With the 2022 season now in the rearview mirror, all attention has turned toward the Walton-Penner ownership group in hopes that the fourth head coach post-Kubiak will FINALLY be the one to stick.
Yet, it’s been covered ad nauseam, so let’s spare the repetitiveness and instead dive into something a little
more fun different.
Yes, it’s time for what stood out most in the Denver Broncos 2022 “football” season, and while there were far more lows than highs throughout the 5-12 campaign, some individual performances still stood out.
Quinn Meinerz, Offensive Guard
Yep, that’s right, that’s how bad the offense was. An interior offensive lineman goes home with the award for most valuable on offense.
Jerry Jeudy came on nice late in the season but was too inconsistent early on. Latavius Murray showed some flashes with some nice games on a nothing-to-play-for team, but he didn’t join the team until around mid-season. Greg Dulcich was considered as well, but his limited on-the-field time went against him, too.
Nay, the one consistently good, or at least above average player on the offense all season was Meinerz. While the rest of his offensive line group couldn’t stop committing penalties and allowing sacks, Meinerz actually was responsible for just three sacks on the season and committed just two penalties, per Pro Football Focus.
Was he perfect? No. But this debacle of an offense had just about every member hitting rock bottom, and the Belly remained consistently effective throughout.
Pat Surtian II, Defensive Back
File this one under “duh,” but the second-year player out of Alabama was named first-team All-Pro by his peers and established himself as one of, if not the, best cover corners in the league.
Unlike linebackers or pass-rushing specialists, there is no specific statistic one can point to, at least not outside of the “advanced” category which no one wants to dive into, but all one has to do is look at other team’s No. 1 wide receivers and how they did against him.
While he began to wear down late in the season, it can hardly be held against him (or anyone on the defense) for having to carry the load for so long.
The body of work thus far from Paton’s first-ever draft pick as general manager has him looking like a defensive home run for years to come.
Rookie of the Year
Greg Dulcich, Tight End
Much more than an athletic-looking version of Weird Al Yankovic, Dulcich turned into one of the few bright spots in a dreadful offense.
He only appeared in 10 games but pulled in 33 catches for 411 yards and two touchdowns. Once activated from the injured reserve, he almost immediately became one of QB Russell Wilson’s favorite targets.
The Broncos parted ways with pass-catching tight end and former first-round pick Noah Fant as part of the Wilson trade, but it appears the team may have actually upgraded with the addition of Dulcich. The right coach should get the very best out of him.
Jerry Jeudy, Wide Receiver
Jeudy has been a bit of a punching bag since being taken first round in 2020, and his start to the season was not doing much to change minds.
After a decent showing in week one, highlighted by a 67-yard reception, he soon got back to his old bad habits, including dropped passes, running the wrong route, and seemingly quitting routes at times before suffering yet another injury in his short career (albeit minor).
Yet, throughout the last five games of the season, something apparently woke up within him, and he finished the season on as strong a note as he could have, compiling 458 yards on 33 catches (including three touchdowns against the Chiefs).
He’d finish the year with career highs in yards (972), receptions (67), and touchdowns (six). And he did nearly half of all that in his final five games.
Ejiro Evero, Defensive Coordinator
Nathaniel Hackett was the biggest head coaching disaster in Denver Broncos history, but he did at least one good deed during his short tenure: he convinced Ejiro Evero to run his defense.
The first-year coordinator kind of got lost in the madness of the offseason additions of Russell Wilson and an offensive-minded head coach, but he soon proved to be the lone competent addition of the offseason.
No matter how awful the offense played week after week, the Broncos seemed to be a play away every game for the first half of the season or so. For that, thank Evero.
Despite all the three-and-outs and follies of the offense, Evero had his guys out for blood as long as he could. Sure, they wore down late in the season, as they are human, but for keeping them fighting as long as he did, he deserves an abundance of credit.
He got career years from players like Alex Singleton, Pat Surtain II, and Bradley Chubb (which allowed the Broncos to get back in the first round of the draft), and all while being a first-year coordinator.
Biggest Reason for Optimism
Walton-Penner Ownership Group
Look, Broncos Country just experienced one of the biggest punches in the guts ever as a fan base.
Have there been worse seasons in the team history? Sure. But unlike recent prior seasons when mediocrity was almost expected, the hiring of Nathaniel Hackett to go along with the trade for superstar Russell Wilson at QB had everyone who pulled for the Broncos doing backflips with excitement.
Yet, not since Rick Vaughn’s transformation in Major League II has there been a more cringeworthy, groan-inducing disappointment. That movie eventually had a happy ending, though. And due to the efforts of the Walton-Penner ownership group, all might not be lost with the Wilson era as well.
Hackett was rightfully let go, for after being woefully unprepared to be head coach, he would ultimately have to hire a game management expert and eventually surrender play calling duties. Insert Office Space meme, “What would you say ya DO here, Bob?”
Ever since that move was made, they have sent notice that this team will settle for nothing less. It seemed that at one point, it was inevitable that Dan Quinn would be the next head coach.
Yawn, but at least he has head coaching experience.
No, Greg Penner is aiming higher than that and is reportedly in great position to potentially land Jim Harbaugh, should he leave Michigan, and even Super Bowl winning head coach Sean Payton, who was reported to favor Denver in a recent report.
In any event, it seems like ownership is done with failure and mediocrity. Let’s hope this is finally, FINALLY, the year it is left in the rearview.
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