Michael Lombardi from The Ringer wrote quite an in depth summary on the Denver Broncos under the reign of John Elway and his assessment is that this franchise lucked into Peyton Manning and that luck has run out.
The story wasn’t as hyperbolic as I just made it out to be, but he summed things up in a way that is kind of spot on and he could actually be right in his assessment. I see the current issues facing this team as one of two things that Lombardi covered rather succinctly in his larger post.
The first is the lack of a middle class on the roster.
Currently, Denver has 10 starting players on its roster with a $5 million per year or more cap charge, and 28 players above $1 million. The Broncos have only four backups making more than a million ...
..Naturally, the Patriots do the opposite. They’re one of the few teams with midlevel depth. New England has seven players on its roster with a cap charge over $5 million this season and 36 players with charge of a million or more. Bill Belichick wants a full team, not a few high-priced veterans and then all draft picks. He understands that most draft picks never affect the team in their first season, however.
The Broncos are able to get away with the lopsided pay scale due to the overwhelming greatness of the talent at the top. If Elway were overpaying for mediocre talent, the Broncos would be a very bad football team. However, they are paying supremely talented players what they are worth and are getting the production out of those dollars.
So far so good, but this isn’t a strategy that will work long-term. Usually...
The second item is the quarterback situation. Lombardi hit the nail on the head as far as I am concerned regarding both of the Broncos quarterback options heading into the 2017 regular season.
First, Trevor Siemian:
Siemian’s performance over the course of the season suggested he’s more likely a solid backup player than a quality starter, in large part due to his body. To become a quality, winning starter in the NFL, quarterbacks must be able to endure punishment play after play, without their physical skills deteriorating. Body types do matter. Smaller-boned quarterbacks like Siemian lose power in their lower body when sustaining hits, which then affects their arm and ability to control the ball. When healthy, Siemian looked good — better than good. When beaten up from hits, he looked below average. In baseball, pitchers run the outfield warning track on off days to strengthen their legs and enhance their ability to maintain their velocity, which is largely generated from their lower body. The same theory applies for quarterbacks. Quarterbacks have to endure the hits and maintain leg strength, which then allows them to drive the ball — it’s all about the torque in their lower body. Siemian can do this for a portion of the season. But it’s doubtful he could play for 16 games and the playoffs and be a consistent thrower.
And then, of course, Paxton Lynch:
Which then places the burden on second-year player Paxton Lynch, who started two games and played like a rookie — a rookie who was uncomfortable under center, unable to make down-the-field throws, and struggled mightily on third down. Lynch averaged under 5 yards per attempt on third down, which was a signal to all defensive coaches; he wanted the ball out of his hand — now. Like most rookies, he wanted to make the checkdown rather than risk a downfield throw. The game is moving entirely too fast for many rookies. Those hot-potato throws help the completion percentage, but kill any significant progress by the offense. It’s obvious but true: Rookie quarterbacks need time. To develop, to throw, to think.
The trouble Lombardi envisions for the 2017 Broncos comes from the quarterbacks failing to take the next step, leading to easy defensive game planning that shuts down the run and dares a below average quarterback to beat them with their arm.
As we found out last season, that is not a winning proposition in the NFL.
I think one of these two quarterbacks will turn out to be much better than they were last season and will do just enough to keep opposing defenses off balance.
Are the Broncos in trouble? Hell no. The defense alone is good enough for eight wins, so all the offense has to do is come up with some plays to win a few more. I believe that is exactly what will happen.
The entire post is insightful and worth the read, even if the conclusion paints a negative outlook on our favorite team.
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