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Enjoy your latest Lombardi Trophy, Broncos fans. It’ll be a long while before Elway hoists another one. Yes, I realize John Elway is no longer an active NFL player, but in crafting the NFL’s most feared defense, and having the testicular fortitude to fire John Fox with the highest winning percentage of any fired coach in NFL history, Elway has cemented himself as the Pat Riley of the NFL. Shit, they even both let star players walk this offseason for inexplicable “financial” reasons.
Speaking of which, while I’m no fan of Brock Osweiller, his departure for Houston leaves a Grand Canyon sized hole in the Denver depth chart, with the Three Stooges of the Broncos quarterback competition vying to be the reason Elway and his fan base grow to miss the new Texans starting quarterback like the one that got away. Starting with the supposed favorite to win the job, Mark Sanchez (yes, that same Mark Sanchez), I could go into a tirade about the butt fumble, or his propensity to hand the ball to the other team, but you all know who he is and understand how uninspiring his starting would be following an NFL legend in Denver. Next are the two young guns: Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.
Siemian, for any fellow Big Ten fan, is an absolute shock to be on an NFL roster, let alone somewhat in the race to start for the defending world champions. At Northwestern, he displayed absolutely no ability that would rationally suggest an NFL career, nor does he possess any measurable that typically makes NFL scouts drool. Lynch, on the other hand, according to essentially every “expert,” is as raw as a high round quarterback pick can be, sporting exceptional arm strength, size, and mobility for the position, but coming from a one read Memphis offense, in which he essentially never made a read aside from a first or second option on one particular side of the field, the NFL game will be an immense adjustment. If you watched Memphis in their 2015-2016 season bowl game against Auburn, Lynch made whomever the hell replaced Will Muschamp and his defensive assistants look other worldly in his ineptitude, with the announcers trumping his “potential” and “raw athletic ability” in a more tired and lazy display than a recycled joke.
While quarterback deserves the lion’s share of the discussion as it has the makings of an unmitigated disaster, I’m actually extremely concerned about the Denver defense. The Broncos lost their best defensive lineman not named Von Miller, Malik Jackson, and best overall linebacker, Danny Trevathan. Not coincidentally, Trevathan was reportedly the Bears’ number one free agent priority this offseason, with coach John Fox formerly commanding the Broncos defense as Head Coach prior to 2015. In Jackson and Trevathan, the Broncos lose arguably half of their four best defensive players, relying even more heavily on a rapidly aging defensive unit that carried a dead armed Manning to a Super Bowl championship.
DeMarcus Ware is nearing a decade and a half in the league, with a checkered injury history; I’m not sure what he has left. Aqib Talib, perhaps the best pure cover corner in the AFC, is nearing his 31st birthday, a standard age of significant decline for cornerbacks, even for the seemingly immortally talented like Darelle Revis. After his incredible 2015 season and sustained ability to stay out of the early career trouble that had Broncos executives hesitant to secure a longterm future, Von Miller got an immense six-year deal this offseason, paying him “quarterback money” until 2022. Even with the expected cap increases over the next few years, Miller’s monumental cap hold could be the largest of any NFL defensive player ever, hamstringing future roster flexibility and the funds allotted to defensive line upgrades. We’ve already seen some of the side effects of the deal with the aforementioned loss of Jackson.
In Denver, I see a wholly unproven offense at the skill positions, with CJ Andersen largely an unknown after languishing on the bench behind players no longer in the league (Moreno, Ball) prior to 2015, two new starters on the offensive line, a mess at quarterback, and even the under-the-radar loss of Vernon Davis. Defensively, an aging roster lost two of its best players and blew its entire offseason load on Miller, though without question a must-sign. The Broncos are far less talented than they were in 2015, with gaping holes at key positions and a stronger AFC West than ever before. I expect the Chiefs and Raiders to both finish the season above .500, and a resurgence in San Diego behind Phillip Rivers is not out of the question.
I am picking the Broncos to miss the playoffs in 2016. Fire away..
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