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Broncos, Briefly: Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018

The roster certainly appears better. The Broncos' offense, inept a season ago, could have as many as five new starters in Week 1, led by quarterback Case Keenum. And the Broncos' defense should benefit from having Chubb.

And the staff is certainly more cohesive. Veteran offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will call the plays and Joseph feels the addition of special teams coordinator Tom McMahon from Indianapolis was a steal.

"He's added some quality people to his staff that I think will help him," Elway said. "But also, with the year under his belt and the experiences he's had before that, I've got full confidence that he'll take hold of those reins, know that it's his show and go from there."

It's not difficult to imagine the AFC West opening up for the Broncos, especially with the Raiders seemingly self-destructing before the season even starts. The Chargers and Chiefs both have incredibly high ceilings, but neither is a guaranteed quantity heading into 2018. If Case Keenum plays like the guy who posted a 98.3 passer rating in Minnesota in 2017, the Broncos will be in the thick of things in the AFC.

"He wasn't a dime all last year. He wasn't really a dime until the Washington week," Joseph said. "That's been impressive. He can play that close to the ball, in coverage and in the run game, and not flinch. That's a hard job for a young safety who's never done it before. He's been impressive as far as doing that job for us."

Actually, Thomas hadn't played dime backer since his junior year of college at Michigan. Yet, in his new role that night, he led the team with five total tackles (four solo) and played the most of any Broncos defender with 37 snaps.

"The NFL has done a fantastic job of continuing to try and protect the football players," said Tony Romo, the longtime Cowboys quarterback and current CBS analyst, who added about the overall safety initiatives: "They have enough data to really understand [what's happening], and you have to applaud them for going to get that data."

The league's urgency in adopting the helmet rule was partly shaped by engineering work investigating the cause and severity of concussive blows on the game field. Helmet-to-helmet blows accounted for about two-thirds of all concussions some 20 years ago before a dramatic decline. In the last few years, however, that has crept up from a quarter to a third back to nearly a half.