Kiz: Quarterback Russell Wilson got paid all the money, so he gets all the blame for the Broncos’ abysmal 3-9 record. But is the NFL’s worst offense all his fault? OK, we know coach Nathaniel Hackett, who appears to be over his head, hasn’t helped matters. But players win games. On a team averaging an almost unfathomably bad 13.8 points per game, which offensive teammate has let down Wilson the most?
Gabriel: Part of the reason it’s tough to pick one is because so many guys have been dinged by injury. Wilson and Jerry Jeudy struggled to get on the same page early in the season, for example, but then just about the time it looked like it was getting better, Jeudy went down with an ankle injury. KJ Hamler, Lloyd Cushenberry, Billy Turner, they all get incomplete grades rather than full letdown marks because they’ve missed so much time with injury, though perhaps that’s part of the equation. Certainly the Broncos wish they got a lot more production out of all of them, Turner in particular. Here’s a wild card entry: Now former teammate Melvin Gordon. He was supposed to be a solid No. 2 back. Instead, Denver’s run game collapsed when Javonte Williams got hurt. What say you, Kiz?
Kiz: I have to start with Courtland Sutton. The four-year, $60.8 million contract extension given him last year by general manager George Paton is beginning to look like a reach. He is neither the true deep threat Wilson so desperately needs to take the top off the defense, nor does Sutton profile as a truly elite No. 1 receiver that can consistently move the sticks on third down or find the end zone at crunch time.
Gabriel: Denver also hasn’t been able to rely on the back-shoulder throw or so-called 50/50 type situations down the field to Sutton. Maybe the back shoulder issue is because teams aren’t worried about him running past and so they can play him more in the hip pocket rather than over the top. Now Sutton, too, has a hamstring issue, after he pulled up late in the second quarter against Baltimore. After the first five games of the season, Sutton was on pace for 99 catches and 1,418 yards. Since then, he’s played at a 658-yard pace.
Kiz: Sutton simply does not appear to be the same player he was before tearing his ACL at Pittsburgh in 2020. In his two years prior to the injury, Sutton averaged 15.9 yards per catch and scored 10 touchdowns. In the better part of two seasons since returning, Sutton has averaged 13.5 yards per catch and scored three touchdowns. He’s a very good No. 2 receiver. If you don’t think Jerry Jeudy can be a No. 1, maybe offensive tackle isn’t Paton’s top priority in the NFL draft.
Gabriel: It’s going to be very interesting to see how the Broncos approach the position this offseason. You can squint and see Sutton, Tim Patrick and then Jeudy operating more out of the slot and see a solid unit, but they really don’t have a true game-breaker unless Jeudy takes another big step in Year 4 or KJ Hamler does the same while staying on the field. Both could be in the final years of their rookie contracts, too. Or, perhaps major changes are on the way.
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