Know Your Foe: Denver Broncos

The Broncos were the tale of two units for most of the 2015 season, especially in the playoffs. The offense struggled often when Peyton Manning was under center in 2015, producing nothing better than an average offensive unit, but the Broncos defense was lights out. The defense was no worse than fourth in any major defensive category and first in most of those defensive categories. Average offense best in the NFL defense (best in the past few years, actually) = Super Bowl championship.

But, that was last year, how about this year? Trevor Siemian has taken the reins under center, for the time being, as he keeps the seat warm for rookie Paxton Lynch, who struggled mightily against the Falcons in the team's first loss of the year. Siemian will have ten days to rest his ailing shoulder to get ready for the game on Monday night. Fortunately, for Siemian, there should be little pressure on his shoulders as 76,125 sets of eyes will be laser-focused on the signal caller on the other sideline.

My Know Your Foe series continues with the defending world champions, a team the Texans know well, on a number of different levels. Bring on the Broncos.

2016 Record (4-2, Tied for 1st in the AFC West) W, Carolina 21-20 W, Indianapolis 34-20 W, @ Cincinnati 29-17 W, @ Tampa Bay 27-7 L, Atlanta 23-16 L, @ San Diego 21-13

OFFENSE
2015 Unit Profile
Rush Offense - 107.4 ypg (17th in the NFL)
Pass Offense - 248.1 ypg (14th) *
*Total Offense - 355.5 ypg (16th) *
*
Scoring Offense - 22.2 ppg (19th)

2016 Unit Profile
Rush Offense - 98.5 ypg (19th in the NFL)
Pass Offense - 224.8 ypg (27th) *
*Total Offense - 323.3 ypg (28th) *
*
Scoring Offense - 23.3 ppg (16th)

Here's what the Broncos offense looked like in their Super Bowl win over Carolina
WR - Demaryius Thomas
LT - Ryan Harris
LG - Evan Mathis
C - Matt Paradis
RG - Louis Vasquez
RT - Michael Schofield
TE - Owen Daniels
WR - Emmanuel Sanders
RB - C.J. Anderson
QB - Peyton Manning
TE - Vernon Davis

Here's how the Broncos offense looked last Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers
WR - Demaryius Thomas
LT - RUSSELL OKUNG
LG - MAX GARCIA
C - Matt Paradis
RG - Michael Schofield (moved from T to G)
RT - DONALD STEPHENSON
TE - VIRGIL GREEN
WR - Emmanuel Sanders
RB - C.J. Anderson
QB - TREVOR SIEMIAN
WR - JORDAN NORWOOD

**ALL CAPS INDICATE POTENTIALLY DIFFERENT STARTER

Most significant improvement on the offense: Nearly everything? This is as revamped an offense as any the Texans are going to play in 2016. It's easy to point out the change at quarterback between Peyton Manning/Brock Osweiler to Trevor Siemian, but he's gotten banged up behind his updated offensive line. The addition of Devontae Booker in the 2016 Draft is paying some dividends, though, as he provides a perfect complement to C.J. Anderson. Or vice versa.

Most impactful players that teams didn't face in 2015? Everyone but the receivers and C.J. Anderson.

What will worry Texans fans the most? The Emmanuel Sanders-Demaryius Thomas duo, simply put. The Texans secondary has been decimated the past few weeks with injuries, just in time to face the best duo of receivers it's faced all season long. A consistent Texans pass rush MUST aid the secondary keep this pair in check in this Monday night tilt.

What worries Broncos fans the most? The Broncos run game isn't nearly what it was last year and the offensive line has undergone some significant changes in the last 14 months. Left tackle Russell Okung left last Thursday night's game with the Chargers in an ambulance but flew home with the team. If he's not available, that creates even more issues if 2015 second round selection Ty Sambrailo has to step in at left tackle.

DEFENSE
2015 Unit Profile
Rush Defense - 83.6 ypg (3rd in the NFL)
Pass Defense - 199.6 ypg (1st) *
*Total Defense - 283.1 ypg (1st) *
*
Scoring Defense - 18.5 ppg (4th)

Rush Defense - 112.7 ypg (22nd in the NFL)
Pass Defense - 182.3 ypg (1st) *
*Total Defense - 295.0 ypg (4th) *
*
Scoring Defense - 18.0 ppg (8th)

Here's what the Broncos defense looked like in their Super Bowl win over Carolina
DE - Derek Wolfe
NT - Sylvester Williams
DE - Malik Jackson
OLB - Von Miller
ILB - Brandon Marshall
ILB - Danny Trevathan
OLB - DeMarcus Ware
CB - Aqib Talib
S - T.J. Ward
S - Darian Stewart
CB - Chris Harris

Here's how the Broncos defense looked last Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers
DE - Derek Wolfe
NT - Sylvester Williams
DE - JARED CRICK
OLB - Von Miller
ILB - Brandon Marshall
ILB - TODD DAVIS
OLB - SHANE RAY
CB - Aqib Talib
S - T.J. Ward
S - Darian Stewart
CB - Chris Harris Jr.

**ALL CAPS INDICATE POTENTIALLY DIFFERENT STARTER

Most significant improvement on the defense: Not sure that there was one after the season that group had last year and the personnel losses it sustained in the off-season.

Most impactful players that teams didn't see in 2015? None.

What will worry Texans fans the most? Denver's defense is still one of the best in the NFL and was otherworldly in the 2015 playoff run to a Championship. Miller is back after signing a big contract to stay in Denver for the foreseeable future. But, the main worry is that secondary, led by cornerbacks Talib and Harris. Throw in nickel corner Bradley Roby and that unit might be the best in the NFL. Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler has thrown eight interceptions this year and this is presumably the best secondary he'll face all year long.

What worries Broncos fans the most? The biggest concern has to be the loss of Danny Trevathan and the lack of an inside presence next to Brandon Marshall. The Broncos were 3rd in rush defense in 2015 with Trevathan next to Marshall and with defensive end Malik Jackson at defensive end. Inside linebacker Todd Davis hasn't filled Trevathan's void, but then again, he's not in Trevathan's class. The Texans ran for 158 yards against the Colts last week and will pound the rock at this defense to help slow down the edge rushing stars Miller and second year player Ray.

The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 5/2/2020)

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