Denver Broncos 2021 Season Recapby Jackson Caudell January 14, 2022 0 comments
It was a bumpy year for the Denver Broncos. The team started off 3-0 but finished with a 7-10 record and made the decision to fire Vic Fangio after his third season with the team. Denver has not made the playoffs since they won the Super Bowl in 2015 and that is just unacceptable for one of the NFL’s marquee franchises. Once again, it was the quarterback position that the Broncos could not get right.
It was once again a revolving door of quarterbacks in Denver. After trading for Teddy Bridgewater in the offseason, he became the starter. The offense was bland with him under center, but the team did not turn to former draft pick Drew Lock until Bridgewater was injured. Lock was solid at best in his duties, but expect the quarterback debate to define the offseason for the Broncos.
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What Went Right
While the Broncos had one of the blandest offenses in the league, their defense was one of the best in the NFL. Denver had one of the game’s best passing defenses and has building blocks on defense for the next head coach to work with. Two of the rookies that the Broncos drafted in April, Patrick Surtain Jr. and Javonte Williams, look to be future stars. Surtain might be the best corner already on Denver and Williams flashed his physical running style and upside down the stretch of the season.
The team also has to feel good about their receiving corps in the future. Despite uneven quarterback play, guys like Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler showed that they have bright futures in the NFL. There is young talent on this Denver team and that is something that should have every Broncos fan excited for the future.
What Went Wrong
It is no secret that the passing game for this team was well-below average. Whether it was Bridgewater or Lock, this team just could not threaten anyone with their passing game. Sometimes an organization can say that its team does not have enough weapons for their quarterback, but Denver does. The offensive line was a strength in 2020, but the unit seemed to take a step back this season. This was also an injured team at times this season. Defensive end Bradley Chubb missed the first part of the season and after Von Miller was traded, that really hurt their pass rush. Hamler got injured and missed most of the season as well.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Melvin Gordon
This was a tough decision to make, but Gordon was crucial in Denver having a successful ground game this season. After a lackluster year in 2020, many were questioning whether the Broncos made a good decision to sign Gordon. He needed to have a bounceback season and he delivered. This was an unexpectedly good season for Gordon. After the team drafted Williams in the second round, it was unclear what Gordon’s role would be moving forward. He responded by rushing for 918 yards and eight touchdowns. If Gordon was healthy for the full season, then he would have gone over 1,000 yards and had over 10 touchdowns. Gordon was explosive and a reliable player for Denver this year.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Javonte Williams
Denver drafted Williams in the second round and while he started a bit slow, it was clear he was the most talented of the two backs. Williams ran with the physicality that this offense needed, while Gordon was more of a home run hitter. Williams finished the season with 903 yards rushing, four touchdowns, and averaged over four yards per carry. As the season went on, Williams’s usage and receiving went up as well. While he only finished with 316 yards receiving and three touchdowns, it was clear he has talent coming out of the backfield. Williams got better as the year went on and it should be no surprise if he is the lead back in the Broncos backfield next season.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Patrick Surtain II
Surtain was selected with the ninth overall pick out of Alabama and he did not disappoint. He was second on the team in interceptions with four and led the team in pass deflections with 14. Micah Parsons is going to rightfully get all the praise for a defensive rookie, but that should not overshadow the job that Surtain did. For any coach coming to Denver, it will be nice knowing that they will have a young shutdown corner. Surtain is a playmaker and will be a cornerstone for this defense for years to come.
Biggest Surprise – Kareem Jackson
Jackson is a veteran safety and not much was expected out of him this season. He helped form one of the top secondaries and safety duos in the NFL with Justin Simmons. His stats are not eye-popping, but that does not tell the whole story. Jackson was a great presence in the back of the Denver defense and the secondary wouldn’t have been the same without him. Jackson did lead the team in tackles with 88 and he deserves a lot of credit for this being one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Biggest Disappointment – Teddy Bridgewater
This might be a bit harsh on Bridgewater, but he did disappoint this season. After the Carolina Panthers traded him to Denver, some thought that would be the right quarterback move to help the Broncos reach the playoffs. Bridgewater helped the offense be more efficient and he did not turn the ball over, but he was too conservative. That has always been the knock on him as a quarterback. Denver was one of the worst teams in the NFL at throwing the ball downfield and Bridgewater and his playstyle can be blamed. This does not mean he is a bad quarterback. It just means he was not the right quarterback to get Denver back to the postseason.
One Burning Question
Who will be the Next Head Coach?
The Denver job is one of the top jobs open in the NFL today. The Broncos have young talent on both sides of the ball and are a capable quarterback away from being real contenders. Fangio did not do a bad job as the head coach, but the offense never took the necessary steps. That doesn’t mean that the next head coach has to be an offensive-minded coach. The next head coach has to have a plan for how to find the next quarterback, whether that is through trade or the draft. This team is ready to win right now and that means that there is going to be pressure to find the right coach who will help the team win in 2022.
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