Russell Wilson has been solid as the Broncos starting quarterback through three games.

The issue is, Wilson wasn’t brought in to be solid, he was brought into the Mile High City to be a superstar.

Russell Wilson’s play hasn’t lived up to the hype, yet

Ironically, Wilson’s best game with the Broncos was in Week 1, a loss to his former team in the Seattle Seahawks. In that game, Wilson went 29-42 (69%) for 340 yards and one touchdown. Even with his best passing stats of the season, he didn’t look comfortable in the Broncos backfield and the offense struggled mightily.

Week 2 was one of the worst games of Wilson’s professional career. He went 14-31 (45.1%) for 219 yards and 1 TD, 1 INT. Still, with the Broncos trailing 9-6 in the third quarter, Wilson connected with tight end Eric Saubert for the go-ahead touchdown.

Finally, in Week 3, it was yet another mediocre game for Wilson and the Broncos offense. Wilson finished the game 20-33 (66.6%) for only 184 yards and no scores.

But, like in the previous game, the Broncos quarterback was able to help mount a comeback. This time, in the fourth quarter and with the game on the line. Wilson led the Broncos on a 13-play, 80-yard drive to score a touchdown when they had to have one. That drive included a clutch roll out left and throw to Kendall Hinton for a 27-yard gain on 3rd and 10. A few plays later, Wilson tucked it and ran for 12 yards on 3rd and 6. Then, he connected with Courtland Sutton on a 19-yard pass to set up the score.

Looking at only Wilson’s play first (we’ll get to the other issues soon), there’s a promising trend to pick up.

He’s looked incredibly uncomfortable with the Broncos so far, but that was — or should have been — expected. Even in the first game, when his stats were the best of the three, he looked like a new player in a new offense with new teammates. He even got a little lucky on that pass to Jerry Jeudy that turned into a long touchdown.

And Week 2 wasn’t much better.

But if we look at all three games together, we’re seeing Wilson finally get comfortable. He’s recognized Sutton is the go-to guy in this offense, he’s starting to finally use his legs — haters said he couldn’t anymore — and he’s improvising, with that shovel pass to Melvin Gordon for a big gain.

Simply, there’s hope and evidence Wilson is getting comfortable once again.

But what about the rest of the team?

Play Calling and Game Management

It’s no secret that Nathaniel Hackett has been a mess as the Broncos head coach and play caller through three weeks.

Denver had 25 penalties in their first two games, four of them being an NFL-high 4 delay of game penalties. In the first game, Hackett’s play calling was too cute; the flea flicker was almost a turnover and the double-end-around failed too. After the two fumbles near the goal line in Week 1, he got gun shy in Week 2 when it came to pounding the ball in.

Of course, his missteps have been numerous and well-documented; he had 7 mistakes in the win over Houston, and some wonder if that was all of them.

Smartly, though against the 49ers, Hackett dialed up the run on back-to-back plays in a goal-to-go situation and converted. There’s still some criticism to be had on the following 2-point conversion — why not just run it in? — but it’s possible Hackett is improving, too.

At the very least, his bumbling play calling has been part of the reason why Wilson hasn’t performed at a star level thus far.

Offensive Line

The O-line has been mediocre at best, and poor at worst.

Three games into the season and Wilson has been sacked 9 times already. Some of those are on the quarterback, holding the ball too long, but most have been on missed blocks by linemen.

Pro Football Focus, who isn’t necessarily regarded as the best offensive line grading group, has the Broncos currently as the 8th-best line in the league. However, they also admit Garett Bolles allowed six pressures by Nick Bosa while Cam Flemming allowed four pressures of his own against the 49ers.

Here’s a look at PFF grades and ESPN Win Rate plotted on a graph. You can see the Broncos are right in the middle in terms of Win Rate and higher than most in PFF grade.

In these second graphs, the left side highlight the offensive line. Denver’s pass protection has again been decent, but their run blocking has been stellar.

Receivers and tight ends

Finally, the guys catching passes from Wilson.

OK, he’s got to get them the ball on time, accurately. No doubt.

But he needs receivers and tight ends to step up, too. To wit, Wilson’s receivers have 8 drops already (third-most) and his drop% (7.9%) is tied for fourth-worst.

As eluded to earlier in the piece, Wilson knows he can trust the routes and the hands of Sutton, but it doesn’t seem like he trusts the other guys quite yet.

To this point in the year, the targets are: 26 for Sutton, 21 for Javonte Williams, 16 for Jerry Jeudy and 10 for Albert Okuwegbunam. Notably, Jeudy has only seven receptions on those 16 targets and Albert O. currently has six receptions on those 10 targets.

The others — Kendall Hinton (2 tar.), Tyrie Cleveland (3 tar.), Saubert (4 tar.) — have had limited opportunities to this point.

Simply, the receivers outside of Sutton need to step up, get open more often and help Russ cook. If Wilson consistently keys in on Sutton, defenses will take notice and shut it down. The Broncos need a variety of receivers and tight ends as passing threats, and the good news is Hackett is trying to spread out the receptions, with an average of 10 players getting targets per game.

Here’s another bit of optimism for Wilson and his teammates continuing to build their chemistry, too:


Wilson hasn’t been the $243 million quarterback Broncos Country hoped they were getting.

But, as this season has started out sloppily, it seems many — the media and fans — had too high of expectations for the Broncos with Wilson in his first year under a coaching staff in their first year.

And as everyone is settling in, the trend is looking like better, more efficient play from Wilson.

Let’s keep an eye on it going forward, but I have a feeling Broncos fans will be looking back at this slow start as an outlier. Wilson and the Broncos offense face the woeful 0-3 Raiders in Las Vegas this Sunday, with a 2:25 p.m. MT kickoff.

The Raiders defense is ranked in the lower-third of all teams in terms of points allowed (25.7 PPG), total yards and passing yards allowed. If things go well for Denver, Wilson and the offense could enjoy a breakout game this Sunday.