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How big an impact can Russell Wilson make for the Broncos?

Will the 9-time Pro Bowler live up to expectations in Denver?

There’s no question the Denver Broncos had perhaps the most transformational offseason of any team in the NFL this year. By acquiring Russell Wilson in a trade for eight players and draft picks, George Paton created Super expectations for a team that finished fourth in their division a year ago. So it does seem fair to wonder if Wilson can live up to the hype.

To get an outside perspective on what Wilson means to the Broncos going forward I reached out to QB historian Ryan Michael, who I’ve known since my days contributing to Monday Morning Quarterback’s Andy Benoit.

1st and 10

The Broncos gave up eight players and picks to acquire Russell Wilson. Do you believe the trade was justified? Did George Paton pay too much?

Michael: I find it difficult to object to most aggressive pursuits of great quarterbacks. We’re not talking about a high-risk/high-reward draft selection. Russell Wilson isn’t an unknown commodity, he’s one of the greatest players in NFL history—and I’m not being hyperbolic when saying that.

A 9x Pro Bowl selection in 10 seasons, a 2x legitimate MVP contender (2017, 2020), with more career touchdown passes than Joe Montana (292 to 273), whose leading career touchdown recipient is Tyler Lockett (45), coming off a “down” season that saw him finish 2021 ranked 4th in passer rating (103.1), 5th in YPA (7.8) and 4th in Y/C (12.0).

Yeah, Wilson is all of those things and more.

2nd and 9

How do you see Wilson fitting into the Nathaniel Hackett offense? Do you think he can bounce back from the first injury marred season of his career? Who do you see emerging as WR1 and what can we expect from the Broncos’ supporting cast?

Michael: Wilson’s style compliments Hackett’s scheme, one that saw great success under Aaron Rodgers. While I have Rodgers ranked as the 6th greatest quarterback in Pro Football History (Wilson’s 23rd, for anyone interested), Hackett’s 3-year run as Offensive Coordinator produced just as many league MVP awards as Tom Brady’s 2010-2021.

Rodgers of 2015-2018 was a shell of his former self (an incredibly high floor, for what it’s worth), whose efficiency spiked tremendously under Hackett.

Can Wilson bounce back from injury? He already did in a sense, last year. Over the final 7 games of 2021, Wilson completed 64.6% of his passes, averaged 7.4 YPA, tossed 15 touchdowns to 3 interceptions—good for a 104.7 passer rating. If that’s how he plays sore, it’s reasonable to ask ourselves how well he’ll play when healthy.

Who will emerge as WR1? Well, Jeudy’s frame (6-1, 193) isn’t unlike Lockett’s (5-10, 182). Chad Johnson predicts 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns, which may be a little ambitious, but we’ll see.

3rd and 18

Russell Wilson’s averaged about 3,700 passing yards 29 touchdowns, and a little under 9 interceptions a season in his 10-year career to date. Does it seem reasonable to expect that his first year in Denver?

Michael: I expect to see an uptick in interceptions. Learning a new system, playing under a new head coach and adapting to a new team isn’t going to present itself without growing pains.

Also, Wilson’s set the bar so high, regression is to be expected, if we’re being reasonable. At the end of the day, it’s really going to come down to how well the rest of his teammates perform. Denver has a lot of potential this season, but Wilson isn’t getting Mahomes’ 2018 Chiefs or Brady’s 2020 Buccaneers.

4th and 10

One of the big concerns about Wilson is that he turns 34 this November. His game is built around his ability to make plays outside of structure in part because his height hurts his ability to attack the middle of the field from within the pocket. Do you think it’s reasonable for Broncos fans to hope for Wilson to be a 5+ year answer under center?

Michael: You can flip a coin on that one, because I do feel that age, height and potential for injury are all legitimate concerns.

Wilson’s play-making ability ranks amongst the greatest of all-time. It’s an asset that can’t be taught and can be nearly impossible to defend. Trust me, defenders are still trying to figure this guy out.

Wilson and Drew Brees both defied conventional expectations pertaining to what we expect from quarterbacks under 6-1. Their historic, dominant success in my opinion, came about in spite of their physical stature.

What that means is: they’re even greater than most people realize because to dominate the position at a level few have ever matched, without the advantage of greater height and field-vision, meant that their football I.Q. and precision had to out-match NFL defenses game after game, season after season.

Ask Trevor Lawrence if he’d like to trade 6-6 for 5-11 and see how much it might have impacted his success at Clemson.

Wilson, like Peyton Manning before him, is one of the most intelligent and driven players to ever play the position.

For all of Denver’s scattered strengths, they’ve long been an organization dependent upon quarterbacking greatness to compete with stronger teams who display greater balance on both sides of the football.

We never got to see their 2013 offense team up with their 2015 defense. But what if something similar to their 2021 defense (ranked 3rd in PPG) were you to be paired with an all-time great quarterback and a head coach whose proven he can improve the efficiency of a Hall of Fame quarterback?

That’s the hope Joe and September can’t come soon enough.


Will Russell Wilson be an MVP finalist in 2022?

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