The 2018 Denver Broncos season was not one to remember for Broncos Country. Just like the year prior, the 2018 campaign started out hopeful with a 2-0 record but went downhill from there. After a string of losses, the Broncos were able to salvage two big wins to get back in the playoff picture. However, Denver dropped their final four games, finishing with a pedestrian 6-10 record. Despite the upsetting season, there were a few bright spots for the Broncos that offer hope for next year and years to come.
The 2018 Denver Broncos: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The putrid season did not come without any positives. The clear bright spot for the Broncos was the play from their young players, namely Phillip Lindsay. John Elway has made many drafting mistakes, but his 2018 draft was easily his best as a Bronco executive. First-round pick Bradley Chubb was essential to the success of the Broncos pass rush and racked up 12 sacks. This total could have been higher had the coaching staff not excessively dropped Chubb into coverage. Perhaps next year with a new coach and defensive coordinator, Chubb will primarily be used as a pass rusher and will only further improve those sack numbers.
In the next round, the Broncos selected Courtland Sutton, who had an up-and-down year, but with better quarterback play he will improve. He finished the year with 700 yards and four touchdowns but made some jaw-dropping catches along the way. His sheer athleticism will allow him to rack up numbers in the NFL. As he improves his route running, he will be able to become a true number one receiver. In the next round, the Broncos selected running back Royce Freeman. While Freeman had his moments, he was not the star of the rookie running backs.
Undrafted local hero Phillip Lindsay took the team by storm and became the first undrafted rookie to make the Pro Bowl. Despite an upsetting season for the Broncos, being able to watch Lindsay play weekly was a true joy for any fan. His vision and initial burst off the line are skills that translated very well to the NFL. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Lindsay’s 2018 campaign was that he only became the starter in week seven, was kicked out of a game in the first half, did not play the last game of the season, yet still ran over 1000 yards and scored ten total touchdowns. It is rare that such a disappointing season has such a bright spot, but Lindsay is a rare breed that Broncos Country is lucky to have for years to come.
There was a lot of “bad” this year for the Broncos, and I will save the obvious for the upcoming “ugly” section. However, with such a disappointing season, there was a lot to choose from. The decision came down between quarterback play and Garrett Bolles. Bolles seemed to rack up a holding penalty, false start, and a sack almost every game. There was even one time where he held and gave up a sack on the same play.
The only reason I did not choose Bolles for this section was that he had a promising stretch this year and was not putrid the entire season. There was a three-game stretch in the season where Bolles only gave up one sack and without any holding penalties. Hopefully if he is still the left tackle next year, he can continue that good play.
So that brings us to quarterback play. Unfortunately, the $18 million man was a huge disappointment. Case Keenum finished the season with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He was 29th in total QBR among the 32 starting quarterbacks. He brought the gunslinging mentality without the Favre results, which is not a winning formula. If Keenum is still the Broncos starting quarterback next year, he needs to make adjustments. He has to stop throwing into double coverage in the middle of the field.
Almost all of Keenum’s big successful plays this season came when throwing the ball deep down the sidelines and he must stick to that. He also has to be able to make better line-of-scrimmage adjustments. Too many times, it was obvious that the defense was “bringing the heat”, yet Keenum did not adjust the protection and subsequently was either sacked or forced to throw the ball away.
It is essential that whoever takes over for the Broncos at head coach and offensive coordinator implements game plans that highlight Keenum’s strengths. Keenum was top of the league at deep ball throwing (completing throws of 40+ yards) at the beginning of the year, but then they stopped throwing the ball down the field. Overall, it was a less than impressive showing from Keenum this year and if the Broncos hope to return to the playoffs, it starts with improving quarterback play, which will be the new coach’s number one priority.
Anyone who watched the Broncos this season knows what to expect in this category. COACHING. The Broncos have lost multiple games this season due to coaching. In a league where teams are becoming increasingly creative, the Broncos seem to be going in the opposite direction. As I was finishing up this article, the Broncos actually fired head coach Vance Joseph. For a team that claimed to love their coach so much, they did not play with the passion of a team that was trying to save their coach’s job as the season came to an end.
Simply put, Vance Joseph is not an NFL-caliber head coach. Too many times through the course of the season, he made head-scratching decisions. Namely the decision to kick the field goal on 4th&1 in the fourth quarter of the must-win game against Cleveland, instead of going for it proved to be costly. The Broncos’ coaching deficiencies led to issues in all parts of the game. Denver started off slowly in almost all of their games this year, showing a lack of a successful game plan entering the games. They also failed to make successful second half adjustments in order to get back into games that were still in reach.
An early season game against the Jets exemplifies both of these downfalls. They started off slowly, with no ability to stop the run or the deep ball, yet no second half adjustments were successfully made to stop either of these against a team with a rookie quarterback and another less than impressive head coach, Todd Bowles. Joseph got out-coached in nearly every game they played this year, whether it be the gameplan, in-game adjustments, clock management or in-game decisions.
The Broncos must find a coach with offensive creativity that can take advantage of the playmakers they have on offense. The Broncos have too many players with big-play potential on offense to still have such a pedestrian offense. The coaches must find a way to consistently get Lindsay and Sanders the ball in space and get Sutton in one-on-one scenarios to win the 50/50 balls. Winning games comes with getting your best players the ball and playing to their strengths, and the new coaching staff must find a way to successfully do this.
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