The Chargers wrap up the regular season Sunday against the Broncos.
Kickoff is at 1:25 p.m. (PT) in Denver. The Bolts are 10-6 and playoff bound while the Broncos are 4-12.
We chatted with Nick Kosmider, who covers the Broncos for The Athletic, to get a preview of the game.
The Broncos will not be going to the playoffs despite high preseason expectations. What's the main thing that went wrong in Denver this season?
NK: It was a perfect storm of misfires and bad-luck circumstances more than it was one specific thing that went wrong. The Broncos have 22 players on IR and have had major setbacks at virtually every position. Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett never seemed to click in a play-calling sense, and Hackett was fired after 15 games. The Broncos are just 3-9 in one-score games. Anything that could go wrong did for Denver in 2022. That's as succinctly as I can put it in the space here.
Check out the best photos from Austin Ekeler's 161 total scrimmage-yard, two touchdown, Week 17 performance against the Rams that earned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for first time in his career
On the flip side, what's the biggest reason for optimism with the Broncos going forward?
NK: There is still young talent on the roster with players like cornerback Pat Surtain II and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. A defense that was one of the NFL's best this season will return the majority of its starters. And an ownership group that paid a record $4.65 billion for the franchise in August has made clear it will commit significant resources to get the right coach for the franchise and make the other additions that are needed to spurn a turnaround.
Who is a young player that has turned heads and is someone the team is excited about?
NK: Young tight end Greg Dulcich has the look of a dangerous offensive weapon for the Broncos moving forward. He scored a touchdown in his NFL debut against the Chargers in Week 6 and kept progressing from there until suffering a hamstring injury in Week 16 that ended his season.
What is the view on Russell Wilson? Does the team think he can return to his previous form in 2023?
NK: The team has expressed public confidence that Wilson can rebound next season. They point to the fact he was without many of his top offensive weapons this season. Standout running back Javonte Williams, for example, was lost for the season due to a knee injury in Week 4. Top wide receiver Tim Patrick tore his ACL in training camp. Left tackle Garett Bolles hasn't played since Week 5. The group also thinks it can hire a coach that can pull more out of Wilson at this stage in his career. Still, it would be naive to think there isn't concern about Wilson going forward given how this season transpired.
Finally, what do you think will be the main criteria for Denver's head coaching search?
NK: Experience. The Broncos have hired three straight first-time head coaches and none of them produced a single winning season. I think the Broncos will be looking for a coach with previous success as a head coach at the NFL or major-college level. This makes coaches like Sean Payton, Jim Harbaugh, Dan Quinn and Leslie Frazier as candidates to watch closely. Another one to watch: current Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. Though he has not been a head coach, he has deeply impressed people in the building this year with the work he's done with Denver's defense and the general leadership qualities he had displayed.
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