Skip to main content

ESPN Exposes How Bad Broncos Were at Protecting Russell Wilson

There's a rhyme and a reason to the Denver Broncos' offseason investments.

If you want the perfect illustration of why the Denver Broncos spent big on the offensive line this offseason, look no further than NFL on ESPN's recent tweet. 

"Russell Wilson was sacked more times in one season than any QB in Broncos history," read the tweet. 

It's a sobering statistic. To put it into context, think back to the 2015 Broncos defense — they of Super Bowl 50 fame. Under Wade Phillips, that predatory defense sacked the quarterback a whopping 52 times in the regular season. 

Fast forward to 2022, and the Broncos allowed their quarterback to be sacked 55 times. That doesn't count all the QB hits and hurries. That's a shocking number of sacks. 

What happens next for the Broncos? Don't miss out on any news and analysis! Take a second and sign up for our free newsletter and get breaking Broncos news delivered to your inbox daily!

And yet, the big uglies upfront couldn't be bothered, at times, to help Wilson up off the turf after he'd been knocked down. It's understandable why Brett Rypien got in Dalton Risner's face over the issue when tempers flared down the stretch. 

Sean Payton arrived in January, masochistically studied the film, and quickly deduced that upgrades upfront would be required. The Broncos spent big on right tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Ben Powers, to not only help stop the bleeding and incessant pressure on Wilson, but to serve as the lynchpins to a revitalized rushing attack borne of physical, bruising blocking. 

Not every sack last season can be laid at the feet of the Broncos' O-line, which dealt with a plethora of injuries. Wilson himself was complicit in many sacks, from not recognizing pressure pre-snap to holding onto the ball too long. Nathaniel Hackett's impotent scheme also contributed. 

If nothing else, Payton is a highly detailed, nuanced coach. All those little things that fell by the wayside last year because the coaches and quarterback were so overwhelmed and in over their heads will be brought back to the surface to be studied and mastered under Payton. 

I don't expect Wilson to miss as many free rushers pre-snap, nor his center — whoever that might be come the season-opener. When it comes to protecting the quarterback, there are many factors at play. 

Payton knows how that sausage gets made. He's gone to great lengths to also upgrade the Broncos' strength and conditioning program and sports sciences to more effectively stave off the injury bug in 2023 and beyond. 

At the end of the day, however, Wilson has to look himself in the mirror and do some soul-searching on this subject. It's no coincidence that he's been one of the league's most-sacked QBs over the last few years, and that distinction spans two NFL cities. 

Follow Mile High Huddle on Twitter and Facebook.

Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!