4. Rookie Jaleel McLaughlin's quick emergence into stardom
After signing with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent out of a small school in Youngstown State, Jaleel McLaughlin found his chances of making the roster very, very slim. However, through his hard work, dedication, and showing up at the facility at 5 AM every day before practice, it ultimately became inevitable that he would make the team without a single doubt. Sure enough, that is exactly what he accomplished.
McLaughlin, 23, had incredible training camp performances practice after practice, and was a preseason star for the offense. At the time of the signing, essentially everyone, including myself, was predicting that running backs Tyler Badie or Tony Jones Jr. would make the team as the third-string over McLaughlin. It is fair to say, that with 7.1 yards per carry and three total touchdowns this season in limited opportunities, he has proved every single last doubter wrong.
5. Lloyd Cushenberry playing at an elite level
Early in the offseason, multiple members of the media and fans were calling for the front office to sign and/or draft a new center to replace fourth-year offensive lineman Lloyd Cushenberry. However, Sean Payton decided to draft Alex Forysth late in the seventh round and never bothered to make a serious signing for the position.
Since then, Cushenberry has cemented himself as one of the league's very best centers. Cushenberry has yet to allow a single sack through eight games and has not allowed a single pressure or quarterback hurry in his last three games. In terms of pass protection, he has been graded as a top-five player at his position and has significantly improved his run-blocking ability under new offensive line coach Zach Strief. Cushenberry has arguably been Denver's best offensive player this season and is thus on his way to a well-deserved contract extension.
6. 3-5 start, allowing 70 points in Week 3
Unfortunately, saving the worst for last is the Denver Broncos' 3-5 record to start the year. While not every analyst predicted that the Broncos would be a playoff team, more than 90% of fans believed the team would at least be mediocre with a very easy schedule of opponents through the first eight games. However, that has simply not been the case. Even with two convincing wins as of late, the Broncos still find themselves drowning in the playoff race and having essentially no room for error.
Realistically, the Broncos can only lose three of their next nine games at the very most, and even then, they are still risking a wild card spot. With reasonable playoff hopes to start the season, the 3-5 result through the first eight games certainly holds the title of the most shocking storyline for the Broncos in 2023 and ultimately may be the reason the team misses the postseason for the eighth consecutive year.