The Denver Broncos sent shock waves around the NFL on Tuesday when they traded for Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson. The nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback has voiced his frustrations with the Seattle Seahawks over the past two years and even went as far to list teams he would go to.
Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson has not demanded a trade, his agent Mark Rodgers told ESPN. Wilson has told the Seahawks he wants to play in Seattle but, if a trade were considered, the only teams he would go to are the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders, Bears.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 25, 2021
Wilson finally got his wish, but the road to the Super Bowl is more treacherous in the AFC.
Here five reasons Wilson won’t win big in Denver.
5. Offensive Line
The Broncos running back room is set and really produced in 2021. Both Melvin Gordon lll and rookie Javonte Williams eclipsed 900 yards rushing. However, Denver’s offensive line had rough stretches throughout the 2021 season, allowing 40 sacks and ending the season ranked 19th, based on Pro Football Focus gradings.
A deep dive into the Broncos’ run blocking is shocking, because their yards before contact as a team also ranked 19th (1.2). An explanation for their successful running attack can be found in broken tackles, with Gordon and Williams combining to break 108 tackles during the 2021 season.
The reason the offensive line is only the fifth on the list is because there is potential upside, depending on the direction Denver goes. If they allow their young offensive line to develop, then patience is key, and the first few games for Wilson could be shaky. There are veteran offensive linemen available in free agency, and acquiring one could kick-start this O-line.
The #Broncos' 2021 Offensive Line:
SQUEEZED IN THE MIDDLE
SMACKDAB IN THE MIDDLE
SQUEEZED IN THE MIDDLE
SMACKDAB IN THE MIDDLE pic.twitter.com/vILtafC05v
— Nick Kendell 🏔 (@NickKendellMHH) December 23, 2021
Last season the Broncos struggled to stay healthy, and at one point the players’ salaries on injured reserve totaled up to $40 million. Understandably, during the NFL season there will be nicks and bruises, but to have key players miss long stretches of a season can put a team in a bad position.
Despite having multiple injuries on the defensive side, former Broncos head coach Vic Fangio still had the defense playing at a high level, ranking top three in points per game allowed (18.9). Bradley Chubb missed 10 games last year, and Denver had to keep mixing and matching their inside linebackers, since Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson both went down with torn pectoral injuries.
Typically, the best team in the NFL does not win the Super Bowl. It usually comes down to who is the healthiest team at the end. In order to make a playoff push the Broncos will need to be healthy on both sides of the ball.
The Broncos had the least healthy offensive line in the league in 2021 (tie win CIN). Sorted by # of OL players with 17 starts, # with 10+ starts (both descending) – then number of players who started and who started 4 or fewer games (ascending). pic.twitter.com/gfJ0FbwPFL
— Joseph Mahoney (@ndjomo76) February 11, 2022
Russell Wilson entered the league as a third-round draft pick and had immediate success becoming a Super Bowl champion in just two seasons. He was surrounded by a great defense and veterans who had playoff experience. Things are a bit different in Denver. Entering the 2021 season the Broncos had one of the youngest rosters in the NFL and only had nine players over the age of 30. Not to mention they only have one player from their Super Bowl 50 championship team, kicker Brandon McManus.
Denver has not returned to the playoffs since Peyton Manning retired. Having Wilson’s leadership is a big bonus, but it does not fill the void of actual playoff experience. This could be a relatively quick fix for the Broncos, because two-time Super Bowl champion Von Miller has been vocal on social media about a possible return to Mile High.
— Von Miller (@VonMiller) March 9, 2022
2. Rookie Head Coach
It was no secret that first-time head coach Nathaniel Hackett wanted Aaron Rodgers to leave Green Bay for Denver, but landing Dangeruss is not a bad second choice. Hackett had spent the last three seasons in Green Bay as their offensive coordinator. Despite the title, Hackett was not calling the plays. Matt LaFleur did the play calling.
Hackett’s offensive coordinator résumé is highlighted by reaching the 2017 AFC Championship Game with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he was fired the following season. The offensive strategy is quite simple for Hackett: he loves to run the ball. A big question mark will be if Wilson embraces another run-first offense, because during the past two seasons he felt that Seattle’s offensive philosophy under Pete Carroll and Co. was too outdated and restrictive.
The Athletic’s Michael-Shawn Dugar, Mike Sando and Jayson Jenks reported:
“Before the Thursday night game against Arizona, Wilson met with his coaches. For some time, Wilson has sought — even pushed — for influence within the organization regarding scheme and personnel. In the meeting, he outlined his own ideas for how to fix the offense. His suggestions were dismissed, multiple sources told The Athletic — another reminder to Wilson that the Seahawks did not see him the same way he saw himself, as a player who had earned greater control over his situation, his future, his legacy.”
If anything, Denver will probably be more open to input from Wilson, which probably figured into his decision to go there.
Hackett will return to calling plays as the Broncos head coach, but will his love for running the ball cause friction between him and Wilson?
1. AFC Quarterbacks
Russell Wilson was traded out of one of the hardest divisions in football, the NFC West. He not only landed in the second-hardest division, but also a loaded AFC that has young and talented quarterbacks ready to take the next step.
The NFC is going through a transitional phase, where teams are either looking for a franchise quarterback or they have a veteran who can play a few more years. The complete opposite is true for the AFC. Each divisional game game for the Broncos will be against a Pro Bowl quarterback: Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr.
Four Pro-Bowl quarterbacks are now in the AFC Wild, Wild West.
— Levi Edwards (@theleviedwards) March 8, 2022
Surviving the AFC West is only half the battle for Denver. If they win their division or sneak in as a wild card team, they are sure to meet another young quarterback ready to take that next step. There’s also Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen. It’s a murderer’s row of signal callers weekly.
There is only one definition of success in the NFL and that is winning the Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos have a long road to reach their ultimate destination and will need to overcome multiple obstacles to hoist another Lombardi Trophy with Wilson.
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