The offense, for the better part of two years, has struggled while giving way to the No Fly Zone as the Denver Broncos best unit. At the start of the 2016 season, many believed that any kind of production from the quarterback spot would be an upgrade over the retired Peyton Manning. Even the defense wrongly concluded that the offense would be much improved going into this past season.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1742909-denver-broncos-head-coach... That improvement never materialized as the leadership that Manning brought to the team proved to be more invaluable than his pedestrian stats last year would suggest. Trevor Siemian, for all of his critics, did an admirable job of keeping the team treading water but too much youth in the backfield and not enough production up front ultimately led to an inept offense, most notably down the stretch.
The Broncos finished the season ranked No. 27 in total yards, No. 21 in passing, and No. 27 in rushing. The offensive line relinquished 40 sacks, the ninth-highest mark in the NFL.
With the season in the books and the team looking towards the draft and free agency, we can put our revisionist glasses on and look back in deciding who were the bright spots for the offense during this failed campaign, along with the biggest disappointments and top player on the rise.
Most Valuable Player: Matt Paradis, Center
Not mincing words, the Denver offense ranged from average to very poor, even going through an historic scoring drought in losses to Tennessee, New England and Kansas City. Needless to say, it was hard putting a finger on who was truly the most valuable player among the such a poor group.
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are far and away the most talented of any of the Broncos skill positions. But, with an inexperienced quarterback in Siemian throwing them the ball and a depleted backfield leaving them as the lone threat on the offense, it limited their impact.
A case could be made for C.J. Anderson or Trevor Siemian but with the injury to the former and inconsistency from the latter, it wouldn’t have been a worthy choice to name either as the offense's MVP.
That distinction goes to Ed Block Courage Award-winner, Matt Paradis. In playing one of the most demanding spots on the offense, Paradis battled a lingering injury to both hips for most of the year — a problem that will require offseason surgery to correct.
While Paradis did sit out the majority of practices leading up to gameday, this did not prevent him from missing a single snap, or from finishing the season as Pro Football Focus' top-graded center.
Yes, the Denver offensive line wasn’t good this year. With that in mind, imagine what it would have been like without it's most consistent and vital player. If you think it couldn’t have gotten much worse without Paradis, you would be mistaken.
Honorable Mentions: Trevor Siemian, C.J. Anderson, Emmanuel Sanders
Biggest Disappointments: Donald Stephenson & Ty Sambrailo, Tackles
On paper, Stephenson looked to be a solid free-agent signing by the Broncos. Not only would he be able to upgrade the right tackle spot manned by Michael Schofield the year prior, it would allow Schofield to kick inside to his more natural position at guard.
Stephenson got out to a good start before a calf injury derailed his momentum for the rest of the year. From that point, the tackle never seemed to get back into a groove. His play suffered so badly that he was benched due to the coach’s decision in the loss to Kansas City in Denver.
Speaking of that loss, the man who would replace Stephenson would be 2015 second round pick Ty Sambralio. Despite doing little to justify his place as a starter, Sambrailo would give up muliple sacks and numerous pressures to Justin Houston, before being pulled himself.
Ineffective in any role the coaching staff tried him in this year, Sambrailo has gone from a promising pick to an unmitigated disaster in just one year.
Player on the Rise: Jordan Taylor, WR
Along with the MVP, this was another difficult choice due to sheer number of candidates. The offense is young in many spots and players like A.J. Derby, Andy Janovich and Trevor Siemian all had legitimate arguments.
Still, Taylor has taken the hard way into his spot on the roster. Going from undrafted afterthought to credible receiving option, the only thing that is standing in the way of Taylor getting more touches on the field are the two Pro Bowlers ahead of him.
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In fact, among all the Denver receivers who totaled at least 16 catches, Taylor tied for the lead in best yards per catch with Emmanuel Sanders, despite only seeing a third of the snaps. The lanky wideout allowed Demaryius Thomas to come off the field for rest more and more as the year progressed, while also playing out wide and allowing Thomas to move into the slot, creating mismatches.
The youngster still has kinks to work out in his development but it’s hard to argue that with more seasoning, he shouldn’t be primed for an expanded role next year. While not a speedster, he is able to use his size to break tackles and be a big-bodied target in the redzone. Taylor has already made dramatic strides in his play in his brief time with the Broncos.
Honorable Mention: A.J. Derby, Devontae Booker, Andy Janovich
While some franchises would be envious of a 9-7 record, that mark has led to a mini-panic in Broncos Country. The good news is that with another season of experience for either Siemian or Paxton Lynch, along with key players coming back from injury, the Broncos will be in a much better position to start 2017.
Many circumstances led to the struggles moving the ball this season. Being young at the wrong spots, odd play-calling and too much loyalty in regards to players and playing time all added up to one of the worst units this franchise has ever produced. It can only get better from here.
Tomorrow we will take a look at the defensive side of the ball
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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