For Denver Broncos fans, this Sunday was excruciating. Comparable to having every bone in their body break at the same time. The Broncos had many issues before the game, but instead of pouring water on the kitchen fire, they threw a stick of dynamite in the blaze and blew up the entire house and foundation. The Philadelphia Eagles dismantled the Broncos in every way imaginable while the Broncos showed that the franchise is now a massive heaping pile of hot garbage.
A lack of adjustments
Ever since Peyton Manning left, watching the Broncos’ offense has been as exciting as having open heart surgery without anesthetic. Trevor Siemian proved limited in his ability in that he could never get past his first read. He also sometimes would see ghosts and not throw to open wide receivers. Over 21 games, he had an exceedingly unspectacular 60.2 completion percentage, 27 touchdown passes, and 20 interceptions.
In his last three games before the Broncos benched him, he threw eight interceptions and only two touchdown passes. Brock Osweiler proved on Sunday that he still cannot make good decisions as he had two of his passes intercepted and was lucky not to have at least three more of them picked off. Paxton Lynch, while he has not played, has had a difficult time learning the playbook for the second straight year under a new head coach.
But the Broncos have more issues with their offense, such as they have an offensive line, which is about as useful at stopping pass rushers as a sieve is at stopping water. They have given up the third most sacks (28) and tenth most hits on the quarterback (28). Trevor Siemian can shoulder some of the responsibility for holding onto the ball while his first and only read does not get open, but the offensive line is not blameless.
However, what shows that the Broncos are plummeting towards the status as one of the worst teams in the league is the lack of effort from the defense against the Eagles.
The Broncos defense gave up 51 points on Sunday, and they did not stop the Eagles in any way. Carson Wentz soared through the No Fly Zone as he threw four touchdown passes. Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement had acres of space to run as they rushed for a combined 128 yards on 20 carries with three touchdowns. The defense, all around, lacked any sort concentration or effort that is necessary for remotely stopping a team. The defense, which the Broncos relied on for two-and-a-half years, has finally snapped and this week, they stopped trying.
But the worst part of this coaching disaster is how Vance Joseph and his coaching staff completely looks out of his depth. After the game on Sunday, Joseph said this:
Seriously? Does Joseph need to look at the tape to decide on Osweiler's performance? What is he talking about? The Broncos have not seen this level of incompetence and lack of touch since the Josh McDaniels era, and the name “Josh McDaniels” is now a dirty word in the city of Denver.
Coaching question marks
The coaching has not just said some questionable quotes. They also have shown an inability to make adjustments. Offensively, the staff has been obstinate in not using the run game as much as they did early on in the season. In each of their three wins, they have run ball at least 28 times and rushed for at least 120 yards. In losses, Denver has only once carried the ball at least 28 times and rushed for more that 120 yards. The Broncos have turnstiles at right tackle in either Menelik Watson, Allen Barbre, or Donald Stephenson, yet they do not help slow the rush from that side by chipping the pass rushers or throwing screen passes on that side of the rusher. They also have shown little willingness to try to control the middle of the field. The tight end have not featured prominently in their gameplan as shown by their combined 49 targets over the first eight games.
Defensively, the Broncos have kept matching up middle linebackers with the opponents tight ends, and each week, the opponent's tight ends keep winning that match-up. In the first eight games this season, tight ends have caught 44 passes for 584 yards and five touchdowns against the Broncos. The coaching staff has done nothing schematically to cover up the team's weaknesses while not playing to the player's strengths.
The common denominator within it all
Amongst all of this mess, one figure has remained constant throughout it all: John Elway. Even though John Elway has become almost impervious to criticism within the city of Denver, now is the time to evaluate his responsibility in creating this unmitigated disaster.
As executive vice president of football operations and general manager, Elway is in charge of the decisions on players and coaches. Elway wanted Joseph, and this past offseason, he wasted no time in hiring him, and he hired a catalog of former offensive coordinators to help him. But Joseph and his staff have laid a massive egg.
In the draft, Elway has not been excellent, especially on the offensive side. Since 2014, he has missed on Michael Schofield, Cody Latimer, Jeff Heuerman, Ty Sambrailo, and potentially Paxton Lynch. The Broncos drafted all of them in the third round or earlier, and none of them are impactful starters for the Broncos.
As for the defense, Elway might not be as responsible for their success. After the Seattle Seahawks demoralized the Broncos defense during Super Bowl 48, Elway signed TJ Ward, Aqib Talib, and DeMarcus Ware to fortify the defense. But they mainly signed in Denver because Peyton Manning was the quarterback, and while Peyton led the Broncos, Denver was one of the best free agent destinations for any player that wanted to win. But without him, Elway has had a hard time persuading free agents to come to Denver, as shown by their inability to sign Calais Campbell this past offseason. Even though he had a few brilliant late round draft picks in Danny Trevathan and Malik Jackson, they both left immediately when Peyton Manning retired. Now, the Broncos did not seriously try to sign the two of them, but you one can wonder if they would have had an interest in staying in Denver if Peyton was still around.
After the Eagles obliterated the Broncos, Denver has shown that it has an insurmountable amount of issues, in every part of the team. And unless the Broncos miraculously turn things around, they will need to burn the entire structure to the ground and start all over again.
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