We’ve reached that period between the draft and training camp where things get a little weird. Some are still arguing over rookies from the 2019 draft. Others are looking ahead to 2020 and blowing up at Vegas predictions. Meanwhile, analysts are looking at how strong a schedule is or who is a lock for the postseason without any real certainty. Never forget the 2018 Jaguars. Or the 2017 Raiders. Or the 2016 Bengals...
You get the idea. I’m well aware that the orange Kool-Aid is overflowing at this time of year. One only has to look back to 2018 to see there were arguments about Case Keenum leading the Broncos into contention a year ago. So keep that in mind as we take some big sips and look to the 3 big steps the roster will have to take for Vic Fangio to steer Denver into playoff contention during his first year at the helm.
Step 1: Joe Flacco has to stay healthy
This will upset the Locked in crowd right off the bat, but let’s be clear: Denver will not win the AFC West or seriously compete for a playoff spot in 2019 with Drew Lock playing a majority of the snaps. This isn’t to call the kid a bust right out of the gate, merely facts. As I’ve said since before the 2019 draft, he needs time to rethink his footwork to become a more consistent passer. If pressed into action too soon, he’ll revert to the Cutler-esque tactics he lived and died on with the Missouri Tigers.
So as boring as it may be to the click-centric media and SEC fans among us, Flacco needs to be “the guy” this year. There are sprinkles of reason to believe he can. As I mentioned back when the trade occurred, the Broncos’ system fits the 34-year old’s strengths as a passer. Combine that with the fact that there’s an abundance of talented youngsters around him and he could quiet a lot of doubters this year. Speaking of youngsters...
Step 2: The 2016 & ‘18 classes need to step up
As much as the ‘16 draft is remembered for the Paxton Lynch debacle, every other member but Riley Dixon is in line to significantly contribute this coming season. At least 2⁄3 of them need to for Denver to contend. Will Parks and Connor McGovern look like they could be in line for big jumps with opportunities in front of them. Justin Simmons is at a bit of a crossroads, but could reach his Pro Bowl potential with better coaching and a system more befitting his talents. It shouldn’t hurt that he should finally have a reliable running mate beside him. Even Devontae Booker and Andy Janovich have a chance to stand out in their roles. Adam Gotsis probably has the least pressure on him as he simply needs to continue doing what he’s been doing. The 2nd round interior lineman has served as a poor man’s Derek Wolfe since coming out of Georgia Tech.
If every one of them makes a jump, it still may not be enough if Bradley Chubb and the 2018 class disappoint. Such is life when Elway trades away Demaryius Thomas in order to hand WR1 duties to Courtland Sutton. He and DaeSean Hamilton will play a significant role in how Flacco and the offense perform this year. Expect big things, as Sutton gives Flacco the most physically imposing receiver he’s had since at least Anquan Boldin. On the ground, the Broncos run game will go as Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay do. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the two split carries more evenly than they did as rookies. After all, Freeman is a natural fit for the outside zone running scheme Scangarello brought with him from San Francisco. Isaac Yiadom could also have a big influence on things. If he can settle in as a reliable outside corner in year 2, Fangio and Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell will be able to take full advantage of Kareem Jackson’s versatility, which leads us to...
Step 3: The Secondary Has to Gel
MHR’s Jeff Essary has given hints as to how the coverage scheme will change under the new regime, but the pieces have to fit. On paper, Chris Harris, Jackson, Bryce Callahan with the youngsters around them looks like the strongest secondary since the 2015 No-Fly Zone. If the system benefits them as expected, this unit could force opposing quarterbacks into a real conundrum: rush passes into a hungry pass defense or risk sacks to Chubb, Von Miller, and the defensive front. Which is probably the safest bet for early optimism this far out of the 2019 season. Patrick Mahomes and Derek Carr lead the NFL in adjusted interceptions a year ago, so chances are they’ll cough up the football a bit more in 2019. Combine that with an average line in front of Phillip Rivers and a rebuilt Orange Crush could shock the world this year.
He lost to the Patriots in the playoffs...so he sort of is https://t.co/iKS9oCwV4J— ThatsGoodSports (@BrandonPerna) June 6, 2019
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Fangio had high praise for Bradley Chubb: "He's tailor-made for us. I think he'll take the next step because he's a pro much like Phillip (Lindsay) already. He's a very smart football player, very coachable, very intense. I see nothing but bright days ahead for him." #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) June 5, 2019
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Phillip Lindsay told me we should expect to see him out there in space making plays this season. Added he doesn’t understand why people think he can’t catch. He expects to be used in the passing game this season.— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) June 5, 2019
Players and coaches seem happy and it comes from having a plan, knowing what’s expected of them and having fun.
For 2019 to be a successful season, the Broncos MUST ...
-- Have Joe Flacco start at least 15 games. Here’s what this means. If the Broncos are going to have a winning season, it’s going to come with Flacco at the helm. There is an outside chance Lock could come in and have some rookie magic, like Lamar Jackson last year with the Ravens. It’s probably best, however, if Lock takes some time to learn from the veteran from the sidelines. You want Lock to be in a position like Patrick Mahomes was during his rookie season with the Chiefs. He sat behind Alex Smith in 2017, started in Week 17 and then came out like a house on fire the following year. If the Broncos can get through a whole season with their veteran starter, then they can shake his hand and let him go heading into 2020. Keeping Lock off the field also buys you another year of something to look forward to down the road.
I would have taken Chubb over every member of this Edge class. He isn't going to wow all of the casual fans because he isn't the elite speed freak Von or even Brian Burns is. Instead he's a Kung fu master who should flourish under Fangio. https://t.co/tB3N9CIVJ3— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) June 5, 2019
”Fundamentals and structure, and are you making them better?” Fangio said. “Ultimately, that is the question players will have: Are you making them better? Are they part of a team that does what needs to be done to be successful? I just believe if you’re not good at the fundamentals, your schemes, your plans, will be affected. You won’t give yourselves a chance to be successful.”
1) Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos: The thought of new head coach Vic Fangio creating pass-rush schemes for Miller and Chubb should lead to plenty of sleepless nights for offensive coordinators around the league. The wily defensive architect not only inherits a pair of pass rushers who have proven they can produce big numbers together (they combined for 26.5 sacks in 2018), but he gets to build his 3-4 defense with two elite edge rushers who have complementary games. Miller is the dynamic speed rusher with cat-like quickness and a dizzying array of rush moves that leave offensive tackles tied in knots. Chubb is a disruptive power rusher with heavy hands and a non-stop motor. He overwhelms blockers with his brute strength but also displays enough finesse to win consistently on the edges.
5. Denver Broncos
Who qualifies for the Broncos? -- Peyton Manning (2012-15): 57 starts | 45-12 | 3 Pro Bowls | 101.7 passer rating | 1 MVP | 1 SB ring -- Jake Plummer (2003-06): 54 starts | 39-15 | 1 Pro Bowl | 84.3 passer rating -- Brian Griese (1998-2002): 51 starts | 26-24 | 1 Pro Bowl | 84.1 passer rating -- John Elway (1983-1998): 231 starts | 148-82-1 | 9 Pro Bowls | 79.9 passer rating | 1 MVP | 2 SB rings -- Craig Morton (1977-1982): 64 starts | 41-23 | 0 Pro Bowls | 79.1 passer rating The Broncos won a ton of games (and three titles) behind Elway, Plummer and late-career Manning. In a lot of ways, the team that drafted Elway and the team that traded for him have evenly matched production at the position over their respective histories. But the Broncos still feel far away from adding another franchise passer to their list, while the Colts have theirs in place. And in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, the Broncos haven’t gotten much out of their QBs in several seasons.
I love sacks and Chubbs are a ton of fun. What's even more exciting is how he generated more pressure than all but 19 players in the NFL as a rookie. https://t.co/5LFITFjr1O— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) June 5, 2019
12.Denver Broncos - RB LeSean McCoy, Pitt 2009 Pick - RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia Moreno had some nice peaks with Denver, but he didn’t have near the career McCoy had. This swap is too easy.
AFC WEST DUD - DENVER BRONCOS Denver fans are fixing to be #BigMad with me by the end of this column but here’s the thing: I don’t expect Denver to be all that bad. I expect this division as a whole is going to be competitive and I could see Denver or Oakland bringing home the rear with 7 wins. Why did I pick Denver? Because Joe Flacco is not elite and while I’m excited at what the Broncos have brought in on offense (Dalton Risner, Noah Fant, Drew Lock, Ja’Wuan James) this offseason, things are still spearheaded by Joe Flacco and I don’t think he’ll win you the games he needs to in order to go 10-6 instead of 7-9
According to new data released by Football Outsiders, only Derek Carr had better interception luck than Patrick Mahomes in 2018.
In an effort to reconfigure an offensive line that struggled in 2018, the Minnesota Vikings drafted Garrett Bradbury with their first-round pick and now the rookie finds himself anchoring the line at the Center position.
The Patriots' TE room is now:— T. Kothe (@tkothe_nfl) June 4, 2019
TE1: Ben Watson (38 years old)
TE2: Matt LaCosse (<300 career yards, 1 career TD)
TE?: Stephen Anderson (didn't play in 2018)
TE?: Ryan Izzo (2018 7th rounder, no NFL stats)
TE?: Jakob Johnson (UDFA Rookie)
TE?: Andrew Beck (UDFA Rookie)
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Running it back: Using NextGen data to show that ILBs continue to bite on play action - even after 10th and 11th fake.https://t.co/pBqlSuPRux— Josh Hermsmeyer (@friscojosh) June 6, 2019
The Bengals made a move to add offensive line depth earlier today, and made room for that move by releasing a guy who never played a snap. The Bengals announced the addition of veteran guard John Jerry, and that they were waiving guard Rod Taylor to create the roster spot.
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Prosecutors are reportedly no longer actively working the criminal case.