The Denver Broncos are poised to take the league by storm in 2022, armed with Russell Wilson at quarterback and an energetic, innovative head coach in Nathaniel Hackett. Wilson might be an 11th-year veteran but the Broncos are actually quite a young team across the board.
However, due to the expert personnel savvy of GM George Paton, the Broncos have a well-placed veteran at every level of the team to balance out what relative youth and inexperience might predominate.
This team has several starting jobs up for grabs on both sides of the ball. NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal recently projected Denver's starting lineup on both offense and defense and there were one or two noteworthy distinctions.
Let's dive in.
- QB: Russell Wilson
- RB: Javonte Williams
- WR: Courtland Sutton
- WR: Jerry Jeudy
- WR: Tim Patrick
- TE: Albert Okwuegbunam
- LT: Garett Bolles
- LG: Dalton Risner
- C: Graham Glasgow
- RG: Quinn Meinerz
- RT: Billy Turner
- DE: Dre'Mont Jones
- DE: D.J. Jones
- OLB: Randy Gregory
- OLB: Bradley Chubb
- OLB: Malik Reed (huh?)
- ILB: Josey Jewell
- CB: Patrick Surtain II
- CB: Ronald Darby
- CB: K'Waun Williams
- S: Justin Simmons
- S: Kareem Jackson
You'll note that Rosenthal has the Broncos operating with three-wide receiver sets on a majority basis. That's likely how it's going to shake out, hence the third starting wideout, but Hackett is expected to deploy plenty of two-tight end sets and even two-back sets with a fullback to lead block.
Aside from that, the only things to write home about offensively in Rosenthal's projections are Williams holding down the starting job over veteran Melvin Gordon and Graham Glasgow unseating two-year incumbent Lloyd Cushenberry III at center.
Glasgow being the center is more a reflection of Meinerz being in demand by this coaching staff than it is of the former's prowess. Cushenberry is vulnerable to having his job taken, though, as his first two years in the league, despite his ironman availability, have been lackluster.
This is the starting five upfront I foresee the Broncos rolling with to open the season, too. Cushenberry simply hasn't cut the mustard, Meinerz is too good to sit on the bench, and Glasgow is a savvy vet with experience starting at center during his days in Detroit.
As for the defense, I'm not sure what Rosenthal is thinking by placing Chubb, Gregory, and Reed in the starting lineup considering they're all rush linebackers. New defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero isn't going to run NASCAR pass-rush packages on a down-in, down-out basis.
This is basically a dime'd NASCAR lineup and while I expect the Broncos to throw looks like this at opponents from time to time, this package is not going to outpace the team's nickel unit, which will include two down linemen, two rush linebackers, and either two off-ball linebackers, or one inside 'backer and a dime-backer.
Here's a better stab at what the Broncos' true starting lineup in 3-4 base defense might look like come September.
- D-Line: Dre'Mont Jones (DE), D.J. Jones (NT), Eyioma Uwazurike (DE)
- OLB: Bradley Chubb, Randy Gregory
- ILB: Josey Jewell, Baron Browning
- CB: Patrick Surtain II, Ronald Darby
- FS: Justin Simmons
- SS: Kareem Jackson
However the personnel/package math plays out, one thing is certain. Glancing over Denver's projected starting lineups, this team is well-balanced with talent.
The Broncos will go as far as Wilson's quarterbacking, and Hackett's relatively inexperienced coaching staff, will take them. Still, this team has the potential for a true worst-to-first finish in the stacked AFC West this year.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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