The 2019 season was a bag of mixed emotions for the Denver Broncos, who entered the season with a change at head coach and quarterback, among others. Making the decision to trade for Joe Flacco was met with as much criticism as hope, and the jury was out on just how quickly Vic Fangio could rally the troops after having seen Vance Joseph fired after two disappointing seasons at the helm. Things certainly didn't get off to a great start, to say the least, with Flacco's version of the team floundering to a 2-6 start.
Their decision to use a second-round pick on Drew Lock, however, turned out to be the right call. Those who wondered why the Broncos would use a premium pick on Lock after having traded for Flacco got their answer, with the two swapping seats on injured reserve in the second half of the season, and the former going on to post a 4-1 record to close out the year.
And, in the process of turning the Broncos tables, Lock also made Fangio look like the right call as well.
In the end, the Broncos were unable to climb out of the hole they'd dug for themselves and make a playoff appearance, but that can all change in 2020. The offense stands to take huge strides forward and so does the defense, which will see the return of the second-best pass rusher in Bradley Chubb and a hyper-focused Von Miller, both carrying a pretty sizable chip on their shoulder. If all goes to plan, the Broncos will be a team to watch this year, and a big part of that will be due to what these three players could unleash.
If these three bold predictions take hold, well, beware the ponies.
Drew Lock throws for 4,000 yards, 25 TDs
Franchise quarterback, ahoy.
The 2019 season saw the Broncos go from hoping Joe Flacco could be their top guy behind center to quickly discovering he was not, although it wasn't entirely his fault. Poor protection and issues at wideout did the aging veteran no favors, and his lack of escapability helped fuel a bit of brutality in the backfield, en route to Flacco suffering a neck injury that ended his season prematurely. It was fortuitous for the Broncos that rookie second-round pick Drew Lock was then recovered from a thumb injury that put him on injured reserve in August, giving them a chance to truly get a look at Lock and what he could do for the franchise.
They got their answer in spades, with Lock helping to lead a resurgent Broncos team on the back end of the season, and things should get much better for him in Year 2 -- for a variety of reasons. He'll have another training camp under his belt and another weapon has been added in highly-touted rookie Jerry Jeudy, who stands to be a major shot of adrenaline to the WR corps and offers a strong complement to the already proven Courtland Sutton and a rising tight end in Noah Fant.
Von Miller reaches career-high mark in sacks
Remember this guy?
As strange as it sounds, it feels like there's been a sensation of analysts overlooking Miller as he approaches the 2020 season, and it's probably because he's 31 years old, entering his 10th year of his career and had "only" eight sacks in 15 starts in 2019 -- the second-lowest mark of his otherwise illustrious career. All of that having been said, I could not care less, because if eight sacks is a down year for any pass rusher; it's a testament to how lethal that guy normally is. Fact is, Miller is still every bit as dangerous as he's ever been, but opposing offenses found themselves able to key in on him and only him once Bradley Chubb went down with injury. He'd get assistance by way of Derek Wolfe and Shelby Harris, but Batman didn't have his Robin, and it showed.
Miller is only one season removed from having posted 14.5 sacks in a year when Chubb nearly matched him -- as a rookie -- with 12 of his own. Likely feeling disrespected by some pass rush rankings this offseason, having a renewed sense of focus (not that he ever lost it) after having recovered from a COVID-19 scare, and feeling like he needs to remind the world of what he's capable of -- don't bet against Miller in 2020.
As a matter of fact, if both Batman and Robin are available for the full ride this season, don't be surprised if the seven-time All-Pro passes his career-best sack tally of 18.5; age be damned.
Bradley Chubb gets 15 sacks, Pro Bowl nod
Speaking of Boy Wonder...
Much like Chubb helps Miller, Miller helps Chubb -- in a one-hand-washes-the-other fashion -- initially setting the former first-round pick up for a strong follow-up to his breakout rookie year. Unfortunately, he'd go on to suffer a torn ACL that cost him 12 games in Year 2, and the Broncos pass rush was mostly a shell of itself from that point forward. Miller did all he could to carry the defensive front on his very capable shoulder pads, but being the sole point of focus dipped his production, as mentioned. With Chubb nearing full health and having already declared himself ready for Week 1, he's raring to bounce back and finish what he started as a rookie.
But for all of Chubb's success in 2018, he wasn't named to the Pro Bowl nor did he land an All-Pro nod, despite logging the same number of QB takedowns as Khalil Mack that season. Expect that to change this coming season, for a healthy Chubb is a force to be reckoned with in and of itself, but enjoying a tandem with Miller only helps make him that much more indefensible. If the defensive secondary, led by Justin Simmons and potentially upgraded by adding A.J. Bouye to the fold, can keep the back end protected, Chubb can truly tee off on opposing quarterbacks.
Turn the dial up for Chubb this coming season, and ready for a Pro Bowl season that sees him attempt to challenge Miller for most sacks on the team.