Last season, Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson had the worst season of his NFL career under former head coach Nathaniel Hackett.
Since the Broncos have guaranteed Wilson $165 million, they were putting the franchise in his hands to get them back into the playoffs and eventually a Super Bowl. After winning just four games for the Broncos last year, Denver made sure to trade for head coach Sean Payton with the hope that he can fix Wilson.
On Peter King’s podcast, Payton jumped on and was asked if he can fix Wilson and instead, he gave a bold prediction on how he’ll perform this year.
“I don’t see any physical limitation that’s different from 2020 or 2021. I see that player,” Payton said. “I would say this, he’s going to be a lot closer to those 2021 numbers than he was the 2022 numbers, just because I’m seeing it.”
In 2021, Wilson started the season off hot by throwing 10 touchdowns in the first five games to only one interception. The former Seahawk was completing 72 percent of his passes for 1,196 yards.
Closing out the season, Wilson would struggle after suffering a middle finger injury to his throwing hand. He would finish the season with just 25 touchdowns and 3,113 yards owning a 6-8 record.
In 2022, Wilson’s numbers declined dramatically. The former Super Bowl champion would throw just 16 touchdowns in 15 games and nearly double his interceptions from a year ago with 11.
Despite Payton predicting that Wilson’s numbers will look more like his 2021 campaign, he should be hoping for Wilson’s 2020 numbers.
During that season Wilson threw 40 touchdown passes and eclipsed the 4,200-yard mark.
Payton Explained How They Helped Wilson in the Offseason
During the same interview, Payton went on and explained how the Broncos went out and improved the offense to help Wilson.
“The first thing we felt that we needed to do was really overhaul and look at the offensive line. We went out and spent money on [Ben] Powers and [Mike] McGlinchey, and we a have a right guard we really like, a center from LSU [Lloyd Cushenberry], the left tackle [Garett Bolles] who’s playing well.” Payton continued, “You know that position group permeates your building.”
The Broncos went out and added Powers and McGlinchey for nearly $80 million in guaranteed money to help protect Wilson after playing behind the worst offensive line in football last season.
In 2022, Wilson was sacked a total of 55 times and even missed two games.
Wilson Needs a Running Game and Defense to Help Out
“The two greatest allies for good quarterback play are a good running game and good defense. If you have trouble running the ball and stopping people, that player is going to be on the high dive quite a bit,” Payton said.
Last season, the Broncos lost their star running back Javonte Williams in Week 4 after suffering a torn ACL. Moving forward, Denver was forced to give the ball to Melvin Gordon, who had fumbling issues, and was eventually released before the season was over.
The Broncos went out and signed veteran running back Latavius Murray for the final 12 games of the season and he led the team in rushing with 703 yards and just five touchdowns.
With the hope that Williams will return to the same player he was as a rookie, leading the league in broken tackles, the Broncos went out and signed veteran running back Samaje Perine.
Spending the last four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Perine was the No. 2 back behind Joe Mixon. Perine has yet to rush for more than 400 yards in a season since his rookie year in Washington back in 2017.
While being the backup for Mixon, the Broncos believed that he still has a lot in the tank and can carry the workload if need be. In the preseason, Perine averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
The defense on the other hand must play well too.
Last season, the Denver defense was one of the best for more than half the season before struggling at the end and finished with the 14th ranked scoring defense.
Now with Vance Joseph calling the defensive plays, there’s hope that the Denver defense will play at an elite level to help Wilson and the offense.
While the starting defense played in the preseason, they only gave up a total of nine points in the first three quarters of their two games. In the final preseason game against the Rams, Joseph’s defense pitched a shutout.
In his first five seasons in the NFL, Wilson had five top-five scoring defenses and from 2017 on, he’s never had a top-10 scoring defense to help him out.
Based on what Payton explained and how the defense played in the preseason, it’s fair to say Wilson will get more help this season across the offensive line, running game, and defense.
If those three components play well, Wilson has a real chance to get the Denver franchise back into the postseason.
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