The Denver Broncos entered the offseason with plenty of holes to fill on the roster. They were losing key pieces on defense with Chris Harris Jr, Derek Wolfe, and Will Parks all departing in free agency, while also losing two starters along the offensive line in Connor McGovern and Ronald Leary. One piece of good news was that they seemingly found their quarterback of the future in Drew Lock who showed great poise and progression through his five starts to close out the 2019 season.
The biggest question for fans in January was around how John Elway was going to construct a competitive team with so many starters departing. He answered some of the key questions by taking care of the defense with two big trades leading up to free agency. First he sent a fourth round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for A.J. Bouye and then robbed the Tennessee Titans of Jurrell Casey for a mere seventh round pick. They also re-signed Shelby Harris on a one-year deal to keep the front seven a strength heading into next season. On offense, he was able to keep his options open by signing center/guard Graham Glasgow and running back Melvin Gordon.
The stage was set for the 2020 NFL Draft.
For months prognosticators believed wide receiver would be the first round pick, but few believed Elway would go wide receiver back-to-back in the first and second rounds. From there, he went for speed and ended up building a track squad around Drew Lock. The goal? Points.
“I think that as a quarterback, there’s no question you always want to have great weapons around you, but I think the key thing is trying to figure out how to win football games,” Elway said after the draft. “I think that when you look back over the last four years, since Super Bowl 50 when we really won it on the defensive side—then when Peyton [Manning] retired, we’ve been trying to find that replacement for Peyton since then. We’ve tried to concentrate on the defensive side with the idea that if we can keep the score down, we’ll stay in football game and eventually, try to find the quarterback we can replace him with and get the offense back on track.
“I think with the way Drew played at the end of last year, we saw the signs of a guy that has a chance to be very successful in this league, but to do that, he’s got to have some good people around him. The concentration—we felt like we’re still in good shape, defensively, especially with, again, like I said, what we’ve added in the offseason through trades, that we needed to add that explosive feature on the offensive side. We had the guy we believe over time, as I’ve talked about, that it’s going to take some time, to give him a chance to be successful and us a chance to be successful. We’ve got to put points on the board. Seventeen points a game is not nearly enough, so the first step was this year in the draft.”
The Broncos have not topped 21 points a game on offense since 2015 (22.19 ppg) and the low point came last season when Denver started three different quarterbacks under first-time offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello scoring just 17.63 points per game. However, under Lock the team averaged over 21 points per game over those five starts and one of those games the team scored just 3 points. So Lock was clearly a factor on the points side of things.
Elway’s next step was to build up offensive firepower around him. Denver did that through speed. We’re calling this offense the Mile High Track Squad, because there will be speed everywhere on this offense.
“We want to play great defense, but also, we’ve got to be able to score points,” Elway said. “We’re able to, with our plan, do it this year. With way things fell we were able to do that through Jerry in the first round, KJ in the second, and even Albert O. in the fourth round, to be able to add speed to the offense.”
At one point, it felt like Denver was approaching the NFL Draft with a “little brother” complex to the Kansas City Chiefs. Like they were trying to become Kansas City West or something.
Head Coach Vic Fangio dispelled that concern noting that everything Denver is doing is about putting more points on the board.
“We needed to score more points, whether we’re playing the Chiefs or not,” Fangio said. “But obviously, playing against them, you’re going to need to. That was part of it. Adding the speed is always—it’s always good to be fast, but sometimes, people make the mistake of just getting fast with players that aren’t good football players. We believe our speed that we’ve drafted has come with players that can play the game also. It was good to get the added speed. Hopefully we’re a harder offense to defend now once it evolves and we get to playing games, but we need to score more points.”
Obviously, one of the goals over having a high scoring offense is to compete with Patrick Mahomes and the insane things he does to win games. However, a bigger part is being able to compete and win a lot of games.
The goal is to compete for Championship, but you can’t do that unless you are in the playoffs every year. The transformation on offense could very well produce that for Broncos Country for years to come. As a fan, I look forward to seeing how this plays out!