Aside from an improved defense, Year 3 of the head coach Vic Fangio era for the Broncos resembled little difference from the first two seasons.
Momentum from winning their first three games of the season was not sustained the rest of the way, as it was followed by a four-game losing streak. While they rebounded by winning four of their next six games to pull themselves to 7-6, they would drop their final four regular season games to finish 7-10 overall.
While Denver's defense allowed the third-fewest points and eight-fewest total yards of offense per game in the NFL last year, those efforts could not be complemented by an offense that ranked 23rd in scoring and 19th in total yards of offense per game – and also failed to score more than 20 points in a game in 9 of 17 games.
Fangio was dismissed, the beginning of a near-complete overhaul of the Broncos' coaching staff (only three Fangio assistants were retained).
Among the notable new hires, the Broncos brought in former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as Fangio's replacement. Hackett brought former Packers tight ends coach Justin Outten with him to Denver as the Broncos' new offensive coordinator, replacing Pat Shurmur. Klint Kubiak, who was the Vikings' offensive coordinator in 2021, replaced Mike Shula as quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator.
Meanwhile, former Rams pass game coordinator/secondary coach Ejiro Evero was hired by Hackett as the Broncos' new defensive coordinator, replacing Ed Donatell. Hackett also hired former Rams assistant defensive line coach Marcus Dixon as the Broncos' new defensive line coach.
Denver also made one of the biggest trades of the offseason, acquiring quarterback Russell Wilson from the Seahawks in exchange for tight end Noah Fant, quarterback Drew Lock, defensive end Shelby Harris, 2022 and 2023 first-round picks, 2022 and 2023 second-round picks and a 2022 fifth-round pick.
Hackett enters his first season as head coach of the Broncos and also as an NFL head coach.
What to watch for
Rams offense vs. a potential familiar-looking Broncos defense
It would be easy to say Rams defense vs. Wilson. The former Seahawks QB is in a new offense with new targets in the passing game around him, and that will certainly be something to watch.
But what is perhaps more fascinating about this matchup is the Rams offense going against a defense they will likely recognize.
Hackett's hiring strategy suggests Denver plans to deploy a scheme similar to the one run by Los Angeles, given Evero and Dixon's experience. And while that could be an advantage for L.A.'s offense in that it practices against that scheme every day, that defense is also designed to counter the offensive scheme run by L.A. – though that offense will also be evolving this year.
That back-and-forth chess match is what will make this game exciting.