Can The Broncos Bounce Back In 2017?
The Superbowl 50 Champions Denver Broncos are the next team I'll be discussing.
The best defense in the NFL ate the Panthers alive with Von Miller and company, they disposed of the 15-1 Panthers easily. Strip sacks, interceptions, fumbles... That defense would not be denied and basically won the game on their own. This past year though, after the high of winning the SB, the hangover hit the Broncos hard, the team went 9-7 finishing 3rd in the AFC West, but how did this happen? Can they Bounce back?
Losing Peyton Manning was the first big problem they had to overcome. Whether you liked him or not Peyton will go down as one of the best QBs ever, due to his leadership and experience he was able to lead the Broncos to two superbowls in two completely different ways. When the Broncos dispatched everyone on their path to SB 48, no one gave the Seahawks a chance, Manning was leading the best offense in the league and one of the best offenses EVER in the NFL, Peyton had all the targets in the world and with his ability he easily led Denver to the final. When the Broncos made it to SB 50 though.. Manning was a game manager, he didn't have to do a lot, he didn't have the best offense in the league, he just had to score. The FO allocated most of their money on defense, allowing the Broncos to keep players like Talib, Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware while losing players like Julius Thomas and a few other defensive (soon to be) stars (Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan) , this made the Broncos at that moment the "best" defense in the league and Manning just had to capitilise on turnovers and finish games off when he had the chance.
That all changed this past season, with Peyton retiring the Broncos drafted Paxton Lynch to be Manning's successor while he learned how the NFL worked under Trevor Siemian, that was basically a rookie himself, as he had only played for one snap and it was a kneel down.. He still had the upper hand over Lynch though because he already had NFL knowledge. It's also worth pointing that the Broncos dodged the bullet by letting Brock Osweiller walk..
Siemian didn't actually play badly. He played like a rookie, 19TDs - 10 Ints, 8 wins, 6 losses.. I personally believe Lynch has a higher ceiling and will eventually takeover while Trevor should be a very good number 2 QB in the NFL but I'd say that what Trevor put up would normally be enough for the Broncos to make the playoffs, what also didn't work out for the Broncos was that the so called "best" defense in the league had no answer to the run game and the fact that the AFC West is becoming the best divison in football didn't help the Broncos either.
The run game absolutely destroyed the Broncos. Remember when I told the Broncos were the "best" denfense in the league? That was before teams realised how badly the Broncos defended the run. After losing DeMarcus Ware in the beggining of the season the Broncos never affectively stopped the run game, their corners aren't great tacklers, they don't have a hard hitting strong safety and letting go Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan proved to be the reasons why Denver's run D was so bad. The Broncos were ranked #28 on run defense by the NFL allowing 130 yards per game,15 TDs, 13 20+ yard runs, 4 40+ yards runs, the best positive of this Broncos team was that they forced 8 fumbles, that was 9th best in the league, but still a far cry for being a great defense overall.
The Denver defense is amazing on pass defense, maybe even the best, but until the run defense can be exploited they'll be ran over by teams.
Injuries and bad OLine play were also key to this bad season. The offensive line was constantly being ganged up with Russell Okung being one of the most consistent players. CJ Anderson's injury was also big as the Broncos lost their star running back, Booker was set to replace him but he also eventually got injured and the Broncos basically had no run game relying on Siemian to win most of their games.
And perhaps the biggest reason why the Broncos failed to reach the playoffs, the AFC West. The most competative divison in football includes the Raiders, Charges, Chiefs and Broncos.
The Raiders have a great offense with one of the best offensive lines in the league, a soon to be elite QB in Derek Carr, one of the future best WRs in the game Amari Cooper and now Marshawn Lynch.. While on defense they have Khalil Mack and a few others..
The Chargers have a very good offense led by Rivers, with great wide receivers and a very good running back for the future (Melvin Gordon) while on defense they have OROTY Joey Bosa..
The Chiefs just got Pat Mahomes which means they'll let go Alex Smith next year, they got a good running game and one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs also have a good defense with Tamba Hali, Eric Berry, Marcus Peters and Bennie Logan.
The AFC West is stacked and every team has a chance to finish 1st or 4th. I wouldn't bet my money on who wins the West this year.
Leary was the top free agent signing by the Broncos and one that I fully support. Ronald was part of the best offensive line with the Dallas Cowboys and he should upgrade the Broncos line massively, he's known to be a solid all round player that thrives on run blocking so if CJ wants to run he should do it behind Leary.
The draft was also vital for the Broncos to stack up on defense and offensive line. They did what they had to really, drafting Bolles was smart, he was consensually the best OT in the draft and the Broncos decided to gamble with the 25 year old. DeMarcus Walker might help the Broncos on defense being a young DE but I don't know enough about him to say how good he'll be. One pick that I absolutely loved was Jake Butt, I believe he can be a top TE in the NFL and drafting him in the 5th round was a total steal.
However we didn't see the Broncos draft a linebacker, but a friend of mine told me that shouldn't be a big issue because their 2015 1st round pick Shane Ray had impressed him a lot and if he can comeback healthy he should provide good depth at the linebacker position.
My honest veredict on if the Broncos can bounce back is no. I don't think the Broncos will bounce back and make the playoffs, much less win the West, losing Wade Phillips and Gary Kubiak was massive, they also haven't really improved their linebacker core and I believe the run defense will continue to be bad. Siemian should take a step forward but I don't believe he has a big ceiling so I don't know who much he can do for Denver, the run game needs to be the best it's been for years and the defense will need to lead this team to several wins during the season for the Broncos to have a chance at making the playoffs. I don't dislike this Broncos team, I simply like the others better, I think their window has closed and that Broncos fans will have to get used to missing the playoffs.. I'm sorry friends.