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3 & Out with Football Outsiders Derrik Klassen

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What QB best fits the Denver Broncos? What free agents should they chase?

NCAA Football: Missouri at Florida
Perhaps Elway shouldn’t lock in on in Missouri Tiger? Okay, I admit that was too punny.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

One thing I’m hoping to do this offseason is provide you guys with some more neutral looks at the Broncos with the 3 & Out series. This time around I was fortunate enough to speak with FootballOutsiders’ Derrik Klassen, who writes the weekly Film Room series for the site. After talking a bit about League of Legends (Derrik and I are both huge Bard fans, but he also plays ADC), I started to bug Derrik about your favorite football team. I’ll spare you the nerd talk for now and cut right to our discussion.

The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

1st and 10:

What changes do you think are coming for the Broncos defense in the Vic Fangio system?

It may be tough to project just what Vic Fangio will do with the Broncos defense because the secondary looks vastly different than what he was working with on the Bears. In Chicago, Fangio had a strong press corner (Prince Amukamara), an elite zone/off corner (Kyle Fuller), and two top-quality, versatile safeties who liked to hit (Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson).

Fangio used them all to their strengths, often playing combo coverages that asked Amukamara to press one side and play Fuller off on the other, while the two safeties often played match-quarters. I do not believe the Broncos to have that type of talent, so Fangio may water down coverages until further notice. However, if Fangio revamps the secondary to his liking, that would be the type of coverage base to expect.

In general — and this may sound simplistic — I would expect better opponent-specific game planning out of Fangio. That is not a knock on Vance Joseph, but rather a testament to Fangio’s ability to pick out what opponents do best and force them away from it. In the Bears’ meeting with the Rams, for example, Fangio took away the seams and forced Jared Goff to throw to the boundary, which is a recipe for him to lose. Fangio also loaded the weak side of the line of scrimmage with his front to slow down the Rams’ beloved weak side zone run.

2nd and 7:

Elway has already called Case Keenum a short term fix this offseason, and reports are coming out left and right that the Broncos will be in the mix for another quarterback. Are there any veterans that seem to make sense? The odds on favorite seems to be Drew Lock. I have questions, but do you think he would be a good fit in the Rich Scangarello offense?

None of the veteran options on the market make sense for the Broncos. Some will clamor for Nick Foles, but paying Case Keenum a year ago made more sense than paying Foles this offseason. Sure, Foles had the Super Bowl run, but he’s largely been mediocre, both statistically and on film, for the Eagles the past two seasons. Keenum at least had one full season of legitimately great production, even if he did get plenty of help.

As for Drew Lock, a transition to Rich Scangarello’s offense would be a shock for him. Lock is accustomed to 10/11 personnel offenses that spread the defense out; prioritize getting the ball out quickly and often behind the line of scrimmage; and target the deep portion of the field through three- or four-man vertical concepts instead of hard play-action. Lock is also not particularly accurate within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, which severely holds back how efficient an offense can be. However, Lock does possess the arm strength and athletic ability to win on intermediate and deep concepts, both through play-action and rollouts.

A Lock-led offense may be explosive from time to time, but he is not at all consistent and will not display the decision making or accuracy to keep an offense on schedule. For a Shanahan-style offense, schedule is critical, so Lock may not be the right guy.

3rd and 3:

Are there any other big positions of need that you see for the 2019 Broncos?

The interior defensive line needs help. Their edge defenders and linebackers are good, but Denver’s propensity to get bullied between the tackles last season was concerning. Domata Peko is not the reliable figure he once was in Cincinnati, and beyond Adam Gotsis, there is no other decent defensive tackle to pick up the slack.

Bolstering the cornerback position could also be of service. Chris Harris is fantastic, and the team already has a couple third-round picks on the team, but there is not enough of a lockdown threat aside from Harris, who is best served in the slot. The Broncos ought to invest what they can to help replicate the talented and diverse cornerback group Fangio had in Chicago. With Bradley Roby’s status up in the air, planning to dump resources on the position makes even more sense.

4th and inches:

Are there any under the radar free agents or draft prospects that you think could be solid scheme fits in the Fangio or Scangarello systems?

Wide receiver John Brown could be a fantastic pickup. Shanahan’s system, which we presume Scangarello will mimic, loves speedy slot receivers who can torch down the middle of the defense. Think of Aldrick Robinson (who is also available), Taylor Gabriel, Marquise Goodwin, etc.; this system thrives with a demon slot receiver who wins down the field. It helps open up underneath area, which can be good for a quarterback who struggles to throw precisely down there. Better yet, Brown is a better player than the aforementioned players to have played that role for Shanahan/Scangarello.

John Brown could be just what the doctor ordered if Emmanuel Sanders can’t return to health. He’s a veteran with speed to burn.

On defense, defensive tackle Michael Pierce (another Baltimore Raven, oddly enough) would be a killer signing to shore up the defensive front. Pierce is hulking run defender who absorbs pressure and gives aggressive linebackers some freedom to crash the line of scrimmage and suffocate opposing running backs. It is rare to see Pierce get blown off the line of scrimmage, and he is instead found far more often in the opposing backfield as someone who disrupts rushing lanes and forces runners to cut or bounce. He is not a huge stat-getter, but he is the perfect type of player to facilitate playmaking for an otherwise talented Denver front seven.