It’s almost impossible to quantify just how bad the Broncos’ defense is. This is a team that has myriad issues, but nothing as prevalent as Vance Joseph’s unit — which continues to find new ways to get worse as they run up the score on history.
The Broncos came away with a win on Sunday, but only by the grace of the second-most incompetent defense in the league when they faced the Chicago Bears. The Broncos defense doesn’t just have a lock on last place in the NFL, it’s on pace to be the worst defense in the recorded history of the National Football League.
As it stands the Broncos defense is at a -88.08 in expected points, and on pace for -374.34 this season. It’s not entirely fair to extrapolate this out for a full 17 games, because that would normalize the 70 points the Dolphins hung on Denver in Week 3. However, even if we account for that being a deviation we have the defense finishing at -246.9 on the season.
Routinely the worst teams in the NFL finish anywhere from -120 to -170. A -246.9 would be the lowest since the 2015 Saints (-180.2) and the worst since EXP became a recorded stat in 2000.
This team is also doing legendary things when it comes to DVOA.
Denver is on pace to give up 55 passing touchdowns this season. Another NFL record, beating the 2015 Saints who allowed 45.
The Broncos are getting run all over too, and are slated to finish this season with 2,992 rushing yards against. This would put them 4th all time among yards allowed, and make the 2023 Broncos the worst rushing defense since the 1978 Baltimore Colts (who allowed 3,010 yards).
Just for good measure, the Broncos are also allowing 7.0 yards-per-play, which you might guess is another NFL record.
We’ve seen bad defenses before. The league is familiar with teams that absolutely fail in one key area of defense. What’s most impressive about Denver is that this unit is failing in absolutely every statistical area that’s important to a defense. The only area the Broncos aren’t dead last in is takeaways, where they’re just near the bottom — thanks entirely to Justin Fields who turned the ball over twice against them on Sunday.
The scariest part is that we might not even know how low this could go. On Wednesday the team cut Randy Gregory, who they signed to a $70M deal last offseason so they could start evaluating younger talent. Gregory has not been good for Denver, but there’s a strong chance he’s better than whoever will replace him.
Sources: Broncos are releasing LB Randy Gregory. The team wants to focus on young players. Gregory will be a free agent.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 4, 2023
Vance Joseph is calling the most nonsensical defense the league has ever seen. From week-to-week there seems to be no awareness of how to disrupt offenses, and often he’s actively helping players on the other team get better. This manifested itself against the Bears by playing man coverage on Justin Fields with a large cushion, which allowed D.J. Moore and Cole Kmet to get open and have Fields throw into huge windows, giving him his best passing chart of the season.
Oh, before I forget, the Broncos defense lacks discipline too. They’re ranked second in the NFL in penalty yards allowed, giving up 314 yards of penalties alone. Truly spectacular work.
Anyone who’s seen Sean Payton coach knows he doesn’t understand, or care for defense. He’s always delegated that job and concentrated on scoring. All he needs is a defense good enough to keep his teams in shootouts, which is what Payton did for his entire tenure in New Orleans. That’s not happening in Denver, and we’re witnessing history.
There’s no telling how bad this could get. History is truly in the making at Mile High.