As the season winds down and we get to watch some of the most meaningless football ever played, I’m trying to switch from honestly evaluating what’s happening with players to seeing what the future holds for the guys getting play time now.
We’ll sink our teeth into the game just a tad, but this week’s review and next week will start rounding the corner more to looking forward to the next season and what the play on the field shows us as we look forward to the 2021 NFL season.
Probably the most difficult thing to really get a sense of is what the defense is going to look like based on what we have now. Vic Fangio is 5 - 6 guys deep in the secondary and easily playing our backups and their backups as starters on the defensive line.
The coaching opportunity here is significant though as guys like Jeremiah Attaochu, Michael Ojemudia, and Dre’Mont Jones get snap counts that they would normally never see if we didn’t have so many injuries from this strange season.
The big takeaway we see with the front seven from this game is just the complete lack of any semblance of an explosive pass rush. Some guys are getting sacks or TFLs in spots, but they largely are the result of excellent coverage or the QB waiting too long for a play to develop.
Don’t get me wrong...persistence and pursuit are definite pluses to have on the D Line (this is largely where your non-elite DTs will make their mark in the pass rush arena). That being said, we just don’t seem to make the QB uncomfortable much in the first 3 seconds of any play.
The other thing I’m taking away from the late season is just how little impact our ILBs have on the game. They don’t seem to be sniffing out as many plays. Both of them seem to be a little slow in coverage. They make up for it with excellent reading skills and putting themselves in the right spots mentally to make up for the lack of speed and excellent coverage skills.
Hats off to Malik Reed in this game who consistently showed up with positive disruptive plays as a pass rusher. While I don’t see him as a starting edge player, he’s definitely a guy you want as a backup on your team.
I’m one of the guys that have in the past blown the horn on De’vante Bausby and how well he’s looked in spots. But these past two weeks have shown us his ceiling is very likely as a backup nickel corner who can cover the #3 or #4 WR instead of a real corner you can put out on an island in man or cover-3 coverage.
Justin Simmons stood out to me in this game as a secondary player who was disruptive and helping keep the Charger offense in check. His play at free safety kept Justin Herbert from having the kind of success he’s had against other teams and it won’t show up on the stat sheet.
When starting to evaluate our offense, I’m pretty torn in all honesty because it is so hard to know what we have at OC when we have such a poor QB situation.
In this game Pat Shurmur did what he likes to do most: call plays that are designed for our players to “outplay” their defenders by requiring the QB to throw at a high level and the receivers to win by speed, quickness, or size.
The problem with this scenario is that you have a QB who rarely throws at a high level and starting receivers who are a couple of steps short of elite play. So since your scheme doesn’t create space in and of its own accord the vast majority of the time, you are basically asking Ferris Beuhler to bench press an elephant.
At this point of the season, we’ve seen a whole ton of play from Drew Lock. I’ve got a sound picture in my head of what he brings to the table as a quarterback and what he’s likely to do in the future which in and of itself accomplishes the mission I wanted to get out of the 2020 Broncos season.
We’ve gone from him slicing and dicing up a bad Panthers defense to getting rolled by a Bill defense that is at least average in talent if not above average in some areas followed by a completely lackluster performance against another “bad” defense in the LA Chargers.
Flashes in the pan != awesome potential for the future.
Let’s be done with the myth that backup quality QBs are answers in today’s NFL. Trevor Siemian wasn’t an answer. Kyle Sloter sure wasn’t either. And neither is Drew Lock.
Good looks don’t matter.
Excuses don’t matter.
Youth doesn’t matter.
The cake is a lie. The best thing the Broncos can do moving forward is looking elsewhere for a quarterback with far more potential than Lock has and finally learn the mistake that it is to fall in love with a QB’s arm around draft time. The mental aspect of quarterbacking is paramount. We should know this from Peyton Manning, but here we are still making the same mistake we made with Paxton Lynch.
Those of you wanting to argue about Jeudy’s impact on Lock can honestly pound sand in a hole. I’ll get to Jeudy when we talk receivers and he’ll get his. But let’s not try to prop up a bad QB who is inaccurate, slow to make reads, shaky on pre-snap reads, and choosing to use bad footwork constantly by saying a receiver who caught better would have fixed all of those problems that are completely unrelated.
One of the least talked about developments on the Broncos team is just how well the offensive line has played as the season has worn on even with several injuries to starters.
No offensive line is perfect, but I will say my eyes tell me that this line did well enough in both run blocking and pass blocking to have won this game. Mike Munchak gets a lot of props from me for what he’s done up front. The big benefit is that especially with our guard and center positions we have a lot of flexibility with the roster for next season. Elijah Wilkinson has been developed into a solid backup tackle and we’ve seen guys like Netane Muti come in and do a pretty solid job.
The focus of the offense has sadly been on working the passing game. So even when Melvin Gordon, Jr. and Royce Freeman are doing pretty well running the ball, it doesn’t translate into wins. When you have your QB pass about 50 times (some he ran on that were not designed QB runs) and run only ~24 times you won’t really do justice to what your offensive line and running backs can bring to the table.
Noah Fant is such a well-rounded route runner. He uses his size, change of direction, and deceptive speed to create space between himself and the defender. Early in the game, he got a step in two different plays that likely went for 20+ and/or a TD but got overthrown on both.
Jerry Jeudy has been lauded by me and many others covering the Broncos for his speed, quickness, and excellent route running. The guy has got to work on catching the ball this offseason though. He drops way too many passes that hit him in the hands that are in no way, shape, or form the fault of the throw or the QB in any way. Until he gets his hands right, the dude needs to get off twitter with liking comments that knock the QB situation or talking in any way about anything but his play in the media. Just like I don’t want excuses for Drew Lock, the rookie Jerry Juedy needs to take some accountability for the film he put out there in this game.
I’m honestly not sure what’s gotten into Brandon McManus’ water, but the guy looks like he’s in a bit of a funk in the back half of this season. He missed a very makeable field goal in this game that could have gotten the team a chance to win.
Everything this week and next week is about solidifying what we know about the players on the roster, the coaches, and what they are wanting to look at, and keeping the players healthy. Losing doesn’t really matter (it actually helps the Broncos in all honesty).
So one more week and we can put this season to bed with a whimper just like the past five wasted seasons. This Broncos team is no longer a team held accountable to the Broncos standard that Pat Bowlen set decades ago and it shows.
We’ve gone five years without sniffing the playoffs and watched as the blame gets put on bad coaches, bad players, and bad circumstances.
At some point, change needs to happen. Hopefully, we see that soon even though the signs point toward John Elway inexplicably being retained to keep doing a terrible job leading this organization and Drew Lock being trotted out as a player with real potential even though he hasn’t shown much of any growth this season in solving all the problems he brings to the table.