Only two seasons ago, the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50. Last season, the Broncos made it to the playoffs. This season, there were high hopes for Denver. The Broncos had already drafted their QB of the future, Paxton Lynch. GM John Elway hired Miami defensive coordinator Vance Joseph to shore up the run defense. Things appeared to be looking up in Denver.
What has transpired? Nothing good.
Denver Broncos 2017 Update
Below, I answer some of the questions I asked in my 2017 Denver Broncos Preview. I then break down exactly what the Broncos must do to get the organization back onto the winning track.
New Coach…Better Broncos’ Rush Defense?
Answer: Not even close.
Last season, the Broncos’ defense ranked 4th in the NFL in total yards allowed for the season. Only Houston, Arizona, and Minnesota allowed less total yards than the Denver Broncos. Minnesota allowed 5,038 total yards while the Broncos allowed 5,057 total yards.
Of the total yards allowed, the Broncos gave up 2,972 passing yards. Denver ranked first in passing yards allowed at 185.8. The Broncos ranked 28th in total rush yards allowed per game. Denver allowed 130.3 rushing yards per game last season.
That’s why Broncos’ GM John Elway hired Vance Joseph away from the Miami Dolphins. Joseph had a plan to stop the rush. At the beginning of the season, it appeared Joseph’s plan was working.
Denver held the L.A. Chargers to 64 rushing yards in a 24 to 21 win. In Denver’s impressive 42 to 17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2, it looked like Joseph’s strategy was pure genius. Even with Ezekiel Elliott rushing the football, the Cowboys could only muster 40 rushing yards from 14.
What made Joseph even more impressive was that the Broncos released safety T.J. Ward, one of their very best overall defensive backs, before the season started. Teams weren’t able to run the ball against Denver’s defense. They were having just minimal success throwing the football against Denver’s defense.
Going into their bye, Denver had reason to feel good about itself. The Broncos were 3 and 1. They had just beaten the rival Oakland Raiders 16 to 10. It appeared as if Denver’s rush defense had caught up to the Broncos pass defense.
There was no reason to believe the Broncos wouldn’t come out of their bye swinging.
After the Bye…Bye Bye
That’s not what happened. Denver hosted the New York Giants in Week 6. The Giants hadn’t won a single game going into Denver. The Giants were an amazingly huge underdog. Denver was favored to beat NYG by 13.5 points. Not only did the Broncos not cover the spread, but Denver also failed to beat the Giants on the money line. It was embarrassing for Denver fans who thought they had a possible Super Bowl contender. What happened?
The Broncos’ rush defense allowed the Giants to pound it for 148 yards from 32 carries. It was unbelievable how badly Denver’s rush defense played in that game. The rush defense ended up adjusting, but it didn’t matter.
After the loss to the Giants, the Denver Broncos’ defense ended up folding. It’s gotten so bad that the Broncos D has allowed a combined total of 92 points in Denver’s last 2 games before Week 11. The Philadelphia Eagles scored 51 points versus the Broncos’ defense in Week 9. In Week 10, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots hung 41 onto Denver’s defense.
The entire Denver defense is a mess.
Has the Offensive Line Improved?
Answer: Yes, for the most part.
Unlike Cincinnati, Denver knew that to perform better on offense, the Broncos had to protect their starting quarterback. At the time, during the 2017 NFL Draft, I don’t think Joseph or Elway knew who the Broncos’ starting quarterback was going to be. They still drafted OT Garrett Boles in Round 1.
For the most part, Bolles has played well enough for Denver’s offensive line to have improved. The Broncos average 113 rush yards per game. Denver only averages 215.6 passing yards per game. It’s obvious to me that when an offensive line is able to rush for yards while the team doesn’t have a top quarterback, which Denver doesn’t have, the offensive line has done a great job.
Who’s Going to Play Quarterback for the Denver Broncos?
Answer: I’m not even sure Vance Joseph knows.
Yes, the Denver Broncos decided to go with Trevor Siemian as their starting quarterback. What happened? Siemian bombed in a game versus the Kansas City Chiefs. Vance Joseph said that something had to change because the Broncos were on a 2-game losing streak.
Elway had resigned Brock Osweiler after the Cleveland Browns had cut Osweiler. Osweiler started versus the Philadelphia Eagles. How well did Oweiler play? He was worse than Trevor Siemian. Brock only completed 19 of 38 passes for 208 yards, a TD, and 2 interceptions.
Denver started Brock Osweiler at QB in Week 9. At the beginning of Week 10, Vance Joseph said he’d let everyone know who the Broncos’ starting QB was going to be towards the middle of the week. Joseph decided that they were going to stick with Osweiler.
In NFL Week 10, Denver battled the worst passing defense in the NFL. The Patriots allow 287.2 passing yards per game. That ranks 32nd out of 32 teams in the league. Osweiler completed only 18 of 33 for 221 yards. He threw a TD. He threw an interception.
Osweiler, supposedly, is the starting quarterback in Week 11. Paxton Lynch, supposedly, has been promoted to QB 2. That means Siemian has fallen all the way to QB 3.
Bottom Line on the Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos are at 3 and 6. They have absolutely no chance of making it to the postseason. I feel safe writing that because I’m not sure if the Broncos win another game this season. Denver’s got a couple of issues that they’re not going to solve overnight.
First, nobody appears capable of being a starting quarterback in the NFL. It’s not Brock Osweiler. He’s already proven he can’t. It apparently isn’t Trevor Siemian. Siemian has fallen all the way to third on the depth chart. It could be Paxton Lynch. Denver hasn’t even put him into a game yet this season. Without a real starting QB, it’s difficult to see Denver doing much of anything.
But, that’s not the only reason I believe there’s a possibility the Broncos don’t win another game. The reason I don’t feel the Broncos can win another game is all about Vance Joseph and the Broncos’ defense. I don’t think Joseph is in charge in Denver.
What I mean by that is Joseph has lost the confidence of his players. He’s lost the confidence of both the offense and defense. That spells disaster for the Denver Broncos.
How Can the Broncos Get Back
Before the season started, the Denver Broncos are at +2200 to win Super Bowl 52. The Broncos’ odds are much higher than that. What must disturb you if you’re a Broncos’ fan is how things imploded the week after Denver’s bye.
The haphazard way in which the Broncos are deciding on a starting quarterback is an issue. It’s difficult to see why Trevor Siemian fell from being the starter to being third on the depth chart. Osweiler certainly hasn’t been better than Siemian. Also, Siemian showed some flashes of being a real NFL starter earlier in the season.
A bigger issue is how Denver’s defense absolutely imploded. 92 points allowed in 2 NFL games is absolutely ridiculous. It’s a terrible sign that Denver’s defense either has fallen off a cliff, or a sign that Vance Joseph hasn’t made the necessary adjustments.
That’s what I’m thinking. Vance Joseph hasn’t made the necessary adjustments. What does it mean? It means that GM John Elway must seriously consider replacing Vance Joseph. When a team becomes this bad after their bye, there’s more going on than injuries.
If Denver wants to become the great team it was in the past, Elway must hire a new head coach.