The Denver Broncos enter the season with a new head coach but the same very serious problems at the quarterback position.
Former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph assumes the top coaching role after Gary Kubiak retired due to health issues. It’s Joseph’s first head coaching job and General Manager John Elway is hoping that he could be the long-term solution despite his inexperience.
2016 was a real downer in Denver.
The Broncos missed the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl the year before and it was ugly. Injuries, losses of key players via free agency and the retirement of future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning all contributed to the team’s disappointing 9-7 record.
The team’s troubles were largely due to the inability to consistently move the ball on offense. A good deal of the responsibility can be attributed to the atrocious performance of former seventh round pick Trevor Siemian who was given the starting job by virtue of being Kubiak’s pet.
While Siemian had a few good games early in the season, he routinely stunk the joint out as the year progressed. The absence of any semblance of an offensive line and the loss of a running game after C.J. Anderson was injured in week seven didn’t help but you just can’t put lipstick on a pig.
While Siemian has his share of supporters in the locker room and in the press – they blame it all on a shoulder injury – the man just isn’t NFL starting material. Neither for that matter was rookie Paxton Lynch who couldn’t get out of his own way in the two games that he played.
Once again, Denver has serious quarterback problems and that is going to be a roadblock to the postseason until they are resolved. Interestingly, Elway tried like hell to work out a trade for the now infamous former 49er Colin Kaepernick last year but the deal fell through after he refused to take the pay cut that the Broncos were asking for.
Chances are that unless Lynch is able to develop quickly, that the team will once again be forced to line up with Siemian as their starter. Denver drafted former Ole Miss star quarterback Chad Kelly this year but due to injuries, he is unlikely to play at all in 2017.
Former offensive coordinator McCoy returns after being fired as the Chargers’ head coach and will hopefully be able to assist with Lynch’s development.
The good news is that there is nowhere to go but up in terms of the running game.
Anderson should be healthy again and Denver signed former Kansas City Chiefs stud Jamaal Charles as a free-agent. If Charles can regain his form after two injury plagued seasons and if Anderson can stay healthy that should take some pressure off whoever will get the not at quarterback.
The Broncos hope that they addressed their offensive line woes in the offseason. The team grabbed Utah offensive tackle Garrett Bolles with their first round pick and it is hoped that he will develop into a player who can hold the job for years to come.
Free agents Ronald Leary (Dallas) and Menelik Watson (Oakland) were also signed to fortify the line and in a bit of addition by subtraction, penalty-ridden OT Russell Okung wasn’t re-signed.
The wide receiver position continues to eat up a lot of the team’s salary with potential Pro Bowlers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both possessing game-breaking skills but the problem is who will be able to get the ball to them?
Things are considerably better on the opposite side of the ball.
The Broncos defense is still dominating despite last year’s miserable outcome. While there were a number of free agent defections, the collapse certainly can’t be blamed on the defense and the unit should once again be one of the league’s best in 2017.
The defensive line has reinforcements after the loss of Super Bowl hero Malik Jackson’s loss was a big void to fill in 2016. In are NT Domata Peko and DE Zach Kerr to shore up the line. The Broncos also drafted former FSU pass rusher DeMarcus Walker in the second round.
The linebacking corps is led by force of nature Von Miller, a one man wrecking crew. Veteran DeMarcus Ware retired and Shane Ray is expected to step up to take his place. Brandon Marshall should also be healthy again.
The strength of the Denver defense is the secondary, possibly the best in the NFL. Dubbed the “No Fly Zone”, the corners are manned by Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby. Hard hitting safety T.J. Ward and Darien Stewart are the other starters. They should once again combine to give offensive coordinators fits.
Special teams are led by kicker Brandon McManus, a big leg in the thin air of Invesco Field. The team is hoping to get some juice in the return game from third round pick Carlos Henderson who was a demon on kick returns during his college days at Louisiana Tech.
So, what does it all mean?
Unless the Broncos can somehow manage to resolve their issues at quarterback they will miss the playoffs again this season due to being in the same division of contenders Kansas City and Oakland.