Offense or Defense: Which Unit Leads Broncos' Charge in 2024?

The Denver Broncos might surprise us all and field at explosive offense. It's Sean Payton, after all.
Denver Broncos Sean Peyton talks to defensive coordinator Vance Joseph following a first down reception by the New York Jets in the fourth quarter at Empower Field at Mile High.
Denver Broncos Sean Peyton talks to defensive coordinator Vance Joseph following a first down reception by the New York Jets in the fourth quarter at Empower Field at Mile High. / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

As the Denver Broncos saddle up for another season, fans and analysts alike are caught in the perennial debate: will it be the offense or the defense that drags the team kicking and screaming to victory?

With Sean Payton steering the ship for a second year, armed with a hand-picked quarterback in Bo Nix, hopes are higher than a Colorado mountain peak. But let's face it: predicting how a season might turn out is as accurate as forecasting the weather in Denver.

Let's examine both the Broncos offense and defense to project which unit is poised to be this team's tip of the spear.

Offense

Last season, the Broncos offense was like a shiny new car that looked promising in the showroom but was plagued with rattles and mysterious engine noises once driven off the lot. Denver struggled with Payton's playbook, especially in pass protection and the run game. The effort was commendable, but it was chaotic at times.

Fast forward to this season, and despite a salary cap tighter than my grandma's grip on her purse, the Broncos have made some exciting roster updates. The crown jewel? Drafting Nix with the 12th pick.

We have a juicy training camp battle between Nix and veterans Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson. It's reality TV gold, folks. But don't get too excited; Nix is likely to start, even though he's not quite in the Patrick Mahomes league yet.

Then there's the receiver lineup. Rookie Troy Franklin, second-year speedster Marvin Mims Jr., and the freshly acquired Josh Reynolds from the Detroit Lions are all jostling for a spot. 

Despite these shiny new toys, the Broncos still lack a clear-cut All-Pro on offense. For now, the Broncos have a solid roster of B-list actors but no leading man, so to speak.

If the Broncos can find their rhythm, they might surprise us. But that's a big if, right up there with "if I ever finish my novel."

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Defense

Let's not sugarcoat it — the Broncos defense last season was a bit of a dumpster fire, especially in the first five games. The defensive line couldn't stop a snail, and opposing quarterbacks had a field day targeting anyone not named Patrick Surtain II. But there's hope on the horizon.

The Broncos have bolstered their defensive front with veteran additions John Franklin-Myers and Malcolm Roach. Add rookie outside linebacker Jonah Ellis into the mix, and suddenly, there's a glimmer of potential.

The big question remains: who will play opposite Surtain? The camp battle between rookie Levi Wallace, Riley Moss, and Damarri Mathis will determine who gets to face the fire. Whoever it is, they'll be under pressure to turn what national analysts are calling coal into diamonds.

Critical components for the defense will also include whether the secondary can function without Justin Simmons, and if Baron Browning can stay healthy and dominate as a run-stopper and sack artist. It's a tall order, but this squad has a certain gritty determination.

Verdict

Despite the offensive upgrades, the Broncos still feel like a chef with all the ingredients but no recipe. Starting a rookie quarterback is always a gamble in the NFL, as defensive coordinators live to feast on inexperience.

Even the great Peyton Manning led the league in interceptions in his rookie year. Finding consistency and success will be a tough climb for the offense.

On the flip side, the defense seems better positioned to shine. The new defensive line and outside linebacker additions give this unit a fighting chance.

Plus, with Surtain leading the charge, the Broncos have a star who can change the game. If the defense can bring the intensity and cohesion, it'll be the force multiplier the Broncos desperately need.

So, as we squint into our crystal ball, the defense looks more likely to ascend to dominance. The team has made significant strides in filling roster needs with players ready to impact from day one. Fans can anticipate a Broncos team that might be lacking raw talent but it will compensate with execution and an indomitable will to win.

Buckle up, Broncos Country — this season is bound to be a wild ride. Whether the offense or the defense ultimately leads the charge, one thing's for sure: it won't be boring.

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Mike Evans

MIKE EVANS

Mike Evans covers the Denver Broncos as a contributor for Mile High Huddle since 2020.