The Denver Broncos enjoyed a well-earned bye week, but now, they are back to football, which gives us the time to look back at the good, the bad and the ugly from the first half of the 2023 season. They will head into a matchup with the Buffalo Bills with a 3-5 record in Week 10.
The good: Russell Wilson's improvement
Russell Wilson in 13 games under Nathaniel Hackett last year: 12 touchdown passes
Russell Wilson in 8 games under Sean Payton this year: 16 touchdown passes
Wilson had 16 TDs in 15 games last season (he missed 2 games with injury and played 2 after Hackett was fired).
— Jon Heath (@ByJonHeath) October 31, 2023
Already through 2023, quarterback Russell Wilson is having himself a significantly statistically better year than in 2022, when he threw for 16 touchdown passes the entire year. Through eight games, Wilson has thrown for 16 passes already. Although he is not perfect, Wilson is having better success with the pieces around him in Sean Payton’s offense.
The good: Javonte Williams and the running backs
Sean Payton's offense has found success with a run-heavy scheme.
— Jon Heath (@ByJonHeath) November 2, 2023
Coming off a horrific knee injury in 2022, there were big questions as to what running back Javonte Williams would be able to do. The Broncos remained inactive during free agency and 2023 NFL draft on the running back front, save for the signing of former Bengals running back Samaje Perine. After the draft, Denver signed undrafted free agent Jaleel McLaughlin, who quickly rose up the depth chart following a strong training camp and exceptional preseason. This trio of backs is meshing extremely well through the first half of the season, with Williams being his bruising, bowling ball-like self, McLaughlin a bolt of lightning speed, and Perine as a pass-catcher and pass-blocking specialist. It will be interesting to see if this will be a trio Broncos Country will be able to see for a few years.
The good: Broncos beat Chiefs, ending losing streak
— Jon Heath (@ByJonHeath) October 30, 2023
This may be the most impressive thing on this list. After 16 games of futility, dating back to the final matchup of the Peyton Manning era, the Denver Broncos finally beat the Kansas City Chiefs! The stifling defense forced five turnovers and held the Chiefs without a touchdown, and the offense did their part by scoring 24 points. Is this going to be a changing of the guard? It may be too soon to tell, but it was a great win that could help the franchise get back on track.
The bad: Early losses
Here are 10 quick takeaways from the Broncos’ heartbreaking loss to the Commanders in Week 2. https://t.co/ixKpTCweBV
— Broncos Wire (@TheBroncosWire) September 20, 2023
Starting out the year, the Broncos had an 0-3 mark before finally winning against a hapless Chicago Bears squad. In the first two games of the year, Denver lost by a combined three points (17-16 Week 1 vs. Raiders, 35-33 Week 2 vs. Commanders). After a brutal loss to the Miami Dolphins, (don’t worry, we’re getting to that later!) the Broncos lost at home to former head coach Nathaniel Hackett and the Jets. It was beginning to look really bad. Blown leads, turnovers at inopportune times, and several other issues plagued the Broncos in the early going.
The bad: Kareem Jackson
— Jon Heath (@ByJonHeath) October 24, 2023
Denver safety Kareem Jackson was responsible for several violent head-to-head collisions against the Las Vegas Raiders, Washington Commanders and Green Bay Packers. The last penalty against Green Bay earned the longtime vet a two-game suspension, his last sit-out game coming against Buffalo. Will defensive coordinator Vance Joseph be hesitant to put Jackson back in after his suspension?
The ugly: The Miami Dolphins game
Here are eight quick takeaways from the Broncos’ demoralizing 70-20 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday. https://t.co/VzAJLdKGNl
— Broncos Wire (@TheBroncosWire) September 27, 2023
The Week 3 game versus the Miami Dolphins was rock-bottom for 2023. It was rock bottom for an offense who barely crossed midfield. It was rock bottom for the Joseph-led defense, who gave up 70 points to the Miami juggernaut. It was rock bottom for veteran players like Garett Bolles and Russell Wilson, all of whom had overwhelmingly underwhelming starts to the season. In subsequent weeks, Denver took the lessons learned from this game, and put it into action. In the next games, they allowed 28, 31, 19, 17 and nine points, respectively. This game changed the outlook of the entire first half of the season, and is a big reason why the Broncos go into Buffalo with a two-game win streak. Can they make it three in a row coming out of the bye?