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Paton’s Spaces: The 2021 Broncos could be special

Denver Broncos v Seattle Seahawks
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Broncos general manager built a roster that can weather the 17-game storm ahead.

Now that we’re on the doorstep of the 2021 season, it’s time to take one last long look at the roster George Paton assembled in his first offseason as general manager. The hope is my notes below help to fill in the gaps on some of the lesser known additions as well as where my expectations lie with each group. I’ll admit this is easily the most optimistic I’ve felt about the Broncos’ playoff chances since I began writing for Mile High Report.

Here’s hoping it’s a fun ride.

Special Teams

  • One of the best metrics for evaluating performance of an entire side of the ball is Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric DVOA. It accounts for opponent strength and measures efficiency. It hasn’t been to kind to the Broncos’ special teams, a unit with two consistent pieces since 2019. Tom McMahon and Brandon McManus.

When you dig into the numbers, there’s little doubt the 30-year old McManus had a career year in 2020. He improved on kickoffs and made 10 kicks from beyond 50-yards last year as well as a career long 58-yarder. If he can maintain that level of player there’s no question Paton will retain him in 2022, especially since his restructured contract makes it so cutting him before next June would cost the Broncos’ $3,693,750 in dead cap.

McMahon’s job security is more tenuous, and rightfully so. After he inherited the 30th ranked special teams from Brock Olivo in 2019, the Broncos have finished 31st, 24th, and 24th in DVOA the last three seasons. Vic Fangio has been especially critical of the special teams over the last two weeks. He said this before the preseason finale against the Los Angeles Rams.

“Special teams wasn’t good enough, particularly in the kickoff coverage area. We haven’t punted much in these first two games. I think only four times and I think two of them were the kind where you’re punting inside the 10 where there’s not much return game available. We haven’t covered well. That’s no secret. I’ve tried to make the point constantly to the players that we’re going to pick a roster with special teams in mind. I’ve made that point to [General Manager] George [Paton], I’ve made that point to all the coaches and hopefully that will be the case.”

It’s worth mentioning that since McMahon joined the Broncos they’ve cycled through three punters and consistently ranked among the six worst punting units in the league. Kickoff coverage is a similar story, where the Broncos ranked 20th in 2018 before circling the drain last season. So perhaps it should come as no surprise Fangio didn’t spare his coordinator when he talked about the kick team after the Rams’ game.

“I didn’t like the kickoff return early which—the first field goal they scored on, the big plays were the kickoff return. We got a facemask penalty and then they hit a straight on us for a good chunk which was a good play on their part. Giving them the ball wherever it was, that was too much. We’ve got to make it better. We’ve got to find the players that we keep to cover kicks better, and if not, we need to find players who will be. Obviously, we need to do a good job of coaching it.”

3 Specialists

Brandon McManus, Sam Martin, Jacob Bobenmoyer

  • On June 17th the Broncos waived Max Duffy, and since then there’s been one kicker, punter, and long snapper on the Broncos’ roster.
  • All signs point to Diontae Spencer as the primary returner in 2021. He averaged 15.8 yards across his 16-punt returns last season with an 83-yard touchdown against the Carolina Panthers. He’s a limited receiver due to his frame and catch radius, but his lateral quickness and explosiveness make him a threat to go the distance.

Defense

The backbone of the 2021 Broncos is Vic Fangio’s defense and to this point in the embattled head coaches’ tenure, his one saving grace. Despite the loss of Von Miller and burning through 10 cornerbacks a season ago, the defense finished as the 13th best in football by DVOA. They were second only to the Minnesota Vikings in redzone defense.

Over the offseason I made a point to speak with two coaches that I hold in very high regard about the Broncos’ defense under Fangio. Coach Vass, the host of Make Defense Great Again shared with me how Fangio leans on a concept he calls “Cheat 9.” We also discussed how Penny package can overwhelm opposing ground games that utilize base personnel.

When I spoke with Coach Alexander of Match Quarters, I wanted to really break down where he landed on the roster and scheme. Would going with lighter boxes and even dime personnel hurt the running game too much? Could the linebackers hold up in coverage? How does a safety’s job differ in the Fangio defense from most NFL teams?

Both conversations left me optimistic Fangio would be able to do something special with this group if health luck holds out. While I believe he has his issues with clock management and probably has a large role in McMahon retaining his post in 2021, Fangio’s gifts on defense feel like the perfect foil to Patrick Mahomes in the AFC West. It’s hard for me to forget how Denver held the future Hall of Famer to 0/8 on third down last October.

At least to me, one of the more intriguing aspects of George Paton’s first offseason was a chance to see how it differed from Elway’s while still meeting the scheme fits for the same coach. With most of the offense on rookie contracts, we saw Paton retain an expensive veteran defense to buy himself time to develop young players to potentially take over down the road.

11 Defensive Backs

Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, Bryce Callahan, Patrick Surtain II, Kareem Jackson, Justin Simmons, Caden Sterns, P.J. Locke III, Jamar Johnson, Kary Vincent Jr., Mike Ford

  • Michael Ojemudia is on Injured Reserve and the hope is he can return this season.
  • Duke Dawson and Essang Bassey are on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and must miss at least six weeks.
  • It’s worth noting that if the injured corners come back healthy this season the Broncos will have to make some decisions as they’d have 14 DBs on the roster.
  • Throughout camp there’s been buzz that the defense was leaning heavily into dime personnel with Surtain and Callahan in the slot. One thing I have my eye out for early in the season is how Fangio deploys his personnel. Despite all the injuries at corner last year, the Broncos used five or more DBs on 75% of their snaps.
  • Fuller, Callahan, and Jackson are playing on expiring contracts and there’s a realistic possibility none return in 2022.
  • There is currently an embarrasment of riches at safety and it doesn’t make a ton of sense financially to trade Simmons or Jackson. Locke III came in and looked lie a future starter during the preseason after logging 370 special teams snaps a season ago, while Sterns flashed throughout camp and looks like he could become the heir apparent to Jackson at safety.
  • Don’t be surprised if Vincent isn’t active for the gameday roster as he only took eight special teams snaps in the preseason. I suspect he would have been waived if Paton thought he could slip him to the practice squad.
  • Ford was added off waivers from the Detroit Lions on Wednesday. An undrafted free agent who entered the league in 2018, Ford is a tremendous athlete who played 1,007 snaps over the last three years. It interested me that he saw his playing time dwindled down to 58 snaps on defense last year, so I reached out to Pro Football Network’s Kent Lee Platte to find out more about the Broncos’ new DB.

I saw his snap count saw a precipitous drop last year. Do you think he could potentially step in and eventually become a contributor under Fangio or is he strictly a ST guy?

Platte: The Lions drafted Jeff Okudah 3rd overall in 2020 while 2019 5th round pick Amani Oruwariye took a massive step forward into a starting role. Meanwhile, Ford’s time on the field in 2019 was largely in an emergency relief role, not planned because he had progressed enough to earn time. That’s not a dig on Ford, just circumstances when you’re a very raw player that needs a lot of work and you’re being thrown to the wolves. Still, while he had plenty of struggles on the field he showed some potential and definitely flashed that premiere athletic talent.

Between 2020 and 2021, he had worked to gain versatility at safety as well as outside and by the start of 2021 camp he had taken over the starting nickel role despite veterans brought in for that purpose. What hurt him was the emergence of 2021 UDFA rookie AJ Parker, who took a little bit to pick things up, but had completely swiped the role, and ultimately job, from Ford. Parkers play was so good that he’s likely the day one starter for the Lions at nickel. Basically a long way to say that Ford has the potential to step in and contribute to multiple positions on defense if needed, with the versatility to move around and a team first attitude that has helped him since day one in the NFL.

As far as special teams goes, I assume he’ll need to be able to do it all to stay active on gamedays – do you know if he’s someone who can contribute to all phases or is he going to be a role player?

Platte: Though he primarily excelled as a gunner, Ford will step in and try whatever is asked of him. On defense he came into the NFL solely as an outside corner, but took to playing on teams immediately, transitioned to safety and then nickel corner within a year, this is someone who has shown that he’s willing to do whatever he can to see the field.

  • If this group can stay intact, it has the potential to be the best secondary in the league. Only Paton knows how big that “if” really is, however.

5 Linebackers

Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell, Justin Strnad, Baron Browning, and Jonas Griffith

  • All signs point to Johnson and Jewell resuming their roles as the starting linebackers. While neither is an elite athlete, the Broncos were one of only two teams in the league with two starting linebackers who finished the season with a better than 60% coverage success rate by Football Outsiders’ charting. Part of this is how Fangio works to protect his backers with his scheme, but credit has to go to the players for executing as well.
  • Strnad ran with the first string offense when Jewell was sidelined with his groin injury. That combined with Browning and Griffith’s inexperience in the Fangio offense suggest he’ll be the LB3. I plan to keep an eye on if he carves out a niche on passing downs once we hit the regular season.
  • Due to the injury in OTAs lingering into training camp, Browning missed most of his opportunity to receive live reps this preseason. While I remain sky high on his long term prospects, I believe we should temper expectations for his rookie year.
  • Griffith was acquired from the Niners for a 2022 sixth-round pick and 2023 seventh-round pick. On Tuesday Paton said there was a conscious effort to improve the Broncos’ team speed and the undrafted free agent should certainly do that as he’s standout athlete, even if he hasn’t suited up for a regular season game yet.

What really stuck out from him watching the preseason tape is his special teams play. This kid is 6’3, he can run, he can fly and he’s really going to help our special teams. I think we need help on special teams. From last year and even in training camp, probably not good enough. This guy is going to add. He’s going to help us, and we’re excited to get him.

Paton’s Spaces: The 2021 Broncos could be special
Jonas Griffith is almost as athletic as Baron Browning.

5 Edge Rushers

Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Malik Reed, Jonathon Cooper, and Andre Mintze

  • The Broncos edge room should be among the best in football this season. People foget that Miller finished 2019 with 63 pressures by Sports Info Solutions’ charting, more than twice any other Broncos’ defender. Bradley Chubb notched 58 pressures to go with seven and a half sacks last season, while Reed led the Broncos in sacks last year to go with his 35 pressures.
  • Chubb made Brandon Thorn’s list of the 50 best OL/DL 25 and under thanks in part to his power, effort, and processing. Chubb’s long-arm bull-rush received praise and the line enthusiast made a point to mention that he’s a become a stout run-defender.
  • It didn’t surprise me that Paton decided to roster Mintze. Before his concussion in the first preseason game, the undrafted rookie looked like he’d make the ED4 battle with Cooper go down to the wire. I’m curious to see how the snaps are split up between the two, as Cooper’s Seahawks game blew me away.

6 Defensive Linemen

Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Purcell, McTelvin Agim, DeShawn Williams, and Shamar Stephen

  • Maybe I’m simply drinking the orange Kool Aid, but like the secondary and edge group, I’m confident the defensive line could become one of the best in football. Harris and Jones are so quick off the snap it’s going to create a ton of issues for guards and centers, and the edge group is so good there won’t be a ton of extra help coming their way.
  • Jones made Brandon Thorn’s list of the top 50 OL/DL under 25. His savvy is something that stood out, and it shows in how well he executes his side-scissor move as well as the counter off it.
  • Purcell’s a bit underrated because of his injury last season. Before he went down in the Chiefs game, he was logging about 43% of the defensive snaps and the Broncos had one of the better run defenses in football.
  • Agim is a huge X-factor for this unit. He only logged 141 defensive snaps last year despite the injuries around him, but has the kind of athletic gifts to blossom the best interior lineman on the Broncos’ roster if he can put it all together.
  • I have to give some props to Paton for the way he manipulated the cutdown deadline with his decision to release Stephen. Doing so gave him time to place Boone and Ojemudia on I.R. and begin to sift through waivers without the risk of losing his DL6. It hints at the kind of reputation Paton has on the business side of football that Stephen and his agent agreed to it. The way this whole thing went down brought me back to what an anonymous agent shared with the Athletic’s Ben Standig at the end of August.

(Paton) has high football intelligence and is a dynamic personality. Trustworthy and a fair negotiator. I think he’s going to have a lot of success in Denver.”

Offense

Oh woe for ye old dead horse.

The Broncos have questions around their starting quarterback, just as they’ve had every single year since Peyton Manning retired. We’ve seen ten quarterbacks make starts since the Hall of Famer rode off into the sunset, but unlike years past there’s legitimate statistical evidence Teddy Bridgewater could be the best of them.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at a few numbers.

When he made his starts in New Orleans in 2019, Bridgewater completed 69.7% of his passes for 1,205 yards, nine touchdowns, and just two interceptions across his five starts. He ranked 9th in Estimated Points Added among all Quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks.

Bridgewater performed so well he signed a 3-year $63 million contract with the Carolina Panthers and helped to keep them outside the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes as he piloted the 17th best offense by DVOA. He did this with Christian McCaffrey playing three games. During OTA’s Bridgewater shared he also did this in spite of an injury that could have ended his season.

“I think once we played Tampa that second game, and I took a shot, I probably should have just shut it down for the rest of the season, but I just love this game and I never take it for granted. So, right now I’m just at that point where I feel really good mentally, spiritually, physically. Every day I come here, I got a smile on my face.”

It’s easy to overlook because the Panthers’ disappointing record, but Bridgewater was playing really good football before the injury. According to Warren Sharp of Sharp Football, the Panthers ranked second in yards per drive, 10th in points per drive, and eighth in offensive DVOA. Bridgewater also ranked ninth in passing Expected Points Added per Sports Info Solutions and 13th in ESPN’s QBR. If traditional box score stats are more your thing: he completed 71.12 percent of his passes for 2552 yards, 13 touchdowns, and seven interceptions across the first ten games, with another 196 yards on the ground and three tuddies to boot.

The 16 touchdowns are worth picking at because Bridgewater’s raw touchdown numbers hint at a larger question about his game: does it falter in the redzone? Carolina’s offensive DVOA was among the worst in football from the 20 in. This impacted both the Panther’s quarterbacks from a year ago: Bridgewater finished 2020 as the third worst passer with 20+ attempts. P.J. Walker didn’t meet the qualifying number because he only started one game, but his performance was even worse. This may lend some weight to Bridgewater’s comments from May that Carolina did not practice redzone situations enough.

Thanks to the redzone issues, a poor defense and one of the toughest schedules in football, the Panthers finished 5-11. Matt Rhule and Joe Brady decided Sam Darnold’s upside was worth eating $17,062,500 in dead money to trade Bridgewater for a sixth round pick. Taking advantage of Carolina’s willingness to downgrade under center could turn into a low-cost masterstroke by George Paton.

5 Wide Receivers

Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, Tim Patrick, Diontae Spencer

  • Pat Shurmur used three receiver sets on 66% of the Broncos’ offensive plays in 2020, so forgive me if I’m a bit frustrated by the decision to trade Trinity Benson to the Detroit Lions. Turning a former undrafted free agent who is yet to play a regular season snap and a 2023 sixth-round pick into a 2022 fifth and seventh could work out brilliantly, but it leaves me a bit anxious when Sutton, Hamler, and Patrick have notable injury histories.

On a related note, I thought it was cool to see Paton give receivers coach Zach Azzani some credit for Benson developing into a pro receiver while he spent the last two years on the practice squad. Broncos Country may take for granted how good the current coaching staff is at developing talent.

  • One way Paton tried to protect the Broncos against durability concerns is retain Seth Williams, Tyrie Cleveland, and Kendall Hinton on the practice squad. None impressed as much as Benson did in the preseason, but each could play a role in winning football games this year.
  • I expect Jeudy to emerge as the Broncos’ number one receiver and push for a Pro Bowl berth with Bridgewater throwing him the ball. Throughout his rookie season he showed that he’s an elite separator and with a quarterback who’s better at throwing with anticipation, Jeudy could look unguardable in one-on-ones.
  • On Wednesday Vic Fangio shared that the Broncos do plan to monitor Sutton’s snaps early in the season.

“We have four good receivers and they’re all capable of playing. The pitch count can be a little misleading at times. It’s more so how the drives are going. If we’re going three-and-out a bunch, he can play them all. If we can get some nice drives going, he’ll need some time off.”

The last time Courtland Sutton was completely healthy he caught 72 passes from zombie Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen, and a rookie Drew Lock to the tune of 1,112 yards and six touchdowns. He like he was on the way towards being one of the best receivers in football. If he can return to form, he’d unlock the Broncos’ passing game.

  • It’s going to be interesting to see how Hamler and Sutton’s snaps are split up as they’re very different players. We saw hints that Shurmur is going to make more of a concentrated effort to get Hamler the ball with room to operate in the preseason, such as on end arounds and screens. He has game-breaking speed to go with his elite short area quickness, which makes him a constant mismatch in one-on-one against slot corners. Patrick’s size and speed make him a problem for smaller defensive backs, and he’s also one of the Broncos’ best blocking receivers.
  • The hope here is Spencer sees very little time on offense.

9 Offensive Linemen

Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Graham Glasgow, Bobby Massie, Calvin Anderson, Quinn Meinerz, Netane Muti, and Cameron Fleming

  • This is easily the Broncos’ best offensive line since Peyton Manning retired. Which doesn’t mean it comes without questions, starting with Cushenberry. He was one of the worst centers in football a season ago. While he made strides since last year, he still gave up way too much ground to power in the preseason.
  • Massie’s health is going to be something to monitor as he’s played a full 16+ game season once since 2014. If he can’t suit up, Anderson will step into his spot at right tackle. The former undrafted free agent looked much improved in the preseason. He’s very aggressive in his sets which could come back to bite him against smart pass rushers, however.
  • Brandon Thorn considered Glasgow and Risner as one of the ten best at their respective positions. Fangio said Risner was playing at a Pro Bowl level late last year. Glasgow’s in a weird spot with Broncos Country because he’s not a sexy blocker: he rarely blows people up so there aren’t many highlights in his game. He’s simply a reliable vet who combines technical refinement with a good anchor.
  • I’m curious to see what Bolles does for an encore after he made the All Pro list in 2020. He looked much improved from what we saw during the early part of his career, but when I spoke with Thorn he shared some lingering concerns about the 2017 first round picks hands. Thanks to a soft early slate, I doubt I’ll find many answers until the Baltimore Ravens game in week four.
  • If there’s an injury or issue at center I expect Glasgow to man the pivot while Muti slides into the right guard spot. The second year pro had some really high highs and a couple low lows in the preseason, but the arrow is clearly pointing up. I’d like to see him do a better job with his hands to mitigate his short arms against pass rushers who can match his power.
  • In an ideal world Meinerz doesn’t play this year.

4 Tight ends/fullbacks

Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, Eric Saubert, Andrew Beck (FB)

  • If health luck shines on them, this group is going to emerge as one of the best in the NFL. Fant and Okwuegbunam are both athletic mismatches who can outrun most linebackers and “big boy” most defensive backs. Saubert looked like a solid tertiary option in the passing game and a good blocker, something that could push Shurmur to utilize more 13 personnel as a way to stress opposing coordinators.
  • Beck is the Broncos primary fullback as well as their fourth string tight end. Barring injury, we’ll probably see him most on special teams.

3 Running Backs

Melvin Gordon, Javonte “Pookie” Williams, Nate McCrary

  • Gordon is RB1 for now and I suspect it’s going to be tough for Williams to unseat him as the third down back because Shurmur will trust the veteran to pick up whatever games opposing coordinators dial up.
  • I still think Pookie is going to become a superstar, and if it wasn’t for the 2021 QB class he’d be someone I’d bet on for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
  • Gordon and Williams contact balance and leg drive are going to be huge components of the Broncos’ short yardage offense this year. For all the issues with the line a season ago, Denver still finished as the third best team in “Power” situations by Football Outsider’s charting. It’s one reason why Bridgewater’s issues in the redzone don’t cause me greater concern.
  • With Mike Boone on Injured Reserve, the Broncos were in an awkward spot at running back. During OTAs it became obvious Paton would move Royce Freeman if an opportunity presented itself before the cut down to 53, but the 2018 third round pick was also the fourth best back on the roster. In the end, the Broncos elected to part ways with Freeman after picking up McCrary from the Baltimore Ravens. To get some insight into the undrafted rookie from Saginaw Valley State, I spoke with Baltimore Beatdown’s Spencer Schultz.

How do you think McCrary can contribute on special teams? Is he a 4-core guy?

Schultz: I don’t think McCrary is a core 4 player as of now, but has the athletic traits to contribute with refinement.

Can he help on offense? Beyond the athleticism what does he bring to the table?

Schultz: He has a ton of burst and a fifth gear. He can help bring explosive plays because of his speed. He’s not an ideal short yardage back— lacks power in the trunk. He can be used in the receiving game and has traits to develop into a contributor there. Started playing more aggressively in final two preseason games. He has moderate ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and is a liability in pass pro.

2 Quarterbacks

Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock

  • Bridgewater isn’t the most popular quarterback in Denver right now, and the Broncos surely know it. His ability to win pre-snap and distribute the ball accurately to playmakers is what won him the starting job. The Broncos will need to compete for him to hold it. He isn’t the upside option, and if the season looks lost the call for Lock will become deafening. The veteran sounded aware of this after the preseason finale.

“Honestly, for me, some things are out of your control. The one thing I can control is how hard I work every day—the type of leader I want to be for this team and the type of football player I want to be for this team. I just want to make sure that I’m sacrificing everything I have that’s in me to lead this team and be the best quarterback I can be for this team. Everything else will fall into place. I’m not in it to be liked. I’m not the salesman or anything. I love football. I love playing for the Denver Broncos and coming to work every day and being the best version of Teddy that I can be to help this team elevate.”

  • I suspect Drew Lock’s potential is going to be a huge talking point all year. When I spoke with Pro Football Focus’ Tej Seth about Drew Lock on Cover2Broncos, we discussed how a quarterback’s first two years in the modern NFL can accurately forecast a prospect’s future. I shared with him what Mile High Report’s Joe Mahoney and I found when we looked at every quarterback to make 16 starts in the NFL since 2000. Seth told me that in terms of EPA, the average difference in EPA/play of first two years and the rest of the career is 0.00, and only 23% of quarterbacks see a substantial increase.

I know the numbers are harsh. Given everything that went wrong around the young offense last year, it’s fair to look at the improvements Lock made over the offseason and hope he can put it all together. It’d be awesome for the Broncos’ long term outlook if Lock’s good enough to enter 2022 as a starting quarterback if for no other reason beyond the fact he remains on a rookie contract. If Lock is good enough to lead the team next year there’s more money to keep players like Von Miller, Courtland Sutton, and Kyle Fuller, who all enter the season on expiring contracts.

With that said, if Drew Lock isn’t going to make some sort of drastic improvement over the player we saw in 2020, is he worth treating the 42nd pick in the 2019 draft like a first round quarterback? To this point in his career, he’s been every bit the player I saw when I watched him coming out of Missouri, the same player Football Outsider’s QBase gave a 59% chance to bust and just a 14% chance to be more than an adequate starting passer.

Perhaps Lock will earn his turn to prove Fangio erred and he’s the arm to build around in 2022. Or maybe the Broncos’ embattled head coach realized that after 46 starts in the SEC and three offseasons in the NFL, his third year pro still isn’t processing the game fast enough to win on third and long with any consistency.

  • One aspect to consider as the Broncos close in on the regular season is how the choice to go with Bridgewater does not necessarily mean ruin for the longterm outlook at quarterback. Instead, it may offer a hint that the coaching staff and front office did not believe Lock was ever going to turn into more than “the guy before “the guy,”” and if that was the case it could make a ton of sense to bring Teddy back to serve as a mentor to a rookie next offseason.

While Bridgewater has limitations and may never blossom into more than a competent starter, his experiences in the NFL could be invaluable for a prospect learning the ropes. Listening to him talk about how he hopes to lead the young offense after the Rams’ game, I couldn’t help but think we’re underestimating the value his leadership brings to the table.

“Now, it’s more so about the process and your routines. You know, hopefully throughout the course of these preseason games, these weeks, you know, you get that opportunity to go through a mock in-season week, whether it’s on Tuesdays, how you are going to watch film, take care of your body, Wednesdays when you come to work, what is your mindset? So it’s one of those deals where you want to develop a routine, a process, and that is what is going to produce the results on Sundays. That is something that I learned in my two years in New Orleans, sitting behind [former Saints QB] Drew Brees. He was a guy that was so detailed, so routine, process driven, and I took so much away from that. Hopefully I can pour that into some of the guys on this team who don’t have a routine, don’t have a process, and hopefully we can put it all together and it all just gel.”

Of course, intangibles alone don’t win games, so the biggest question that continues to hang over the quarterback room is “what’s George Paton’s long term plan at quarterback?” Does he have one? Or are the Broncos headed on a Viking quest towards overpaying for a quarterback who can’t win without significant help?

Paton’s Spaces: The 2021 Broncos could be special
Tej Seth
Drew Lock vs. Teddy Bridgewater by the 2020 numbers.

Your Broncos’ News

30 Big Questions ahead of the Denver Broncos’ 2021 season – Mile High Report

What is George Paton’s plan?

It is about to get real for the Denver Broncos – Mile High Report

It is time to talk about winning football for the Denver Broncos. The coaches are out of excuses in 2021.

Denver Broncos fill 14 spots on their 16-man practice squad – Mile High Report

The Denver Broncos have filled out most of their practice squad adding 14 players on Wednesday.

Report: Broncos claim DB Mike Ford and RB Nate McCrary off waivers – Mile High Report

Broncos claim two and have two of their own claimed off waivers as well

Denver Broncos waive defensive lineman Jonathan Harris – Mile High Report

Broncos made another roster move to make room for their two waiver claims.

DeShawn Williams’ journey to the roster not easy, but ‘made me better’ – Mile High Report

For the first time in his NFL career, the defensive lineman wasn’t sweating cut-down day.

Denver Broncos release running back Royce Freeman – Mile High Report

With rookie Nate McCrary added, the Broncos move on from Freeman.

Linebacker Derrek Tuszka is signing onto Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad – Mile High Report

The former Broncos edge rusher in joining the Steelers practice squad.

Breaking down the rise of the dual-threat quarterback in the NFL – Mile High Report

Welcome to the golden age of running quarterbacks in the NFL!

Eleven best members of the 2011 rookie class heading into 2021

Miller is turning 33 next March, when he is also set to hit free agency — but if this is his final season in Denver, I expect the eight-time Pro Bowler to go out with a bang. Barring catastrophe, Miller (who missed most of 2020) will be on the field with Bradley Chubb (who missed most of 2019) on a regular basis for the first time since Chubb’s rookie season in 2018, when they combined for a hearty 26.5 sacks. Strong coverage from the Broncos’ recharged secondary should give the pair even more time to wreak havoc with opposing QBs in 2021. The Dallas product is primed for a big year.

Denver Broncos will place RB Mike Boone on IR once 53-man roster is set – Mile High Report

The Denver Broncos will hold a roster spot for running back Mike Boone and then send him to injured reserve with a designation to return.

Broncos trade Trinity Benson to Lions, acquire Jonas Griffith from 49ers – Mile High Report

George Paton is wheeling and dealing this morning.

‘When things go bad, what am I going to do?’: Teddy Bridgewater faces needed adversity, responds with touchdown drive in win over Rams

After a couple of uneven drives, Bridgewater responded the way a starting quarterback should.

The best landing spots for Cam Newton

The Broncos have named Teddy Bridgewater their starter for the 2021 season, and they’re hoping that Drew Lock can improve his diagnostic skills and play-to-play acumen to take that job over time. Bridgewater is a short-term fix, as Newton would be, but there’s also little question that Newton presents more physical upside both as a runner and as a passer than Bridgewater does. Newton would also be able to take full advantage of a loaded receiver group, and an offensive coordinator in Pat Shurmur who can make even the most risk-averse quarterback (which Newton is not) into an estimable threat as a deep passer. Signing Newton would throw a bit of a crowbar in that two-QB room, but if the Broncos want to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015 — which ended with a Super Bowl win and Newton on the wrong side of that — this might be the best way to go.

NFL News

John McClain: Texans will keep Deshaun Watson until they get the offer they want – ProFootballTalk

“The Texans’ plan for Watson hasn’t changed since March,” McClain added. “Trade him when someone meets their demand, whenever that is. I think Caserio will get close to what he wants after the season if there’s clarity about Watson’s legal situation.” The Texans, who per McClain are content to keep him on the active roster all year and pay him, reportedly want three first-round picks and two second-round picks for Watson. Teams have objected to that demand, given that his unresolved legal issues (22 civil lawsuits, 10 criminal complaints, and a vague FBI investigation) make his unavailability uncertain for 2021 and beyond.

Brian Flores: “Tua is our quarterback” – ProFootballTalk

“Tua [Tagovailoa] is our quarterback,” Flores told reporters, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “He’s had a good training camp, made a lot of progress, made a lot of improvement. We’re pleased with where he is.” The Dolphins remain interested in Watson. If the Texans reduce their demands and/or if the Dolphins decide that, for 10 or more years with Deshaun, it’s worth sweetening the pot, it can still happen. The only relevant deadline is the Tuesday after Week Eight, when the window closes on all trades until March 15.

Cam Newton’s Release Begins a New Era for the Patriots – The Ringer

Mac Jones has earned the starting role—and Bill Belichick is throwing him into the deep end without the life vest of a veteran backup

What’s More Important in NFL Quarterback Development: Nature or Nurture? – The Ringer

Highly drafted quarterbacks are often seen as saving graces in the NFL. But many of the league’s most successful passers weren’t taken all that high, or didn’t start right away. So what matters more for long-term success: a QB’s talent level or their situation?

Ryan Pace: There’s no need to rush Justin Fields – ProFootballTalk

“There’s no need to rush Justin,” Pace said. But there is one major reason that Pace and head coach Matt Nagy could change their minds: If the Bears aren’t winning games with Dalton at quarterback, Pace and Nagy will be on the hot seat. At that point, the one and only way for Pace and Nagy to save their jobs is to show Bears ownership that Fields is developing into a franchise quarterback. And Fields can’t show that unless he’s playing.

Ranking All 45 Bears Quarterbacks Since the Team Last Won the Super Bowl – The Ringer

Cutler is inarguably the greatest Bears quarterback since their last Super Bowl appearance. That says more about the Bears than it does about Cutler. This is the bar that Justin Fields has to clear. I think he can do it.

How should we read the Shaq Lawson trade? – riversmccown.com

But, here we go. The Texans traded Shaq Lawson on Sunday after an extremely quiet training camp where he a) wasn’t talked about a lot in-house, b) was playing deep into the preseason games and c) wasn’t productive when he did play in those preseason games. Per PFF data, Lawson did not have a single pressure in 50 pass-rush snaps.

Colts G.M. Chris Ballard says there are “consequences to not being vaccinated” – ProFootballTalk

“There’s consequences to not being vaccinated,” Ballard said, via Mike Wells of ESPN.com. “Do I think everybody should be vaccinated? Absolutely. I’m for the vaccine. [Coach] Frank [Reich] is for the vaccine. We have a lot of guys on our team who are for the vaccine. Is it 100 percent perfect? No. But it’s a good thing. . . .

Packers GM Brian Gutekunst: Conversations with Aaron Rodgers ‘have been excellent’

“I’ve had really good conversations throughout camp with Aaron and Matt, and I think the communication has been really, really good,” Gutekunst told the media on Wednesday. “As we went into this kind of decision-making period, I think everybody — all the people that are kind of involved in that — were very aware of what was going on and why we were doing what we were doing. So, I feel really good about that. And the conversations that I’ve had with Aaron have been excellent.”

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