That was Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson at 9:50 p.m. MT last Sunday night. A few hours prior, at 6:29 p.m. MT, all had been well in the Mile High City. The Broncos were riding high right before kicking off against the New York Giants. The Chargers had beaten the Raiders on the final play of their game. Then, the fans who arrived early at Sports Authority Field cheered loudly as they watched the Steelers take down the previously undefeated Chiefs on the stadium’s massive videoboards.
The Broncos had set themselves up nicely. Denver was 3-1, healthy and coming off an early bye week. The winless New York Giants were limping into the “Sunday Night Football” showdown minus virtually their entire receiving unit and arguably their best pass rusher.
A recent workout video showed the 30-year-old back cutting laterally with a fair bit of quickness, but it’s unclear if Charles will ever return to his previous heights athletically.
In Denver, Charles would have a legitimate chance at snaps in a backfield led by C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker. Once healthy, this is a player who can still cause plenty of problems for opposing defenses.
The Broncos now have a glaring hole at the left tackle spot and two unproven quarterbacks vying for the starting role behind center. Pro Football Focus, one of the few sites brave enough to rank offensive linemen, rated Okung the 38th best tackle in football last season. Denver spent a second-round pick on tackle Ty Sambrailo in 2015 though he played fewer than 250 snaps this season.
So it goes in free agency, where big deals become moot less than a year after they are signed. Okung garnered attention for going out on his own and praise for working out his own deal, but will the experience motivate him to use an agent this time around? This might be especially important given how weak the tackle market is and how strong the need for professional-grade talent has become.
A little over a decade later, Elway basically took over the Broncos’ front office and built a winner. The popular narrative is that he brought in Peyton Manning, who saved the day. But actually, Elway saved Manning from himself. Elway gave John Fox a short leash after the blowout loss in Super Bowl XLVIII and didn’t hesitate to cut ties after a 12-4 season wasn’t deemed good enough. He realized the Broncos needed a defense and built a squad that could have rivaled the vaunted 1980s Chicago Bears. (Totally not as good — obvs — but not bad.)
So if the Broncos ever want to change their name to the John Elway Broncos of Denver, like it’s one of his car dealerships, I’ll have no problem with that.
The Broncos still have most of the star defenders who fueled that championship run two seasons ago, including Talib, fellow No Fly Zone stalwarts Chris Harris and top selling nfl jerseys and T.J. Ward, and All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller. Yet there is still uncertainty at the quarterback position, with surprise 2016 starter Trevor Siemian locked in a competition with last year’s first-round draft pick, Paxton Lynch, that may extend through training camp.
However it comes out, Talib insists there will be a “new age” edge to the Broncos on both sides of the ball, something he attributes to the unexpected coaching change that occurred last January. When head coach Gary Kubiak retired, general manager John Elway decided to make a clean break, parting ways with veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips before hiring the 45-year-old Joseph as Kubiak’s replacement.
“We’re a tight-knit group… we’ve been through adversity before,” said Miller, who had two sacks in the loss. “We’ve been through these type of performances — defensively and offensively — before. It’s a three-phase game, and no one really played well enough to win yesterday, and we’re starting the process of getting ready for a great K.C. game, today.”
Next Monday’s Chiefs game kicks off a particularly brutal stretch of the schedule for the Broncos. After the the Chiefs, Denver will play the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. But Miller has a relatively simple strategy for how the Broncos can navigate through what could be a pivotal stretch of their season.