BRONCOS

Russell Wilson’s presence makes the Broncos defense better

Jun 24, 2022, 6:40 AM
Russell Wilson...
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

I’ve said multiple times, both on air and here at DenverFan.com. Ejiro Evero will have a better defense than Vic Fangio did with the Denver Broncos.

Evero understands the modern game, and he certainly seems like a coach who connects with younger players. From watching his defense during OTAs and mandatory minicamp I can report this team will have a much more aggressive defense – and they should blitz more under Evero’s guidance.

However, Evero is not the only reason the Broncos defense will be better in 2022. Starting quarterback Russell Wilson will make the Broncos defense better as he’s still one of the best in the game today. In fact, Wilson could put up numbers that make him a candidate for NFL MVP and the Broncos get to practice against that daily.

Broncos offensive coordinator Justin Outten admitted he wants Wilson to push the defense with passes he may not try to make in the regular season.

“No doubt. We try to be aggressive as heck down here. There is a lot of throwing the ball down the field, just to see the landmark of the receivers and just to see the timing of the quarterback. We encourage those tight-window throws. The experimentation with this offense throughout these OTAs and this minicamp has been something that we have been looking forward to,” Outten said.

Wilson makes the Broncos defense better. In this article, I will explain why that’s the case.

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Never Stop Rushing

Wilson may not be the scrambling quarterback he used to be, but he is a modern-day quarterback who will take off to run if given the opportunity. The NFL average for running the ball as a quarterback is higher than ever, a reflection of how quarterbacks are under more duress than ever before. Wilson will run more than the league average, and I’d imagine that he rushes the ball around 5-6 times per game.

Because of Wilson’s improvisational abilities, the Broncos pass-rushers are going to be tested early and often. During practice, the edge players for the Broncos cannot let up. Just when you think Wilson is captured in the pocket, he will find a way to get away and extend the play. It’s frustrating as a rusher because the average snap-to-sack time is around 2.5 seconds. Wilson will hold onto the ball looking to make a play downfield while buying more time with his feet. That means you can never stop rushing.

If the Broncos make a deep postseason run this year, they will be facing the type of quarterbacks like Wilson who can scramble to pick up yards. Guys like Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills), Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs) and Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens) could stand between the Broncos and a Super Bowl. Practicing against Wilson all season long will help Denver’s defense when they face this tougher competition.

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Middle Field Open

While Wilson does like working the edges of the defense over the course of his career, I feel the tight end position could get used more by the Broncos than some think in 2022. Looking back over Wilson’s career stats with the Seattle Seahawks, he did involve the tight end position. Outside of guys like Jimmy Graham, Wilson didn’t focus on one tight end as the players at the position usually got banged up and did not play a full season. Instead, Wilson was forced to go to more than one tight end and spread the ball around.

The Broncos defense will be practicing against a quarterback who does not lock onto his intended target. This is something they will not be used to – well, at least the players who were here when Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater was the starter. Lock would “bird dog” his receiver and was incredibly easy to read. Bridgewater would quickly and robotically go through his progressions and then dump it off to the running back – something the Broncos defense could get used to. Wilson has no “tells” as a passer, and he will work the entire field.

They will be tested deep (more on that in a bit), but it’s Wilson’s work over the middle that could really sharpen when the Denver defense can do. Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam has already made a couple of big plays in practice, and his size/speed combination make him a player that is difficult to matchup against. Rookie tight end Greg Dulcich is fast – I mean wide receiver fast – at the tight end position, so he’s going to be a player who will gash an unsuspecting opponent – or his own teammates in practice. The modern game is about working the middle of the field with the tight end, so the Broncos inside linebackers will get tested better than most others will in 2022.

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Testing Corners

Because Wilson is a modern-day quarterback, that means cornerbacks will be tasked with covering their receivers for a longer period. As aforementioned, Wilson will hold onto the ball longer than the league average as he’s looking for receivers to break open down the field. There is no doubt that Wilson is looking to make big plays every time he goes back to throw. The Broncos corners will be tested for a longer period, and they will be tested deep often.

When Broncos receivers see Wilson extending the play, they will then break on their routes. This means a long route you’re covering will suddenly turn into a comeback. This also means that a short route you’ve got covered will be all-of-a-sudden turn into a deep shot. Broncos defenders can’t really take a break, assume they’ve got their man wrapped up or assume the pass rush has Wilson corralled for a loss. Instead, they need to be on their toes time and time again when going up against Wilson in practice.

Get ready to run a lot if you’re a Broncos cornerback. Wilson will stretch the field in practice with speed receivers like K.J. Hamler or Jerry Jeudy. However, it’s the big-bodied guys (Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick) who will make plays over the top as well. The entire secondary, not just the corners, will be tested deep by Wilson.

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Russell Wilson’s presence makes the Broncos defense better