We’re past the midway point of the season and the Raiders are just now facing the Broncos for the first time at home and again in the season finale in Denver. Oakland split the season series 1-1 against the eventual Super Bowl champions. And both meeting were hard-fought nailbiters won by the defense.
Broncos 2015 numbers
Record: 12-4 (Won Super Bowl)
Offense rank: 1st
Defense rank: 16th
That top ranked defense was as dominating as any to lead a team to the Super Bowl in recent memory. They held the team up when Peyton Manning had thrown 17 interceptions and just 9 touchdowns and continued to keep the team afloat while Manning was injured and Brock Osweiler was starting in place of him.
Make no mistake, though, even in the worst season of Manning’s career, showing he was obviously done as an NFL quarterback, he was still a crucial piece of that team. He was a coach on the field who could read defenses like the Matrix. The defense was why they won the Super Bowl but without Manning’s return to the field, that trek may have fallen short.
Manning has retired. Brock Osweiler left as a free agent. Attempts to lure Colin Kaepernick from the 49ers were unsuccessful. That left the Broncos with Mark Sanchez as their starting quarterback. Not ideal to be kind.
The defense lost a couple key piece as well with Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan leaving for big paydays. But make no mistake, this defense is still stacked with outstanding talent like Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Chris Harris Jr, Aqib Talib, TJ Ward, and Derek Wolfe.
To lay out all the goings on with the Broncos of late, we turn things over to Mile High Report:
Notable free agent additions: OT Russell Okung, OT Donald Stephenson, QB Mark Sanchez
Notable free agent departures: DE Malik Jackson, QB Brock Osweiler, ILB Danny Trevathan, S David Bruton Jr, others
Trades: Traded up in First Round of NFL Draft for Paxton Lynch
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:
QB Paxton Lynch (1st Round) - Not expected to contribute, but one sure hopes he surpasses Sanchez on the depth chart sooner rather than later.
RB Devontae Booker (4th Round) - Seems to be a perfect fit for Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme.
FB Andy Janovich (6th Round) - Again, another perfect fit for Gary Kubiak’s zone scheme.
P Riley Dixon (7th Round) - As the punter, he’ll see some major action as a rookie.
Biggest offseason addition: Paxton Lynch - With all of the turmoil the defending Super Bowl champions faced from the onset of free agency, it was the drafting of Lynch that seemed to calm the waters some. The kneejerk reaction to the loss of a few good players has begun to give way to the reality that the Broncos didn’t really lose any of their great ones.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp: Von Miller. Any rational person knows that a contract will get done by the July 15th deadline, but the drama is slowly eating away at the fan base. TMZ is now even stalking a drunk John Elway for updates on the Von Miller situation.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: With the Broncos drafting two safeties in Justin Simmons and Will Parks, it would appear 2016 could be the final year we see the No Fly Zone in all its glory. The Broncos had three big time players needing extensions in Emmanuel Sanders, Brandon Marshall and Darian Stewart. Elway got Marshall signed and has stated over and over he wants to lock in Sanders long term. However, he has not once mentioned Stewart as guys he wants long-term. It sure looks like this will be his final season with the Broncos.
Notable injuries heading into training camp: Aqib Talib shot himself (maybe) in the leg. Talib’s people are in lockdown mode, so it would appear there will be no formal charges of any kind. Whether the NFL takes action against Talib is another matter, but he’ll at least be playing at some point in 2016.