DENVER – The Broncos 2017 season was mostly one to forget, but if you dig into the roster a bit it becomes clear that there were a few good stories to emerge. Take a look at five players who were surprises for Denver.
The Broncos rushing defense took a huge step in 2017 and the second year player from Georgia Tech was a big reason why.
Adam Gotsis (credit: Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Gotsis played in all 16 games in 2017, including 13 starts, up from zero the year before.
He finished the season with two sacks and 28 tackles and showed Broncos fans why John Elway saw fit to take him in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Denver finished the season with the 5th best rushing defense in 2017 allowing 89.4 rushing yards/game, a marked improvement from their 28th ranked rushing defense in 2016. Now the question is, can Gotsis continue that improvement in year three?
It’s okay to admit that was your first response when Harris came up with one of the defining plays for 2017. His field goal block in Week 1 helped the Broncos beat the Chargers and Harris’ season took off from there.
Shelby Harris, right, celebrates with Chris Harris Jr. after the Week 1 win. (credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Harris played 52 percent of the defensive snaps this season and had the best year of his career. He started six games and finished with 5.5 sacks, second most on the team only to Von Miller.
Paradis has been “Mr. Consistent” for the Broncos over the last three seasons.
The Broncos offense lines up behind center Matt Paradis on Nov. 19, 2017, in Denver. (credit: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Entering 2017 he had played ever snap of his career at center from the Broncos and in 2017 he kept that streak alive, playing 1,127 snaps. He was the only player on the Broncos entire roster to play 100 percent of the snaps on his side of the ball, an accomplishment made even more impressive by the fact that the Broncos were rotating quarterbacks for the second half of the season.
Whether it was Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler or Paxton Lynch, you could always count on Paradis to be the guy snapping the ball.
When the Broncos cut T.J. Ward before the start of the season, Justin Simmons was thrust into the starting lineup and he didn’t disappoint. Simmons started the first 13 games of the season before injuring his ankle against the Jets in Week 14.
Strong safety Justin Simmons of the Denver Broncos celebrates after a sack against the New England Patriots on Nov. 12, 2017. (credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
He played 100 percent of the defensive snaps in eight of the 13 games and also played a big role in special teams. The Broncos No Fly Zone finished 4th best in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game
While Simmons’ numbers don’t jump off the page (just two interceptions and three passes defended), he showed Broncos Country that he could be a reliable starter not just for this season, but for seasons to come.
We know, we know … C.J. Anderson is hardly an unheralded player, but we couldn’t leave off a guy who rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.
C.J. Anderson at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 14, 2017, in Indianapolis. (credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Simply put: what C.J. did on the field in 2017 deserves to be recognized. Not only did he top the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his career (1,007), but 2017 was also the first time in his career that C.J. played in all 16 games, a big feat considering his injury history. He finished with the 9th highest rushing total in the league, and we figured that was worthy of a spot on our list.