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Football Outsiders names two boom or bust candidates that will make or break the Broncos season

One player from each side of the ball will impact the Denver Broncos the most in 2022 according to Football Outsiders.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Football Outsiders released its all boom or bust team for 2022 and two Denver Broncos made the list - one on the offense and one on the defense. To make the cut, the player must be a presumed starter on a team that is a playoff contender. So, they think Denver is a playoff contender and I liked reading that after the last six years.

We’ll start with their offensive selection and it came down to center Lloyd Cushenberry.

Center: Lloyd Cushenberry, Denver Broncos

Best-Case Scenario: Cushenberry was a disaster as a rookie in 2020 but looked much better as the Broncos started to quietly fade away late in 2021. If he keeps making progress, he joins Garrett Bolles and Dalton Risner on the best offensive line Russell Wilson has seen since the days of Max Unger and Russell Okung in Seattle.

Worst-Case Scenario: Cushenberry peaks at “good enough to get by” and veteran challenger Graham Glasgow is no better. We all know what Wilson running around behind shaky protection looks like, and while it’s much better than what Broncos fans have gotten used to, it’s not as good as the team is banking upon.

While FO assumed their list contained only players that fans loved to pretend they weren’t worried about, but I don’t think many of us here on this site would put Cush in that category. He has struggled at times and is likely a primary reason why general manager George Paton drafted Luke Wattenberg in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

I agree with the best-case outcome, but if the worst-case rears its head this season they Broncos have enough depth at guard that if Wattenberg isn’t ready to go then veteran Graham Glasgow can easily slide into that center role.

For those reasons, I’m not too concerned about center. Either Cushenberry comes out strong or they tap a fairly deep interior line for an in-season move.

On the defensive side, I was surprised to see FO pick one of the Broncos’ free agent pick ups in interior defensive lineman D.J. Jones.

Defensive Line: D.J. Jones, Denver Broncos

Best-Case Scenario: Jones was quietly effective as a run defender and pass-rusher for the 49ers in 2021. He’ll step right in to replace Shelby Harris this season for a Broncos defense that’s every bit as good as its reputation.

Worst-Case Scenario: Jones turns out to be a good-not-great 30-snap wave defender for a defense that lives down to its below-average 2021 DVOA rating instead of its third-place finish in points allowed in 2021, because the Broncos offense no longer plays tortoise ball against opponents who know that any lead is safe.

Reading over their concerns over Jones it had less do with their belief in his ability to handle 30 snaps a game and more to do with the Broncos defense overperforming massively in 2021 over their expected defensive DVOA.

That is actually a huge question mark for this team heading into the season. Can new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero guide this defense to the type of success it had under Vic Fangio when the chips were down through injury or bad play? That is the biggest question and I am not so sure Jones’s play will factor into it as much as FO suggests here.

What do you think?


Of the two, who is more vital to Broncos success in 2022?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Lloyd Cushenberry
    (701 votes)
  • 46%
    D.J. Jones
    (602 votes)
1303 votes total Vote Now

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