The Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 in February 2016. A few months later, they selected safety Justin Simmons in the third round of the NFL Draft.
Since then, it's been a struggle in Denver. The Broncos finished 9-7 in Simmons' rookie year and have been on a sad rollercoaster since, never hitting a peak that would get them back to the postseason.
After finishing fourth in the AFC West last season, Simmons told NFL Network's Good Morning Football on Thursday he believes the Broncos are in a position to contend in 2021.
"I feel like we're really close," Simmons said. "We're finally having a year where we're having coordinators come back and guys are familiar with the schemes and the systems, both on offense and defense and on special teams. I feel like we're really close. I feel like this could be the year and I'm really excited for that. I've been itching for it ever since I came into the league -- 9-7 is the closest I've been. And so I'm really looking forward to this season."
Perusing the Broncos roster, it's hard to argue with Simmons' logic.
Denver has playmakers on defense perfect for Vic Fangio's system, including first-round corner Patrick Surtain II. Simmons is one of the best safeties in the entire NFL. If Von Miller and Bradley Chubb stay healthy at the same time, the front could be ferocious. The wideout group offers talent and playmaking ability if Courtland Sutton returns fully healthy. The offensive line is upgraded. A backfield of Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon offers intrigue.
Then you get to the quarterback.
The massive question mark under center will likely decide whether, as Simmons said, the Broncos are close to the playoffs or remain on the outskirts.
Simmons knows it will be on Denver's D to compete in the division. To get to the postseason, the Broncos have to go better than the 1-5 division record they compiled last season.
"In our division, we got teams like the Chiefs, the Raiders and the Chargers, those are some high-powered offenses," the highly paid safety said. "So we're going to need a defense that's ready to go week in and week out because we play the best in our division. In terms of team defensive goals, we want to be No. 1. We have the talent across the board to be able to get after the quarterback, get some turnovers, that's an area that we've struggled in the past couple years. So we're just really looking forward to competing out there and going against some of the best offenses in the league. Like I said, from a defensive standpoint, we feel like we can be No. 1, and so that's our goal."
Even if the Broncos boast the No. 1 defense, they'll need improved QB play for Simmons to get his first taste of postseason action.