Denver is riding high, in part due to a strong offseason
After beating the Oakland Raiders in Week 2, the Denver Broncos improved to 2-0 and the big reason why is their offseason additions.
Starting with Bradley Chubb, the fifth overall pick in the 2018 draft, the Broncos’ rookie class has come in and contributed immediately. Chubb has played 102 of 122 snaps and has produced eight quarterback pressures on 49 pass-rushing snaps. That ratio is good for best among all rookies in the NFL. Chubb has been equally impressive against the run, where he’s racked up four defensive stops, also good for first amongst all rookies. This is all in addition to the regular dominance Von Miller brings to each game (who currently leads the NFL in sacks).
Second and third round picks Courtland Sutton and Royce Freeman have combined with undrafted free agent Lindsay Freeman to produce 366 yards of offense, the best of any rookie class since the 1994 Colts. Lindsay has been dominant on the ground and is the third leading rushing in the league with 178 yards. A big reason why is his efficiency after contact, where he has averaged 6.36 yards per carry after being hit.
The Broncos offensive line has also seen huge improvements, keeping Keenum relatively pressure free and giving the running backs plenty of space to run before getting hit. In fact, the line ranks as number one in the NFL in creating space for running backs before they face contact. Denver running backs average a whole 3.48 yards before contact, which has translated to 209 rushing yards in their first two games, good for first in the league. Newly acquired Jareed Veldheer has locked down the right side of the line while Garett Bolles has made improvements on his game, especially on cutting out penalties. Both rank inside PFF’s top 25 tackles in the league.
Of course, Case Keenum’s arrival has been critical. Yes, he has thrown interceptions and put the Broncos in tough spots. But unlike previous Broncos quarterbacks, he doesn’t allow his mistakes to kill the offense. Against both the Seahawks and the Raiders he led clutch drives to score after throwing picks. The team is clearly different with him under center, and his pocket manipulation has allowed plays to stay alive when they would have resulted in negative yards in the past. There were many (myself included) who wanted to see the Broncos grab UCLA’s Josh Rosen with the fifth pick, but so far Keenum’s performance has inspired hope that last year’s season in Minnesota was an extended example of how he can play, not just a fluke.
Overall, the Broncos look sharp this year and it’s largely because of the major changes made in the offseason. A strong draft, good free-agency, and an underrated trade have completely changed the complexion and talent level of this team. The team suddenly has a quarterback who extends plays and can orchestrate comebacks, there are multiple options at running back and receiver, and it’s all anchored by a sneaky-good offensive line. All that combined with a defense still loaded with talent could make this team dangerous come December and January.