Throughout the offseason, I will be running through a series of Q&As with our fellow SB Nation blogs across the AFC, checking up on the state of affairs for the Jets’ conference rivals.
We continue with a team in Colorado that finished 2019 strongly under its quarterback of the future — the Denver Broncos. Tim Lynch of Mile High Report was able to answer a few questions regarding Denver’s 2019 campaign.
1. The Broncos finished strong after turning to Drew Lock, going 4-1 to close after starting out 3-8. How much of a role did Lock play in the turnaround? Having seen a small sample of him on an NFL field, what does Lock’s ceiling look like going forward?
He made the plays that mattered. The 2019 Broncos had struggled winning close games all year. They were 0-4 in games decided by four points or less before Drew Lock started and 2-0 after. It’s not all Lock, but it was certainly a team figuring out how to win those close games. As for the future, Lock has plenty of work to do on his lower body mechanics. He can be a bit sloppy, which will certainly lead to some mistakes next season. He is sticking around in Denver this offseason and has a detailed plan laid out for him to work through to improve before next season. We’ll just have to see how it goes.
2. What is Joe Flacco’s future in Denver? Will the Broncos simply be forced to swallow his contract and employ him as a high-level backup for the time being, or will they make an effort to dump him?
The Broncos will eat a lot of dead money cutting him, but will also free up $10 million in cap room. I think that’s exactly what they’ll do. They will have over $70 million in cap space after cutting him and the dead money his is only for 2020. In theory, adding Joe Flacco and drafting a rookie quarterback was a good idea. In practice, he was actually worse than Case Keenum ever was.
3. The Broncos offensive line put up about league-average numbers across the board, faring slightly better in the run game than the pass game. How would you assess the performance of the unit in 2019? Which areas can still be upgraded, and in what ways do you see the team attacking those needs?
If you ask any Broncos fans, myself included, how the Broncos offensive line ranks ... it would be no where near middle of the road. Aside from the penalty machine that is Garett Bolles, the Broncos had a revolving door at right tackle and a right guard who could not stay healthy and when he was committed just as many penalties as Bolles. Fortunately, Drew Lock reduced the sack rate a lot and improve the offensive production rate at every level. That’s the big difference maker between the first 11 games and the final 5. Both Flacco and Brandon Allen had the same sack rate and offensive production struggles, while Lock improved everything across the board. So either the offensive line got a hell of a lot better or quarterbacks matter a lot to how well an offensive line appears to be playing.
I think they’ll target a starter in free agency and probably even one on Day 2 of the 2020 NFL Draft. This line will remain in flux for at least another season.
4. Denver’s defense remained solid, placing 13th in DVOA, but it was their first time ranking outside of the top-10 since 2013. What were the reasons for the slight dip? On the contrary, what has kept the Broncos defense in the upper echelon of the league?
The defense had an up and down year. They were horrendous early on, then Vic Fangio benched from starters from 2018, such as Adam Gotsis, and brought in AJ Johnson and Mike Purcell. Those moves had the Broncos defense in the Top 5 in DVOA for a solid two months. However, they succumbed to injuries down the stretch. They lost De’Vante Bausby at cornerback, Derek Wolfe at defensive end, Bradly Chubb at edge, then various other starters were also out a few games here and there. The injuries mounted and affected the secondary pretty badly. I think they’ll still end up being a Top 5 unit next season.
5. Longtime Broncos Chris Harris and Derek Wolfe are set to hit free agency as they enter their 30s. How much does each have left in the tank, and do you see them returning to Denver?
It sure sounds like Chris Harris Jr. has played his last down with the Denver Broncos. He’ll end up in the Broncos Ring of Fame as one of the best cornerbacks to ever play in the Orange and Blue, but he had a pretty rough season and I don’t see the team matching any of the likely offers he’ll get from cornerback needy teams out there. As for Wolfe, he is coming off his best statistical season and is very interested in re-signing to return. He stated he wanted a respectable offer, not one that is going to break the bank. I think he ends up returning and continues to be an anchor next to Von Miller.
6. If you could add one offensive and one defensive player from any point in Jets history to the current iteration of the Broncos, who would you choose? (Excluding Darrelle Revis, who every person I have asked this question has chosen!)
Good thing I think Darrelle Revis is overrated. I’ll go way back to the 80s to one of the first Broncos games I remember as a wee lad. Both the Jets and Broncos were undefeated, I think, or at least pretty evenly match. It was Monday Night Football and the Jets put the beatdown on John Elway and the Broncos. It was like 22-10. I just remember Mark Gastineau being so annoying. I’d probably pick him on defense and then Curtis Martin on offense. That dude was consistent as hell.