Back in July I wrote about Broncos that could disappoint in 2018. That’s always an uncomfortable subject, but the reality of the NFL is that for new stars to rise other players must fall. With 12 games now under the team’s belt, let’s take a look back to see which players did go on to disappoint, and which ones surpassed expectations.
Note: There’s a range of possibilities encompassed within “disappointing” in this context. Terrible play, not even making the team, or simply not seeing the field for whatever reason, can all lead to a disappointing 2018 for that player.
Disappointing in 2018
OT Menelik Watson
Easily the most obvious name on this list, Watson’s cap hit and guaranteed salary dictate that he’ll remain a Bronco in 2018. That said, the over-paid former starting tackle will either languish in a backup role or at best see some starts at guard.
Well, I was wrong. No, not about Watson. He still sucks egregiously. I was wrong about what his salary did & didn’t dictate. Watson didn’t even make the final 53 man roster, ending his Broncos tenure back on August 20th.
WR Jordan Taylor
Taylor has been a decent third receiver for a couple of years, but the Broncos invested heavily on wide receivers in the draft and will want to give their two rookies as many opportunities as possible. That’s got Taylor squarely on the roster bubble, which isn’t a good place to be when you’ve just had surgery on both hips. Sunshine’s main hope for keeping a spot on the Broncos’ roster is probably as a returner on special teams. But if the Broncos find a new returner they like in training camp, his total lack of dead money could make him an easy roster cut candidate.
Yes, Taylor’s season has been a disappointment. It’s nothing he did wrong and nothing he can help. But when you’re an NFL player & you miss the season due to an injury... well, that’s pretty much the definition of a disappointing season. And odds are incredibly slim that he’ll see the field in the final month.
WR Isaiah McKenzie
Drafted for his potential as an explosive returner and a possible solution for the Broncos’ hole at slot receiver, McKenzie fumbled his opportunities away in 2017 and may now find himself on thin ice. Though as a drafted player entering just his 2nd season, the team may give him the benefit of the doubt for now.
Forgive McKenzie if he’s got some whiplash. Said benefit of the doubt was not given, then given back in the span of a day or two, and then taken away again just over a week later. The back and forth is over, though, as the Buffalo Bills claimed him. McKenzie’s been useful for them, with 7 catches for 71 yards, 5 rushes for 40 yards & a TD, 8 punt returns, & 5 kick returns.
OLB Shane Ray
The former 1st round pick was slated to start this year, but an offseason setback with the wrist injury that ruined his 2017 season put a major kink in that plan. He’ll likely miss all of training camp, and with an injury return timeline that mirrors his 2017 experience, he’ll very likely continue to suffer from being under-weight and under-strength. In Ray’s place, 2018 5th overall pick Bradley Chubb will get his chance. And if the highly talented rookie plays anywhere near his talent level, Ray won’t be getting that starting job back.
Ray’s injury wasn’t as lingering as it might’ve been, but the 4th year OLB has still been mostly invisible for the Broncos. He’s played on 27% of the team’s defensive snaps, but has only 1 sack, 5 solo tackles, & 4 assists to show for it. That’s pretty pathetic. John Elway made some excellent decisions by refusing Ray’s 5th year option & drafting the excellent Bradley Chubb to replace him.
FS Darian Stewart
Don’t get me wrong here- Stewart will play a lot of snaps in 2018 and will likely start most of the year. But his importance to the Broncos’ No Fly Zone is diminishing. He hasn’t been the same player under Joe Woods that he was under Wade Phillips, and he can suffer in coverage at times. With several talented young safeties behind him on the depth chart and Su’a Cravens likely to feature as a chess piece in the defensive backfield, Stewart may very well go the way of TJ Ward or Aqib Talib after the 2018 season.
Cravens hasn’t infringed on Stewart’s snap count like he might have, but Stewart still isn’t having a great season. The Broncos safety unit that looked like the strength of the secondary before the season has turned out to be pretty porous, & inadequate play by Stewart has been a significant piece of that.
OG Max Garcia
If Watson gets any time at guard, it’ll be in place of where Garcia played last season. Garcia regressed badly after seeming to show some promise early in his career, and the Broncos quickly signaled their intention to move on from him after the season. Combine that with his $86K dead money value versus possible cap savings of a comparatively huge $1.9M, and it’s clear to see that Garcia’s seat is so hot it’s throwing up smoke and sparks.
I couldn’t quite put Garcia in the Disappointing category, because he did surprise us with some pretty good play in the 4 games he started after Ron Leary’s injury. He almost ended up there anyway because the torn ACL he suffered cut that revival short, and that’s extremely disappointing. It’ll be interesting to see what his future holds.
I Was Wrong
ILB Todd Davis
This one might seem odd considering the Broncos just re-signed Davis in the offseason. And don’t get me wrong; that was a quality move and he’s a good player. But he’s also a very limited player. Davis excels at run defense but also provides opposing offenses a serious weakness to exploit in the passing game. Like Ray, he may see his role slip away under the influence of a rookie stepping up. 4th round pick Josey Jewell isn’t an elite athlete, but his instincts and knowledge of the game let him make stop after stop anyway. And the Broncos’ new hybrid safety, Su’a Cravens, will be taking snaps away from Davis and Jewell both as he covers tight ends and running backs on passing downs.
Todd Davis has been killing it out there this year. He’s arguably been the key piece of the Broncos’ run defense, racking up a team-leading 92 combined tackles. And only 3 other players on the team have even half as many solo tackles as his 67 solo tackle total. Nice! He’s still not amazing in coverage, but he’s improved there this year. Davis has staked his claim as an important playmaker on this 2018 Broncos defense.
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