So full disclosure, I’m writing this about two hours after the Denver Broncos blew their golden opportunity to upset the Indianapolis Colts and fell to 2-6 to open the Vic Fangio era. I decided to write because Broncos’ Twitter is a circle of blame at Rich Scangarello with different members of the local media climbing over themselves to post anonymous quotes and stats to show how dire things are.
At first I tried to shut all of it down and just watch a different game, but Redzone just got my brain spinning Broncos. So here we are.
How many wins you think Denver has left this year? pic.twitter.com/NuMiMM6bCc— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) October 27, 2019
Coming into this season I was not especially optimistic about the win-loss column. Back in training camp I predicted the Broncos would finish within two games of .500, in either direction. My biggest concerns at that time were Joe Flacco, the young pass catchers, and the offensive line.
So far all three have played a big part in the struggles on offense. This isn’t to excuse Rich Scangarello’s role in losing to the Colts, as the 3rd and 5 playcall at the two minute warning remains the biggest Broncos’ blunder this side of Vance Joseph’s Texans game. It’s simply to point out that most analysts didn’t believe this offense would amount to much because of the personnel issues. If anything, Courtland Sutton’s breakout has defied those expectations.
As mad as I am about Scangarello’s conservative play calling, it’s fair to wonder how much questions at quarterback, both tackles and receiver outside of 14 has played a role. I’ve studied his offense enough and like enough of the concepts to hold out hope that time and better talent will help the results come. You can call me a homer, but I spent as much or more time watching Bill Musgrave’s O and never felt the same way.
The defense has its fair share of questions, but is clearly good enough to contend with most team’s in the NFL today. That may change if Chris Harris Jr. is traded or walks after the 2019 season, or if Todd Davis isn’t brought back, or Von Miller is traded, or... You get the point. Vic Fangio has work to do with the defense. Even then, it’s the offense holding everything back.
As has been the case since Peyton Manning hung them up, its the offense holding everything back. The Broncos have surpassed 16 points twice in their last 12 games. That means if the new OC is a problem, so was the last one. If the new QB is a problem, so was the last one. If the new right tackles are a problem, so were the last ones.
It’s not a single issue, even if it’d be easier for discourse if that were the Case.
Counterpoint to Flacco:— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) October 27, 2019
If it "isnt that hard to get in FG range" why wasn't he able to get them there on the Broncos final 6 drives? https://t.co/LpPgOz4Mpk
So how can things improve in 2020?
The single most obvious issue on the Broncos’ offense that could be a quick fix is left tackle. If you believed in Garett Bolles improvement because of Pro Football Focus or the lack of holding calls? Sorry.
PFF has Bolles with the same pass-blocking grade as Ramczyk, and higher than Lane & Bulaga. Astonishing.— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) October 20, 2019
Without doing a deep dive into every left tackle situation around the league, I’d make a conservative estimate that the former first round pick is in the bottom third. Generally speaking, it’s really hard to find left tackles on the open market because most teams keep theirs so long as they’re decent and healthy. When they come free, they tend to cost an arm, leg, and 300 lbs of beef.
That means the draft is probably where Elway’s going to have to go to find tackle help. The good news is, there’s some really promising talent at the top in Georgia’s Andrew Thomas and Iowa’s Tristian Wirfs. I’m also intrigued with Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood and Auburn’s Prince Tega Wanogho in that next tier down. There’s talent out there and with Mike Munchak on staff, a young tackle could certainly come along quickly.
The next most obvious question mark surrounding the offense is quarterback. Which is where a lot of controversy starts to creep in.
Last week I asked aloud when the Broncos’ should start Drew Lock. After some thought, it seemed like the Buffalo Bills or Los Angeles Chargers games make the most sense because it would give the rookie a little time to prepare after such a long stretch off. It’d also give the coaching staff and Elway time to evaluate if he showed enough to pass on a signal caller in the upcoming class.
Obviously, I hope that he proves to be the answer and the QB problem is solved organically before we spend yet another offseason arguing over it. Jay Cutler is the closest thing to a homegrown franchise passer I’ve seen in my time rooting for the Broncos, so to say I’d love a real talent there is a huge understatement.
With that in mind, my biggest nightmare is that Elway erroneously passes on this upcoming class because of blind faith in the rookie. This isn’t meant as a slap at him, if he shows the flashes in the final half of the season Andrew Thomas becomes a tantalizing option next to Dalton Risner for the next decade. But if he doesn’t play, or if he doesn’t play well enough to ease my doubts, I hope the front office spends even more time evaluating quarterbacks than they did in 2018. That’s how good this class looks from afar, with Tua Taigovailo, Joe Burrow, Justin Herberts, Jalen Hurts, Jordan Love, Jacob Eason, and Jake Fromm all potential franchise arms. Heck even as I type this I realize I may be missing someone obvious.
No doubt if Lock looks ordinary, his defenders will come out in droves to say he needs more time and passing on talent at left tackle, receiver, or defense to take another passer does him no favors. They’ll say that drafting a QB and eventually turning around to trade the other is a waste of capital.
My argument is the position has never been more valuable. If Elway swings at QB yet again and one of the two pan out the situation is solved. If both pan out he was smart enough to make dang sure and can trade the other for extra capital once the Broncos’ know 7 finally, finally has a real heir apparent.