Russell Wilson wasn't terrible in his first game for Sean Payton. But he wasn't that great, and that's a still a problem.
The Broncos traded for Wilson last year for him to be a superstar, not a game manager. Wilson did fine in the game manager role on Sunday but it wasn't enough. At home, against a Las Vegas Raiders team that isn't expected to be great this season, Denver put up just 16 points and lost 17-16.
Wilson playing for Payton was different, but it's hard to say it was much better. Wilson was 27 of 34 for 177 yards. It's hard to win when your quarterback averages 6.6 yards per completion.
Wilson was content to check it down most of the game and that did keep the chains moving and avoided turnovers. But he's supposed to be more than that for the Broncos. The first glimpse of him this season wasn't entirely promising.
Russell Wilson doesn't come through
Wilson wasn't pushing the ball downfield much on Sunday, but part of that was missing top receiver Jerry Jeudy. At least he wasn't looking lost in the offense and making terrible mistakes.
Wilson played within the structure of the offense, taking what the Raiders defense gave him. Often it was dumping it off to running backs. That kept the chains moving, and for most of the game that was good enough.
In the end, the Broncos needed more than just Wilson taking what the defense gave him. With 6:34 left, Jimmy Garoppolo hit Jakobi Meyers for a six-yard touchdown and the Raiders took a 17-16 lead. But Denver went three-and-out, with Wilson hitting tight end Adam Trautman well short of the sticks on a third-and-11. The Broncos punted and never saw the ball again.
That pretty much summed up Wilson's day. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't enough. He cooked a little, but the meal was mostly lukewarm.
Broncos lack offensive punch
The Broncos didn't get the ball back after the three-and-out. There was a 15-yard penalty on a brutal hit against Raiders receiver Jakobi Meyers for a big first down, then Garoppolo scrambled for another first down to run out the clock.
The loss wasn't all on Wilson, who was competent. But we're no closer to knowing if he can ever recapture his Pro Bowl form with the Seattle Seahawks. The Broncos gave up a lot in a trade to get him, gave him a massive contract extension and he had a horrible 2022 season. The Broncos fired Nathaniel Hackett and hired Payton, in large part to turn Wilson around. Wilson wasn't miserable on Sunday like he was for most of last season, but he didn't produce enough plays to make a difference. And he won't face many defenses this season projected to be worse than the Raiders.
There's a long time to go this season for the Payton/Wilson marriage. Somehow, they're going to have to figure out how to make more happen on offense if they want to win together.