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Mile High Morning: Why the return of multiple injured starters could spark Broncos' rebound in 2023


The Lead

The Broncos were one of the most heavily injured teams in 2022, with 27 different players placed on injured reserve — the second most in the NFL.

Several of these players were offensive starters, and The Denver Post’s Kyle Newman noted that upon their returns in 2023, the Broncos could look like a very different team. 

"When the offense gets healthy next fall, the Broncos insist their production is going to look a lot different than the unit that finished last in the NFL in scoring at 16.9 points per game," Newman wrote. "Six offensive starters had their seasons completely or partially derailed by injury, and those six are all under contract for 2023. But those six players are intent on coming back next season, albeit playing for a new head coach." 

Left tackle Garett Bolles, who missed 12 games after suffering a leg injury in Week 5, said Monday that the return of several offensive starters who missed significant time — including himself, wide receivers Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler, running back Javonte Williams, tight end Greg Dulcich and center Lloyd Cushenberry III — could help turn the offense around in 2023. 

"Bringing us back, including leaders who have been in this offense and this building for a little bit now, is going to be vital for us," Bolles said Monday. "I know they're going to do their part to get healthy and ready (for Week 1) and I'm going to do my part. The sky's the limit for us from there." 

Hamler added: "If we can stay healthy and we've got a full team, we can come out and go through anybody. New season, new us, that's how it's going to be."

Below the Fold

In the final game of the 2022 season, an undrafted rookie got the opportunity of a lifetime. 

Cornerback Ja'Quan McMillian signed with the Broncos as a free agent out of East Carolina in the offseason, and he spent the first 17 weeks of the season on the practice squad. With cornerback Damarri Mathis in concussion protocol, the Broncos promoted McMillian to the active roster ahead of Week 18 — and in his first regular-season appearance in an NFL game, McMillian played 100 percent of the Broncos' defensive snaps. 

The moment was not too big for McMillian, who provided strong coverage throughout the game, even when matching up against wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. The undrafted free agent recorded seven tackles — the third-most in the game for Denver — and even had a near-interception. 

"I was on the practice squad the whole year," McMillian said after the game. "I just kept working and kept learning from the older guys. I paid attention in meetings. I never veered away from what we were doing in the meeting room and on the field. I just stayed the course, and it felt great to come out here and show what I can do."

The Unclassifieds

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