Will the Broncos allow more sacks than at least half of the teams in the NFL this year?
That is the question.
This is the debate.
Russell Wilson is, unfortunately, used to getting sacked.
In his 11 year NFL career, the 5-foot-11, 215-pound quarterback has been sacked a whopping 482 times. That’s an average of nearly 44 times per season.
To put that into perspective, Peyton Manning was only sacked 303 times in his 17 year career, which is an average of less than 18 times per season. John Elway, Denver’s other Hall-of-Fame quarterback, was sacked an average of 32 times per season in his career.
“I told him, I know you’re used to getting hit. You’re not going to get hit here,” Garett Bolles said during the Broncos’ offseason workouts last year, after Denver acquired Wilson.
For a variety of reasons, again unfortunately for Wilson, that did not happen.
In fact, for the second time in his career, Wilson led the NFL in sacks, going down a whopping 55 times, despite missing two games too. The Broncos gave up a league-high 63 sacks in 2022.
Will Sean Payton and Co. be able to protect Wilson significantly better this year?
The Broncos WILL finish in the bottom half of the league in sacks allowed — Henry
No team gave up more sacks in 2022 than the Broncos. Denver allowed 63. To get into the top half of the league, they would’ve needed to get into the 30s. That’s a big jump and it isn’t a jump the Broncos are likely to make in 2023.
Denver invested big money in its offensive line this offseason, in part to cut down on the sacks. The new group should be able to hold its own. It could even be the best line Wilson has played behind in the NFL, if all goes well.
But the blame for sacks doesn’t lie solely on the offensive line. Two types of quarterback are sacked the most; quarterbacks who like to use their legs and quarterbacks who hold onto the ball too long. Wilson fits into both categories.
In his career, Wilson has finished in the top three most-sacked quarterbacks seven times in 11 seasons. If the Broncos finish in the better half of the league in sacks allowed in 2023, it would be the first time ever for a Russell Wilson team. That’s not a bet I’d be willing to take.
The more likely outcome is that Wilson puts up his average sack rate for two more years and becomes the most-sacked quarterback in NFL history.
The Broncos will NOT finish in the bottom half of the league in sacks allowed — Zac
Sean Payton’s going to do everything in his power to prevent this from happening.
In fact, he’s already started that process.
The Broncos didn’t dish out a combined $139 million with $81 million in guarantees to Mike McGlinchey and Ben Powers so that Wilson can once again lead the league in sacks. Denver’s massive investment to their offensive line in March should substantially cut down the number of times Russ gets taken down.
Additionally, Payton’s simply not going to let Wilson lead the league in sacks again. Payton is building as close to a run-first offense as possible in today’s pass-happy league. Wilson simply won’t be dropping back at the rate he was last year.
On top of that, Payton’s going to build and call an offense to help Wilson not take as many sacks. Although Wilson and Drew Brees are very different quarterbacks in the way they play the game, Brees was only sacked an average of 21.6 times per season when Payton was calling the plays. That’s nearly half what Wilson has averaged in his career.
It’s not realistic to expect Payton to protect Wilson to that extent, because of the way Russ plays, but a significant improvement can be expected.
Last year, the Chargers gave up the 16th-most sacks in the NFL with 39. The Broncos won’t be close to the league’s best in terms of sacks allowed, but they should be able to dip under that number, keeping them out of the bottom half of the league.