After one of the most exhilarating offseasons in Broncos history, the 2022 season is close at hand.
In less than a week, the Broncos will gather for training camp and begin to prepare for the regular season. The task is simple: Return to the playoffs for the first time since a Super Bowl 50 win — and perhaps challenge for another Lombardi Trophy.
As the Broncos embark on that effort, though, they'll need to answer a series of questions that will help determine whether they can find success in Year 1 of the Russell Wilson era. Leading up to training camp, we'll take a look at those questions that span across the roster.
Up next, we'll take a look at the Broncos' offense.
WHAT ARE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR RUSSELL WILSON AND THE OFFENSE?
The addition of nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson is understandably alluring.
For the last couple of seasons, the Broncos have featured dynamic and talented skill position players. And for the last couple of seasons, the Broncos have lacked a top-tier quarterback to get them the football.
In Wilson, the Broncos now have an elite signal caller that can throw the deep ball, make accurate short to intermediate throws, scramble outside of the pocket to extend plays or gain yards and use elite leadership skills to guide his teammates.
Even the best quarterbacks, though, do not find instant success when they join a new team and a new offense. Though Wilson is among the most talented quarterbacks in the league, it may not be likely that he throws for five touchdowns every week.
In 2020, as Tom Brady played his first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he wasn't perfect in the season's early stretch. Brady was sacked three times and threw two interceptions in a season-opening loss to the Saints, and he managed just one touchdown and was sacked three times in a Week 5 loss in Chicago. During one midseason stretch, Brady threw seven interceptions in a four-week span as the Bucs lost three of four.
Tampa, though, surged from its 7-5 record late in the year and won its final four regular-season games before they marched to the Super Bowl. In that final regular-season stretch, Brady threw for 12 touchdowns and just one interception. His lowest passer rating during those four games was 110.4 — and he was similarly impressive in the postseason. Outside of a three-interception performance in an NFC Championship Game win over the Packers, Brady was nearly flawless. He threw for three touchdowns and no picks in a Super Bowl blowout of the Chiefs.
A year later, Matthew Stafford experienced a similar late-season surge with the Los Angeles Rams. Stafford got off to perhaps a faster start than Brady, but he suffered the same mid-season slump. The Rams eventually won five of their final six regular-season games, and Stafford played some of his best football in the postseason. In a divisional round win over Tampa, he threw a stunning deep pass to Cooper Kupp late in the game to set up the win.
The required calibration time likely exists in any offensive system, but it's possible to study the specific scheme in which Wilson will play. In 2019, the year Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett joined Green Bay as the team's offensive coordinator, Aaron Rodgers put up 26 touchdowns, four interceptions and 4,002 yards as he completed 62 percent of his passes. In his second season, those numbers ballooned to 48 touchdowns, 4,299 yards and a 70.7 completion percentage with just five interceptions as he won MVP honors.
Even Peyton Manning's Broncos got off to a slow start in 2012, as they were 2-3 and trailed by three touchdowns against the Chargers before a second-half comeback spurred them to an 11-game win streak.
Still, even in Wilson's first year in the system, the Broncos' offense should still take a substantial step forward from recent seasons. In the first season of their new schemes, Brady, Stafford and Manning each posted at least six games with three touchdowns and no more than one interception.
In Seattle, Wilson found success no matter which offense he directed. He posted at least 31 touchdown passes in all but one year since 2017, and last year he threw 25 despite missing time with a finger injury. The Seahawks posted a top-10 offense in seven of Wilson's 10 seasons of Seattle, and they ranked below 16th just once. Wilson has also shown the ability to play well when changing systems. In 2018, when Brian Schottenheimer took over as the Seahawks' offensive coordinator, Wilson threw for 35 touchdowns and seven interceptions as Seattle ranked sixth in the league.