Tony Plant from the ‘Far From Lombardi’ podcast gives an outside perspective on the Broncos heading into the 2020 season.
The Broncos make for an intriguing team to watch this year despite an uninspiring 2019 campaign which saw them finish middle of the pack at 7-9.
However, at the back end of the season it looked like they may have found the face of the franchise in quarterback Drew Lock, a second-round pick in last year’s draft. The former Missouri Tiger came into the fold with five games left of the season and managed a pretty impressive 4-1 record.
Lock recorded wins against AFC West rivals, the now Las Vegas Raiders and the LA Chargers, a poor Lions team and a playoff-bound Houston Texans. The only game the Broncos lost in their last five games was against the would-be Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs. With seven touchdowns, three interceptions and 1020 passing yards, look for a big jump in year two.
Making Moves in the Defence
With the arrival of free agency this year came difficult decisions with regards to the defensive backfield. The Broncos elected to franchise tag safety Justin Simmons and allow veteran cornerback Chris Harris Jr to find a payday elsewhere. The Broncos didn’t wait around to replace Harris, having already traded a fourth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for AJ Bouye, a proven player at the cornerback position.
Defensive Tackle Jurrell Casey, a veteran in the league from the Tennessee Titans, also joined the Broncos for a seventh-round pick. He has proven that he can get to the quarterback, with 51 sacks in nine years in the league. Expect him to cause havoc and to create even more opportunities for talented outside linebackers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
Weapons for Lock
The Broncos next move was to protect Drew Lock with the signing of free-agent guard Graham Glasgow, one of the better offensive linemen available in free agency.
Another move on offence was the acquisition of former Chargers running back Melvin Gordon lll, who joins Phillip Lindsay in the running back room. Gordon’s contract holdout with the Chargers last season did him no favours, and the Broncos may well have pulled off a masterstroke. Gordon will have a fire in his belly and will look forward to playing against his former employers. Gordon should be a key player for a team who have struggled in the redzone, with 47 touchdowns thus far in his 5 years in the league.
The Drew Lock Draft
Heading into the draft one glaring hole remained, at wide receiver. This class was stacked with potential game-changers. The Broncos unsurprisingly selected one of the top three receivers with their first pick, as Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy fell kindly into their lap.
At 6’1” and 192lbs, the Broncos have got a pass-catcher who can do a bit of everything. His route running is by far the best in this class and expect him to make an immediate impact opposite Courtland Sutton.
The Broncos weren’t done at receiver, and with their second pick doubled down on the position by selecting KJ Hamler from Penn State. The speedy slot receiver couldn’t run the 40-yard dash at the combine due to a hamstring injury, but said when healthy he was able to run close to Chris Johnson’s 4.22 seconds record. The Broncos receiver room is now stacked with young players with big potential.
Centre Lloyd Cushenberry III out of LSU, Iowa cornerback Michael Ojemudia and Arkansas’s McTelvin Agim were the Broncos’ third-round picks. Cushenberry should be a day one starter once the season rolls around.
An interesting pick in the fourth round was tight-end Albert Okwuegbunam from Missouri, who played two years with Drew Lock in college. He will provide a safety blanket for Lock alongside 2019 first-round pick Noah Fant who had a good rookie year, amassing 562 yards and 3 TDs from 40 receptions.
Big Things in 2020?
The Broncos roster now looks stacked on offence with Lock at quarterback, Gordon and Phillip Lindsay at running back, Courtland Sutton, Jeudy and Hamler at wide receiver, and Fant, Nick Vannett and Okwuegbunam at tight end.
An offensive line of Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Cushenberry, Glasgow and Ja’Wuan James should give Lock plenty of time in the pocket if healthy, especially if Bolles picks up from where he left off. Running backs Gordon and Lindsay should have plenty of holes to hit, particularly up what looks a very strong interior.
With Vic Fangio, the Broncos possess one of the best defensive minds in the game, and his defence should take another leap next year. Ranked 12th in yards per game allowed and 10th in points per game allowed, Fangio knows what’s needed at this level to keep you in a position to win every game.
The defensive side of the ball looks fierce. Defensive linemen Casey, Mike Purcell and Shelby Harris are supported by inside linebackers Alexander Johnson and Todd Davis. Rival quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Derek Carr and Tyrod Taylor (Or Justin Herbert!) should be having nightmares about game wrecking outside linebackers Miller and Chubb. The two main starting corners will be AJ Bouye and Bryce Callahan with plenty of healthy competition in this area of the roster.
The Broncos are one of the teams to watch in the upcoming season and could well be in contention for post-season football. They have filled almost all the needs that they had in the offseason through free agency and the draft.
With all the weapons at Drew Lock’s disposal, a record of 10-6 is not unrealistic. The third wild card spot will also play to the Broncos’ advantage. A strong season lies ahead for the Broncos if Drew Lock takes the step that the organisation expects in year two. They have backed their quarterback this offseason with the moves they have made, and this should be an exciting team to watch in 2020.