Denver Broncos are stronger in the trenches and no one seems to notice

We asked a Broncos insider for some insights into what is being overlooked about this year's Denver roster.
Denver Broncos Rookie Minicamp
Denver Broncos Rookie Minicamp / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

When it comes to things being overlooked in the National Football League, you might as well throw in the entire Denver Broncos franchise at this point.

Gone is the fanfare of last season welcoming Sean Payton into the fold. You can also say goodbye to the drama at quarterback with the departure of Russell Wilson. Jerry Jeudy has been traded, so even those rumors have been silenced, and Bo Nix is going to settle for whatever scraps of the spotlight are left after so many other rookie quarterbacks get covered.

For the most part, roster rankings leave the Broncos somewhere in the bottom quarter of the league and that's being generous. Some publications describe the Broncos as one of the least talented teams in the league.

Is this a fair assessment? What are those outside of Denver overlooking when it comes to the Broncos' roster construction and chances for success in 2024?

We sat down with Predominantly Orange editor Sayre Bedinger to tell us more about what the national media or those outside of Denver have likely missed about the Denver Broncos.

When it comes to the Broncos' offense coming into 2024, what is being overlooked by those outside of Denver?

The primary thing that's being overlooked about the Broncos' offense outside of Denver is how substantially the offensive line improved last season under Sean Payton and offensive line coach Zach Strief. The Broncos were top 10 both in pass block win rate and run block win rate according to ESPN's advanced metrics, and Pro Football Focus credited the Broncos' offensive line with 16 total sacks allowed last year. Considering Russell Wilson took 45 sacks on the season (15 games), it paints the picture of just how much inefficiency was on the QB and not the offensive line.

Maybe you've already shown your hand here, but does Russ's departure feel like addition by subtraction in a way?

The departure of Russell Wilson seems to have put a pep in Sean Payton's step. I don't want to put words in his mouth, but his press conferences are much more media-friendly. The practice permissions for media members are much less strict in 2024 compared to last year. Payton and the Broncos have embraced a youth movement and it seems to have ignited an energy across the board in the organization.

There was obviously a lot of reason to love the Russell Wilson move when it was initially made. The Broncos have almost strictly had success with quarterbacks they acquired from other teams and never with a guy they drafted. But the disastrous taste left in 2022 couldn't be washed out in 2023 as Russ and the Broncos' passing attack were far too inconsistent all year (bottom five in third-down success rate through the air, bottom 10 all season in percentage of passing plays for a first down).

Although Sean Payton tailored the offense to suit Russ's strengths, Russ wasn't able to run the fullness of the offense all season. So it does feel a bit like addition by subtraction, but I guess you always have to be careful what you wish for.

Let's flip to the defensive side. What's being overlooked by most?

Defensively the main thing being overlooked is the level of upgrades the Broncos made in the trenches. They were extremely weak there last year and it led to a down year for almost everyone else on that side of the ball. The ripple effect of not winning at the line of scrimmage was felt all throughout the season.

But the Broncos went and added the #1 graded run defender in the NFL last year (per PFF) in Malcolm Roach, who is going to have to prove himself more than a part-time player in Denver (less than 300 snaps last season). The biggest move they made was sending a 2026 6th-round pick to the Jets for John Franklin-Myers and signing him to a new two-year deal. It's hard to believe the Jets did the Broncos such a massive favor after the bad blood they apparently had last year.

On top of those two guys, the Broncos added veteran Angelo Blackson who should give some decent depth, and they used a third-round pick on Jonah Elliss who is going to upgrade their depth off the edge. It's one of the most improved units on the team (on paper, at least).

Organizationally, do you think some things are being overlooked in terms of overall health, coaching staff, etc.?

It's definitely a new era for the Denver Broncos all around. There was so much that needed to be gutted from the previous era and the team has totally transformed: New ownership, new coach, new quarterback, new uniforms, renovated stadium, renovated practice facility, and more changes on the way.

The team has drastically changed in so many aspects, but the Broncos went from being an "orphan" organization after the death of Pat Bowlen to really being a well-run franchise with ownership that cares about all aspects of the team, on and off the field. It's been impressive from the outside looking in.