After injuries derailed a large part of the Denver Broncos season last year, they’ll get several core players back for the 2023 season. Which players will have the biggest impact coming back from them?

Can Denver Broncos offense benefit from the return of several players?

Last season was a disaster for the Denver Broncos offense, but it’s hard not to ask whether or not several of the players we’ll discuss could have changed the outcome in several games.

Tim Patrick brings back a missing dynamic from last season
When the Broncos lost wide receiver Tim Patrick during a training camp practice last season, it sucked the wind out of Dove Valley. Considering Patrick’s journey from undrafted rookie free agent to becoming a core player for the Broncos by receiving a well-deserved contract extension — the loss of his presence was a massive blow for the Broncos’ offense.

His 6’4 size and physical frame combined with his work ethic made him into a dynamic playmaker for Denver’s offense. In 2021, Patrick led the Broncos in receiving touchdowns (5) while coming in second in receiving yards (734) and second in receptions with 53 total. Both his and Courtland Sutton’s efforts that season resulted in them receiving contract extensions.

However, one element of Patrick’s game that was missing desperately for the Broncos last season was his ability to be a chain mover on third down. In 2021, 39 of his 53 receptions moved the chains for a first down to keep offensive drives going. The Broncos were dead last on 3rd down last season, converting only 29.1% of their attempts.

Any time players return from injury, media and fans sometimes place unrealistic expectations on a player without considering the adjustments that come after suffering a major injury in the manner Patrick did. With the Broncos extensive depth at the wide receiver position, it’s very likely that the structure around Patrick reduces the amount of pressure he may put on himself to do too much too soon.

In other cases, Patrick could very well return to the same form he had in 2021 and if he does, the Broncos’ offense will benefit from his presence tremendously. If that happens, the Broncos offense should be extensively better this upcoming season.

Will Garrett Bolles return help the Broncos offensive line be more consistent?
Garett Bolles return from a major leg injury suffered last season is a good thing for the Denver Broncos offense. Not only will it benefit the offense, but it should empower an offensive line unit that struggled all across the board last year.

With new arrivals Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey, head coach Sean Payton has clearly invested in size and physicality as part of the equation for how he envisions his offense to be this upcoming season. Bolles has all of the tools to fit right into what Payton wants and could potentially play in a scheme that benefits what he does well.

Back when Mike Munchak was the offensive line coach and Bolles was playing some of the best football of his career, getting him out in space or even pulling him on run plays from time to time helped benefit the Broncos rushing offense. There wasn’t much of that last season, but that could change entirely under Payton and new offensive line coach Zach Strief.

As he returns from injury, he’s also one player who has some pressure on him heading into this season considering his contract expires within the next two seasons and he was previously linked to some trade rumors in the offseason.

If Bolles can plug right into Payton’s scheme effectively, he could have a significant impact on the Broncos production in 2023.

Javonte Williams progress promising ahead of his return
When Javonte Williams was spotted on the field during Broncos OTAs two weeks ago, there was a collective sigh of relief and excitement for his return this upcoming season.

Nearly seven months after a devastating ACL injury, Williams has been present at every organized team activity during the team’s offseason program. Considering the Broncos emphasis on being a physically imposing rushing offense, how does Williams’ return forecast his potential impact?

Once again, it’s worth noting that the Broncos are still easing him into the mix of things in a limited capacity, but the true test will come during NFL training camp which is expected to be near the end of July for Denver. How Williams does when the pads come on will be how the team carefully evaluates where he’s at in his recovery.

His injury is a big reason the Broncos invested in signing Samaje Perine in NFL Free Agency — somebody Payton and the team feel is a starter if Williams is not ready to go just yet when the team hosts the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1. On top of that, the running back room also features former New Orleans Saints rusher Tony Jones Jr., Tyler Badie, and undrafted rookie free agent Jaleel McLaughlin.

The physical journey coming back from an ACL injury is grueling for every player, but so is the mental battle that so many athletes face when trying to return to the things they did well previously. If Williams checks every box for himself and the Broncos medical staff, the expectation will be that he’s going to be the primary back.

Williams doesn’t need to be a guy that rushes for over 1200 yards this season, but if he can put up efficient numbers in the red zone, his impact will still be significant for the Denver Broncos offensively.

KJ Hamler shouldn’t be counted out
KJ Hamler is one player on the Denver Broncos roster at the wide receiver position who shouldn’t be counted out ahead of this season. Many fans were excited when former head coach Vic Fangio drafted him because he possesses true burner speed and could get behind defenses.

In 2021, Hamler suffered a gruesome injury in Week 3 against the New York Jets, tearing his ACL and dislocating his hip in the process. He had surgery on both and began his recovery process. What many fail to remember about Hamler’s recovery process is that he lost a significant amount of weight from not being able to weight bear during the early portion of his recovery.

What’s even more lost on people is that Hamler actually returned well ahead of schedule, participating in a limited capacity during training camp and OTAs before seeing his first game action back in the NFL Preseason last year. Hamler put in so much work behind the scenes to be able to play last year.

Football is important to Hamler and a lot of criticism surrounding him last year as he dealt with some other injuries failed to put things into perspective for so many who didn’t understand the circumstances surrounding him in 2022. In the games that he played for the Broncos last season, every reception he made had a huge impact on the offensive side of the ball.

He had seven total receptions for 165 yards on 14 targets. All of those catches were downfield plays including a long reception of 55 yards and a catch of 40+ yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars that helped them win the game in a comeback effort.

2023 will be an important year for Hamler as he looks to have a big impact for Denver’s offense. After the team drafted former Oklahoma Sooners rookie wide receiver Marvin Mims, speculation arose that the Broncos would look to move on from Hamler.

While this isn’t true, Hamler will have to compete during training camp and the preseason to stay part of the team’s depth chart. There is a world that exists where Hamler and Mims 4.3 speed can be effectively utilized by Sean Payton and the offense, specifically tailoring to Russell Wilson’s ability to throw the deep ball.

Having two players with the speed they possess is a scary challenge for most defensive coordinators and it would be naive to discard Hamler simply due to the injuries he’s sustained, including a torn pectoral muscle which he had surgically repaired this offseason. He’s expected to be ready to go for training camp and has been visible during Broncos OTAs.

If he remains healthy, he can significantly provide a big impact for the Denver Broncos offense.