After one of the most exhilarating offseasons in Broncos history, the 2022 season is close at hand.
In just a few weeks, 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 evaluate the spot behind Wilson.
WHO WILL BACK UP RUSSELL WILSON?
The Broncos solidified their starting quarterback spot this offseason as General Manager George Paton executed a blockbuster trade for Wilson.
The nine-time Pro Bowler brings a different dynamic to the Broncos' offense — both in playing ability and leadership traits. One of Wilson's biggest strengths has been to be available for his team; in his first nine seasons, Wilson didn't miss a single game. Last year, Wilson missed his first career games as he sat out for three contests with a finger injury before returning to guide the Seahawks for the rest of the year.
During the 2022 offseason, the Broncos made several moves to preemptively protect their franchise quarterback. Denver re-signed Calvin Anderson and added Billy Turner, Tom Compton and Ben Braden in free agency to potentially compete at right tackle, and the Broncos invested in Washington interior lineman Luke Wattenberg in the draft.
In Denver, Wilson should have more protection than he would have in Seattle. According to The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin, the Broncos are expected to have the sixth best offensive line in pass protection in 2022. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are projected to finish last in the league.
Still, as the Broncos chase a division title, they must be prepared to weather the storm if Wilson must miss a game or two. In 2015, Brock Osweiler's ability to guide the Broncos to four wins in six full games was monumental in Denver's quest to earn home-field advantage. Without those victories, it's quite possible the Broncos would not have won Super Bowl 50.
In recent years, the Broncos have seen more than they would like to of their backups. In five of the six years since Super Bowl 50, the Broncos have seen their starter get injured and miss time. And while the Broncos surely hope to buck that trend in 2022, it's critical to be ready.
It's also worth noting that a backup quarterback does more than simply stay ready to play. He will also likely spend the most time of any player with Wilson, and his ability to provide a helpful voice in the quarterback room could be critical.
Heading into training camp, the Broncos have a pair of options to fill that spot, as Josh Johnson and Brett Rypien are set to compete for the job.
Johnson, a fifth-round pick in 2008, has spent time with a slew of teams and appeared in 37 games during his career. The veteran is just 1-8 as a starter, but he completed 67.1 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and two interceptions as he returned to the NFL in 2021 after stints with the Alliance of American Football and XFL.
Rypien, meanwhile, is poised to enter the fourth year of his career and has thrown passes in three games since entering the league. He led the Broncos to a "Thursday Night Football" win over the Jets in 2020 despite three interceptions, but he'll enter yet another system in 2022.
Both players received reps during the offseason program, and there did not appear to be a set hierarchy during the media-viewing portions of practice.
During training camp and the preseason, Johnson and Rypien will look to prove they are capable of serving as the backup for a playoff contender. The Broncos must also decide what they're looking for at the position. Johnson certainly has the edge in experience, and he's worked in lots of different systems. In the quarterback room, it's possible he may have more wisdom to share with Wilson. Rypien, though, could be the better option if Denver is looking to find a long-term solution at the position. He'll be just 26 years old when the season begins, and it's possible Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett could develop him into the ideal backup quarterback.
This won't be the training camp battle that gets the most attention, and it's certainly not the most important. In an ideal world, neither player will even see the field this year. The Broncos must still be ready.
The Broncos let their personalities shine during the annual portrait shoot. Get a closer look at the quarterbacks' time in the spotlight with these photos.