, it would still result in the Broncos drafting a player who is probably not ready to make an immediate impact.
Heading into Sunday’s game, names such as Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Garette Bolles, Josey Jewell, Justin Simmons, and Patrick Surtain II have piqued interest from teams around the league as Tuesday’s trade deadline approaches.
Should the Broncos decide to stand pat at the trade deadline, what exactly do they need to do in order to salvage their season?
RUN THE BALL
When the Broncos rely heavily on QB Russell Wilson to make plays in the air, they have struggled. When they run the ball, it allows Wilson more time and space to make things happen when he has to sling the pigskin.
PICK UP THE PACE
At 34 years of age and in his twelfth season, Wilson is no spring chicken, but the Broncos offense takes a lot of time to go from a dead ball into the next play. Most teams tend to have their substitutions and play calls completed with about 25 seconds left on the play clock. The Broncos subs have been trotting on the field with 20 seconds remaining, meaning that everything from that point is done in a rush.
Simply put the guys that need the ball in their hand don’t have it. From Marvin Mims Jr. to Samarie Perine to Sutton. Whether the offensive line isn’t giving Russell enough protection to get the ball into their hands or they aren’t doing their job well enough or the coaching staff isn’t calling their numbers, these three players need to get going if the Broncos are going to salvage their season.
STOPPING THE OPPOSITION
The Broncos currently sit 19th in points per game, but they sit tied for last, allowing 31 points per game. If you aren’t going to score the ball, and you can’t stop the ball, well, that’s very simply a recipe for disaster. Under former defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, the Broncos were among the top twelve teams in the league, however, since Vance Joseph took over the job, Denver’s ability to stop the ball has, well, stopped.
GUILTY AS CHARGED
After eight games this season, the Broncos sit in a five-way tie for third when it comes to penalties. With 54 calls against them, totaling 386 yards, Denver certainly isn’t helping themselves when it comes down to field position on either side of the ball.
CLEAN OUT THE CUPBOARDS
The Denver Broncos front office has a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. Should they decide to punt on the season (pun intended), trading Bolles, Jewell, Simmons, and Sutton would help the team have about $28 million to spend during free agency. Add in some creative contract restructuring of some recently signed free agents and the team could walk into the offseason shopping spree with close to $50 million.
There was a lot of optimism when the Denver Broncos brought in Wilson in 2022 and even more optimism when they handed over the clipboard to Payton prior to the 2023 season. However, anyone who partakes in NFL betting would likely tell you that there are few games this season in which it appears that the Broncos are favorites. In fact, despite their modest two-game winning streak (something that happened just once last season), the Broncos will be the underdog in their next three games, all against teams with winning records.