The Denver Broncos have a lot of question marks surrounding its roster before the season begins in September. After finishing last season with a 7-9 record and missing the playoffs for the 4th consecutive year, Denver did their best to address a myriad of issues that has plagued them for quite some time. Although I have my concerns about the organizations lack of focus on the defensive side of the ball, you have to hand it to them for making massive upgrades to their offense, a unit that was ranked 28th in total offense a season ago. After seeing Alabama WR, Jerry Jeudy, fall into their lap at #15 then doubling down on another receiver in the second round with Penn State’s K.J. Hamler, the Broncos made it very clear that they were going build around Drew Lock by giving him as many offensive weapons as possible. Tight end Nick Vannett, running back Melvin Gordon and guard Graham Glasgow were also added to the roster insuring Lock had not only more yard producers but desperately needed protection up front. Will the offseason acquisitions be enough to launch this team back into the playoffs? Can they hope to contend with the defending Super Bowl champs in the AFC West? There’s certainly more than 5 questions surrounding this team but here’s what made my list:
- Drew Lock: We all know the numbers. Once Lock took over the starting job Denver went 4-1 and he tossed 7 touchdowns on top of 1,000 yards. He provided a spark we haven’t seen at the QB position since Peyton Manning. His teammates love him, he’s confident/not cocky and he’s talented. While some don’t like the Buzz Lightyear or the fake dribble antics, I, like many of his teammates, find it refreshing. All that being said, none of the moxie or the boyish grin really matter if he can’t perform at a high level for an entire season. Five games is hardly enough to fully assess a QB. To expect him to be a top 5 or even a top 10 quarterback is unrealistic but he should be a middle of the pack guy for sure. He has the weapons with guys like Courland Sutton, Jeudy, Gordon, Phillip Lindsay and a bolstered tight end group but is it too much too fast? I’ve been told no but judging by the roster, it appears the Broncos will show several looks and schemes. Can a young QB handle all the moving parts? I guess we are about to find out.
- Right Tackle Fiasco: Ja’Wuan James hasn’t gotten off to the best start in Denver. He battled injuries and struggled to get back on the field in 2019. After discussing with his family and friends, James decided to sit 2020 out as the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 still plagues pretty much everything. So next man up right? Not so fast. Elijah Wilkinson was suppose to duke it out with Garett Bolles at left tackle but now the need is a RT so Wilkinson will do his best to take over a position in dire need of an upgrade now that James is out. Struggling with injuries himself, Wilkinson began camp a bit behind the eight ball. If he can’t become the guy for the job, expect a lot of mixing and matching to start the season……never the way you want to begin a playoff run.
- Von Miller: Von has had only 2 seasons with less than 10 sacks: His 3rd year (5) but he only played 9 games thanks to a suspension and an injury while last season he had just 8. His career was building for 5 seasons leading up to SB 50 and his MVP honor but since then, he’s been going the opposite direction. He’s still a solid pass rusher but is he elite? Is he truly a difference maker anymore? Losing Bradley Chubb to injury last year allowed defenses to key in on the future hall of famer and a slow offense constantly put Denver’s D in a rough spot. However, Von is paid like a superstar and superstars are expected to overcome obstacles and excuses. There’s no doubt Miller is a ring of famer and will go down as one of the Broncos greats….but is his time running out to further cement the fact?
- Phillip Lindsay/Melvin Gordon Dynamic: Over the past 2 seasons, Phillip Lindsay has been one of the few bright spots on a bad football team. He gained over 1,000 yards in his first 2 seasons and is a vocal leader on offense. However, Denver thought it best to add more depth at the running back position. Enter Melvin Gordon. The Chargers rewarded their hard working, undrafted guy while Denver saw fit to knock Lindsay down to #2 on the depth chart. Gordon signed a 2 year, $16 million deal, making him the 8th highest paid Bronco and 7th highest paid back in the league despite failing to reach 1,000 yards rushing in his last 2 seasons. Listen, I am a Gordon fan; always have been always will be. If you would have told me Denver was getting him 2 years ago then sign me up. But the timing of this signing felt icky. It feels like a punishment for the highest producing player on offense collectively over the past 2 years. Lindsay isn’t shying way from the competition but why should he have to enter one in the first place? Head Coach Vic Fangio says it’s an open spot and it’s more likely to be a 1/2 combo but someone has to be the starter and that someone won’t be the guy making less than a million dollars a year. Will this be the last season for the Colorado kid? Can 2 starting caliber backs coexist? I have my doubts.
- The Corners: You’ve heard me go on and on about the corner position. After letting Chris Harris Jr. walk and failing to use the 2nd round pick for a DB, I am very concerned about this unit heading into the season. A.J. Bouye was a good corner in Houston and was OK in Jacksonville but he is clearly a downgrade from Harris, a future Bronco ring of famer. Bryce Callahan has yet to play a down in a Bronco uniform but the #2 spot is his to lose based on what he did during his time in Chicago. De’Vante Bausby, Isaac Yiadom and rookie Michael Ojemudia will battle it out for the Nickel and dime spots. So, a downgrade at #1, a guy who hasn’t been on the field in over a year and a trio of young, unproven guys doesn’t exactly scream an elite unit.
Despite my concerns, I still think this team will be much improved from a season ago. The defense likely won’t be elite but they have enough playmakers to keep them in games (Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Bradley Chubb, Von Miller) and the offense has no choice but to get better. While I worry about Lock being forced to learn too much too fast, the speed on offense alone should help produce wins. There’s a lot to be concerned about but more importantly, there’s a lot to be excited about too.