Surprise! The Denver Broncos DIDN’T have the league’s worst special teams in 2022
Jan 20, 2023, 10:13 AM | Updated: 10:28 am
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Would you believe that there were SEVEN clubs with worse special teams than the Broncos?
That’s the finding of Rick Gosselin’s annual special-teams rankings, which place the Broncos 25th in the NFL.
Gosselin, a long-time NFL writer who most recently worked for the Dallas Morning News, has compiled his special-teams rankings since 1985. He compiles his rankings based off the league rankings in 22 different categories. Then he assigns a point value for each ranking — one for No. 1, two for No. 2, etc., all the way down to 32 — and grades accordingly.
The unit led by special-teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes until his Dec. 26 firing actually finished ahead of six playoff teams: Cincinnati (No. 26), Miami (No. 27), the New York Giants (No. 28), Tampa Bay (No. 30), Philadelphia (No. 31) and Kansas City (No. 32).
Thus, the two No. 1 seeds were the bottom two teams in Gosselin’s metrics.
Stukes’ previous employer, the Los Angeles Rams, were the only non-playoff team below Denver. The Rams sat 30th in Gosselin’s table.
Denver finished dead last in four of the 22 categories:
- Kickoff returns (17.5 yards)
- Average drive starting point (23.9-yard line)
- Opponent punting average (51.5 yards)
- Opponent net punting average (45.0 yards)
Beleaguered returner Montrell Washington had five fumbles alone, although he recovered four of them.
However, the Broncos cleaned up their act in some ways. Per NFLPenalties.com, the Broncos were tied for 10th in fewest special-teams penalties. They ranked 9th in opposing kickoff-return average and tied for 8th in punts inside the 20.
OTHER RANKINGS WERE A BIT DIFFERENT
The Broncos finished 17th in Pro Football Focus’ overall special-teams grading and 29th in Football Outisders’ special-teams DVOA rankings.
But the significance there lies in the fact that the Broncos sat dead last after 16 weeks. They improved three slots in the final two games after interim head coach Jerry Rosburg sacked special-teams coordinator Dawyne Stukes.
The Rosburg Effect led to a 3-spot rise — fairly impressive, all things considered.
Historically, Rosburg also ranks as Gosselin’s fifth-best special-teams coach for the years since he began tabulating the rankings.
ACROSS THE BOARD
Low rankings are commonplace for the Broncos in recent years:
Rick Gosselin’s rankings:
- 2022: 25
- 2021: 27
- 2020: 21
- 2019: 21
- 2018: 24
- 2017: 31
- 2016: 16
Football Outsiders special-teams DVOA:
- 2022: 29
- 2021: 30
- 2020: 24
- 2019: 24
- 2018: 31
- 2017: 30
- 2016: 24
Pro Football Focus:
- 2022: 17
- 2021: 19
- 2020: 32
- 2019: 22
- 2018: 9
- 2017: 15
- 2016: 17
(As I noted six months ago, I’m pretty sure PFF’s computer has a virus.)
The Broncos’ average ranking in the above metrics:
- 2022: 23.7
- 2021: 25.3
- 2020: 25.7
- 2019: 22.3
- 2018: 21.3
- 2017: 25.3
- 2016: 19.0
So, the Broncos have their highest average ranking since 2019. Progress!
That said, don’t break out the confetti. The Broncos remain stuck in the same range they’ve occupied since Super Bowl 50. And for whoever becomes the Broncos’ next head coach, improving the third phase is a place to start.