PALM BEACH, Fla. — The offseason additions to the AFC West have already been discussed at length, and there’s been a strong focus on the challenge the Broncos will face in their division.
What hasn’t been mentioned much, though, is the potential benefit the Broncos could gain from six combined matchups against the Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders.
“I think it’s great because you always want to test your team,” Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said Monday at the AFC Coaches Breakfast at the NFL’s Annual Meeting. “You want your team to have to go through everything throughout the year, no matter what. You want to play the best and work against the best, because when it gets down to crunch time, you want to know how the guys are going to respond. I’m so excited about it. It’s going to be really fun.”
Hackett, who said he hopes the AFC West can go down in history as the one of the best divisions, pointed to last year’s iteration of the NFC West as an example for his point.
The Rams made a late surge to win the division, but they were behind in the standings for much of the year as they battled in a division that sent three teams to the playoffs. In the division, the Rams simply split their matchups, posting a 3-3 record. Outside of the division, Los Angeles powered its way to a 9-2 record to post a 12-5 record for the season.
Could a similar path be in store for the Broncos? Denver must play its six AFC West games, but it also plays a fourth-place schedule in 2022.
In either event, Hackett hopes the rigors of the AFC West have his team ready for when it matters most.
Hackett, though, said the Broncos can’t just assume that they’ll be in contention this season. The work, he said, must come first.
“It’s about winning every day,” Hackett said. “You want to win each day when you wake up in the morning and just get better. It’s about a process. You can’t just say, ‘Hey, [we’re] a contender.’ We’ve got a lot to earn. And this organization hadn’t been to the playoffs in a while. So I think it’s just about winning every single day. As long as you do that, you’re going to get better and you’ve got a chance.”
Javonte Williams thrived as a rookie, as he rushed for 903 yards and four touchdowns on just 203 carries.
What’s next for the impressive running back as he presumably steps into a role as the team’s starting rusher? Perhaps not as dramatic of a shift in carries as one might expect.
“I think with any running back, you always want to have as many as you can,” Hackett said. “You want a big stable. You want to have a guy that you can feed and make sure he gets a lot. He’s still a young player, and he’s still learning. You want to make sure you can split it as much as you can. … A lot of the places that I’ve been, there’s always been kind of two guys because you always want to try to split the load as much as you can. At the same time, he’s a great player. We’ll just have to see how the whole thing goes.”
Hackett’s previous stops suggest the Broncos could handle the rotation in a variety of ways. In 2021 in Green Bay, AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones carried the ball 187 and 171 times, respectively. In 2017 in Jacksonville, though, Leonard Fournette carried the football 268 times, while Chris Ivory rushed the ball 112 times.
As the season approaches, Williams’ usage will be just one aspect of the new offense to watch.
A roundup of some of the top notes from Hackett’s 30-minute conversation with the media:
– Hackett said he loves joint practices, but the Broncos haven’t yet ironed out any specific sessions for training camp.
– When the Broncos face new Raiders receiver Davante Adams, Hackett said he’ll work with Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero to prep for the All-Pro receiver.
– Hackett believes Bradley Chubb “could be another dominant guy” in 2022 as he returns from injury.
– The Broncos still plan to hire someone to help Hackett with in-game management responsibilities.
– Hackett expects Quinn Meinerz to play at right guard.