After winning Super Bowl 50, the Denver Broncos had high hopes for the 2016 season, even without Peyton Manning. Those aspirations were justified, especially given the team’s 4-0 start. The Broncos, however, went 4-7 the rest of the way, finished 9-7, and missed the playoffs.
It’s easy to see why. Denver averaged 14.1 points per game in its seven losses losses, including 10.4 against Atlanta, San Diego, Tennessee, New England, and Kansas City.
The Broncos, who ranked 27th in total offense, will need to improve on that side of the ball in 2017. Whether they actually will remains a mystery.
“The Broncos really want Paxton Lynch to seize that job, and it’s just not happening right now,” Yahoo! NFL writer Charles Robinson said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Trevor Siemian is in the lead right now almost by default. I don’t think he’s been great. He’s just been consistent. I guess if they can get consistency out of the quarterback position – whoever it is – and it’s a 25-touchdown, 12-to-14-turnover season, you can probably still be a Super Bowl-contending team with the rest of the talent on that roster. But just it being up in the air right now and Paxton Lynch having been that first-round pick and not really seizing the job the way the Broncos wanted, it’s a little bit of a hitch in the plan.”
Lynch – the 26th overall pick in 2016 – was 49-of-83 (59.0 percent) for 497 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in limited action as a rookie. Siemian, meanwhile, was 289-of-486 (59.5 percent) for 3,401 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.
Lynch, presumably, is the future of the franchise, but he isn’t coming along as swiftly as Denver had hoped. Some of that could be talent; some of that could be personality.
“It’s the full evaluation right now,” Robinson said. “There are a lot of different people on that staff that are formulating opinions about him. Coaches, personnel people, support staff – everyone is still looking at him, and I think he has to understand everything he does, who he’s hanging out with, what time he’s showing up in the building, what he does when he’s on the field, all of that still, I think, factors in. But at the end of the day, I can tell you this: John Elway wants to see one thing. He wants to see him go out on the field, go through his progressions, be decisive, make good plays, and just take the job. Step into the roll. That’s really what’s, I think, holding him back, ultimately.
“I think if he was doing that, whatever the rest of the assessment is on him, as long as he’s playing well, they’re going to find a way to get him in there,” Robinson continued. “To me, that’s sort of the underlying long-term problem here. Elway wants to see him get an opportunity. He wants to see what he has. But you have a coaching staff that may ultimately look at Trevor Siemian and say, ‘That’s our guy who can give us the best chance to win.’ That’s never great when you have a front office who definitely wants to see what a guy can do and a coaching staff that says, ‘Hey, this is the guy that’s going to help us win now.’”
Denver ranked fourth in total defense and scoring defense (18.6 points per game allowed) last season, but without better quarterback play, a Wild Card appearance is about the best the Broncos can hope for.
“When you’re not settled at quarterback, it’s really hard to imagine any team being a Super Bowl contender,” Robinson said. “Defensively, they’re great. They’re still an elite-level defense, there’s no doubt about that. They’re still a Super Bowl-caliber defense. I think there’s backfield depth. They should be able to run the ball. They shuffled the offensive line. I think they’re still working that out, but I think offensively, they should be a better team. But it’s going to come down to the quarterbacks.”