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Mile High Morning: ESPN picks Broncos as one of five teams most likely to improve in 2022

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The Lead

It seems like a no-brainer that the Broncos will improve in 2022 with Russell Wilson leading the way, but ESPN's Bill Barnwell suggests that even if Wilson weren't in the fold, Denver would still win more games than it did last year.

Barnwell has compiled a list of teams most likely to improve in each of the last five years, and 20 of the 25 total teams he's chosen have won more games in their next season. His 80-percent success rate is good news for the Broncos, who made the list along with the Bills, Jaguars, Lions and Ravens.

"… Even before the Wilson trade occurred, there were reasons to believe the Broncos were likely to be better this season," Barnwell wrote. "The Wilson deal raises their floor and their ceiling, but the Broncos were better than their 7-10 record."

Barnwell explained that the Broncos' final record in 2021 did not do justice to the team's talent. After Teddy Bridgewater suffered a concussion against the Bengals late last year, the Broncos lost their final four games by a combined 13 points. If Bridgewater had been able to play, Barnwell argued, the Broncos might have won some of those matchups and secured a playoff spot.

Another reason Barnwell posed for the Broncos to finish with a better record in 2022 was the defense's improvement. He pointed to some areas in which the defense struggled last year, including defensive and third-down DVOA, but he noted that the Broncos' free agent additions will address those issues.

"The Broncos should still field an effective defense in 2022, especially if edge rusher Randy Gregory, their biggest free agent addition, hits the ground running," Barnwell wrote. "There will be plenty of competition in the AFC West, but the combination of Wilson and a solid defense typically has been enough to project a playoff appearance."

Only time will tell if the Broncos will live up to Barnwell's prediction, but they have all the pieces in place to have a more successful 2022 season.

Below the Fold

While the Broncos did not have a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein identified tight end Greg Dulcich as the rookie most pivotal to the Broncos' success this season.

"The Broncos have capable wideouts likely to garner most of Wilson's targets, but Dulcich has the speed and separation potential to help attack the second and third levels," Zierlein wrote. "While Dulcich's impact is likely to be spotty, there is room for the former UCLA walk-on to make a difference in 2022."

The Unclassifieds

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