Aside from DeMarcus Ware’s retirement and the departures of Malik Jackson and Sylvester Williams, few pieces have shifted on the Broncos’ defense since its historic 2015 season. That Denver unit led the league in yards allowed per game (283.1) and allowed a combined 44 points in the postseason to teams quarterbacked by Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and league MVP Cam Newton. It also carried though the playoffs and into the history books a tired offense weighed down by an aging Peyton Manning.
What has changed on the Broncos since that unforgettable February day is, well, everything else. Manning gave way to Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch last season. Coach Gary Kubiak retired and was replaced by former Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Ex-Chargers skipper Mike McCoy returned as offensive coordinator, while former defensive coordinator Wade Phillips left to coach in the same capacity for the Rams.
Joseph was referring to former Chiefs star Jamaal Charles, C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker and 2017 sixth-round pick De’Angelo Henderson. Booker led the team last year with 612 yards — less than 200 yards more than Anderson, who played in just seven games (knee).
Should Charles become even a remotely productive specialty back for the Broncos, the team will boast a sneaky-deep rotation across the board. Denver obviously plans on going run-heavy again in 2017 but is doing so wisely. By pairing the workhorse coming off injury (Anderson) with a veteran and a pair of first or second-year options, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is layering scheme with different skill sets. The competition could end up producing a clear-cut favorite, but Joseph and cheap nfl jerseys and McCoy are probably more focused on backs developing within their roles.
Let’s take a look through Joseph’s rose-colored visor. Though it struggled in the ground game down the stretch, Denver’s defense remains a top-five unit in the league, thanks to a lock-down secondary and an improving defensive line that boasts Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis. The Broncos’ linebacking corps, led by Von Miller and Shane Ray on the outside, is a game-changing force. The addition of a healthy Jamaal Charles to the running back room is a potentially disruptive complement to C.J. Anderson.
There’s plenty to like about the Broncos’ roster in a vacuum. It’s only when you compare them to their improving division rivals that it’s fair to wonder whether Denver is destined for the cellar.
To put it bluntly, the overhaul backfired in Elway’s face. Stephenson and backup Ty Sambrailo have teamed to make Broncos right tackle the offensive-line equivalent of Cleveland Browns quarterback this season. Okung and the guard tandem of Michael Schofield and Max Garcia have been liabilities at times in their own right, leaving first-year starting signal-caller Trevor Siemian to swallow the poisonous concoction of shoddy pass protection and a derelict ground “attack.”
Okung’s four-year, $48 million contract is essentially a one-year commitment with an escape hatch if Elway balks at picking up the option for an additional four years. The Broncos can also choose to release Stephenson before his $4 million salary becomes guaranteed in mid-March. Cutting ties is the easy part. Finding capable replacements — especially at left tackle — is the challenge. The best course of action might be to renegotiate Okung’s deal and lure a free-agent right tackle such as Detroit’s Riley Reiff or Baltimore’s Ricky Wagner.
The disparity was especially evident against the Patriots (12-2) on Sunday, which is why Okung — despite essentially being shouted down by Talib, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and some of the team’s other defensive backs, who weren’t interested in hearing the words of someone representing the underperforming offense — expressed sympathy with their perspective as he left the locker room.
“I definitely understand their frustration,” Okung told me. “They played well enough to win, and they held that team to 16 points, which a lot of teams don’t do. We’re an emotional team; that’s what makes us so good. To me, that’s part of who we are.
The 49ers add Bibbs to a backfield headlined by Carlos Hyde and newly signed veteran backup Tim Hightower. The team also traded up in the fourth round to draft Utah runner Joe Williams. Bibbs was expendable for John Elway who has C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker as his top tailbacks.
With Hyde’s injury history, Bibbs will provide a change-of-pace insurance in San Francisco.