Broncos Country, I come bearing gifts. And it’s NOT EVEN GIFT-GIVING SEASON! (well, as long as you’re not in a retail or convenience store!)
Bye Weeks are always mixed blessings. The team needs a break, and sometimes quite frankly, so do we. Cheering for the Broncos of late is a huge exercise in patience, sometimes futility. Quite often a game can require a defibrillator. So a week off has its benefits.
But it also makes Sundays a little empty.
Except not here at MHR. Because with an Ultimate Fan Guide, there is plenty to dive into, dissect and discuss.
Which makes Alexander Wall the perfect Bye Week UFGer. Lots of great insight here, and he used the word “stratospheric” which gets instant respect from me!
Week 9: BYE WEEK
MHR - FINALLY a win!!! There were three amazing offensive series and six kinda bad ones. The defense had mostly all good series. What were your thoughts of the team in the London game?
Alexander Wall: It was rough, but they got it done. Frankly, it didn’t look different than most of our other games this season except they finished a few drives with more points than they have been, plus guys came down with critical conversions. And with a defense like this, that’s enough.
MHR - Russell Wilson looked terrible on the first two series, but he definitely showed great signs of life during those three touchdown drives. How are you feeling overall about Russell Wilson this season? Given the results so far this season, was he worth the price?
Alexander Wall: Oof. It was costly, and things haven’t lived up to mainstream expectations, but I personally wasn’t expecting a fast start - even with all the talent and the forgiving first-half schedule.
On the other hand, it’s hard to spend too much on a franchise QB that can still get it done. He can, but he’s got to get more consistent. I was bemoaning Manning’s slow start too at first; but it’s a new environment, new teammates, and a new offense. It’s not like it was going to happen instantly then, and it surely isn’t now. That was a big takeaway for me from the Manning era.
MHR - After the bye, the team that trots out onto the field will have two new faces and will have lost one very familiar one. George Paton told the media the deal for Bradley Chubb (first-round pick, a fourth and an RB) was too good to pass up and would have happened regardless of the record. Do you agree?
Alexander Wall: Yes. We had to recoup picks somewhere. If it’s with a guy that had no guarantee to be a Bronco next season, playing at a level we’ve only seen once in four years (as a rook opposite #58), and you get a team silly enough to offer you the same round pick you spent on him (though not equivalent), plus some extra cheese? You take that deal every time.
It’s a bummer, though, because I feel like he was mostly hampered by injury the last few years and was finally coming alive, but it is what it is.
MHR - Paton also indicated they like the offense and don’t want to lose any WRs (hinting at some confidence in Wilson) so no deals on Jerry Jeudy or KJ Hamler. Put on your GM hat, what do you think of ALL these moves?
Alexander Wall: When you spend that much on a guy, you want to give him every opportunity to succeed. So you keep those weapons. We need an O-Line too… but when healthy, Russ is a scrambler that can make teams pay for extended plays. So you keep the talent and kick the wheels on FA linemen until you can draft some.
We’ve got a lot of unique weapons. None of our RB/WR/TEs are alike, and it’s not like guys haven’t been getting open. The potential is there if it can all come together at the same time, as we saw more this week. If I’m the GM I ride this out and do what I can to address other weaknesses whenever there’s a reasonable opportunity.
MHR - Play calling was less head-scratching in the Jaguars game, but the team still had so many dumb penalties (delay of game on the …punt unit???) Should we be done with these ‘growing pains’ yet? What high hopes do you have for the second half of the season with this team, coaching staff?
Alexander Wall: I don’t know. The play calls all looked really similar to me from past games; we just executed a little better and had fewer balls bounce the wrong way. Guys also made plays at critical times when they weren’t before.
Don’t get me started on penalties. It’s twofold with the refs being inconsistent this year in our games and also Denver being sloppy and deserving of too many. Even if the bad calls are reversed, we’re still committing way too many.
Granted we’d probably have a few more wins, but bad calls were not the biggest reason for most of our losses.
Good point from @ndjomo76 to me just now. Outside of those three good drives, the Broncos had 4 total first downs and one of those was the clinching 4th and 1 at the end of the game.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) October 31, 2022
It's the same offense, unfortunately. Hope they work on the three-and-out issue during bye....
MHR - Melvin Gordon. Latavius Murray. Chase Edmonds. Can this trio push the running game enough to make some noise?
Alexander Wall: No. It isn’t about them. This is zone running. Great backs will run for 2k yards, but decent ones can still get half that. This line needs to win blocks together and get defenses sideways. Too much mixed-depth on flat feet (whether it’s bad push or defensive power), but backs in this system need to read momentum and make cuts. MG could be a 100-yards per game rusher in this system if it was clicking. Sadly this is on the O-Line and will take time to get good as a unit. Especially if you lose a starter almost every game.
MHR - The offensive line is now missing Lloyd Cushenberry, making Dalton Risner the lone starter left. With the Broncos’ first-round pick this year, would you like to see them go offensive line or is there another position (i.e. “you can never have too many edge rushers”) you’d like to see targeted with that new first-round pick?
Alexander Wall: I’ve been mocking OTs with my top pick the last few years and IOL in mid-rounds, but it’s kind of a crapshoot that you just have to pour resources into, and we haven’t. This game is won and lost in the trenches. I am a defense first and OL second kind of guy. You can’t win the big game (or really even get there) without a defense, and exceptions to this rule are anomalies.
Also, even if you do have one, you aren’t winning without an offensive line you can trust once in a while to get just one more yard or hold back the pass rush that extra half-second to convert critical third downs, and I’m not sure we still have that. Spend the picks George, we need more young talent. You’ve found one good one, but we need more.
MHR - The defense - despite some gashing runs - has been incredibly solid even with so many injuries to key players (Randy Gregory, Justin Simmons, Caden Sterns, Josey Jewell, Baron Browning, etc.) What excites you about this group? What does it need in the offseason to be a complete D?
Alexander Wall: Nothing. This defense is complete and young. I’d like to see Paton continue to bring in character guys with high talent who may have questionable film with his late round picks and kicking the tires on FA castoffs to keep fresh depth and push the starters, but we have everything we need. We’re lacking nothing and have some young risers with guys like Sterns, Locke, Mathis, lots of good young LBs and dudes in the front four with potential. The one thing it needs this off-season is to not lose Evero.
MHR - FInally a punter with some impressive hang time! How much of a difference-maker has Corliss Waitman been this season (even if it mostly goes unnoticed)?
Alexander Wall: Good punting doesn’t go unnoticed when your offense is as anemic as ours. Many may forget that Martin was no slouch when Paton moved on. It was a good move and every little bit helps. Waitman has been solid and could become an ace over time. I like him, and he’s been critical to staying in games while our offense has had major growing pains.
Born in Belgium— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 5, 2022
Raised in the Netherlands
Went to college in Mobile, Alabama @CWaitman87 reflects on his international childhood, a promising start to his Broncos career & more » https://t.co/TZMcZCMoql pic.twitter.com/rrtweogxGj
MHR - Patrick Surtain is looking more and more like Champ Bailey. Think any Broncos fan wants to argue now that Denver should have passed on him in the draft (and opted for a QB)?
Alexander Wall: There will always be some. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some PS2, and he is killing it as an emerging lockdown corner, but he doesn’t hold a candle to Champ yet. I am not convinced that Pat is a scrapper and will play up against the run when needed. He’s had moments, but he’s had some misses too. If you can find a lowlight of 24 missing an open-field tackle I’d be shocked (maybe he had one or two). Champ was a football player and did it all. PS2 is a savvy young “vet”, but we need to see more aggressive tackling on runners, because that’s his next level. When nobody wants to throw at you, you need to get really good at anticipation and reads and coming up to make a play against the run because that’s what teams do when they know they can’t throw against you.
MHR - How much of a superstar is Ejiro Evero around the league right now do you think? Is it going to be hard for Denver to hold onto him as DC? What have you liked most about the defense this season?
Alexander Wall: I don’t doubt he’d get scooped up in a heartbeat, but I do get the feeling the league is starting to understand that HC is a different gig than OC/DC. Not every up-and-coming phenom coordinator is HC material. However, if I was going to roll the dice on a guy, I’d roll them on Evero. He came in and this defense didn’t lose a step. Injuries have barely rattled them. Mostly though, his second-half adjustments have been masterful. I’ve seen only a handful of defensive minds call games this good and this consistently, and the names of guys who have are NFL lore. I may be in the minority hoping Hackett still works out, but if he doesn’t - keep Ejiro and let him go pick his OC. This dude is legit.
MHR - At this point in the season, give some grades for the following. Add as much or as little explanation with it!
Russell Wilson: C- It hasn’t been all his fault but he’s missed too many reads and misplaced too many throws for his level of experience and talent. So far I’m chalking that up to finding a new rhythm in a totally different offense, but if he doesn’t start figuring it out in a few more weeks I’ll really be worried about what we spent to go get him.
Offensive linemen: C? It’s a hard scheme to learn and nobody has been healthy, so I’m tempted to give them like a B+, but on pure effectiveness it’s been an abysmal D-, so I’m averaging the two.
Melvin Gordon: D? He didn’t win the job in a scheme he’s more experienced in (not sure he was allowed to), the critical fumbles were brutal, and the OC is showing about zero confidence in him despite what’s being said. I don’t know what the issue is and maybe it isnt MG at all - but if it wasn’t, weve had too many injuries for him not to get utilized more. Something is off.
Latavius Murray: Too early to grade.
All WRs: C- The splash plays are fun but catch the dang ball and fight through PI or you’re never going to get a flag. Reminds me of when we had rough stretches with Thomas, Decker, Julius & Co. Great talent means squat if you’re getting held. Gotta fight through it to make it more obvious for refs and just be clutch on critical downs to keep drives alive. This group needs to do better. They don’t get a D because sometimes they’re wide open and Russ doesn’t even see them.
Greg Dulcich: Too early to grade, but he’s showing good signs.
Kareem Jackson: B, Solid, but showing signs of slowdown. Glad we’re seeing our young safety corps excel.
PS2: A, will be an A+ if he can keep tackling aggressively like he showed signs of the last couple games. Champ was a generational talent. I’m not fully convinced this kid is as good of a football player. He seems just as smart and with near-equal coverage ability and athleticism… but I won’t buy the comparisons to Bailey until he makes better solo tackles in the open field.
Justin Simmons: Easy A, when healthy he’s the best safety in the game if you combine ability, experience, and character.
Dre’Mont Jones: B. Solid and gaining momentum.
Dre'Mont Jones posted 7 tackles, 3 TFL and 1 sack in the Broncos' win over the Jaguars — and he's been named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time in his career.— Aric DiLalla (@AricDiLalla) November 2, 2022
He's the first Broncos DL to post that stat line since 2013 and the first Bronco since Von in 2018.
DJ Jones: A+ This dude is a monster. He’s no Aaron Donald, but who else is? For what we paid, he’s worth every penny and I’d sign two more of him if he were a triplet.
Jonas Griffith: A. I was worried about the ILB position coming into this year but Griffith has been a surprise and he hasn’t been 100% all season. Love this dude. He’s got grit and talent.
Baron Browning: B+ Similar to Jonas, his emergence as a starting quality player is a surprise. I’ve been a fan of his at ILB but wasn’t expecting him to show up so fast on the edge (just noticed the pun while editing, and I’m keeping it). If he keeps improving without Chubb drawing attention, he’ll be graded higher come December.
Randy Gregory: A. When healthy I’d argue he was the most influential pass rusher in the league per snap. This guy coming back will erase the loss of Chubb almost completely, because when we had them both on the field QBs could hardly breathe in the pocket, let alone throw the ball into the endzone.
Nik Bonitto: ? I’m not sure. I need to see more, and with Chubb gone, I’m sure I will soon.
Jonathon Cooper: No grade, but this guy is my dark horse. I loved him last year and he’s been buried behind higher dollar and higher round guys. He hasn’t gotten many opportunities on critical downs, but I still like his long term potential.
MHR - How would you grade Nathaniel Hackett? The three coordinators? The GM
Alexander Wall: Hackett? Not good. But realistically? Not bad either. Look, we haven’t been winning, that’s the bottom line. But he’s young, signed to a big time gig for a big time franchise. With what Paton has built (stellar) and the new owners and prying away Russ, the expectations from fans were stratospheric, and very unrealistic for the true circumstances. It’s hard to win in this league even for long-standing coaches with loaded teams. We’ve played half our games under primetime spotlights and even on an international stage. That’s rough, and truly the fumbles on the goaline in game one felt like a spell of terrible luck. Just like the opening snap of SB48. It just caused a funk that we haven’t fully shaken.
The team has been so close and in every game. That’s hard to do in today’s league, but it’s still a bunch of losses and that ain’t good.
If things don’t start to jive by week 12, I’ll officially be worried. The defense won’t last any longer than that if they’re on the field as much as they have been. The offense has got to relieve some pressure before they bring this defense and the whole coaching staff down with them. It irks me because I see the potential and the play designs and the “almost”s, and it’s still so early for him as a brand new HC.
He’s getting better, but I’d hate to cling too tightly to that hope and scare off our DC for greener pastures. I’d like to keep seeing Hackett grow, but not at the expense of losing Ejiro.
MHR - Which players would be your midseason MVPs on offense? Defense? ST?
Alexander Wall: Offense? Nobody. Nobody has been consistently on-point and worthy of being an MVP on that side of the ball.
Defense? Who can I leave out? Heck even our depth guys have had to step up and have played well. It’s night and day between those two units.
STs has played so much better as a unit compared to the last decade. They’ve had some gaffs this year but most STs do at times. Again, Waitman looks great. Drafting Washington also looks legitimate even with hindsight.
Which in totality is what’s strange - that 2/3s of the team is showing strong signs of good coaching.
But the offense continues struggling to play as a unit, and seems to lack quality coaching. It doesn’t look to me like it’s play design. The play calling hasn’t been great, but it hasn’t been terrible either (not if you factor in wide open receivers who weren’t seen, or who dropped the ball, or the QB sacked in a heartbeat). Penalties have been brutal and lots of critical no calls as well.
It’s seriously weird that the offense doesn’t have more points to show at this point in the season. So it actually seems like Hackett is doing okay when you truly weigh all of that. I think people knowing he is calling plays on offense and the fact that they are not scoring points is really influencing things.
If you evaluate the entire team and situation, Hackett is actually doing a good job as a head coach… correcting his game management mistakes, keeping the team together, weathering the insane scrutiny and wild expectations. It’s the lack of results on offense which have been letting winnable games slip out of our grasp that is undermining an otherwise respectable beginning.
I’m almost certain I’m a minority on that perspective, but hey, I’m just calling it how I see it.
Denver Broncos advanced defensive ranks in 2021, with Vic Fangio, one of the greatest defensive minds ever: 20th in DVOA, 14th in EPA/play, 32 in pass rush win rate— Zach Segars (@Zach_Segars) November 5, 2022
Denver Broncos advanced defensive ranks in 2022, with Ejiro Evero: 1st in DVOA, 1st in EPA/play, 2nd in PRWR
Strike this whole section out, I’m long-winded as it is, and predictions are practically worthless. Especially mine.
Passing yards, passing TDs, rushing yards for Russell Wilson by season’s end? Total yards and touchdowns for the RBs (Gordon, Murray, Edmonds)? Total yards and touchdowns caught in the WRs (Sutton, Jeudy, Hamler)? Team totals for sacks, INTs and forced fumbles by season’s end? Who gets the most sacks for the team by Week 18? Who ends up with the most tackles? How many non- TD-scoring drives will the Broncos face the final half of the season?
Okay, I’ll do the last one, because I feel it must be addressed…
Final record this season? It’s all about momentum. The upcoming Titans game is critical…
If we win we’ll go 10-7 and be 3-3 in the West, probably nab a wildcard.
However, If we lose to them we’ll go 5-12 and our fanbase will lose their minds.
I don’t see much of a middle ground because of how we started the season. When you look at what’s left and you think about a win next week I can see us rolling and dropping just Baltimore and in Arrowhead. If we lose, the “illusion” of us being competitive will be zapped away and this team is young enough to get in a REAL funk and maybe only spoil-shock one good team that overlooks them or pick off a couple moral victories against the few truly lesser opponents.
Favorite John Elway win outside of the Super Bowls? I’m not very young, but too young to appreciate Elway prior to the Super Bowl wins. I was around 12 years old for the first one and was just learning about football back then.
Favorite Broncos win ever? So many to choose from, but it’s hard to not pick a game I got to see in person. I was at the overtime win against the bears with Tebow-Time going beyond incalculable odds. Some obnoxious Bears fans in front of us were joking about the boys and girls club kids throwing balls further than Tebow during the halftime show. But we got the last laugh because they left before the game even went into true overtime. The inevitability of victory saturated the stadium and it was thrilling to watch it unfold against what should have been impossible.
Favorite Broncos win since SB50? So my options are limited here… Probably our shutout of the Jets in 2017 to snap the 8-game losing streak. It’s hard to remember any flash in the pan offensive successes too fondly, because we just can figure it out on offense so even the few high scoring affairs feel hollow in retrospect. I love pitching a shutout and our defense has long been good and that is my side of the ball. So that’s the one I’d pick.
Favorite Peyton Manning win? The crazy comeback against the Chargers. It changed the entire trajectory of that season. So exciting. Was the perfect storm of Manning and Mile-High-Magic.
Team you love to beat the most in the AFC West? Raaaaaiders. Can’t stand the fans, but I blame that on myself for being foolish enough to orange and blue in Oakland Coliseum during my short stint away from Colorado. It was when Cutler and Eddie Royal torched them to start the year. Fortunately the stadium was two-thirds empty by halftime so we were able to change seats and clothes (after getting food thrown at us for 3 quarters) since a nice lady leaving a few rows back told us some guys were planning to follow us to our car after the game. We made it out alive, but I had my doubts. Haha. (*editor’s note: I have a similar story...those Raiders fans are THE. WORST...and it’s not even close).
Coach you laugh at the most in the NFL? Oh wow. There are lots of entertaining moments, but I can’t see Bill in his sleeveless hoodie and not chuckle (dude is a defensive genius though).
Coach you most want to throw an egg at? None. The lofty expectations, cold blooded business, and insane media scrutiny makes for a mountain of stress that can’t be mathematically quantified. Even the worst of them have my respect. I’d never want their job.
Team you hate to lose to the most in the rest of the AFC? It’s gotta be the Jets, Browns, or Bengals. I mean they are decent now… but historically I feel like if you can’t beat those teams you’re not making the playoffs. Right?
NFC team you could cheer for in the Super Bowl? I used to say the Seahawks because they once were an AFC team (so I’d never have to root for the real NFC), but the Legion of Boom and the SB48 collapse forever ruined that for me. Rooting against the AFC rep feels awful to me… unless it was TB12 with the Pats (pretty sure I was rooting for the NFC most of the past two decades, as a matter of fact).
NFC team you want to face more than any other in the Super Bowl? Any from our crushing losses, for redemption, but probably the 49ers the most because Seattle is still too fresh.
Favorite game looking forward to this season? The next one. It will define our season. A win brings hope and a loss will crush what little remains for the fairweather fans. We diehards will keep watching and cheering, but the players will feel it when the wider fanbase gives up. Too many boo-birds showing up these days. I’ve never liked that, even when they are playing bad enough to deserve it. It just isn’t classy.
Easiest game left on the schedule? Arizona at home. It’s our only home game left outside the AFC West. So… that’s gotta be it right?
Toughest game left on the schedule? Arrowhead… hands down.
#Broncos GM George Paton's draft hits since 2021:— Zack Kelberman (@KelbermanNFL) November 2, 2022
• CB Pat Surtain — starter
• RB Javonte Williams — starter
• RG Quinn Meinerz — starter
• OLB Baron Browning — starter
• TE Greg Dulcich — starter
• CB Damarri Mathis — starter
• WR Montrell Washington — starter
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? #33 was on 95% of my mock drafts last year. The rest of the time I was trading back to amass picks. I was even eyeing him late in the first. Love his attitude, demeanor, and running style. Was shocked and beyond elated when we traded up for him.
Favorite Broncos player of all time not named John Elway? Champ. It’s sacrilege, but I like him better than Elway. TD is tied with Bailey for me too, but I’m a defense guy so it has to go to 24.
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Not new or a rookie, but I’ll cheat and say Browning. I loved the pick and wasn’t sure how/where he’d flourish. The new move to edge has been eye-popping. Like, he’s no Von Miller, but on rare flashes I have to double check the number sometimes.
Food/Snack you have to eat on game day? I am neither superstitious nor routine, so I don’t have one. Unfortunately the last six years I feel like I’m always eating humble pie, despite my objections to that.
Favorite game analyst/commentator? Tony Romo. He’s fun and super smart.
Which sports cliche best describes the Broncos? “If they could just get out of their own way…”
How did you choose your MHR handle? The long-timers might remember me as USMCWall, which I picked cause “once a Marine, always” ya know? But now it’s just my boring ‘ole name. (*editor’s note: thank you for your service!)
If YOU were giving a tour of the Ring of Fame at Mile High, which players would you make sure to highlight in your talk? Not a player, but Pat Bowlen. After that Rod Smith, Atwater, TD, Champ. They love (not past tense) this team and this city and never left any questions about what they would give to win for the guys bleeding next to them. They were culture guys, character guys, and that’s infinitely more valuable than accomplishments, trophies, or stats. There were more before them, but I didn’t get to know them like I did those four.
How did you become a Broncos fan?
I saw Atwater knock himself and two other people out in some important game at a friend’s house against a bunch of cheeseheads as a young boy and wondered what kind of chaos was on the Telly.
I got into football back then but not necessarily the Broncos. I was in the military by the time I really got into football and couldn’t really catch the games of the home team living on the road. But I dove in hard around 2005 & 2006, and the shocking firing of Shanahan shortly after brought me to MHR for answers and insight.
I’ve been here ever since, bleeding orange and blue because my broncos goggles are strapped on way too tight.
Agree/Disagree with Alexander Wall on critical nature of Titans game coming after the Bye?
This poll is closed
Agree 100% - We’ll know what this team is made of.
Not feeling it - Titans are going to be tough; I’m more interested in how they respond to playing Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders again.