As I’m sure most of you know, Football Outsiders rates DYAR for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. Earlier this season, when I discussed the possibility of the Denver Broncos reaching the Super Bowl, I reviewed the DYAR for the Broncos who play those positions.
I figured it was a good time to revisit where those players are at since the end of November. Let’s examine the players who are currently starting or contributing and how they have fared.
Quarterback: At the time I wrote my piece in November, Brock Osweiler didn’t have enough pass attempts to be ranked. He does now, having a DYAR rating of 205 to rank 22nd among 36 quarterbacks. That he has a positive ranking is a good thing, given how much Peyton Manning struggled when he was in the lineup. (BTW, Manning is no longer the lowest-ranked QB by DYAR. That distinction goes to Nick Foles.)
Running back: CJ Anderson was at -55 DYAR near the end of November, but has improved to a positive number. He’s at 33 DYAR to rank 26th out of 44 running backs ranked. Ronnie Hillman took some steps backwards, though, as he fell from 11 in November to -11 now and is ranked 37th. Perhaps Hillman can trend back to a positive number when the Broncos play San Diego. But the good news is Anderson has shown much improvement. Cross your fingers he stays healthy for the playoffs and that Hillman can get back into a groove.
Wide receiver: In November, Demaryius Thomas was at 38 DYAR, and now he’s at 35 DYAR and ranked 63rd out of 84 receivers. No doubt his struggles against New England are the biggest reason he hasn’t improved his DYAR, but again, a good game against San Diego should move the number up. On the other hand, Emmanuel Sanders has shown much improvement. He was at 25 DYAR in November, and now he’s at 81 DYAR to rank 48th. There’s no question Sanders has been a crucial piece of this offense. No other Broncos receiver has enough targets to be ranked, but two others contribute a positive DYAR: Cody Latimer with 25 and Bennie Fowler with 21. Jordan Norwood and Andre Caldwell have negative numbers, but then again, their value is on special teams. Once Omar Bolden returns to the lineup, the Broncos should get Latimer more involved (keep in mind, Norwood and Caldwell have had to handle returns in Bolden’s absence). But the good news is that Latimer and Fowler have both shown enough promise that they can become bigger contributors in the future.
Tight end: Owen Daniels was at -24 DYAR back in November, thanks largely to his early-season struggles. So where is he at now? He’s at a positive number, 18 DYAR, ranked 27th out of 48 tight ends. Like Anderson, Daniels has improved much since the end of November and is becoming more vital to the success of the Broncos’ offense. Again, it’s misleading to include Vernon Davis, given that he’s only been with the Broncos for half the season (but his DYAR remains negative at -4, which is about where he has been most of the season). Chalk up Davis as being an inconsistent player, but at least he was an upgrade over other players the Broncos had for tight end depth. Meanwhile, Virgil Green doesn’t have enough targets to be ranked, but his DYAR of 61 is better than any of the tight ends who didn’t get enough targets to be ranked. Getting positive contributions from Daniels and Green makes up for the inconsistencies of Davis. The biggest hope for the Broncos is that Davis can get focused for the playoffs, because it would be wonderful to have three tight ends who all do good things in the postseason.
Offensive line: In November, the offensive line ranked 31st overall in run blocking. Now it’s ranked 24th. While still not as high as one would like, at least run blocking is trending in the right direction. In pass protection, the O-line ranked fourth, but now it’s ranked 14th. While not the direction you want to see the pass protection go, at least it remains in the top half. Compared to the O-lines of other playoff or potential playoff teams, the Broncos only rank ahead of the Jets in run blocking (Jets are ranked 27th). In pass protection, though, the Broncos are ahead of Houston (17th), Carolina (19th), New England (20th), Green Bay (23rd), Minnesota (28th), Kansas City (29th) and Seattle (31st). In other words, the Broncos are not the only playoff team struggling to protect the quarterback, and more importantly, Denver’s top-ranked defense could have a field day if it were to face a few of these teams.
Oh yeah. The defense. Football Outsiders still has the defense ranked first overall and it’s considered by Football Outsiders, entering Week 16, to be one of the greatest defenses of all time. It’s ranked fifth going into Week 16 among all defenses FO DYAR has ranked, behind the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles, the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 2012 Chicago Bears and the 2004 Buffalo Bills. A good showing against San Diego might move the Broncos D up a spot or two.
While we don’t want to look too far ahead, there are some positive signs that the Broncos could still reach the Super Bowl. Taking care of business against San Diego is the first step. Do that and the Broncos get a week to rest up, get players healthy and get ready for whatever comes next.