A big question mark continues to reign above Denver Broncos General Manager John Elway as the 2017 offseason addresses questions about the struggling Broncos offense.
3rd place in the AFC West in average points a game, total yards and 27th in the league for rush yards at an average of 92.8 yards per game, stats like these are on par with teams like the Cleveland Browns, and Jacksonville Jaguars (who are actually 5 places ahead of the Broncos in rushing yards at the 22nd spot).
Of course, the Broncos are in no way like the Jaguars or Browns, teams who have not been to the playoffs in decade(s). For the Broncos, it is completely normal for NFL franchises to miss play offs after a couple of Super Bowl and divisional rounds. But, as one of the better run franchises in the NFL, striving for the top spots every year is something that the Broncos have been doing, shown by their 8 Super Bowl appearances with only 5 losing seasons since the team’s start in 1960.
Starting QB (for the 2016 season) Trevor Siemian stunned expectations of many fans, starting his career as the 3rd sting QB, behind both Brock Osweiler and Peyton Manning. After winning SB50, Manning retired after a poor season due to various injuries, and after Osweiler got the start in many games in the 2015 season, turning the heads of many prospective teams like the Huston Texans.
Elway, expecting Osweiler to sign on to his $16 million a year contract ($30 million guaranteed over four years), was caught off guard when the Texans also offered him $16 million but $37 million guaranteed. Not to mention that Osweiler is a Texas native, so he was incentivized by being able to go back to his home state to play.
This left the Broncos with little options. Mark Sanchez was brought in from the Philadelphia Eagles and the Broncos also traded for a 26th overall pick from Seattle to get Memphis standout, QB Paxton Lynch in order to start a 3 way QB competition between Siemian, Sanchez and Lynch over the preseason.
Siemian showing the most poise and accuracy in all his preseason games, Lynch earned the backup job and Sanchez was traded to the Cowboys to backup rookie QB Dak Prescott.
Although Siemian’s numbers were nowhere like other rookies standouts like Prescott or Wentz, his numbers were similar to now veteran franchise QBs like the Green Bay Packer’s Aaron Rodgers and San Diego Charger’s Phillip Rivers in their first seasons. Both Rodgers and Rivers, had passer ratings similar to Siemian at 84.6 in their first seasons (Rodgers at 93.0 in 2008 and Rivers at 92.0 in 2006).
The best for the team, does not lie directly in stats. Bringing in Tony Romo from the Dallas Cowboys will not automatically fix the obvious run and passing protection for the Broncos. And this does not also mean that Siemian will be the next Aaron Roders or Philip Rivers.
The problem with the Denver Broncos is the obvious trouble with the run game and passing protection. With a running back like CJ Anderson in the first half of the season, the Broncos were the top rusher in 4 out of his 7 games in the 2016 season. After his season ending injury the broncos only had 3 out of 10 games where a Bronco was the top rusher and those were split between 2 backs, Devontae Booker and Justin Forsett.
Offensive line problems are an obvious issue plaguing the offense, adding to the problems with the run game. OT Russel Okung, was an obvious disappointment, with a $20.5 million contract and under performing some rookie tackles, in addition to Donald Stephenson missing easy blocks. Siemian has shown poise when faced with unblocked rushes, but also has shown trouble with stepping up in the pocket on deep drops, an easy fix for 2017 but did not help with the offensive line issues that the Broncos faced.
For 2017, word has been going around that the Broncos will bring in OT Andrew Whitworth from the Cincinnati Bengals, which will be a massive upgrade for the o-line especially when he is paired with Broncos top rated center Matt Paradis. CJ Anderson is also returning for the 2017 season, to hopefully pump up the Broncos run game and also to hopefully develop Siemian’s passing game into what we hope is a possible long term solution to the Broncos offense.