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Why are the Denver Broncos leading the league in players on injured reserve?

A view of how the Denver Broncos compare to the rest of the NFL over the past 10+ seasons.

NFL: International Series-Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos activated two players from the injured reserve (Randy Gregory and Billy Turner), but placed one of the IR this past week (Dre’Mont Jones) and still have a league-leading total of 17 players on the IR currently.

The data in the graphic below was compiled during the middle of last week. From 2012-2017 the Broncos were one of the healthier teams in terms of players on the IR at the end of the regular season. However, if you so by the red column (2018-present) the Broncos go to second worst.

All of the data that I am going to discuss is from

Since the start of the 2018 season, the Broncos have not finished a season with fewer than 13 players on the IR. That was the highest value that the team had from 2012-2017 when they averaged 9 players on the IR at season end.

If you look at the league averages, the Broncos went from healthier than the average team from 2012 to 2017 to much less healthy than the average team 2018-2022 - measuring “health” by players on the IR at at the end of the regular season.

I don’t have a good explanation for this change, but it does correlate strongly to when Loren Landow was hired to be the strength and conditioning coach for the Broncos in 2018..

If you believe that the S&C coach has no influence on the ability of players to avoid season-ending injuries, then this is just a function of bad luck. If you believe that the S&C coach can have a positive effect on this (fewer season-enders), then the Broncos S&C coach 2018-2022 has not been doing a very good job.

It did not look to see if there is a correlation between winning and a low number of season-ending injuries. The Chiefs and the Bills have been been able to avoid large numbers of them recently and both have been highly successful. Obviously, losing critical starters (like the QB) is going to have a larger negative effect on the team than losing the backup free safety to a season-ending injury. IOW, not all season-ending injuries are equally as damaging to the performance of the team.

I should also note that the IR in the NFL has changed during this time period. It used to be that once placed on the IR, a player’s season was over, but now there are IR slots for players who could possibly return to the team later in the season (like Gregory and Turner just did for Denver).


Does this IR data surprise you?

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