Last season, the Denver Broncos found a potential new floor for John Elway to sleep on. After winning the Super Bowl in 2014, the Broncos slipped to 9-7 in the first year without Peyton Manning, then 5-11 in the first year following the surprise retirement of head coach Gary Kubiak. That’s a seven-win drop from their Super Bowl season just two years earlier, and given that Denver was still ranked 10th on defense in 2017 (by DVOA), perhaps a lower floor is still to come.
Elway is hoping that Case Keenum is the plug to stop the link. Yes, Case Keenum. Life is weird, idn’t it?
Keenum signed with the Minnesota Vikings for $2 million a year ago to maybe be the third-string quarterback, then had 22 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 67.6% completions, and a rating of 98.3 after Sam Bradford bradforded himself. Given that Keenum had thrown just 24 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in his five-year career prior to that, the Vikings didn’t want to commit much more and instead felt they upgraded with the signing of Kirk Cousins to a fully-guaranteed $84 million contract. The Broncos probably feel they got a better deal (otherwise they likely would’ve signed Cousins themselves) with the two-year, $36 million pact for Keenum.
And we aren’t comparing Keenum to Cousins in this case. We’re comparing Keenum to Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiler. Things simply have to get better in Denver with that kind of upgrade, right?
I can only say, “Maybe.”
Keenum has notably succeeded once in his career, with head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmer in Minnesota. He had Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph as receivers. He faced a certain schedule of defenses that he’ll never face again. He had a different set of linemen blocking for him. Different running backs. He was in a different conference, in a different part of the country. There are so many differences and perhaps with head coach Vance Joseph, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, and Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders as receivers, he’ll do even better. Or the same. Or worse.
The Broncos’ success depends heavily on the success of its quarterback, as with most teams. A merely serviceable Keenum will not get Denver back to the playoffs. It’s hard to imagine their defense being as special as it was in 2015. We know all too well what that’s like in Seattle. Keenum is going to need to at least replicate his 2017 success, then the Broncos defense will need to play as well as the Vikings’ did; Minnesota was second on defense by DVOA, a couple percentage points behind the Jacksonville Jaguars in first. (Life is weird, idn’t it?) Denver added defensive end Bradley Chubb with the fifth overall pick, putting him in a front-seven with Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko, Brandon Marshall, Shane Ray, Shaquill Barrett, and Todd Davis.
They have their strengths, but probably still need unexpected strides to be made by a number of starters and backups that I can’t project at the moment. You know, because that would be “unexpected.”
That hopeful journey for Elway in 2018 of getting back to the playoffs begins with a home date against the Seattle Seahawks on 9+9=18. I mean, 9/9/18.
The Seahawks beat the Broncos 24-20 at home in Week 3 of 2014. That was about 7.5 months after beating them 43-8 in Super Bowl 48. Their last road game in Denver was a 31-14 loss in Week 2 of 2010, Pete Carroll’s second game with Seattle.
The Seahawks opened on the road in 2015 and lost to the St. Louis Rams, 34-31 in OT.
Their second game in 2016 was on the road in St. Louis, and they lost 9-3.
They opened on the road in 2017 in Green Bay, and lost 17-.9.
Broncos Key Additions:
Broncos Notable Losses: