The Denver Broncos have been on a roller coaster lately. After their Super Bowl 50 win in 2015, the Broncos have had just one winning season and rotated through eight quarterbacks. There was very little to celebrate until the emergence of Drew Lock late last season.
Lock got his first NFL start in Week 13 after the botched Joe Flacco experiment and a couple of games with Brandon Allen under center, which went about as well as you might think. Lock, a second-round pick out of the 2019 NFL Draft, went 4-1 through the final stretch and pushed Denver to a 7-9 record in the first season under head coach Vic Fangio.
The Broncos can now settle in with Lock and Fangio while facing some of the toughest competition in the AFC West. The defending champion Kansas City Chiefs won’t be taken down by the promise of Lock, but progression from the now second-year quarterback will make for a successful season in the immediate future.
With good quarterback play should come a winning record, but even if Denver can turn its season around, it might not result in a playoff appearance with the Chiefs looming overhead. What good quarterback play will certainly do is set the Broncos up to once again be contenders for years to come. Expectations, however, should be tempered. Denver is still hoping the late heroics from Lock weren’t just a flash in the pan, and the organization is making sure it stays level-headed entering the unique 2020 season.
“I don’t think we can expect with no offseason for us to come out and be hitting on all cylinders,” Broncos general manager John Elway recently said, via USA Today. “I know that we have spent a lot of time in Zoom meetings and [offensive coordinator] Pat [Shurmur] and his staff on the offensive side have spent a lot of time with it, but there’s nothing like being on the practice field. It’s going to be a slow build.
“The expectations of Drew — I mean, he did play well for five games, but that was only five games last year. He didn’t have the offseason this year, which for young football players is always very, very important.”
Lock finished his five games passing for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns to three interceptions. This small sample size doesn’t negate the poor quarterback play that has plagued the Broncos, but Elway has seemingly shored up the most important position in football and can now focus on other needs, which starts with finding a No. 1 running back.
Denver signed free-agent back Melvin Gordon in March to join the 1-2 punch of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. Gordon is the projected RB1, but Lindsay’s success as an undrafted free agent makes for an interesting competition in the backfield. Shurmur plans on using both backs, but where exactly will that split come? Gordon is a two-time Pro Bowl player with almost as many 1,000-yard seasons. He regressed his last two seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers while battling injury (and holding out) and hasn’t played a full season since 2017 when he totaled 1,105 yards and eight touchdowns. Gordon still managed to have 18 scores over 2018-19, but counting on Gordon doesn’t mean you should count out Lindsay. He’s rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons and has 17 career touchdowns. This duo, as well as Freeman, can help open up the field for Lock, who will have a number of new targets.
The Broncos added to their receiving corps via the draft with 15th overall pick Jerry Jeudy and second-round selection KJ Hamler. The two rookies will join the established Courtland Sutton and second-year tight end Noah Fant, who, after a 500-plus yard rookie season, could be a breakout star in 2021.
Denver’s lulls are disappointing when they boast talent like linebacker Von Miller’s on defense. This unit cannot win championships with an offense that doesn’t match an ounce of its efforts. With the recent influx of new faces, however, we could see both sides be equally impressive. The Broncos’ additions weren’t just limited to the offense. They now have defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who was acquired in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick, to bolster the front seven—with Miller, linebacker Bradley Chubb, and fellow defensive end Shelby Harris—and continue to wreak havoc on opponents.
A number of the team’s needs have been addressed this offseason—the Broncos even improved a decent offensive line—to give them talent from top-to-bottom. It will be up to Fangio and company to take advantage of all of the new pieces and foster an environment for Lock to thrive; anything else is a bonus.
- Dec 01, 2022
- Nov 30, 2022