Denver Broncos offense gets a massive lift with addition of Russell Wilson

March 8, 2022 was a wild day for fans of the Denver Broncos. The day began with news of Aaron Rodgers declaring that he would stay with the Green Bay Packers, continuing his storied career with the team that drafted him. It was deflating for some who were keen on seeing the Broncos acquire him.

That consternation and hopelessness was summarily forgotten when only a couple hours later it was announced that the Seahawks and Broncos had come to an agreement for a trade, sending Russell Wilson to Denver.

Hope surged anew with the news, and everyone began talking about the leadership, skill and experience that Wilson would bring to Denver. However, it’s no over exaggeration to say that, after what was a painful offensive showing by the team last season, everyone’s thoughts turned to the offensive potential this Broncos offense might now possess.

Let’s start with the simple facts about what Russell Wilson’s career numbers have looked like. To start, Wilson has thrown 292 touchdown passes to 87 interceptions giving him more than a 3-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio over his career. That puts him in third among active NFL quarterbacks, just below Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, the latter who has played nearly 100 games less in his career than Wilson. He’s also fourth in overall passer rating with a 101.8, a clear indicator of his efficiency year after year. And don’t forget, he’s played in 16 playoff games, won nine of them and led his team to a Super Bowl win against the team he is now destined to play for.

These numbers are extremely impressive, especially since the Seahawks have historically been a ball control offense and have relied on their defense to do the heavy lifting. Obviously, having a quarterback like Wilson was a boon and the likeliest reason Seattle won Super Bowl XLVIII.

An ironman in his own right, Wilson has missed only three games in his illustrious career and those took place just last season when he suffered what was deemed a “significant finger injury.” For an injury that was evaluated as requiring a 6–8 week recovery period, Wilson beat it and returned in four weeks, only missing three games and the only starts he has ever missed due to injury. He stays healthy because he’s heady and knows how to protect himself, regularly traipsing out of bounds or giving himself up on scrambles and in obvious sack situations.

Now imagine a player of his ilk at the helm for the Denver Broncos. George Paton did a masterful job of retaining all three of the Broncos top receivers in Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and Jerry Jeudy giving them a fantastic foundation of talent. Add in the likes of Albert Okwuegbunam and KJ Hamler and this team potency in the passing game has the potential to be highly explosive.

The one offensive piece that was a trade casualty was tight end Noah Fant. Having had some growing pains and having worked through them year-by-year, Fant seemed ready to take the next step in his playing career but will now need to explore that growth opportunity in Seattle. It was a blow to the Broncos offense, but a minor one in the scheme of things.

The addition of Wilson is good enough on its own but pairing him with an offensive-minded coach like Nathaniel Hackett has the potential to create something very special. Hackett has never been known as a quarterback guru per se, but he has seen offensive success with below average quarterback talent in the cases of EJ Manuel and Blake Bortles. Plus, Rodgers won back-to-back MVPs with Hackett as his offensive coordinator the last two years.

It’s well established that the young coach will want to run the ball, as he should with the burgeoning talent that is Javonte Williams. However, having a stellar quarterback like Russell Wilson just allows for even more balance and gives a team the extra juice they need when a game has gone sideways, or need to be aggressive in the passing game. Wilson didn’t come to Denver to play in another run-heavy offensive scheme but the value of having a workhorse back is not lost on him either.

The symmetry that the Denver Broncos could reach in 2022 may just allow them to be one of the top offenses in football.

For as good as Wilson is, the expectation is not that he will put up astronomical passing numbers. He has not been that quarterback thus far in his career and at the age of 33 it’s not likely that he will become that player now. But his presence allows every play on offense to be impactful. With the quarterbacks the Broncos have rolled out since the retirement of Peyton Manning, that has never been the case. There were cognitive limitations. There were physical limitations. Yet, with Wilson those hinderances are not present. He’s played and won at the highest level and there is no reason to believe that he cannot again.

Denver’s offense is not without its flaws though. Denver’s offensive line play was ranked 19th in 2021 according PFF. Their offensive line group struggled to maintain a consistent level of play, especially protecting the quarterback. They gave up 40 sacks as a unit last season and will have to vastly improve if they want to reach full aptitude offensively. Russell Wilson isn’t exactly known for getting rid of the ball quickly so it would behoove George Paton to attack the free agency market and the draft for improved staters, developmental and/or depth pieces along all positions on the line.

It won’t all necessarily come together immediately with so many new moving parts, but this offense has the potential to be special and does not feel like an overreach to say that they can be a top five scoring unit in the season to come. If Hackett and Wilson can find that perfect balance of pass and run, the upside and potency is (Mr.) unlimited. We could very well see Denver battling toe-to-toe with the league’s best for the Lombardi trophy.

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