Denver Broncos 2020 Season Preview
Albert Einstein had once said that expecting different results doing the same thing over and over again was the very definition of insanity. One could easily summise that General Manager John Elway had descended into the lower levels of obsession in trying to find a quarterback, who could replicate even half the magic Peyton Manning had whilst playing for Denver. The madman, however, seems to have succeeded. Drew Lock captured the spotlight late in the season, as he managed to win four games in his first five starts as the quarterback of the Broncos, even if his individual stats weren’t eye popping.
Albeit finishing strongly in December, things weren’t going right for the Broncos early in 2019. Joe Flacco wasn’t delivering as some would have expected. Meanwhile, the defense, a staple in Denver since 2014, managed to perform respectfully against the run but not against the pass, despite having a successful defensive minded in head coach Vic Fangio.
While the offense finished 28th in both points and yards for, the lowest place they’ve ever recorded in their 60 year old history, the defense struggled to generate pressure on the QB, both on the front lines (17th in sacks) and on the back end (25th in interceptions). As such, they finished with a 7 – 9 record, third in the AFC West, and out of the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
It seems that when Elway isn’t attempting to find his next candidate for a franchise quarterback, he can actually make some really decent moves to augment the offensive prowess of the team. That’s exactly what the Broncos did in the off season, managing to surround Lock with an infusion of talent that would make any young quarterback salivate.
Firstly, they acquired running back Melvin Gordon from rival Los Angeles Chargers, whose performance may have been hampered by nagging injuries, but is expected to return in full form come next season. Next, they used three out of their first four draft picks on offense.
Aside from selecting centre Lloyd Cushenberry to protect Lock, Denver did not only take a pair of wide receivers, but may have gotten the most NFL ready receiver of the 2020 class. Jerry Jeudy is a highly intelligent menace, whose route running ability will prove to be an issue for defenders in the years to come. Add in K.J. Hamler, who compliments the corps with his exhilarating speed, and you may have the ground work for an offense that challenges Kansas City as the most complete unit in the AFC West.
On defense, Denver lost valuable cornerback Chris Harris, but made up for it by adding good players in positions of need. A.J. Bouye and Jurrell Casey might not have the talent of Harris, but will help in their respective positions. Bouye will bolster a depleted cornerback position in need of help, and Casey will join the formidable duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb on the defensive line.
Lastly, the only major coach position that saw any change was that of the offensive coordinator. Rich Scangarello was relieved of his duties and was replaced by Pat Shurmur, who arrives after a failed stint as a head coach for the New York Giants.
Reaching the lowest point in statistics since the year of your inception is not one of the most flattering things a franchise can admit to. However, Shurmur’s arrival could very well transform the offensive unit this year, since he’ll have more to work with than just Saquon Barkley. Shurmur prefers a heavy mix of rushing plays with a strong arm to support aerial attacks, and even if he didn’t, this offensive cast would easily appeal to him with a mix and match approach.
Melvin Gordon arrives into a group of running backs that already features Royce Freeman (496 yards/3 TDs) and Philip Lindsay (1,011 yards/7 TDs). As a combination they should prove to be a puzzle to solve for opposing defensive tackles. Jeudy and Hamler join the receiving duo of Courtland Sutton (1,112 yards/6 TDs) and second year tight end Noah Fant (550 yards/3 TDs). The latter saw significant improvement as last year’s season came to a close, and will expect to perform better under Lock.
The only major issue with Denver’s offense is the one that may matter to Lock the most. The Broncos’ offensive line was mired with injuries last season, and the once aspiring prospect of left tackle Gareth Boles has generated an alarming amount of penalties over the course of his career. Not all is grim, however, as Cushenberry will be thrusted into an interior line with a bigger upside than its respective outer part, that features newcomer Graham Glasgow and Dalton Risner.
If there was one thing Denver could pride itself upon last year, it was its defensive capabilities against opposing running backs. They allowed only 4.2 yards per carry and had the fifth fewest opposing touchdowns. Aside from Miller and Chubb, second year linebacker Alexander Johnson had a splendid season, in which he generated 51 tackles, had 1.5 sack and one interception. Denver’s secondary is cushioned by a dynamic safety duo in Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson, who will most likely evolve even further in 2020.
Elway didn’t make any important additions to the defensive unit via the draft, as he opted to support the offense. One area that Denver must desperately improve upon is the amount of pressure they inflict on quarterbacks. Last year, they allowed 7.1 passing yards on average, allowed a 37.4% third down conversion rate, and a staggering 47.4% (9/19) of fourth down conversions. Those numbers won’t fly with the Kansas City Chiefs… last year’s Super Bowl winning division rivals.
Denver’s test on how well they have evolved will arrive earlier than expected, as they’ll face the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Week 3, as well as last year’s AFC Championship participants, Tennessee Titans, on Week 1. From Week 12 to Week 15, the Broncos will face their most challenging stretch of the season, going against last year’s champions Chiefs, the New Orleans Saints, the rising Carolina Panthers and the bolstered Buffalo Bills.
Given how much help Elway has given Drew Lock this off season, his second year should prove to be a major telling point on whether he is the long lost franchise quarterback Denver has so longingly searched for. Questions remain on whether the Broncos’ coaching staff is capable enough to take them to the next level, but in the short-term they deserve the opportunity to see.
The clock is ticking on the franchise’s patience with the recent absence from the playoffs, but they have an opportunity to surprise the world and actually challenge Kansas for the first spot in the AFC West. The chance is nigh with the Chargers turning over a new page after the Philip Rivers era, and with the Raiders still searching answers that will take them to the next level.
Denver Broncos 2020 Season Prediction
10 – 6 (2nd in the AFC West)
A LEAD WRITER AT NFL GREECE, STEPHANIE IS A LOVER OF BOTH THE NFL AND GLOBAL FOOTBALL. A FAN OF BOTH UNDERDOGS AND CLOSELY CONTESTED GAMES, SHE FOUND HAVEN IN BALTIMORE AND IT’S RAVENS.