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John Elway: Broncos will have to lean on defense while offense grows

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In a Tuesday zoom conference, Denver Broncos President of Football Operations/GM John Elway met with the media to discuss the upcoming 2020 season.

The NFL will have a 2020 season that will include a very modified training camp for all teams, including the Denver Broncos. The front office met with the media via Zoom on Tuesday and some good stuff came from President of Football Operations/GM John Elway from that call regarding Drew Lock and the offense.

First up, what should our expectations be for the second-year quarterback. For Elway, the answer was they should be tempered on those expectations as the young quarterback continues to grow in the NFL.

“Yeah, they’re definitely tempered,” Elway said. “I don’t think we can expect with no offseason for us to come out and be hitting on all cylinders. I know that we have spent a lot of time in Zoom meetings and [Offensive Coordinator] Pat [Shurmur] and his staff on the offensive side have spent a lot of time with it, but there’s nothing like being on the practice field. It’s going to be a slow build. The expectations of Drew—I mean, he did play well for five games, but that was only five games last year. He didn’t have the offseason this year, which for young football players is always very, very important. I know he spent a lot of time throwing to the receivers and getting the timing and doing what they could do away from the facility.”

That’s the key really. The Broncos have a very young core on offense and are under a new offensive coordinator in Pat Shurmur, so we should expect some adjustment there. And, unfortunately, there won’t be much in the way of offseason preparation. This growth and adjustment will have to occur during the season when games actually count.

“We’re very young on the offensive side,” Elway continued. “With the way training camp is set up, I always remember as a rookie it was important for me to see other helmets and not just Bronco helmets, but to see other helmets to get used to and realize, hey, they are now in the NFL. With our young team, that doesn’t help us. I was hoping for a couple preseason games just because we are so young on the offensive side to get to see somebody else. We’re going to have to deal with it. Today’s world is adjusting, so we’ll adjust to that. The mature kids will come in and do everything they can to get up to speed, but again, they’re going to be young guys without an offseason program. We definitely have to give them some rope and temper it a little bit and take it one practice at a time.”

Drew Lock came a long way in five starts, but Elway is clearly concerned about the lack of reps this COVID-19 shortened offseason will provide. Perhaps the best way to temper expectations for Lock in 2020 is to not have any to start. Let him play through and start evaluating how he is progressing down through the full 16-game schedule.

That said, there is some things to be excited about. Lock has traits that will help him overcome adversity early on and grow more as a player. When asked about those traits, Elway alluded to Lock’s maturity and his approach this offseason to learning the terminology from a new offense under Shurmur.

“I think what we saw last year and the maturity he had when he did plan and the success he had late in the year, he’ll take that same mentality into this year with a better idea of what’s going on. Again, we didn’t talk about this, but we have a new system going on, and we’re going in with Pat as the offensive coordinator. He’s trying to blend the offense as best he can and the terminology as best as he can. It’s still going to be a new offense and a new feel. I think with what we saw in Drew and the maturity he showed when he was in there last year, he really wasn’t affected by the size of the game. That’s what you never know about a young quarterback—how he’s going to handle that. I thought Drew handled that as well as we could have expected.”

With Drew Lock just beginning his second season and the offense as a whole filled with players with three or less years in the NFL, there is going to be a lot of growth from that side of the ball in 2020. That will take time, but with everything shortened in the offseason the offense will need to come together as quickly as they can to start winning games. And they do need to figure out how to win games and for Elway, that really is the bottom line.

“Bottom line, we have to win,” Elway said of how he measures success from this team in 2020. “That’s ultimately the bottom line. You guys are always so generous to say, ‘You know, it is time to build,’ so we’ll give them time (laughing). I know you guys will be right there giving us time. The idea is we have to figure out how to win football games. If you look on the defensive side, for the most part, with the players and veterans that we’ve added to the defensive side, with the veterans that have been here with another year of understanding [Head Coach] Vic [Fangio’s] defense and what it’s about, obviously, we’re going to have to lean on the defense. We have veterans on the defensive side that we can rely on as we grow as an offense. That’s the hope. I’d love to see us come out and score 40 points against Tennessee on Monday night. I’m not saying that can’t happen, but with the youth that we have, it’s going to take some time. Hopefully we can play better defense with the veterans we have coming in and give us a chance. Ultimately, [the goal] is to win football games.”

The key for this 2020 season will be the defense. Elway noted they will have to lean on the veteran starters on that side of the ball to win games this year. The offense is a work in progress and that means they’ll have some good games and some bad games, so the consistency from the defense is where this team can learn to win games.

On paper, I think the 2020 Broncos are a 10-win team that can push for more if things come together quickly on offense. We should be in for some exciting times and after a long four-year drought after winning Super Bowl 50 it will be nice to have some excitement in Denver again.