It's hard to believe that it's been six years since Von Miller and the Broncos wreaked havoc on the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Broncos fans haven't had much to cheer for since the franchise won its third Super Bowl. The team has not make the playoffs since 2015 and hasn't finished above .500 since 2016. Vic Fangio, a longtime NFL assistant who was hired in 2019, has endured two trying seasons marred with injuries to key players and inconsistency at the quarterback position.
It's safe to say that it's now or never for Fangio and quarterback Drew Lock, who has rededicated himself to his craft following a disappointing 2020 season. The clock is also ticking on Miller, the now 32-year-old pass rusher who is out to prove that he is still one of the NFL's best players after missing the entire 2020 campaign with an injury.
With training camp around the corner, we decided to take a look at the Broncos' projected depth chart as well as the team's possible Week 1 starting lineup.
Rookies are denoted with (*)
Michael Boone/LeVante Bellamy/Damarea Crockett
|FB||Andrew Beck||Adam Prentice*|
Kendall Hinton/Branden Mack*
Diontae Spencer/DeVontres Dukes*/Isaiah Mack
Austin Fort/Shaun Beyer
The biggest position battle in Denver is between Lock and Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater is coming off of a successful season with the Panthers, but Lock -- given his familiarity with the Broncos' offense -- should be considered the favorite. Lock's offseason has included film study with Peyton Manning, the quarterback who last led Denver to the postseason.
"It's like having more eyes on film and technique and hearing from the guy who did the best for a really, really long time," Lock said of watching with Manning, via Nick Kosmider of The Athletic. "It was nice to be able to have that in my corner."
Denver's quarterbacks have a solid group of receivers to work with. Courtland Sutton, a 2019 Pro Bowler, is back after missing most of last season with an injury. Tim Patrick led the Broncos with six touchdown catches last season, while Jerry Jeudy -- despite a brief case of the drops -- led the Broncos with 856 receiving yards as a rookie. Denver's receiving corps also includes tight end Noah Fant and second-year wideout KJ Hamler. Fans should also keep an eye on rookie Seth Williams, a 6-foot-3, 211-pound target who caught 106 passes and 12 touchdowns during his final two seasons at Auburn.
The Broncos also have a nice three-headed monster at running back, led by Melvin Gordon and rookie Javonte Williams. The group is hoping to find running lanes behind an offensive line that should be vastly improved this season. Specifically, guard Dalton Risner and Lloyd Cushenberry should see a rise in production with another year of under their belts.
Pita Taumopenu/Peter Kalambayi
Parnell Motley/Mac McCain
|NB||Ronald Darby||Kary Vincent*||Essang Bassey|
Without Miller, the Broncos received inspired play last season from outside linebackers Bradley Chubb and Malik Reed, who combined to tally 15.5 sacks. To help shore up what was the league's 25th ranked run defense in 2020, the Broncos spent a third-round pick on former Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning and two late-round picks on defensive ends Jonathan Cooper and Marquiss Spencer. The Broncos also drafted four defensive backs to complement former Bears All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller, veterans Ronald Darby and Kareem Jackson, and Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons. How quickly these rookies -- particularly first-round pick Patrick Surtain -- can get up to snuff may largely determine the success of this unit in 2021.
|PR||Diontae Spencer||Bryce Callahan|
Denver's kicker since 2014, McManus is looking to bounce back in 2021 after missing six field goals and three point-after attempts last season. The Broncos have one of the league's best punt returners in Diontae Spencer, whose 15.8 yards per return average was bolstered by his 83-yard touchdown in Denver's Week 13 win over the Panthers.