Denver Broncos 2019 Season Preview
By Stephanie Longley
While seasons of a handful of teams had their fair share of heartbreak, few were as painful as that of the Broncos. They barged in ready for a fight, winning their first two games, before a brutal seven game stretch that would include the Rams, Texans, Ravens and the Chiefs, twice, brought them to 3 – 6 right before the bye week.
All was not lost, however, amidst an AFC that fought tooth and nail for the wild card spots up until the very end, and the Broncos seemed poised to shock even their most devoted fans when they crawled to 6 – 6 with hard fought games against the Chargers and Steelers. Their season crushed and burned for the second time, however, when they lost their last 4 games, which resulted in the dismissal of nearly half their coaching staff, and their starting quarterback, Case Keenum. These were their first back to back losing seasons since 1972.
John Elway’s quest for the right quarterback has become a Netflix show of its own since 2015, and this year was no exception. Keeping up with the trend “tall is might”, the Broncos signed former SB winner Joe Flacco to pull the offensive reigns of the horses. Before you groan at the choice, as a Raven myself, it’s best to remind you that Flacco is miles and away the best quarterback the Broncos have had since Manning, even at 34. The only bad thing is that they lost Matt Paradis, who was a vital cog at the Centre position.
Now, the Draft was the highlight of the off season for the Broncos. With the QB position sorted, many expected them to choose a defensive player, from a draft class that was thriving with defensive talents. Instead, they acted intelligently, trading down and choosing one of the best tight ends in recent years. Given that Flacco loves to use his tight ends, Noah Fant should feel right at home at Mile High Stadium. The rest of the selections were made in order to reinforce the OL (Dalton Risner), the front seven (Dre’Mont Jones) and, of course, to present Flacco’s heir apparent (Drew Lock).
Rich Scangarello is definitely not a name you have heard moving along the top coaching cycles, but he comes from Kyle Shanahan’s coaching tree, who loves his West Coast offence that so matches Flacco’ style of play. Quite honestly, he can’t be worse than his predecessors. Moving to the actual players, the running duo of Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman was a pleasant discovery for analysts all over last year, with these two combining for 1.871 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns. Not bad for two rookies, one of whom was an undrafted free agent.
Moving on to the receivers, the Broncos have a multitude of players to choose from, but only one is a player you can blindly trust to deliver. Emmanuel Sanders offers wisdom and experience to a receiving corps that hopes to bring out the best of its younger stars. Given Flacco’s love for the deep ball, this could be Courtland Sutton’s breakout year… or the one that proves his mediocrity. On paper, the trio of Sanders, Sutton and Fant should make things harder for opposing secondaries.
I don’t trust Ed Donatell to make this defence a playoff calibre unit; but I do trust Fangio to do it. He made a Defensive Player of the Year candidate out of Khalil Mack once more, and I can see him doing it again with Von Miller. Miller, even in an unbalanced year such as the last one, shone brightly as the defence’s leader, with 14.5 sacks. Last year’s first round draft pick sensation, Bradley Chubb, followed suit, jotting twelve more sacks on his own. The front seven is young and poised to prove troublesome for opposing offences, especially with Fangio at the helm.
Now, for the secondary, you can mark CB Chris Harris’ Pro Bowl selection as a positive note, but I am not so sure the secondary is quite to the level required to be labelled as steady. Mind you, they did sign Su’a Cravens from the Redskins, but Cravens hasn’t played fully in two years. This is the positional group that could prove to be the Trojan horse (pun intended) of this team, unless their new players breakout in 2019.
Lots of newcomers on offence and the coaching staff means that Denver is on the rebuild once more. Early footage from the Hall of Fame game showed that Lock may not be as ready as some believed for the professional level. I can see Fangio revamping a defensive unit that hasn’t quite reached its 2015 potential, but the secondary remains shaky.
Offensively, they have nothing to lose. Flacco could rekindle his career in Denver, or solidify his decline and the downfall of John Elway. Given their schedule, I can see them scrambling to 8 – 8 at best. Denver is not the worst team you can find in the AFC, but it’s unlucky enough, at the moment, to be playing in one of its unfriendliest divisions.
Record Prediction: 8-8