Ex-NFL Star Keyshawn Johnson Gets Brutally Honest on Broncos

Russell Wilson

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Russell Wilson jogs during mandatory minicamp in 2022.

NFL fans should know by now that the offseason is the season for hot takes. There’s still time to do so as Denver Broncos training camp begins on July 27, which is a little more than two weeks away.

Former NFL wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson hasn’t been buying into the Broncos, even after the Russell Wilson trade.

On June 2, Johnson disagreed with wide receiver Tim Patrick saying that the Broncos are “Super Bowl or bust this year.”

“I don’t think they are Super Bowl contenders,” Johnson said on the June 2 episode of NFL Live. “This division (AFC West), let alone the conference is extremely tough. When you look at Courtland Sutton, and you look at Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick, they really haven’t, as a receiving tandem, taken the next step. One would say it’s probably because they had bad quarterback play. I don’t know. Maybe, I don’t know what I’m watching. But I don’t see this team being a Super Bowl contender. I think they’re an eight, nine-win type team with Russell Wilson.”

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Having an issue with the Broncos being a Super Bowl contender is certainly debatable. But the Broncos snagging just eight or nine wins after the team went 7-10 with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock at quarterback in 2021 is a bold claim.

Now, the former three-time Pro Bowler receiver has an updated opinion on Denver.

Johnson Goes In-Depth With Wilson

Johnson appeared on the July 11 edition of ESPN’s Keyshawn, Jwill & Max and discussed the expectations of the Broncos and Wilson.

Despite garnering nine Pro Bowls, Johnson doesn’t believe Wilson can carry a football team.

“I think Russell Wilson is a fine quarterback,” Johnson said. “But I also believe that the Seattle Seahawks was so successful for a very long time — the reality of it was the defense — as the defense started to show cracks. They started to try to lean toward Russell Wilson in the offense to carry the load and they couldn’t. It wasn’t that he was a bad quarterback or anything like that. It’s just that he wasn’t the guy that ultimately could get them over the hump with a subpar defense.”

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Wilson found early success in Seattle as the team had Pro Bowlers galore and won the Super Bowl in 2013. While the Seahawks would lose players from their “Legion of Boom” defense, the team also pointed towards conservative offensive play under then-offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, which wasn’t under Wilson’s control. Lack of play-action occurred and Wilson’s pass attempts would rank in the bottom half of the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Wilson’s play would dwindle in the second half of seasons, but Seattle also had low offensive line rankings during Wilson’s Seahawks tenure.

Seattle missed the playoffs in 2021, which was the second time since Wilson was drafted in 2012. If the Broncos were to miss the playoffs, Johnson believes it won’t be because of the 33-year-old quarterback.

“If they didn’t make the playoffs, it’s not because of Russell Wilson,” Johnson said. “I believe collectively as a team they won’t advance. You’re going up against the (Las Vegas) Raiders, Kansas City (Chiefs) which has dominated that division for a long time and now the (Los Angeles) Chargers are sort of peaking everybody’s interests.”

Johnson Dives into Rest of Broncos Squad

Johnson went on to say that the Broncos lost their best position player (tight end Noah Fant) in the Wilson trade.

Fant posted solid numbers in 2021, recording 68 catches for 670 yards and four touchdowns. But he was second among tight ends in penalties last season and posted just 4.5 yards after the catch.

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Despite being a year removed from recovering from an ACL injury, it’s hard to not envision wide receiver Courtland Sutton as the best position player. Sutton was a Pro Bowler in his second season as he recorded 72 catches for 1,112 yards in 2019. Second-year running back Javonte Williams can also be in the conversation as he posted more than 1,200 all-scrimmage yards in a part-time role last season.

On the defensive side of the ball, Johnson added he doesn’t “put a lot of credit into their (Broncos) defense.”

Last season, the Broncos finished 20th in overall DVOA on defense, according to Football Outsiders.

Yet, the team allowed the third-fewest points in 2021 and are hoping for contributions from free-agent additions Randy Gregory and D.J. Jones.

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