Broncos Regular Season Awards

6 of 6

Most Improved Player: LB Brandon Marshall (same)

Oct 5, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Arizona Cardinals tight end John Carlson (89) is tackled by Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall (54) during the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

This is an award given out by the Pro Football Writers of America that Marshall could legitimately win. This guy came out of nowhere. Before this year I knew him most for his personality on twitter, responding to fans who thought he was the other Brandon Marshall. This year he proved he was just as entertaining on the field.

Marshall got his opportunity when Danny Trevathan went down before the season started. Marshall improved each week and it soon became impossible for the coaches to take him off the field. He played every snap in nine of the 14 games he played in.

Marshall is a reliable all around back, physical enough to help in the run game, athletic enough to help in the coverage, and instinctive enough to be dependable in both.

His improvement has been meteoric. Selected in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL Draft, he spent most of the year on the Jaguars practice squad. Before the start of the 2013 season, he was released and signed to the Broncos practice squad where he spent most of that year. When Von Miller tore his ACL, Marshall was activated for the last game of the season and the playoffs. This season he spent the whole year on the active roster, collecting an All-Pro vote, effectively kissing his practice squad days goodbye.

Honorable Mention: Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio (Ronnie Hillman)

Like last time, I found a way to put a coach on this list. Jack Del Rio has caught the ire of some of my criticism earlier in the year. I didn’t think he was putting the players in a position that best profiled their talents.

But to his credit, he made some adjustments on the fly later in the year. While he still has the corners playing a lot of zone, he’s been blitzing more, even if it’s not as much as we all want.

The biggest change I’ve seen is the role of T.J. Ward. Ward was signed as a high profile free agent in the offseason, but was somewhat of a disappointment to start the year. Most of this was due to him not being able to effectively play in coverage. Luckily, Del Rio noticed this deficiency and moved Ward around more, playing inside the box, letting him attack the line of scrimmage more and utilizing him on more blitzes. Part of this move had to have been because of Trevathan, Nate Irving, and later Marshall going down, but credit Del Rio with having the wherewithal to make such a move.

Ward had a down year by PFF’s grading system, but finished the year strong because his new role suited him better. After only one game of having a 1.0 grade or better (week 5 against the Cardinals), Ward spent his last four weeks with such a grade. He finished the year with grades of 1.5, 1.8, 1.9, and 2.4, each topping his previous season high.

The players also seem to respond to Del Rio as a whole. The players seem to respond to him and his coaching style, which is 50% of being a football coach. Also give credit to JDR for helping the Broncos become a top three defense in the league and second against the run. This is a defense that players shouldn’t want to face come postseason.