Will Denver Broncos be contenders in 2018?
From 2011 to 2015 the Denver Broncos won the AFC West division, won two AFC championships and one Super Bowl victory in the Peyton Manning era. But over the past two years, there has been clear regression.
As offensive line issues, injuries, losses of key personnel along with poor coaching and poor play on both sides of the ball over the past two seasons have shown, there are a lot of red flags. Particularly so for a team that has had a significant drop off in the win column.
Now what does this mean for the Broncos in the AFC Western Division? In my opinion, there is no room for error here. With a new QB in Case Keenum, there is pressure to succeed offensively along with getting more production out of WR's Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and a non-existent running attack.
New OC Bill Musgrave (one of the most respected coordinators in the league) will certainly have his challenges. But who in the backfield will be the number one man? Will it be Devontae Booker or this year's draft choice Royce Freeman? Can the offensive line play well, open holes and protect when needed? We will see in training camp and pre-season.
For the defensive side of the ball, there are still questions that need to be answered. Can Bradley Chubb pick up the defensive scheme and be a force with Von Miller on the other side? Can Shane Ray stay healthy for 16 games? Can the secondary overcome the loss of Aquib Talib to the Rams?
These are all questions that can be answered in the coming weeks, and with a VERY loaded division that has a new starter in KC (Mahomes), a coach who is back for a second go around in Oakland (Gruden), and an ageless starter on a team who is very dangerous (Rivers).
In short, do I believe the Broncos can contend in 2018? Yes, but a lot will hinge on the first four games of the season.
Three of the first four games are at home and it will be extremely important for the Broncos to get off to a strong start to build momentum for the season, especially for a team that is lost in transition and translation. As there is pressure building, the team from the front office down has to be successful or we could likely see more significant changes in 2019.