Five weeks through the NFL season, the Denver Broncos have a lot of questions and areas to improve on offense, defense, and special teams. These questions provide the perfect opportunity for the first installment of a weekly mailbag that allows Broncos fans to get their questions in about the current state of the team.

Denver Broncos Mailbag

“With the offensive struggles seeming to just not having things in sync, how would you readjust and refocus your offense for the remainder of the year if you were Coach Hackett/Outten?” – Coby May

This is a great question. The biggest issue related to the offense’s struggles has mostly been going backward on first down. Whether that comes from a sack, penalty, or a run that gets tackled for a loss, Denver has found themselves facing a 2nd and long or 3rd and long far too consistently through five games. From a coaching standpoint, you may have to dial back some of the formations or schemes you want to run on first down. If the issue is personnel (injuries to Quinn Meinerz, Billy Turner on the right side) and missed execution, at some point you have to make changes. Sometimes going back to basics can be more beneficial than most believe.

“Who is your Broncos’ MVP 5 games into the season?” – Jolene

On the offensive side of the ball, Courtland Sutton would be the first choice. How he has attacked the entire offseason, training camp, and the regular season has been special to watch. As a team captain, he’s stepped up as a reliable receiving target for Russell Wilson. What cements this for me is how he took on everything in Week 2 against the Houston Texans after Jerry Jeudy went down with an injury. He carries the same work ethic and mentality into practice each day as well.

“Is Denver really in on the Christian McCaffrey sweepstakes? Cold hard opinion on playoff chances a 1/3rd of the way through?” – @Eat_UR_Wheaties

The Broncos to my knowledge are not in on Christian McCaffrey and it wouldn’t make sense for them to be. While the Panthers are undergoing a major overhaul after firing Matt Rhule, David Tepper wants to build the foundation they already have and McCaffrey is a big part of that. Broncos general manager George Paton wants more draft capital going into the 2023 NFL Draft and Denver is already without a 1st or 2nd rounder next year. The Broncos appear to be going forward for the remainder of the season with Melvin Gordon, Latavius Murray, and Mike Boone. In regard to playoff chances, 2-3 isn’t what Denver wanted, but the AFC right now is wide open with 12 out of 16 AFC teams having two or three losses total as it stands today.

“How do we improve the offense as fast as possible?” – @ballsohard_dee

As cliché as it sounds, there really isn’t a band-aid solution for some of the offensive struggles that have happened. Dalton Risner was vocal on Tuesday that the offense as a whole unit has to understand their job and responsibility and execute. Through the first five weeks, there have been a handful of instances where a play breaks down due to miscommunication, and missed assignments. If the Broncos’ offense can get the run game going more consistently going forward, they can alleviate the pressure of having to put everything in the hands of Russell Wilson and the passing game while also keeping the defense off of the field.

“Do you know when Jalen Virgil is going to play, are the Broncos making trades at the deadline?” – Darius Wilkins

Jalen Virgil should see the field at some point this season for the Broncos. His speed and level of explosiveness can be something that gives the Broncos offense a boost, but he’s still in the process of picking things up with the offensive scheme and carrying that over into practice. It’s interesting you bring up the trade deadline because right now Denver has seven total wide receivers on the 53-man roster. I’m not sure how active George Paton will be, but he has mentioned that he wants more than the five total draft picks that they have going into the 2023 NFL Draft, so it’s very likely we see some movement, but which players or positions could be impacted remains to be determined.

“Do the Broncos have any idea as to what they will be doing with Nathaniel Hackett in the coming weeks?” – Brendan Landis

Coaching. Contrary to the frustration of Broncos fans for how the offense has looked, Denver is going to give Nathaniel Hackett everything he needs to help the team win games. The Broncos are 2-3 right now and their biggest issue has been small things that have impacted them late in games that have led to three losses. It’s entirely too early for a first-year head coach to be fired. In my opinion, Hackett is safe through this year. Firing a first-year head coach due to offensive struggles sets a dangerous precedent that would impact the overall perception of any future potential head coach. Who would want to come to an organization if a coach gets fired after one year? Remember when Josh McDaniels started off 6-0?

“Does Nathaniel Hackett have to implement more of ‘his style’ to the offense to see improvement? Or does Russell Wilson need to do a better job of going through his reads and trusting in his other WRs some more?” – @JuniorGeee

This is a great question. To be honest with you, I think both is the appropriate answer. Hackett and Wilson are still feeling each other out in terms of game rhythm and that’s something we all expected to take some time. Courtland Sutton has emerged as a security blanket for Wilson which is a good thing, but that trust has to be built with guys like Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, the tight ends, and even Kendall Hinton who already has some established trust with Russ this season.

“With Ronald Darby out, will it be Damarri Mathis starting or will Michael Ojemudia be back? Even Bassey, who would you prefer to be the other boundary corner?” – Marshall Mac

This will be something to watch going for the next several weeks. Ojemudia’s return from injured reserve will be big for their depth. Damarri Mathis has done a fantastic job in my opinion stepping in at cornerback. Ejiro Evero could utilize both Mathis and Ojemudia inside of a rotation depending on the various matchups that the team faces on a week-to-week basis. Bassey is more of a nickel and slot defender than he is an outside coverage cornerback.

“With Justin Simmons coming back, how do we keep Caden Sterns on the field and what could the future look like at safety?” – Joel Johnston

With Justin Simmons return, Sterns will likely transition back to his hybrid role within the Broncos dime package. Sterns level of play has been impressive filling in while Simmons was on injured reserve. Ejiro Evero will put his best 11 players on the field and we’ve already seen him get creative with Bradley Chubb, Baron Browning, Dre’Mont Jones, and Randy Gregory on the field at the same time earlier this season. As for the foreseeable future, Simmons and Sterns will more than likely be the two players on the backend of the secondary. Kareem Jackson has been so good for the Broncos defense since coming over, but he’s in his 13th season and is playing on a one-year deal. In 2023, Simmons and Sterns likely serve as the duo.

“With Melvin Gordon III on the final stretch of a one-year deal, and Javonte Williams with a long road to recovery, is Murray/Boone the long-term answer at RB? With a limited number of draft picks, what is the long-term plan at RB?” – @Boone_Goon

What the Broncos do at the running back position after this year will be interesting. Melvin Gordon’s deal expires after this year as does Mike Boone’s. The expectation is that Javonte Williams will be back by the start of the regular season, but I imagine Latavius Murray and Boone could be an option to return if they perform well for the remainder of the season. I also expect them to take a look at the free agency market. Jamaal Williams, Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Kareem Hunt are four names who will be unrestricted free agents after this season. If the Broncos offense can get rolling, Denver will become an appealing free-agency destination.

“The Broncos have had a number of serious injuries already this season along with a completely dysfunctional offense. How big a mistake was the, “let’s rest the starters” approach to this pre-season and why didn’t anyone in the organization step in to suggest an alternative approach?” – Marco Pesce

Preseason play hasn’t mattered much for other NFL teams nor would it have mattered much if the Broncos played their starters. If a starter were to get hurt, everybody would be pounding the table asking why the starters played. The Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys are all examples of teams who didn’t play their starters in the preseason. Injuries across the entire NFL right now are up at an alarming pace, but I can assure you that the strength and conditioning coaches aren’t the reason to blame. It’s football. This game is the most physical contact sport on the planet being played at the fastest speed of every professional sport possible, field surface, athlete diet and hydration, how much sleep they get, and even training at elevation can all impact potential injury outcomes.

That concludes this week’s first installment of a weekly mailbag series that features Broncos Country’s biggest questions surrounding the current and future outlook of the team.