Believe it or not, this weekend marks the 10th weekend of the 2023 NFL season, meaning we are past the halfway point of the season.
The Denver Broncos, through their eight contests in that timespan, have had quite the roller coaster of a season, and it’s next to impossible what the direction of that coaster takes in the second half of the season. A playoff push? A top-three pick? Something in between? Anything is possible, but for now, let’s not speculate on the future and rather look at what’s been done thus far.
Here are the superlatives through nine weeks of the NFL season for the Denver Broncos.
Russell Wilson, QB
He is far from the MVP race as far as the league is considered, but for the Broncos and the first-year implementation of Sean Payton’s offensive playbook, Wilson has led the way. He’s been far from perfect, but he’s been more consistent than most, has played mistake-free more often than not (although still needs improvement in certain scenarios), and has made and extended plays he wasn’t doing last season. He has so far thrown 1,613 yards on 66% completion rate with 16 touchdowns, four interceptions, and a 101.7 passer rating, good for fifth in the league. He also has 201 yards on the ground, which nearly equals his total from last year.
Pat Surtain II, DB
The third-year defensive back has had some down moments this year, most notably in the Dolphins fiasco (but who didn’t have down moments that game?), but he is still the most talented and effective player on this now improved defensive unit. When he has been on, he has been on and still possesses the ability to take away an entire half of a field. He is scarcely targeted, and when he is, he makes QBs pay, as he has a team-high eight pass deflections on the year. As the unit continues to improve, expect Surtain’s second to half to challenge his first half success and establish himself as one of the league’s premier corners.
Most Improved - Offense
Javonte Williams, RB
Okay, so the obvious answer is Russell Wilson, but since he’s already locked in on offensive MVP, we’ll go another direction. In that case, Javonte Williams, bouncing back from a devastating injury early last season gets the nod. He was definitely a bit rusty early on in the season, but he also didn’t exactly look RB1 sharp at times pre-injury in the Nathaniel Hackett rein of terror. He has since come on, though, getting 80+ ground yards in back-to-back games and finding the end zone for the first time since 2021. He seems to be getting into a very comfortable groove, especially with young buck Jaleel McLaughlin helping him share the load.
Most Improved - Defense
Nik Bonitto, OLB
After a relatively underwhelming rookie season, Nik Bonitto has really stepped up his game this season. He is really developing into a legitimate pass rusher, and perhaps the absence of not just Bradley Chubb, traded to the Dolphins last season, but also Frank Clark and Randy Gregory, traded this season, has opened up his game. He currently leads the team with 5.5 sacks and has been steadily getting better each game. He has been a big part of the 180 the unit has done in recent weeks, and he will be a vital part of how the team performs the rest of the year.
Most Valuable Newcomer - Offense
Jaleel McLaughlin, RB
The NCAA’s all-time leading rusher wasn’t expected to do much at the NFL level (does that look as weird to the reader as it does to the writer?), going undrafted in the 2023 NFL Draft, but the Broncos took a chance on the undersized speedster and have since found themselves a legit number two running back. McLaughlin has been an excellent number two back, supplanting free agent acquisition Samaje Perine and at times challenging RB1 Williams. He has 89 fewer yards on 52 fewer carries than Williams and is on pace to exceed 500 yards rushing, and is doing it on 7.1 yards per carry. The Broncos seem to always find a diamond in the rough once in a while, and it appears they struck gold once again.
Most Valuable Newcomer - Defense
Ja’Quan McMillian, DB
Okay, this is a bit of a cheat, as he did appear in a game last season, but the undrafted rookie out of East Carolina has been a huge part of the Broncos defense this season and is currently graded as the highest-graded Broncs player of the year by Pro Football Focus at 82.1. He has two deflected passes and has picked off Pat Mahomes, something that wasn’t exactly expected of him this season. Here’s hoping he keeps it up.
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