The Denver Broncos and Russell Wilson tandem was a directionless, hopeless, and lifeless pairing for about the first 17-and-a-half weeks of the season, but in the campaign’s eleventh hour, the operation sprung to life and provided hope and a blueprint for the future, which Broncos Country can hold onto for the rest of the offseason.

It was an incredibly meaningful display, and maybe the best of the season.

As a result, we have very few negatives to dwell on and plenty of positives in this edition of the Denver Broncos Stock Report, and it’s hard to imagine ending the season any better.

Stock Up for the Denver Broncos

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos

Jan 8, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. (3) chases Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (10) in the first quarter at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Jeudy

Unfortunately, Jerry Jeudy will not top 1,000 receiving yards this season, but he did become the first Broncos receiver to top 1,000 all-purpose yards since 2019, thanks to a herculean effort from the third-year wideout.

Jeudy entered the day 181 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark and finished the day with a career-high 193 yards from scrimmage (between his six receptions and three ‘carries’). He also set career-highs in receiving yards (154), touches (9), and carries (3) thanks to a couple of swing passes the Broncos ran for Jeudy.

Seeing those specialty plays drawn up specifically for Jeudy is a great sign for Broncos Country and the future of this offense. It shows a belief, which was then backed up by the on-field results, that Jeudy is the type of player you design plays around, and that you can structure an entire play based on the desire to get Jeudy in space and have it be successful.

He’s now a legitimate offensive weapon that defenses have to fear, and that fact was punctuated with 193 exclamation points on Sunday.

Justin Simmons

The term ‘ball-hawk’ is thrown around too loosely, but Justin Simmons has been more than deserving of the title after his remarkable close to the 2022 season.

Simmons has been incredible when on the field all year, but he wasn’t at his typical level early on, potentially as a result of the injuries he was battling through.

That said, in Week 13 he reached a supernova inferno unlike any he has experienced in his career up until now.

Over a six-week span, Simmons created eight takeaway opportunities, including five interceptions and three forced fumbles. Five interceptions would be enough to tie his career-best season-long mark, and he did it in a month-and-a-half.

That also features three games in which Simmons helped to create multiple takeaways.

Against the Chargers, he forced two critical fumbles, including one on a critical big gain through the air, which could’ve proven to be the difference in a game that was ultimately decided by just three points, if not for the forced fumble.

With that type of close, Simmons might have played himself into being a first-team All-Pro, despite playing just 12 games.

The legacy of the 2022 Denver Broncos

Don’t get it wrong. This team is still far from having a sterling legacy, but they avoided the infamy of being the worst iteration of the team in franchise history, thanks to their victory on Sunday.

With a loss, the 4-13 record would’ve been the worst in franchise history, and the 0-6 divisional record would’ve been the first winless intradivision record in a non-strike season since 1967.

Now, while you can still make a case for them as the worst version of the Denver Broncos we’ve ever seen, that case is a lot weaker now than it would’ve been with a loss.

Denver Broncos’ Running Backs

Sunday night was the best the Denver Broncos’ running backs have looked all season.

Over the first 12 weeks of the season, the Broncos didn’t have a single carry over 20 yards, but they had three against the Chargers in Week 18. Latavius Murray had multiple 20-yard runs that pummeled Charger defenders and finished the day with 103 yards on just 15 carries. Meanwhile, Edmonds sliced through the Los Angeles defense for a 20-yard gain of his own and finished the day with 45 yards on nine carries.

Tyler Badie also added a 24-yard touchdown reception on top of that, on the very first touch of his career.

That dangerous run game was also a major catalyst to opening up the passing attack for Russell Wilson, which might’ve been the most optimism-enriching positive from the day.

Russell Wilson

What a game Russell Wilson.

In the second half, Wilson caught fire and torched the Los Angeles Chargers secondary, in a display that must have left Broncos Country wondering where that version of Wilson had been sooner.

Now, before we dive into the positives, and before we pin all the blame for Wilson’s failures on Hackett, let’s acknowledge how ugly the first 29:34 of the performance was, as that’s a sizable part of the picture (49.28% to be precise).

Over that first big chunk of the game, Russell Wilson had dropped back to pass eight times, and the Denver offense gained a measly three yards. On those eight dropbacks, he posted a stat line of 2-for-7 for 13 yards, and was sacked once for a loss of 10.

That type of inefficiency is hard for even Mike Glennon to wrap his head around (that works on multiple levels).

But, over the next 30:26, Broncos Country was treated to the best display of quarterbacking they’ve ever gotten to see from someone wearing the No. 3.

Wilson was a gaudy 11-for-17 (64.7%) for 270 yards (15.9 yards per attempt) two touchdowns and an interception over the rest of the game, including three gorgeous deep balls.

The peak of that display came right at the start of the hot stretch, as Russell Wilson came onto the field at his own 25-yard line with 26 seconds left, and somehow managed to orchestrate a touchdown drive. That was largely made possible thanks to an insane throw-and-catch down the left sideline, which was Wilson’s best play of the season by a wide margin.

It was the type of difference-making quarterback play that the Broncos have been devoid of since 2014, and was incredibly promising for what the future with Wilson might hold.

That said, it was just one half, and Wilson already had amazing halves against the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers, and Las Vegas Raiders prior, only to struggle to sustain it afterward. With this being the final game of the season, we won’t get to see if it can be sustained until eight months from now.

This was the best Wilson has looked in orange and blue, and Broncos Country should be excited for that fact. However, keep your wits about you before you eagerly sign up for more of Wilson.

Stock Down for the Denver Broncos

Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Joey Bosa (97) sacks Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) in the second quarter at Empower Field at Mile High.

Jan 8, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Joey Bosa (97) sacks Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) in the second quarter at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos Offensive Line

Russell Wilson was sacked twice and hit four times — including a few teeth-clatterers — on Sunday, which earned the entire group an unenviable title.

The Denver Broncos are now home to the NFL’s most-sacked quarterback of 2022 and he got there in just 15 games too.

Not all of that is on the offensive line, of course. As the greater football world as learned to understand in recent years, sacks are as much a quarterback stat as they are an offensive line stat, and that’s true here too.

Per Pro Football Focus, Russell Wilson is tied for fourth in the NFL in quarterback-created sacks, second in quarterback-created hits, and fifth in the NFL in quarterback-created pressures. A lot of that is the result of his time-to-throw, which is the eighth-longest in the NFL.

Nonetheless, the offensive line has played a major role in earning this title, as they rank fifth in offensive line-created sacks, 16th in offensive line-created hits on the quarterback, and 16th in offensive line-created pressures. Though, according to ESPN, they rank ninth in pass-block win rate, so it wasn’t all bad.

The sacks issue will be one of the biggest the Denver Broncos will be forced to address this offseason.

Jerry Rosburg’s returner decisions

We’re having to get extremely nit-picky here because the game was so amazing, relative to what we’ve sifted through so far this season.

Now, you can’t make Jerry Rosburg a stock-down candidate, after he gets his first-ever win as a head coach and rides off into the sunset. But, you also can’t walk away without mentioning his one big gaffe.

Whether or not Montrell Washington would have been the right pick is certainly up to debate. Considering the Denver Broncos’ investment in his future, it feels like getting some more development in there would’ve been the way to go, but his struggles this season are hard to deny.

Nonetheless, the returners Rosburg wound up selecting struggled mightily in their own right.

Across their 11 return opportunities, the returners didn’t tally a single return yard and managed to muff two of the kicks, one of which led to a short-field touchdown and a two-point conversion. That mistake was likely the biggest single misstep of the game.