Denver Broncos: Scary unknown at quarterback was avoidable

Drew Lock, Denver Broncos (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Drew Lock, Denver Broncos (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /

Drew Lock presents a scary unknown for the Denver Broncos at quarterback.

The Denver Broncos weren’t a great team in Vic Fangio’s first season as head coach. They finished 7-9 with a -34 point differential, making it the fourth straight season missing the playoffs since winning Super Bowl 50.

After that middling result in year one, Fangio and company are expecting improvements and certainly have playoff aspirations in 2020, especially considering the talent on the roster. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb anchor the pass rush. The team traded for Jurrell Casey after Tennessee needed to dump him and AJ Bouye helps contain the secondary. Denver finished as an above-average defense in 2019, and that was a down season.

Where does that leave the Denver Broncos in 2020? Quarterback remains a question without an easy answer. No one knows what to expect from Drew Lock. Dan Salem and Todd Salem debate the Denver Broncos in today’s NFL Sports Debate.

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Todd Salem on the Denver Broncos:

The Broncos are truly intriguing. On offense, there are skill players galore.

Jerry Jeudy might be the best player from the draft, and the Broncos got him at No. 15. He’ll line up opposite breakout receiver Courtland Sutton. Second-round pick KJ Hamler and 2019’s first pick, tight end Noah Fant, beef up the receiving corps. In the backfield, Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman are now joined by Melvin Gordon. The offensive line has a slew of high draft-pick talent as well.

The interesting thing with Denver is what it didn’t do this offseason: add any type of quarterback to challenge or start ahead of Drew Lock. Management put the entire team’s future on the back of Lock.

There were certainly opportunities to add quarterback help. This was one of the richest times in league history for quarterbacks who were just…available. Denver decided against bringing in anyone. It passed on the guy who would have likely unseated Lock: Cam Newton. The team also declined to add someone who would compete with Lock.

I understand the logic behind it but that logic never held up in my mind. A team doesn’t want to ruin the psyche or confidence of a young quarterback by bringing in a veteran he has to beat out. And if the team gifted the starting job to the youngster, the veteran could rally the locker room in his own favor.

But the obvious counter is that if the young guy couldn’t win the job, he didn’t deserve the job. And if the team is actually trying to compete, they should want the best roster they can assemble.

Maybe all that emotional counterplay didn’t even factor into the Broncos’ offseason. Maybe they feel strongly about Lock’s ability to be a good starting quarterback in the NFL. From the outside, though, this looks like a potential playoff team with a completely unproven player at the most important position in sports when superior options were available.

Dan Salem on the Denver Broncos:

The jury is obviously still out on Drew Lock, but isn’t it also out on Cam Newton? Returning from an injury to play at a high level is no guarantee. Do you risk stunting Lock’s confidence by bringing in Newton? What if Newton goes down in week three and you must return to Lock? Surely you are left with an inferior player after having told him you don’t think he’s capable of starting. If Lock has the potential to be very good, you must support him. There are no more excuses for this offense.

Even if you believe Lock’s NFL success is in jeopardy, it’s proven every few years that a team with a serviceable quarterback can make a deep playoff run. That team needs great defense and strong offensive support for their “mistake-free” quarterback to win a lot of games.

Based on everything you laid out, the Denver Broncos have exactly this type of team. Their supporting cast fits the bill for a game-manager to lead them to victory. So if Lock is great or simply does what constitutes bare minimum success at quarterback, Denver will challenge for the playoffs with ease.

All of that being true, I just don’t see it in Denver. Admittedly, this is mainly because they are staring up at Kansas City and their Super Bowl trophy. While the Broncos seem to have all the right pieces and I don’t believe Lock is a bust, something is still missing for me to believe in this football team.

Lock likely takes positive steps forward this season, but there are so many unknowns in 2020, let alone on the Denver Broncos. The Broncos should, I repeat, should challenge for a Wild Card playoff spot. We have an extra one now, so why not Denver at 9-7 or even 10-6 if the ball bounces favorably?

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The real challenge with the NFL this season is convincing yourself of any team previously in the middle. We have so little evidence from the offseason. All we know of Lock is what we saw last year. Denver coming off a 7-9 season can easily fall to 5-11 or rise up to 10-6 because those two wins, either way, are simply about turnovers and momentum.

It’s about making or missing a few field goals or first downs. Much of the AFC falls into this abyss of potential currently untapped. Lucky for Denver, the conference has one less sure thing this season. New England has joined the maybe column, making things awfully crowded in the playoff race.