The AFC West is a tough division, but the Broncos have a number of impactful players who could bring Denver to the top. On "The Athletic Football Show," The Athletic's Robert Mays and Nate Tice discussed the Broncos' defensive playmakers and where unit has improved.
"With this defense — and I think they're going to run very similar stuff to what they did with [Vic] Fangio — I really like their front," Tice said on the podcast. "I love the Jones boys, I love D.J. Jones and Dre'Mont Jones. … That's going to be really fun. Randy Gregory and [Bradley] Chubb are a really cool pairing on the outside. … I love their DB room, I love it. Kareem Jackson and [Justin] Simmons, I love [Pat] Surtain [II] — really, seriously, an All-Pro candidate. K'Waun Williams is there, of course you're going to love that."
May, in particular, noted the vast improvement of the edge rush from last year to now. With the addition of Gregory and a healthy Chubb, as well as some depth additions, May explained that the Broncos have completely changed how he views this unit.
"It's amazing how quickly the edge rushing group on this team went from being the biggest problem with this team to potentially a strength," May said. "And that's injuries last year — Chubb misses most of the season, when he's playing he's 60 percent or whatever. This team was 29th in the NFL in pressure rate last year when they didn't blitz. Now they feel so good about their edge rushing group that they traded Malik Reed to the Steelers."
An edge rusher that May said he is particularly excited to watch is Baron Browning. He discussed the second-year player's journey from inside linebacker to the outside, and he pointed out a comparison to one of the top edge rushers in the league.
"Baron Browning was a third-round pick, [an] off-the-charts athlete at Ohio State," May said. "But he's one of these guys, he's 6-foot-3, 245 [pounds], he looks better moving forward than in space. … Instead of making him primarily a blitzer, but having him as an off-ball linebacker, they cut out the middle man and they just moved him to the edge. If you look at his physical comps, his number one physical comp on MockDraftable at the position is Khalil Mack."
May and Tice agreed that the Broncos will be one of the most exciting defenses to watch on third down due to Surtain's lockdown coverage in the secondary and the defensive front's pass-rush prowess.
At the end of the segment, they discussed what a successful season would look like for the Broncos. Tice noted that making the playoffs with breathing room — clinching a postseason berth by Week 16 or 17 — would mark a successful year, while May said that it would be double-digit wins and making the playoffs.
Below the Fold
Everyone loves a comeback story, and the Broncos are poised for one in 2022. CBS Sports’ John Breech ranked the NFL teams most likely to go from worst to first this season, and he listed the Broncos as the second-most-likely squad to make the jump.
"The addition of Wilson makes the Broncos an immediate contender in the AFC West and although it's the toughest division in football, there's no reason to think they can't win it this year," Breech wrote. "Wilson has a long track record of success — he made the playoffs in eight of 10 seasons as Seattle's starting QB — and he's shown no signs of slowing down.
"If you're still doubting Denver, I have four words for you: Broncos country, let's ride."