The Denver Broncos should be a much better team than they were last year, their first season after Peyton Manning’s retirement, in which they struggled to find an identity. This year, they come into the season much healthier, more experienced, and ready to take the next step. They were a lucky field goal and a dropped pass away from making the playoffs last year. With this year’s improved roster, the Broncos should return to their usual playoff form. Now let’s take a look at the offensive roster, position by position, and then enjoy a rundown of what to expect on defense and special teams.
Denver Broncos Roster Preview: Offense
Projected starter: Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch
In case you haven’t heard, there is no clear cut starter at quarterback for the Broncos. Training camp and preseason will determine the starter between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Regardless of who wins the job, quarterback play will be improved from last season.
Siemian started 14 games last year and was injured in many of them. Though Lynch only started in two games, he played very much like a rookie. This year, both quarterbacks should be healthy and more experienced. Experience is key for the quarterback position, and another year under their belts will prove to be very helpful.
Neither Siemian nor Lynch are likely to have Pro Bowl caliber seasons, but both have the potential to lead this Broncos team to the playoffs. Siemian proved at times last year that he can be a very effective quarterback, and Lynch has all the physical tools to be a great one. Whoever starts must prove he is capable of leading a productive offense, instead of relying on the defensive prowess of this team.
Projected starter: C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker, or Jamaal Charles
Today in the NFL, unless teams have the talent of a Le’Veon Bell or Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, they use the running back by committee approach. The Broncos have three backs who each bring something different to the table.
C.J. Anderson has shown he can be a top back in the league when healthy, Devontae Booker displayed immense potential in Utah and will hopefully adjust to NFL defenses in his second year, and lastly Jamaal Charles has been one of the best backs in the NFL for the past eight years.
Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has a tendency to bring the best out of his running backs. In Denver, both Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno enjoyed great success. In San Diego, Danny Woodhead had a 1,000-yard from scrimmage season. If Woodhead is able to have that kind of success in McCoy’s system, just imagine what Charles can accomplish if he stays healthy, whether its running the ball or catching out of the backfield. The running game will of course be dependent on the offensive line. More details to come.
Projected Starter: Andy Janovich
The Broncos won’t be utilizing the fullback position this year as much as former head coach Gary Kubiak’s team did last year. Andy Janovich will likely be used predominantly as a blocker and possibly running in short yardage situations. Janovich has a reputation as a bruising blocker and can help the Broncos running game and pass protection. The Broncos also struggled mightily in short yardage situations. Janovich is a strong runner and can help the Broncos in those third and fourth-and-one situations.
Projected Starters: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Carlos Henderson
The Broncos wide receiver group has been one of the best and most consistent in the NFL in recent years. Demaryius Thomas is the longest active player with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Even in an “off year” in 2016, he managed to compile 1,000 yards and five touchdowns with an injured hip.
Emmanuel Sanders is arguably the best number two receiver in the league, and time and time again proves he still can “take the top off the defense” to quote the great Randy Moss. Lastly, Carlos Henderson from Louisiana Tech has potential to really flourish in this offense. With all the attention on Thomas and Sanders, Henderson will be able to make big plays out of the slot.
The Broncos have had a great receiver duo for years, but haven’t reached their maximum potential because of the lack of a reliable third option. Cody Latimer still hasn’t panned out in Denver, Bennie Fowler is more of a utility player, and Jordan Taylor is not a starting receiver in this league. Henderson will prove to be a huge X-Factor in this offense. With the recent success rookie widouts have had in the NFL, don’t be surprised to see a rookie of the year campaign out of Henderson.
Isaiah McKenzie, a rookie out of Georgia, is another player who could see some time as the third wideout, but he will most likely be used predominately in the return game. Overall, it appears the Broncos receiving group can return to the heights of Mike McCoy’s first stint in Denver.
Projected Starter: A.J. Derby and Jake Butt (when he is healthy)
The tight end position will be very important in Denver because of the blocking game. The offensive line’s struggles last season are well documented, and this year they will need help from the tight position to elevate their performance. A.J. Derby will likely start the season for the Broncos. Derby is a good pass catcher and a decent blocker. While he held up well last year in the zone blocking scheme, he will have to prove he can do the same in McCoy’s power blocking system as well.
Jake Butt, tight end from Michigan may be the steal of the draft, and is a first round talent who the Broncos were lucky to get in the fifth round because of a knee injury. Virgil Green has not proven to be productive in the passing game, but he is a great blocker and will be utilized as such in this offense.
Projected Starters: Garret Bolles (LT), Max Garcia (LG), Matt Paradis (C), Ronald Leary (RG), Menelik Watson (RT).
So we finally get to the offensive line, the root of all the Broncos offensive woes last year. The Broncos addressed their left tackle need in the first round, drafting Garret Bolles from Utah. Bolles is a great run blocker and has potential to be a premier pass blocker. Without question, he has impressed the coaching staff throughout the offseason and is making strides in terms of pass blocking.
Max Garcia is entering his third year with the Broncos and is poised to take the next step. Despite his occasional mishaps, he has shown potential to be a very effective guard. Matt Paradis, consistently one of Pro Football Focus‘ top rated centers in the league, is the one constant on the Broncos offensive line. Even though he’s returning from hip surgery, he has the off-season to regain his elite form.
Ronald Leary coming from Dallas’ highly talked about offensive line. Leary is known as one of the league’s best run blockers, but his pass blocking is also elite, as he didn’t allow a sack last year. Having his leadership and experience will be very important for the Broncos. Lastly, Menelik Watson, coming from Oakland, provides the Broncos a rock solid right tackle. While he has often been injured in his young career, Watson has shown great promise when healthy.
Overall, it is clear the Broncos have an improved offensive line this year. If Bolles lives up to his first-round potential, he will anchor the whole unit. The Broncos have a good mix of youth and experience on the offensive line which is a great recipe for the team. They will provide whoever starts at quarterback with more time in the pocket and open up some more holes in the running game. The offensive line is key to the overall success of the offense, and it appears they can help lead them to the playoffs.