The Denver Broncos had a disappointing season and they did so in an historic way. Their defense was so good that if the offense had scored just 18 points in every game they’d have one of the best records in football. So it was not surprising that when ESPN released their 100 most valuable players of 2022, the only Broncos’ players on the list were from the defensive side of the ball.
28. Pat Surtain II, CB, Broncos
Measuring defensive backs partly requires evaluating the absence of action because deterring targets is a skill. That’s exactly what Surtain did. With a 12.5% target rate that was a league-low among corners, no one forced opposing QBs to look another direction more than Surtain.
64. Justin Simmons, S, Broncos
Surtain is a 22 year old second-year player who is already on his way to becoming the Broncos heir to Champ Bailey on the field. He is a true shutdown cornerback. Meanwhile, Simmons was a monster on the field after coming back from injury after the Bye. He racked up five interceptions and forced three fumbles in the final six games. Both players are All Pro talents and cornerstone pieces for this Broncos’ defense for the foreseeable future.
If there was one player I felt ESPN left out, it was the breakout of wide receiver Jerry Jeudy down the stretch. The young player had his ups and downs to start his career, but he finally began to catch fire this season. Jeudy finished with 67 receptions for 972 yards and six touchdowns, but it was the final six games where he shined the most. In those six games he grabbed 37 receptions for 523 yards and three touchdowns.
This is backed up by his mention in ESPN’s article above when they came to Tyreek Hill’s sixth place ranking: “...and 3.7 yards per route run vs. man coverage (second only to the Broncos’ Jerry Jeudy).”
With the head coaching search going through its process now, I can only think Jeudy and the whole offense improves under better coaching and leadership on the sidelines. Maybe this team is finally on the cusp of turning this dumpster fire around.