Mile High Monday: Can Russell Wilson join the 5000 yards club in 2022?

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The Denver Broncos kick off training camp in less than 10 days. I will be there for 14 days of training in the summer heat, including joint training with the Dallas Cowboys.

I love this time of year. It’s just before training camp, and anything is possible for a team built like the Broncos. They will be able to hone their skills during camp, pre-season and joint training which might be more competitive than pre-season games.

I also like to contemplate life and sport when I’m driving with the top down on my old Jeep TJ! What follows is the result of these trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a look inside my thoughts.

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We love you too, Von!

Former Broncos linebacker Von Miller is a future Hall of Fame inductee, and he’s one of the best to ever play in Denver. Last week, Miller was in town for his foundation, Von’s Vision, for a charity event, and he kept referring to the Broncos as “us” when talking about the team.

Miller was traded to the Los Angeles Rams last year, and he was able to win another Super Bowl championship with his new team. While Miller seemed to be falling out of favor with former head coach Vic Fangio, he fit right in with the Rams. In eight games during the regular season, Miller pocketed 5.0 sacks. During the playoffs, Miller was even better with 4.0 sacks in four games before (and including) the big game.

This offseason, Miller was a free agent and rather than stay with the Rams or return to the Broncos, he opted to sign a six-year, $120 million contract with the Buffalo Bills. His price may have been too high for the Broncos, but it would be nice if he could come back while playing good football. It would have been nicer if Fangio had used Miller properly and warmed up to the superstar player instead of cheating on him and never really praising him for his game.

As I wrote last week, Miller and the Bills could hamper the Broncos in the playoffs. Simply put, the Broncos would be better off with Miller — especially under new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. There’s no doubt that Evero could have unlocked (revitalised?) Miller’s game when it comes to going after the setter. There’s also no doubt that the Broncos have too many questions when it comes to passers. Bringing Miller back, or keeping Miller, would have given them a great player and a proven player to be at the forefront of this young group. Well, no matter what, we’ll always love Miller – until the Broncos and Bills play.

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Mister 5000?

We’re going to see the best version of Russell Wilson this season. The Broncos are going to “let Russ cook” and that means he’s going to throw more than he did with the Seattle Seahawks. I’ve written it before, and I’ll reference it again; the only time Wilson was in the top 10 in pass attempts, he led the league in touchdown passes (2017). Not just expect a rinse and repeat of this type of production – it’s fair to expect his numbers to be even higher.

It all boils down to attempts to overtake. Wilson has never gone 600 times in a season, but in a 17-game season (and a team willing to let it fly), it could happen. Just two years ago, Wilson recorded a career-high 558 pass attempts, and he threw for a career-high 40 touchdowns. However, he only threw for 4,212 yards this season (2020). What if he gets more passing attempts this year in a much more efficient passing offense, with much better receivers as well?

Can Wilson throw over 5,000 yards? Even in today’s happy-go league, that’s a mark only a handful of quarterbacks have reached in NFL history. Dan Marino (Miami Dolphins) was the first quarterback to do so in 1984, and no one else topped that number for decades. Since 2008 (Drew Brees), there have been eight quarterbacks to throw for over 5,000 yards. Last year, two quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Justin Herbert) reached this record.

I think pushing for 5,000 passing yards is a possibility for Wilson, but I haven’t projected him for that number. He’s likely to set a career high in pass attempts this year, and Wilson could get close to 600 attempts this season. However, I think they will rely on their rushing attack enough to knock the ball out of Wilson’s hands late in the game. I believe the Broncos can create leads and then let running back Javonte Williams close out the game and eat away possession time on the field. That means Wilson won’t have to put it on late to try and win games, which is why I think 4,500 yards is a more accurate projection for him this year.

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A good backup

Earlier this year, the Broncos signed veteran quarterback Josh Johnson to a one-year contract. I’ve followed Johnson’s career ever since I saw him at practices for the 2008 East-West Shrine Game in Houston, Texas (the same practices Tyler Polumbus attended). I knew Johnson through his personal trainer and his cousin, former NFL running back Marshawn Lynch. I thought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had an intriguing prospect when they selected Johnson in the fifth round that year.

Johnson played college football for head coach Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego. He was a good quarterback for the Torreros, and Harbaugh said Johnson was one of the smartest players he ever coached. In getting to know Johnson, I saw that knowledge and passion for football first hand. During his professional career, Johnson never stayed with one team too long and has now played for almost half the league.

So is Johnson a good replacement for the Broncos? I say yes. Sure, the Broncos could have gone after someone like Marcus Mariota or signed a quarterback at the end of this year to back up Wilson, but I’m glad they didn’t go that route. Yes, Johnson is 1-8 as a starter in nine games in his pro career, but I love him as a backup for another reason — his intelligence. Nathaniel Hackett’s West Coast offense is one of the most complex in the league. No offense to the other quarterbacks, but many who were available would likely struggle with Hackett’s offensive language, let alone complex concepts. Johnson, having worked in dozens of systems, will not have this problem.

We’re about to get to the “surprise cuts” time of year when articles are written that attempt to determine which players might be released after pre-season. Johnson could be on some of those lists, but I think he’s still a good backup for the Broncos. He’s smart enough to figure out the system, and Johnson is athletic enough to make the system work as intended. You can’t say that for every backup option that existed. Wilson rarely gets injured, so spending resources on a more expensive backup that isn’t as smart as Johnson seems like a bad idea to me.

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The return of the prophet

I’m a big comic book fan. I always have been, and I always will be. As someone who started an independent comic book company, Smokin Gun Comics, I’m fulfilling my dream of creating comics that hopefully will appeal to a lot of people. I love Marvel Comics, but there are several characters from independent publishers that I love too. Characters like Grimjack (First Comics) and Prophet (Image Comics) are some of my favorites – and both have plans to come to streaming services or theaters in the near future.

Prophet (Remastered Edition) is out this week. It’s a creation of one of my favorite artists of all time, Rob Liefeld, with an interesting background. First seen in the pages of Youngblood, John Prophet is a WWII super soldier who just happens to be on a crusade of sorts. A former homeless man, Prophet was sometimes used as a mindless soldier after World War II and now feels bad for some of the things he did, even though he doesn’t remember them.

I love that a character from the past like Prophet can once again be in the spotlight. Originally slated to appear in Marvel’s X-Force, Liefeld kept Prophet for Image Comics and the character became a fan favorite. I can’t wait to pick up this remastered series at my local comic book store.

Which character from the past would you like to see rejuvenated? Hit me up on social media and let me know!

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