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 first, we'll take a look at who could become Wilson's top weapon.
WHO WILL BECOME RUSSELL WILSON'S GO-TO RECEIVER?
The Broncos will not be a one-trick pony in 2022.
In Wilson's first season in Denver, the team's new franchise quarterback will have a wealth of options at his disposal. Even after 10 seasons in the NFL, Wilson may not have ever enjoyed the type of talent he'll be able to work with this season.
The Broncos' stable of running backs and tight ends contributes to that talented group, but there are plenty of dynamic players just in the wide receivers room. As the Broncos enter training camp, we'll begin to get a sense of which of the receivers can earn Wilson's trust and develop into his go-to option.
The top candidates are no secret.
Courtland Sutton was a Pro Bowler in 2019, as the 2018 second-round pick broke the 1,100-yard mark and hauled in six touchdowns despite catching passes from three different quarterbacks that season. Jerry Jeudy has the first-round pedigree after being drafted 15th in 2020, and his route-running ability is matched by few players across the league. Tim Patrick earned a long-term deal last season, and the former undrafted player has more touchdown catches over the last two season than any other Bronco. And even KJ Hamler, who is in the midst of recovering from a torn ACL and hip injury, is an option with his game-breaking speed that can take the top off the defense.
All four players also have something to prove in 2022. Sutton, after tearing his ACL early in the 2020 season, rebounded with 776 yards last season — but he caught three passes or fewer in 11 of his games. Jeudy had a promising rookie season with 856 yards, but that total dropped to 467 yards last year as he missed time with an ankle injury. For the first time since at least midway through his high school career, Jeudy was held without a touchdown. Patrick will continue to fight for the recognition he deserves, and Hamler must show his speed has not been impacted by his injury.
Of course, none of the four receivers have ever played with a quarterback of Wilson's caliber. It's quite reasonable to expect that all four players could reach previously unattainable heights. For Sutton, that could mean a career-high in touchdowns and a trip back to the Pro Bowl. Jeudy could finally realize his first-round potential and lead the team in yards. Patrick could continue his torrid pace from the past two years and put himself in the national conversation. And Hamler could be one of the league's better deep-ball threats for a Broncos offense that will surely launch the ball down the field.
Who, though, will Wilson count on in the biggest moments?
It's possible to draw some conclusions about who will emerge as the top option from both Wilson's and Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett's pasts. In Seattle, Wilson threw eight touchdowns last season to the big-bodied D.K. Metcalf, whose style compares to Sutton's and Patrick's. Wilson also had a great rapport with Tyler Lockett, whom Hamler wants to emulate in 2022. And in Green Bay, Hackett helped design and run an offense that often funneled the ball to All-Pro Davante Adams, whose game evokes some comparisons to Jeudy.
During the offseason program, Wilson showed chemistry with Sutton, Jeudy and Patrick — Hamler worked on the side during 11-on-11 action — and each player made his share of highlight plays. But in training camp and perhaps the preseason, we should get more answers. Particularly when the Broncos are working on situational drills, we should see clues. When it's third-and-8 in a two-minute drill, where does Wilson go with the ball? If it's fourth down in the red zone, which receiver will get the target? There almost certainly will not be a moment when Wilson or Hackett steps to the podium and declares one of the wide receivers as his top option, but there may be hints along the way.
In all likelihood, the ball will be spread around both during training camp and during the season. Still, one of the Broncos' receivers will emerge as the top option at some point — and we should get our first idea of who that player is in just a few weeks.