The Broncos are learning that it’s not easy to replace a Hall of Fame quarterback like Peyton Manning. When the Broncos drafted QB Paxton Lynch in the first round of last year’s draft, they probably expected him to have taken over the starting job by now, but he wasn’t impressive in the three games he played last year, including two starts, and there was a quarterback competition in the preseason, with 2015 seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian winning it to be named the team’s starter for Week 1. The team has a new coaching staff, with Vance Joseph taking over head-coaching duties from Gary Kubiak, Mike McCoy replacing Rick Dennison as offensive coordinator, and new defensive coordinator Joe Woods taking over for Wade Phillips. While the coaches are different, the majority of the players are the same without any major changes to the offense this offseason other than the signing of veteran RB Jamaal Charles, who has been limited to playing in a total of eight games over the last two seasons due to knee injuries.
Siemian made 14 starts last season, completing just 59.5% of his passes for 3,401 yards and 18 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions. Lynch, by comparison, completed 59% of his throws for 497 yards and 2 touchdowns, with 1 interception. WR Demaryius Thomas caught 90 of their passes fr 1,083 yards and 5 touchdowns, and WR Emmanuel Sanders had 79 receptions for 1,032 yards and 5 touchdowns. There was a big drop-off after them, with RB Devontae Booker claiming the team’s third-best receiving numbers, with 31 catches for 265 yards and 1 touchdown. TE Virgil Green 22 catches for 237 yards and 1 touchdown in 12 games. Booker led the running game with 174 rushes for 612 yards and 4 touchdowns. That was partially because RB C.J. Anderson missed time with injury, playing in only seven games. When he was on the field, Anderson had 110 carries for 437 yards and 4 touchdowns. Overall, the offense was ranked 22nd in the NFL in points scored, but the defense did better in giving up the fourth-fewest points in the league.
Siemian will get the first chance at starting games over center, but neither he nor Lynch showed many promising signs last season so Lynch could get a chance to take over the job if Siemian doesn’t impress and the team gets off to a slow start in terms of wins and losses. The team could also use better production in the receiving game from guys other than Thomas and Sanders. When healthy, Anderson is the team’s No. 1 running back and Booker is dealing with injury issues that could cause him to miss the first couple weeks of the regular season. Charles is someone to look out for to take over the No. 2 role behind Anderson. He has played well in the preseason and with Booker not expected to be ready for the regular season, Charles could overtake him on the depth chart with good performances in the first couple weeks of the season. Before his injuries the last two seasons, Charles had three straight seasons in which he rushed for more than 1,000 yards — including a 1,500-yard season in 2012. If the defense continues to shine as it did last year, the team will be able to stay in games, but the offense needs to do better to improve upon the Broncos’ 9-7 record from last season, which caused them to miss the playoffs just a season after winning Super Bowl 50.
They’ll begin their season in the last game of Week 1, hosting the Chargers in the second game of the Monday night doubleheader. They stay at home in Week 2, with the Cowboys in Denver. The schedule then puts the Broncos on the road for Week 3 when they take on the Bills. Week 4 is a tough battle with the Raiders at home. The Broncos’ bye week follows in Week 5, then they return to action with a Sunday night game against the Giants at home. They have three straight road games after that, starting with the Chargers in Week 7, then a Monday night game at the defending division champion Chiefs in Week 8 and a visit to Philadelphia in Week 9 to do battle with the Eagles. Week 10 gives us a battle of the last two Super Bowl winners when the Broncos host the Super Bowl LI champion Patriots in the Sunday nighter. The Broncos visit the Raiders in Week 12, then head to Miami to play the Dolphins in Week 13. After a home game with the Jets, the Broncos visit the Colts in Week 15’s Thursday night contest, followed by a Week 16 visit to the Redskins. The Broncos finish their regular season at home against the Chiefs. The Broncos won nine games last year and I think they’ll be around that number again this season, likely missing the playoffs again.