I have given you five Broncos players who I think could be breakout stars during camp and also five players who could be on the roster bubble and will be fighting for their roster spots during camp. Now, we are going to discuss the five players who have the most to prove during the upcoming training camp practices
I honestly could make this list 10 players long, if not more, after last season's disappointing outcome, but I narrowed it down to five players. This list will be offensive-heavy since all eyes will be on their improvement under new head coach and offensive guru Sean Payton. If the Denver Broncos want to be successful this upcoming season, they will need multiple offensive players to step up and improve their play from last year. So, with all that said, here are the five Broncos players who I think have the most to prove during training camp.
Quarterback Russell Wilson
This is an obvious one. The Broncos made a big historic trade for Russell Wilson last year and he came to the team with really high expectations. Unfortunately, he ended up having the worst season of his career and missed multiple games due to injury. Many were wondering or proclaiming that Wilson is “washed” and the Broncos got hosed by the Seahawks in that historic trade. Now, with the Broncos hiring head coach and offensive/quarterback guru Sean Payton, the expectation is that he will help get Wilson back to his former self and if he cannot do it, nobody can.
Now, Russ enters his second training camp with the Broncos and has to prove himself to the fans, his teammates, and most importantly, head coach Sean Payton. He has to prove that last year was a fluke and that he can reestablish himself as one of the better quarterbacks in the league. We have already seen him lose a considerable amount of weight this offseason which should help bring back his mobility that was lacking last year. Now, we need to see him look better as a passer, read the field better, and just quit with all the cringe stuff that gets him killed by the media.
This is a make-or-break year for Russell Wilson. The honeymoon period is over and Sean Payton is running this team. If Wilson does not prove to him that he can be the guy to lead this team, he will move on from him and find someone else. So, Wilson needs to start off on the right foot and have himself a strong training camp and begin to start proving the doubters wrong. Of course, he needs to continue it throughout the season, but one step at a time. If not, we could see Jarrett Stidham playing some football for this team sooner rather than later.
Running back Javonte Williams
As we know, Javonte Williams suffered a serious knee injury during the Broncos' week four game vs. the Raiders. He tore multiple ligaments and this obviously ended his season but also put his future in doubt. Would he be ready for the season? Would he have to miss a portion of the season, or would he come back from this major injury at all? Many assumed the worst here, but despite these odds, Williams was on the practice field for day one of the OTA practices. He then went through the entire offseason program without any setbacks (that we know of) and head coach Sean Payton has told reporters that he is optimistic that Williams will avoid the PUP to start camp. This is incredible news, but Williams still has a lot to prove moving forward
Despite suffering a major knee injury last year, #Broncos RB Javonte Williams is already back and appears to be ready for the start of training camp.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) June 18, 2023
Having a healthy Javonte Williams will be a huge boost for the Broncos' offense. https://t.co/93SSblQyuf
While it is great that Williams is this far ahead of schedule, he still has to prove that his knee is fully healthy. This injury usually takes at least a full year (if not more) to fully recover from and he is still months away from that mark. So, how good he looks and how much work he does early in camp will be telling.
The big thing he needs to prove is that he can take hits, keep his knees moving through contact and just be the bowling ball that he was prior to this injury. We really will not see this during camp, but it will be interesting to see how much work he gets when the pads come on and what he does during the preseason. The mental side of it is also something we need to think about and evaluate. Does he trust that his knee will hold up through the violence? Will he run full speed, prove he did not lose any burst or explosiveness, and continue to make cuts without any issue?
If healthy and setback-free, Williams will be a difference-maker for the Broncos and this offense this upcoming season. He gives the Broncos a true three-down back and a violent runner who can punch it in for a score or get that short yardage if needed. We just need him to prove that he is a freak and somehow this far ahead of schedule without any setbacks. If not, we could see a veteran back added to add some insurance moving forward.
Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy
You could put any of the Broncos receivers on this list, but I decided to go with Jeudy. He is the Broncos' number one receiver, their most dynamic receiver, and potentially their future at the position. His career thus far with the Broncos has had its highs and lows and we have not seen him reach the heights of Justin Jefferson and Ceedee Lamb who were all drafted after him. However, he finished the end of the 2022 season looking like the receiver we all thought he could be and now enters camp with high expectations and the hopes of flourishing under head coach Sean Payton.
At his youth camp today, Jerry Jeudy told reporters what he needs to do is stay consistent.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) June 28, 2023
"I'm capable of playing at a high level and it showed the last six games. Only thing now is bringing those last six games into the new year."
As Jeudy said recently, he played at a high level at the end of last season, but now he needs to bring that into this season, starting with training camp. If he is the number one receiver as we all believe, Sean Payton is going to feature him in this offense. When he was the Saints head coach, he fed targets to his top receivers and we saw Michael Thomas lead the league in targets in a season. So, if Jeudy continues this type of play, he is going to see the ball come his way early and often.
The problem is, we have yet to see Jeudy consistently put it together for a full season. Either, he has dealt with injuries that have sidelined him for weeks, or he has had to deal with poor quarterback play around him. We need to see Jeudy have a strong camp and make plays consistently against corner Patrick Surtain II and others throughout camp. We need him to stay healthy, catch the ball, and just prove that the end of last season was not a fluke and that he is ready to break out this season under Sean Payton.
Edge rusher Randy Gregory
Gregory was brought in last offseason to be the replacement for Von Miller who they traded away to the Los Angeles Rams at the trade deadline. The former Cowboys edge rusher has dealt with off-the-field issues that led to suspensions and nagging injuries throughout his career, but the Broncos were hoping that those would all be behind him moving forward. Unfortunately for the Broncos, the injury bug once again bit Gregory and he was sidelined for most of the season.
#Broncos placed OLB Randy Gregory (back) on IR. Gregory, who signed this off-season as a free agent, finishes the season: 6 games, 2 forced fumbles, 2 sacks.— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) December 31, 2022
Gregory ended up just playing six games for the Broncos and totaling just two sacks for them after receiving a large contract from the team. Add the poor production with the injuries and punching a Rams player on Christmas and it was a very disappointing season for Gregory.
Now, unlike last year, he enters training camp healthy and needs to have a bounce-back season for the Broncos if they want to be successful on defense. He flashed dominant play prior to his injury and has flashed that sort of play throughout his career, but he has yet to do it consistently for a full season. We need him to prove that he can stay healthy and be a dominant pass rusher for the Broncos. This all starts at training camp. We need him to make it through without any injuries and be a disruptive force during the practices. Otherwise, these doubts will continue, and hell, they may continue regardless, but a lot of eyes will be on Gregory.
Cornerback Damarri Mathis
Now, unlike the others on this list, he is not coming off a serious injury and/or poor play. The second-year corner is coming off a promising rookie season where we saw growth throughout the year and some high-level play at times as well. However, with him playing opposite of All-Pro corner Patrick Surtain II, he needs to prove that he can continue to grow and play well because he is going to be tested each and every week.
Damarri Mathis through 6 games:— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) November 10, 2022
• 202 coverage snaps
• 0 TD allowed
The Broncos rookie CB has been SHUTDOWN in the red zone pic.twitter.com/hXDhfEZoWi
Mathis will enter camp as the Broncos' number two corner and is coming off an offseason where the team did not add very much to push him for that job. They did draft Riley Moss in the third round, but it will be surprising if he pushes Mathis for the starting job at this point. So, Mathis received a vote of confidence from the Broncos but now, he has to prove himself once again.
He needs to go out there and prove that he is ready to be the Broncos' number two corner and showcase some sticky coverage throughout camp. If he struggles and/or gets hurt, we could have some issues at the cornerback position. The unit lacks proven depth and is full of inexperienced players who have not started many or any games during their careers. So, Mathis playing well and continuing to show growth will be huge for the Broncos' defense.
He figures to be tested often throughout camp and will be covering the Broncos top receivers each practice, so we should get our answer here fairly early into camp.