Broncos appear to be legit through first two games
If you’ve read my columns over the last few weeks or so, you’ve seen me bash John Elway for some of his personnel moves, such as cutting TJ Ward, signing Brock Osweiler and drafting Paxton Lynch two springs ago.
But now that the season has started, Elway looks like a genius due to some underrated free agent signings this spring, starting with defensive tackle Domata Peko and defensive end Shelby Harris. Against the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, Peko played a huge role in helping the Denver defense shut down the Cowboys’ vaunted rushing attack, forcing Dallas to throw the ball 50 times in an uncharacteristic move. You all likely know what Harris did on Monday night in Week 1, blocking the Chargers’ field goal attempt to give the Broncos the win.
Outside of a few Elway moves that have paid off in a big way, the decision to turn to second-year safety Justin Simmons over veteran TJ Ward has paid off in a major way, as Simmons has been the best tackling safety in football, not missing a tackle since entering the league. That’s nearly unheard of from young defenders.
Add in the decision to draft Garrett Bolles at No. 20 overall and sign veteran guard Ron Leary away from the Cowboys in free agency, it’s clear the Broncos’ offensive line is fixed, at least for the most part. Free agent signee Menelik Watson has been a turnstile at right tackle, while Alan Barbe and Max Garcia have rotated in and out at left guard, but overall Bolles, Leary and center Matt Paradis have helped the Broncos establish a great running game, taking pressure off of Trevor Siemian and the passing game.
Coming into the year, I wasn’t very high on the Broncos as a whole, due to the question mark at running back, offensive line and defensive line depth. But through two games, the Broncos look to be a legitimate contender thanks to the development of former second-round pick Adam Gotsis on the defensive line, the addition of Peko, the gelling of the offensive line and a healthy CJ Anderson. Plus, Siemian is playing lights out football right now under center, providing the Broncos with a balanced, high-powered attack that can keep them in games.
That leads me to the defense, which looks to be just as good as the Super Bowl champion defensive group, even though DeMarcus Ware is retired, Danny Trevethan is in Chicago and Shane Ray is on the short-term injured reserve list.
Against the Cowboys and Chargers, Denver’s defense was phenomenal, shutting down two really good offenses while getting tons of pressure on the quarterback and shutting down the running game, which was a staple under Wade Phillips at the peak of their powers in 2015 and 2016.
Now, under Joe Woods, the Broncos defense is back to its 2015 version, shutting down opposing offenses in impressive ways.
A lot of credit has to go to cornerbacks Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby, but also the vaunted pass rush up front from Von Miller, Shaq Barrett, Derek Wolfe and Gotsis is wreaking havoc on opposing offensive lines.
While it’s just two games into the season and is important to note that it’s incredibly early in the 2017 season, this Broncos team looks to be in great shape and rolling early.
As of now, they’re one of three undefeated teams in the AFC West (one of six in the AFC as a whole), so it’s essential to keep winning to keep pace with the Raiders and the Chiefs. With a dominant defense and a recharged offense, that seems entirely doable for the Broncos.