5 Bold Predictions for the Denver Broncos in 2016

Cecil Lammey@@cecillammeyContributor IJune 30, 2016

5 Bold Predictions for the Denver Broncos in 2016

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos are Super Bowl champions, and they will defend their title to the best of their abilities this year. So many changes happened this offseason that the team will have a much different look—on both sides of the ball—in 2016.

    There is uncertainty at the quarterback position as Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler chose to sign elsewhere in free agency. They don’t yet have a tight end who has emerged as veteran Owen Daniels was released earlier this year.

    In fact, the offense is going to have a much different look as a whole. Last year, the Broncos couldn’t run the Gary Kubiak system true to its design. This year will look like the traditional Kubiak offense, and the team should run the ball early and often while setting things up for play-action passing.

    Defensively, the Broncos have to move forward without two key starters from last year. Both Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan moved on in free agency, and the Broncos will look to find two new starters in training camp.

    Looking ahead to the 2016 season, there are multiple ways things could work out. Let’s take a glass-half-full approach to this season and look at how things could develop for the Broncos.

    Here are five bold predictions for the Broncos in 2016.

Paxton Lynch Starts Week 1

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Broncos moved up in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft to select quarterback Paxton Lynch out of Memphis. He’s an athletic quarterback who can keep a play alive with his feet while keeping his eyes downfield. Lynch is also cool under pressure and does not make many mistakes when opponents are blitzing him.

    The rookie makes a perfect fit for the Kubiak system, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to start.

    Lynch spent his college career at Memphis playing in a spread offense and operating exclusively out of the shotgun. One of the biggest things Lynch will have to get used to in the pros is working from under center. Doing that and getting used to the speed (and the discipline) of the NFL takes time, and the Broncos have to be prepared in case he’s not ready for the start of the regular season.

    If Lynch needs more time to develop, the Broncos can turn to veteran Mark Sanchez as their starter. During OTAs and mandatory minicamp, the reps were split as follows: Sanchez with the first-team offense, Trevor Siemian with the second team and Lynch with the third team.

    Training camp is going to be the proving ground for Lynch. He’s going to enter camp as the third quarterback, and he may not be ready to move up from that position. A year of development could do him some good, but even if he’s even with Sanchez or Siemian, the team may turn to the rookie. He’s the future of the franchise, and the future could be now.

    Chances It Happens: Low

Russell Okung Stays Healthy for the Full Season

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The offensive line needed improvement, and that’s why the Broncos added free agents up front this offseason. Their first move was to add right tackle Donald Stephenson in free agency, but they weren’t done there. When they couldn’t work out a renegotiated contract with left tackle Ryan Clady, the Broncos made a move to sign veteran Russell Okung.

    The left tackle can play at a high level and is certainly an upgrade over Clady—if he’s healthy.

    Okung has missed 24 games over the last six years, and he has not played a full 16-game season in his pro career. A first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, Okung is a mountain of a man who moves with the grace of a much smaller player.

    While not overpowering, Okung has great footwork and can shadow opposing pass-rushers on the edge. Adding Okung will make a huge impact in pass protection for the Broncos. He’s not a liability as a run-blocker, but don’t expect Okung to be a road-grader leading the charge for the Denver rushing attack.

    So far this offseason, Okung has stayed healthy—and that’s a win for the Broncos. The team will monitor him closely as he goes through training camp. Last year, the Broncos had to deal with a ton of injuries up front on the line. This year, the Broncos want to make sure they’re as healthy as possible up front.

    If Okung can stay healthy, it’s going to be a tremendous boost for the offense.

    Chances It Happens: Low/Medium

Von Miller Gets 20 Sacks

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The league’s best defense is in the Mile High City, and a big reason why the Broncos are so ferocious on that side of the ball is superstar linebacker Von Miller. He’s one of the best pass-rushers in the league, but he has yet to get 20 sacks in a single season.

    The quirky edge-rusher has gotten close, but this could be the year he finally gets over that hump. As a second-year player in 2012, Miller had 18.5 sacks to lead the NFL. Last year, Miller faced a lot of double-teams but was still able to snare 11 sacks. With emerging pass-rushers on the defense like Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett, we could see those guys take a bit of attention away from Miller—thus freeing him up.

    Miller has yet to be signed to a long-term deal, and the July 15 deadline to get a new contract done is looming large on the horizon. For this article, we’ll make the prediction that Miller gets a deal that makes him the highest-paid defender in the league and he goes to training camp revived and ready to go.

    The team is entering the second year of the Wade Phillips defense, and that should help it play better.

    Last year, the Broncos defenders were thinking instead of reacting. As the season went on, you saw a greater comfort level with the responsibilities each had. In Super Bowl 50, the Broncos defense led the way to the championship by shutting down a high-powered Carolina Panthers offense with superstar quarterback Cam Newton.

    It’s not outlandish to think the momentum generated last year can carry over to this season—with Miller at the forefront.

    Chances It Happens: Medium

C.J. Anderson Leads the NFL in Rushing

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Expect the Broncos to run so much this year that even Dan Reeves will believe they need to mix in more passing. Their recipe for success on offense in 2016 will include a lot of starting running back C.J. Anderson.

    A restricted free agent, Anderson had his offer sheet from the Miami Dolphins matched by the Broncos earlier this offseason. Kubiak said at the NFL Scouting Combine that the key to the team’s rushing attack was keeping Anderson healthy. If he’s healthy, Anderson has the ability to be a dominant player.

    Look no further than Super Bowl 50 for proof. Anderson was the starter, was given the ability to control the amount of carries he had in that game and barely came off the field. His 90 yards rushing and one rushing touchdown helped the team wear down a Panthers defense that now realizes how good Anderson is as a running back.

    Each of the last two years, Anderson has finished the season strong. In fact, outside of Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr., no other player in the league has more all-purpose yards than Anderson from Week 8 on in both 2014 and 2015.

    Anderson only needs to stay healthy and produce early in the season for a chance to lead the league in rushing. The skill set is there with Anderson as he’s a powerful runner with great balance and vision. The offense is there for Anderson to lead the league in rushing as the Kubiak system can get a lot out of one bell-cow back.

    Chances It Happens: Medium/High

Broncos Win the Super Bowl Again

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    There are multiple NFL analysts who are writing off the Broncos in 2016. Many predictions have the Broncos finishing around .500, and some think they could be 7-9 and miss the playoffs.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    With the Broncos' world-class defense, this team should be able to contend for a playoff spot in 2016. The AFC West is getting better, but this defense could control the division once again—and there’s even a chance the Broncos could get a bye entering the postseason.

    Defense wins championships, and the Broncos offense has a chance to be much better this year than it was last year when Denver won it all. With another year of experience, the Broncos defense could be even more suffocating in 2016. They know that in order to defend their title, the defense has to do most of the heavy lifting.

    The rushing attack will feed directly into the defense. The more Anderson can do as a runner to take time off the clock and wear down opponents, the more advantageous it becomes for the players on the defensive side of the ball.

    The last time the Broncos won a Super Bowl championship with a new regime, they ended up winning back-to-back titles. It’s Year 2 under Kubiak and Phillips, and there’s no telling how good the future could be for the Broncos.

    Chances It Happens: Higher Than You Think

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