The Denver Broncos season opener is just around the corner, and Sean Payton is gearing up for his first meaningful game as the team’s head coach. What would define a successful season for him and the Broncos?

Denver Broncos Mailbag Week 1 vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Each week, we’ll conduct a Broncos mailbag that involves questions from you, the readers. If you’d like to participate in next week’s, feel free to email your questions to [email protected] or send me a tweet @CodyRoarkNFL.

For the Denver Broncos season to be considered successful, would that be playoffs or bust for Sean Payton, or would it be a winning record? – @DMarq0812

This is a great question. In the eyes of the Broncos Country, it’s always playoff of bust. Sean Payton has already come out and stated that he’d be pissed off if this team wasn’t a playoff team.

How this season goes depends on what we see unfold for the first four to six weeks from the on-field product. I’ve seen this team make huge strides this offseason from an operations standpoint, but can it lead to winning games in the regular season?

I’d be shocked if Denver wasn’t in the conversation. Success in my eyes would mean that the team is far more competitive, challenging, and finding ways to win those close games that they lost last year.

Payton is the true X-Factor in this equation. If Denver even finishes the season 9-8 and misses the playoffs, I don’t think I could call that unsuccessful, but it’s a step in the right direction if they can win that many games in Payton’s first year as the head coach.

What is the level of concern with the Broncos’ wide receiver position and depth? – @RichCity_804

I’m not too concerned at this point, Larry. The main reason behind that is based on Payton’s offensive philosophy.

Historically, he’s been great at adapting to situations regarding personnel. When Drew Brees was hurt in 2020, he adapted his offense away from passing and transitioned it to a heavy run scheme built around Taysom Hill’s strengths.

With Jerry Jeudy listed as questionable for Sunday’s game and three healthy receivers on the active roster, don’t be shocked if Payton rolls out with a lot of heavy 12 and 13 personnel looks.

For those wondering what these are, 12-personnel is when Denver has 1 running back and two tight ends in formation. 13-personnel is where they have 1 running back and three tight ends in formation.

Even if we see a lot of that this weekend, the Broncos are also expected to at least elevate Lil’Jordan Humphrey to the gameday active roster on Sunday.

Payton’s philosophy is clear. He wants to have options from a personnel standpoint to counteract potential hits to personnel groupings due to injury.

Are you surprised the team didn’t bring back Montrell Washington to the practice squad? – @orange_crush512

Part of me was a little shocked they didn’t bring Montrell Washington back. It’s clear they value Marvin Mims and his ability to return kicks.

However, with Denver only having three healthy receivers on the active roster and Mims set to take on a bigger role offensively, is it worth exposing him to more risk of an injury as a returner, too?

Washington would have been a solid insurance policy, but his limited involvement on offense made it hard for the staff to keep him based on what they needed roster-wise.

The team is expected to release their official depth chart at some point this week, and it will be interesting to see who is the returner option behind Mims.

Does Drew Sanders take over at inside linebacker during the season? – @Nthein24

We’ll see plenty of Drew Sanders at linebacker this season for Denver, but it won’t necessarily be because he takes over. The Broncos are rolling with Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton but will find ways to get Sanders on the field.

His athleticism and football IQ are a large reason why. He’s too talented of a player to not get some reps on defense.

Now, if there were an injury to either of the starters, he’d step into the necessary role to help. Teams need really good inside linebacker depth in today’s NFL, and I think Denver has a very solid core four there at the position.

Who leads the Denver Broncos in touches at running back in Week 1? – @ColbyJHartman

This will be interesting to follow this week for the Broncos. Even Sean Payton told us last week that they haven’t figured that out yet, but I’m sure it will be a high priority for them as they game plan for Sunday.

Instead of one player getting more carries than the other, I think Denver will have an even balance of carries between Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine while sprinkling in Jaleel McLaughlin.

I’d be more curious to see how many total snaps Javonte plays versus total carries. Overall, I’d expect a true committee approach here in Week 1.