As training camp approaches, it's time to turn our attention toward the season. Over the next few weeks, we'll take a look at each of the position groups on the Broncos' roster. In our look at each position, we'll fill you in on what we know about the group and what we hope to find out during training camp. We'll also identify a player to watch when practices begin and the preseason gets underway. We begin the series with a look at the Broncos' quarterback position.
What we know:
The Broncos' starter remains the same, but the team revamped its quarterback room during the offseason. While Russell Wilson will continue to guide the offense, the Broncos signed Raiders veteran Jarrett Stidham in the early stages of free agency and later acquired XFL quarterback Ben DiNucci. Former practice-squad quarterback Jarrett Guarantano will also return to Denver, but longtime reserve quarterback Brett Rypien has moved on to Los Angeles.
Wilson, poised to enter his second season in Denver, will look to rebound after throwing for 16 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and 3,524 yards in 15 games last season. While the touchdown total was the lowest of his 11-year career, Wilson seemed to turn a corner late in the year. Over his final two games of the season, Wilson posted six total touchdowns and just two interceptions. In a Week 18 win over the Chargers, he posted his second-highest passer rating of the season as he threw for three touchdowns in just 24 attempts.
As training camp nears, Wilson will look to put last year's struggles behind him and improve under the tutelage of Head Coach Sean Payton.
"I want to be the best version of me," Wilson said in May, "and I'm looking forward to the work of it all and doing that."
Behind Wilson, Stidham could represent an upgrade at the backup quarterback spot. The 2019 fourth-round pick made the first starts his career at the end of the 2023 season, and he threw for 365 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions and a 108.1 quarterback rating in a three-point loss to the 49ers' top-ranked defense.
"I think he's young, but I think he's someone that we had a good grade on coming out [of college]," Payton said in March. "We like the player. I think he played well in the two starts he had this year. If you study closely the San Francisco game, he's smart at the line of scrimmage. There were a couple of directions really with that position that you — there were a handful of No. 2's that either I have worked with, or we felt comfortable with. In this case, I think it's a No. 2 that his arrow is moving in a direction where we feel like he can become an NFL starter in our league. The evaluation was pretty crystal clear for all of us. I think he's someone that's going to be great in the room. He's smart. Quietly, that was an important sign[ing] for us."
What we need to learn:
Will the Broncos keep three quarterbacks?
The Broncos seem poised to enter training camp with four quarterbacks on their roster, as Wilson, Stidham, DiNucci and Guarantano are all under contract with the team. It's hardly unusual for teams to roster four quarterbacks during training camp, but there could be a unique element at play in 2023. The NFL recently approved a rules change that would permit teams to have an emergency quarterback enter the game if their starter and backup both suffer injuries. The rule, which comes following the 49ers' unfortunate situation in this year's NFC Championship Game, would require the emergency quarterback to be on the team's 53-man roster but not otherwise active on game day.
Even before the rules change, some teams have elected to carry three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. It's unusual, though, to have three quarterbacks be active on game day. Following the change, there may be even more incentive to carry a third quarterback on the 53-man roster.
The third spot — if the Broncos choose to go that route — may come down to DiNucci and Guarantano, as Wilson is the entrenched starter, and Stidham was a key target in free agency.
DiNucci, a former seventh-round pick, joined the team in May after leading the XFL in completions and passing yards and finishing second in touchdown passes. Guarantano, meanwhile, joined the Broncos' practice squad late in the 2022 season but has not appeared in a regular-season game.
As both training camp and the preseason progress, the competition between the two players could take on a more meaningful role than in past seasons.
Player to watch:
Wilson is the clear choice here, as he enters Year 2 in Denver and his first season under Payton's guidance.
Payton said in March that there were "a lot of people with dirt on their hands" during the Broncos' tough 2022 season. Wilson, though, received plenty of the blame as Denver posted a 5-12 record in his first season with the team.
In Payton's offense, Wilson should have a chance for a fresh start — and Payton noted in June that Wilson had been "doing well" in practice.
Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi, who reunites with Payton in Denver, agreed with Payton's assessment.
I don't know what's going to happen, but for June 14, we're really happy with where he's at," Lombardi said in mid-June. "There's some muscle memory that we have to overcome. He's used to doing things a certain way, and we're presenting a new way of doing things. He shows up every day ready to work. He's the same guy every day — same attitude, and he's really fun to work with."
Wilson's play is perhaps the most intriguing topic ahead of training camp, and his performance will likely be one of the determining factor's in the team's success this year.
For more information on attending training camp this year, click here.