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The Broncos were much healthier in 2023 than in any recent season

With only 9 players on the IR at season end and 3 who were put there after week 17 or 18, the Broncos remained mostly free from serious injuries during the 2023 season

Las Vegas Raiders vs. Denver Broncos during week 18 of NFL season Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The blue tent shown in the leading photo was a very frequent sight on the Denver Broncos sideline in 2022 and in many of the previous season, but it was not as frequently seen in 2023. Injuries were a big factor in the Broncos finishing 5-12 in 2022.

Mike McGlinchey was placed on the IR during Week 18 of the season. Delarrin Turner-Yell and Dwayne Washington were placed there during Week 17. They joined six other Broncos on the IR at the end of the season:

  1. K’Waun Williams (week 0)
  2. Caden Sterns (week 2)
  3. Greg Dulcich (week 7)
  4. Tim Patrick (preseason)
  5. Jonas Griffith (preseason)
  6. Jalen Virgil (preseason)

This is a far cry from how injured the Broncos were in 2022. By my count they ended the season with 23 players on the injured reserve, although ourlads.com only shows 21 (they showed 23 on that site at this time last year). They were still the most injured team in the league in 2022, but having only 9 players finish the season on IR moved the Broncos to only the third most injured team (by this metric) over the last six seasons. I should note that Tim Patrick, Jonas Griffith and Greg Dulcich ended 2022 AND 2023 on the IR.

The teams with the fewest players on the IR as of today are the Bears and Buccaneers with three. Only the 2020 Falcons had a season with fewer (two) during this twelve year span. Ourlads has data going back to 2007, but I did not go back further than 2012. At the end of the 2007 season the Broncos had eleven players on the IR:

  1. Stephen Alexander
  2. Ebenezer Ekuban
  3. Nick Ferguson
  4. Ben Hamilton
  5. Warrick Holdman
  6. Nate Jackson
  7. Jarvis Moss
  8. Tom Nalen
  9. Doug Neihuis
  10. Lamont Reid
  11. Rod Smith

Nine is fairly small number for the Broncos historically. Six is the fewest (2013) and here are the years for the Broncos that are not in the table below

  • 2011 - 7
  • 2010 - 11
  • 2009 - 7
  • 2008 - 12
  • 2007 - 11

The Jets and the team in Washington DC are the only two teams who have had a higher average number of players on the IR at the end of the regular season than Denver over the last six seasons. See below:

Now this is not to say that all injuries are equal. Obviously losing a starter at a critical position has a much greater effect on the team than losing a player that was most likely not going to get many snaps, but this is not a study of the effect of the injuries, merely the total number of serious injuries as a measure of overall team health. This value also changed some in the past few years with the ability to put players on the IR and designate them for return. That did not used to be an option in the NFL. A few years ago, when you placed a player on IR, they were done for the season.

I’m not sure how the Bills have stayed so healthy while the Broncos, Jets and Commanders have all been consistently injured since the end of the 2017 season, but I am sure that their is decent correlation between health and winning percentage. If we look at the three healthiest teams in this metric: Buffalo; KC; Tampa Bay, they have all been winning teams since 2018. While if you look at the bottom three: Denver; NYJ; Washington, they have been losing teams over the last six seasons. See the table of wins by season below:

Team 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 TOTAL AVERAGE
Washington 4 8 7 7 3 7 36 6.0
NY Jets 7 7 4 2 7 4 31 5.2
Denver 8 5 7 5 7 6 38 6.3
Tampa Bay 9 8 13 11 7 5 53 8.8
Kansas City 11 14 12 14 12 12 75 12.5
Buffalo 11 13 11 13 10 6 64 10.7

The three unhealthiest teams have averaged 6.0, 5.2 and 6.3 wins per season over the past six seasons while the three healthiest teams have averaged 8.8, 12.5 and 10.7. I didn’t do this for the whole league, but at least at the extreme ends, the correlation is strong (and stands to reason). It’s hard to play good football consistently if you have a large portion of your preseason roster on the IR.

The Broncos being healthier this season could be do to the change in strength and conditioning coach or it could be just due to luck, but I’m leaning towards the change from Loren Landow as being the primary reason. I wrote a fair amount on this last season - here, here and here. The first is the most informative as this article is an update on that.

Loren Landow’s association with the Broncos lasted from 2018-2022. You can look at the first table in this and draw conclusions from it, if you wish. Sadly, Notre Dame has hired him as the new S&C coach. As an Irish fan, this pains me, but apparently Ryan Harris, Von Miller and Peyton Manning think this is a good move for the Irish. I will wait and see.

“He is one of the best,” Ryan Harris told Irish Breakdown. “I trained with him [Landow] for seven years, including before and after winning the Super Bowl.

We argued quit a bit here last season as to how much blame the S&C coach should get if the team that employs him is consistently more injured than other teams, but if avoiding the IR can be used as a measure of job performance in the NFL, then Landow did a poor job in Denver helping players avoid the IR.

Poll

Why were the Broncos much healthier in 2023 than in 2022?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    New S&C coach(es)
    (99 votes)
  • 0%
    Different players with less injury history
    (1 vote)
  • 7%
    Luck
    (20 votes)
  • 51%
    All of the above
    (131 votes)
  • 0%
    none of the above
    (1 vote)
252 votes total Vote Now