With the 2018 season coming to a close with a _____ win, it’s now time to start looking ahead. I thought my first post-Lombardi Horse Tracks would serve as a great time to take a look at the current state of the Broncos and where they need to improve if they want to compete for titles in the Fangio era.
This one’s obvious. If you were to enter “Quarterbacks Mile High Report” into the ol’ Google, you’d get posts from as far back as October this year. On the first page. Case Keenum is the odds on favorite to start the opener in 2019, but all reports suggest Elway and the Broncos brass are going to aggressively pursue Drew Lock of Missouri.
I’m on the record as dubious of Lock, in part because I think he needs serious work to break some of his Cutler-esque tendencies. Everyone says they’ll give a rookie time in February, but as soon as Keenum throws the first training camp pick, fans and the media pressure will mount to bench the journeyman for the shiny new toy.
Chances are, Denver will need to move up if they want to avoid the Jacksonville Jaguars or New York Giants grabbing Lock. Speculation about who they’re talking to and what it will cost is going to drive a lot of news this spring.
QB is the biggest need, but I’d go so far as to say that an elite safety is right behind.
There’s a chance that the Broncos could develop one from the current crop on the roster. Vic Fangio turned Adrian Amos into one of the best in the game over his tenure with the Bears and it’s no secret that Justin Simmons has sky-high potential. There are flashes on his 2018 tape, perhaps a stronger scheme to play within will lead to better results going forward?
Failing that, Denver still has Su’a Cravens (who Elway had a round 1 grade on in 2016) and Will Parks, who really surprised last season. If the coaching staff isn’t sold on any of the three, Amos lurks in free agency. Perhaps he’d be keen on reuniting with the only defensive system he’s played in during his professional career?
Super Bowl 50 feels like a lifetime ago, but the last time the Broncos played for all the marbles, they were led by a defense famously known as “The No Fly Zone.” While the 2018 D was among the league’s elite, replacing Aqib Talib with Tramaine Brock led to something closer to Southwest Airlines at times. Bradley Roby’s promotion to CB2 was a bit of a mixed back, and he’s no certainty to return. Brock’s own return is unlikely. Behind them is Isaac Yiadom and...?
The 2019 secondary will be led by Chris Harris Jr, who should be Canton-bound when all is said and done. But he’ll need help. The Fangio defense has made hay without elite corner play in the past, but things will be easier if Elway and the Front Office can find another talented cover man to add to the mix.
It won’t be easy: the free agent class has one legitimate headliner: Ronald Darby. The bare market could mean players like Roby still haul in $10-12 million. That leaves the draft, but if it takes a first and additional 2018 Day 2 ammo to get a QB like Lock, pickings could be slim.
The final Broncos OL from left to right: Bolles-Wilkinson-McGovern-Turner-Veldheer
Even if you discount the fact that both Ronald Leary and Matt Paradis could depart, the Broncos will need to make decisions about their “hogs.” Veldheer and Turner, like Paradis, are free agents. All three should receive some consideration from around the league. If none return Mike Munchak could have his work cut out for him: Wilkinson’s ceiling is a versatile backup, McGovern’s probably a guard and Bolles needs a lot of work.
Luckily, the free agent class and draft offer solutions. How Elway decides to address the front five could have drastic impact on the offensive production next year.
Do you believe Emmanuel Sanders can return to peak health at 32 years old after tearing his Achilles late in the 2018 campaign?
GIF Horse problems: How much value do you put into projecting a return to health for a 32-year old Emmanuel Sanders? pic.twitter.com/pjDmsBcDt2— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) January 29, 2019
If he can, the 2019 receiving corps will look a lot like the 2018 version. Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, and Tim Patrick should all return. All three could breakout with another offseason of experience and better play calling to aid them.
If he can’t, the Broncos will need to find another set of hands. In free agency there’s a few options that intrigue, but a lot that come with serious questions. It seems unlikely from here that Denver spends another draft pick on a wide receiver, though the 2019 class has some exciting prospects.
Defensive Front 7
Seemingly the strength of the Broncos defense, there is plenty of room for improvement. Denver’s D finished 4th against the pass per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, but league average vs the run and sub par against passes to the middle of the field. The Fangio system will hopefully lead to internal improvement for the returners, notably Bradley Chubb who should improve on the finer aspects of Edge play in his sophomore season.
There are a few questions: some wonder if Todd Davis and Josey Jewell have the range to serve as the middle men in the new defense. Brandon Marshall, Domata Peko, Zach Kerr, Shane Ray, and Shaq Barrett are likely to depart. Elway will need to find new depth, but fortunately the talent available in free agency and the draft should provide options.
The 2018 Broncos were an average offense, but actually finished among the five best rushing teams in football. Phillip Lindsay didn’t haul in the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, but was voted to the Pro Bowl. He was a dynamic breakaway threat that had to be planned around every week and should serve as a foundational player going forward.
Behind him Royce Freeman and Devontae Booker fill out the depth chart with complimentary skills. Freeman brings strong vision and deceptive mobility for 230 lb back. Most expected him to win the starting job out of camp last year and with a return to health he should give the Broncos a strong 1-2 punch. Booker was the pass catching third down back last year and had route running skills neither rookie had fully developed yet.
The key word, of course is yet. Best case scenario one of the two youngsters shows signs of marked improvement in the passing game. Lindsay is such an explosive player with the ball in his hands that if he can force defenses to account for him in space the vertical game to Sutton would open up.
It’s likely Elway looks to add competition for Booker as well as eat some reps in training camp, but this group has a pretty strong chance to return in tact for 2019. All three remain on rookie contracts and produced with their opportunities last year.
On to your Broncos links
No razzle, no dazzle for former Broncos in the Super Bowl.
The Broncos owner finally got the recognition he deserves. Pat Bowlen has been voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Denver Broncos got two legends into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019. Here were some reactions to the news from current and former players.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame voters snubbed several great players, including Steve Atwater, who is more than deserving.
I don’t have another scorched Earth twitter rant in me.
The Denver Broncos are 59 seasons old. They have had 29 winning seasons. On Saturday, Champ Bailey became the franchise’s first defensive Hall of Famer.
2019 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Miller’s Post-Super Bowl Predictions | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights
The Pick: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri The pick with the most buzz around the NFL throughout the Senior Bowl was Drew Lock to the Denver Broncos. Lock has the right traits to excite a Hall of Fame quarterback turned team president. He’s 6’3” with good athleticism, a strong right arm and excellent ability to make throws off-platform and on the move. While some might see a poor man’s Patrick Mahomes, he’s not that refined in his playmaking or as loose and confident on the field. Still, there’s enough here to get Elway excited after he swung and missed on Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch. Of the quarterbacks selected in the top 10 of this mock, Lock has the most experience and is the most likely to be ready to start immediately.
10. Denver Broncos: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri There is almost too much smoke when it comes to the grumblings about John Elway liking Drew Lock that I’m starting to doubt them. Isn’t it a touch early for that? Maybe it’s Buffalo or Detroit putting information out there to entice a team to move up… But it makes sense. Denver will be below average until it gets the quarterback position right and Lock has an exciting skill set. He features a sturdy frame, big arm and good mobility while taking major strides forward in Derek Dooley’s progression-style offense for Missouri in 2018. He had an impressive week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl.
10. Denver (6-10) — Drew Lock, QB, Missouri, Sr. John Elway is desperate for a franchise quarterback. The Mizzou signal caller shares some traits with the college version of Patrick Mahomes. Both have elite arm talent, can extend plays with their athleticism and are overaggressive with their decision-making. He was also the most consistently impressive QB in Mobile. Top needs: QB, CB, OL
10. Denver Broncos: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri One of the hottest pre-draft rumors already is that Broncos top executive John Elway is “smitten” with Lock. That’s sort of ridiculous because it’s only February, but this really is the epitome of draft season. The rumors are coming. Some you stick with, like this one for now.
As mentioned on our podcast last Tuesday, everything I’ve heard since the Shrine Game has the Broncos selecting Lock.
Paxton Lynch is at the Super Bowl! pic.twitter.com/al6aBC9Dy3— Michael Spencer (@MichaelCBS4) February 4, 2019
Super Bowl Stories
The Patriots put up a masterful old-school performance to win Super Bowl LIII. Plus, Goff’s bad day, Wade Phillips and Cory Littleton shine in a loss, and was that Gronk’s final catch?
Rams quarterback Jared Goff had grown irritated with questions about a late-season slump. He’ll now be facing plenty of questions about a nightmarish Super Bowl start. Goff completed 19 of 38 passes for 228 yards and an interception on Sunday night in Atlanta.
Tom Brady carved out a distinct place in NFL history by breaking out of a tie with Charley Haley for the most Super Bowl championships for a player.
Super bowl just showed that your slot corner better be able to play man lol or Edelman go off like that— Chris Harris (@ChrisHarrisJr) February 4, 2019
When Harmon was approached by TMZ on Sunday night, he reiterated that “they don’t want me in the White House” and added that meeting President Obama “would be dope.”
If the NFL cared about integrity, Julian Edelman - who was suspended for a PED violation - wouldn’t have played in Super Bowl.
If the latest title chapter in this Patriots dynasty is going to bring dumb takes like “Edelman is headed for the Hall of Fame,” then this novel needs to end, pronto.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) February 4, 2019
New England breaks its own record as the greatest modern dynasty.
The offense only scores 13 points and they give MVP to Edelman but the D only gave up 3 points and Gilmore had forced a fumble, a int, 3 PBUs and 5 Tackles!?! Smh no respect for the masterpiece on Defense!— Calais Campbell (@Campbell93) February 4, 2019
There’s a reasonable chance that as soon as Rob Gronkowski wakes up, he’s going to have a headache. That’s probably going to be nothing compared to the pain in his legs after last night’s Super Bowl LIII win.
Super Bowl LIII was a game that brought the ages to mind, which made is a fascinating contest in a let-age league.
Jared Goff’s fourth-quarter Super Bowl interception was painful, but the throw he made late a quarter earlier may sting even more when he sees it.
Jared Goff when his first read is covered pic.twitter.com/BsyCdGpNVy— Not My President (@KingFavre) February 4, 2019
Goff threw 13 interceptions this season, and analyzing those turnovers you can identify some tendencies. If the New England Patriots are going to slow down the Rams’ offense and force a few mistakes, it might come down to whether they can execute a three-word gameplan: Exploit the Hesitation.
Is Jared Goff a franchise QB? After Sunday’s performance, it doesn’t seem to be that way.
Jared Goff will earn $4.26M in 2019, the final year of his 4-year rookie contract. The #Rams then have a 5th-year option available in 2020 (projected to be north of $22M). It’s conceivable 2019 could be Goff’s last year as a Ram.https://t.co/H8GASPFIMs— Spotrac (@spotrac) February 4, 2019
Congratulations to the Patriots. They can and should celebrate like this was the Seattle victory or the St. Louis victory or any other victory. Everyone else can wake up Monday and try to wipe these four hours from their memory.
After their 13-3 victory over the Rams was in the books, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick praised offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for making an adjustment to the personnel the team was working with on offense.
Belichick just talked about how they built their game plan for the Rams, “We felt like if we could make them drive it, make them earn it, similar to what the Lions did. Make them run a lot of plays and if we get them in 3rd down, we felt like we could get them off the field.” https://t.co/hS3rkNK7Mi— James Light (@JamesALight) February 4, 2019
New England played great defense in its win, but L.A.’s execution and play-calling were suspect.
we can harp on Sean McVay for this game but idk man Jared Goff provides nothing outside of basic structure— Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) February 4, 2019
”There’s no other way to say it. I got outcoached tonight,” McVay said, according to NFL Network’s Omar Ruiz.
Drew up this #Patriots concept a couple years ago...And we saw it again in the 4th QTR on the Brady seam route throw to Gronkowski. Outside hitches, Edelman on the underneath “juke” route with Gronk running the seam. #SBLIII pic.twitter.com/JaRMm3amWl— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) February 4, 2019
Super Bowl 53 halftime show was far from perfect, but it was perfect for this game | NFL | Sporting News
The Super Bowl 53 halftime show was a mess that dragged along with just enough flashes of potential excitement to keep you watching — you know, kind of like the game.
Amanda Petrusich writes on the performances by Maroon 5, Big Boi, and Travis Scott at the Super Bowl LIII halftime show.
Super Bowl music review: An empty-calorie display of corporate-pop competence from Maroon 5 - Chicago Tribune
A Who’s Who of artists turned down an opportunity to perform Sunday at the Super Bowl showcase in a civil-rights protest.
Why is it okay to see Adam Levine’a boobs and not Janet Jackson’s?— Aisha Tyler (@aishatyler) February 4, 2019
Asking for a friend.
Gladys Knight’s finishing notes on the national anthem resulted in some controversy for those who bet on the song’s run-time at offshore books.
Not even Adam Levine’s shirtless peacocking made the show memorable. But SpongeBob Squarepants, Travis Scott, and Big Boy were great.
What this rejected medical marijuana Super Bowl ad says about America’s complicated relationship with cannabis
Other NFL News
The paper’s underwhelming front page perfectly captures Super Bowl LIII’s lack of excitement.
Breaking: Kansas City fans are still babies.
We will win it next year— Chris Jones (@stonecoldjones_) February 4, 2019
ESPN rising star Adnan Virk has been fired by the network, sources told The Post. Virk is accused of leaking confidential company information to the media on...