Friday, July 29, 2016

Denver Broncos 2016 Season Preview

2015 Record: 12-4

The Super Bowl Champs had a magical run in 2015. Fueled by a relentless defense led by newly paid Von Miller and an offense tailored to an aging and physically limited Peyton Manning. But as with almost champions, the following offseason is full of attrition and change. Gone is Manning and his backup Brock Osweiler along with several other key free agents. In their place, HC Gary Kubiak is finally getting to implement the offense he wants and hopes that it plus a dominant defense can take him back to the mountaintop.

Offseason Moves:

Key Additions – QB Mark Sanchez, OT Russell Okung, OT Donald Stephenson, TE Garrett Graham, DE Jared Crick

Key Losses – QB Peyton Manning, QB Brock Osweiler, DE Malik Jackson, LB Danny Trevathan, OT Ryan Clady, TE Owen Daniels, S David Bruton, G Louis Vasquez

2016 Draft Class – QB Paxton Lynch, DE Adam Gostis, S Justin Simmons, RB Devontae Booker, G Connor McGovern

2016 Offensive Outlook:

Offensive Coordinator – Rick Dennison
Base Offense – 1 back 2 TE 2 WR zone blocking scheme

The offense the Broncos ran in 2015 will look much different in 2016. With the limitations on Payton’s mobility and arm strength, Kubiak and OC Rick Dennison scrapped a lot of the stretch runs and QB waggles normally seen in the Kubiak zone blocking scheme. With the Super Bowl capital to spend, the Broncos coaching staff will get back to their fundamentals this year.

The Broncos made the bold and almost unprecedented decision to let their “franchise QB” walk in Brock Osweiler, mostly because he is a bad fit for the scheme they want to run. In his place, the Broncos will have an open competition between veteran FA Mark Sanchez, developmental prospect Trevor Siemian and 1st round pick Paxton Lynch. Sanchez will likely get the chance to to start at first given his experience, though Siemian could surprise and win the battle in camp with his experience in this system. Lynch should probably red shirt this year as he is so raw, but might see action as the season goes on. This position will likely be the most crucial to the Broncos success in 2016 and is perhaps the shakiest on the roster.

With questions at QB, the running game will need to be better in 2016 to help compensate on offense. CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman return as the 1-2 punch in the backfield and are supplemented by rookie Devontae Booker out of Utah. Anderson will need to stay healthy and Hillman will need to stop fumbling. Booker is very talented but is still trying to recover from a knee injury in college and his own fumbling questions.

If they can get the ball consistently, the receivers group on the Broncos can be a big play force on offense. Starters Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders form the best duo in the division. The 3rd WR spot is up for grabs between Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer and many others. At tight end, Owen Daniels will be replaced by Texans FA Garrett Graham and 2015 draft choice Jeff Heuerman. Both should see quite a bit of time this year.

The offensive line saw quite a bit of change in the offseason. G Louis Vasquez and OT Ryan Clady are gone, replaced by FA Russell Okung and a camp battle including draftee Connor McGovern. At RT, Donald Stephenson was signed from KC. Fully adapting to the zone blocking scheme should really help this unit if they can stay healthy.

Overall the Broncos have a very talented roster on offense but will need to find the right signal caller to make it all work. If they do, they should expect to be playing in the postseason. If not it could be a disappointing title defense.

2016 Defensive Outlook:

Defensive Coordinator – Wade Phillips
Base Defense – 3-4 man coverage attacking defense

Even if you aren't a Broncos fan, it was pretty cool to Wade Phillips, the son of Bum Phillips, finally get to hoist the Super Bowl trophy. And his defense was the primary reason. But a few key pieces are gone so he will have to answer a few questions to get his crew back to the same level.

Malik Jackson got a truckload of money to take his talents to Jacksonville. His replacements are Jared Crick from Houston and rookie Adam Gostis. While this group is likely to be a bit lesser than last year, it still should be plenty good. Of interest is to see if Browns castoff and former 1st rounder Phil Taylor can make the Broncos final roster.

SB MVP Von Miller got paid and is now the highest paid defensive player in football. And that money is well deserved and will hopefully continue to be. On the other side, DeMarcus Ware is starting to show signs of age with a bad back coming into the season but is backed up by Shane Ray so the pass rush should be great. Inside is a different story. Danny Trevathan left via free agency, leaving only Brandon Marshall and a question mark behind. If the run defense for the Broncos suffers in 2016, it will probably have a lot to do with this position.

The Broncos secondary should be the real strength of the defense in 2016, losing only 1 starter in free agency. Chris Harris Jr, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby make up one of the best CB depth charts in the league. Staying healthy and hungry is the only real question there. At safety, TJ Ward is locked at one spot and the other is between the serviceable Darian Stewart from Baltimore and rookie Justin Simmons.

Overall, the Broncos defense is likely the best in the division. But how much they have to compensate for a struggling offense and the attrition that might cause is the big question.

2016 Prediction:

Record – 8-8 (3rd in AFC West)

Super Bowl hangover and free agent losses will add up to around a .500 record. All 3 QBs on the roster will likely get starts in an effort to solve that issue and that could make the losses add up against a 1st place schedule and a tough division.

Fantasy Oulook:

Stud – Broncos Def, CJ Anderson
Sleeper – TE Jeff Heuerman, TE Garrett Graham
Bust – WR Demaryius Thomas

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