As we approach training camp, there isn’t a story more intriguing than how the battle under center will unfold in Denver. Highlighted by one of the most budding, youth-infused rosters in all of football, the Denver Broncos possess all the ingredients necessary to surprise in what will prove to be a competitive division.
Built around the top secondary in all of football and an exciting core of offensive weapons, it’s a difficult task singling out one position group where the Broncos are inherently weak. Compared to the Kansas City Chiefs—the division winners each of the last five seasons—the Broncos stack up at every spot to their inter-division foe, especially on the defensive side of the football.
It starts at the apex of the defense, where a unit led by Justin Simmons will deploy an uber-talented array of defenders in Ronald Darby, Bryce Callahan, Kyle Fuller, and ninth-overall selection Patrick Surtain II. That’s not to sway attention from the maulers Denver has up front in Shelby Harris, Bradley Chubb, and Dre’Mont Jones, who will welcome the return of the top edge defender of the last decade in Von Miller, who looks primed to return to form as the clear leader in a young locker room.
Offensively, sure, they are relatively inexperienced, and the battle at quarterback will ultimately prove to be the cause of success, or lack thereof, but the tandem of Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton presents one of football’s most exciting pass-catching duos along with Tim Patrick, slot man KJ Hamler, and one of the league’s most athletic tight ends in Noah Fant.
Although one of the two in Jeudy and Sutton will reign supreme as Denver’s top threat on the outside, a verdict as to who will progress into the moniker of WR1 for the Broncos as we stand in mid-July is a tough ask for two of the league’s premier wideout talents. In what has represented one of the weaker groups of pass-catching talent the league has had to offer over the last couple of seasons, a once depleted Denver receiver room has now found itself overflowing with young talent on the cusp of NFL prosperity, mastheaded by two of the league’s most budding talents.
Stemming inward, don’t forget about running backs Melvin Gordon and second-round selection Javonte Williams, who could jump onto the NFL scene in his first season. For Williams, a talent entrenched within one of the league’s most dynamic offenses where eyes will be drawn toward the boundary to account for Sutton, Jeudy, and the aforementioned array of weaponry, his opportunity to jump onto the scene from Week 1 couldn’t be greater in the shadows presented by Denver’s exciting group of pass-catchers. Williams, coupled with Gordon, could boost a Denver run game that will become critical if the Broncos attempt to battle their way back to the postseason for the first time since their Lombardi Trophy-winning campaign in 2015.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I labeled Denver as the most complete roster in the AFC West. With that, comes expectation, and drastic improvement at the most important position in all of sports. While it’s easy to identify the talent on both sides of the football and say the Broncos should find themselves in a position to earn their first postseason berth in five years, it remains a mystery as to just how efficient Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater, or an unnamed presence under center will be come the second half of the 17-game campaign.
However, if all goes well, buckle up.
With Vic Fangio currently resting on an increasingly warming hot seat, and Lock seemingly on the brink of departure if he fails to pan out, the time is now for Denver to make the jump into the league’s final 14. With one of the weakest schedules in football, the Broncos could, and should, find themselves in a position to compete with the Chiefs, especially if Kansas City were to show any sign of regression as they attempt to punch their ticket to their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Predicting a division title wouldn’t be realistic, but Denver has everything necessary to surprise many around the league who have kneeled at the feet of the Chiefs.
An optimal campaign includes massive improvement under center, which in turn will result in improved production outside and less of a burden for the defense to prove dominant. If all comes to fruition, a spot in the playoffs for the first time since Peyton Manning’s departure looks to be in the cards for one of football’s most underappreciated rosters.