Recently, the Locked On Bucs Podcast had an AFC West Crossover Week dedicated to catching up with each team from the division the NFC South is pitted against for the upcoming season.
In the 2020 off-season, the Broncos have made a focused attempt to put the best team possible around quarterback Drew Lock. Something evident and not lost on Cody Roark, the host of the Locked On Broncos Podcast.
“I’d say for any NFL team, once you’ve been accustomed to Peyton Manning for four seasons (and) you go to two Super Bowls, it’s very very difficult - I think - to replace that,” Roark said. “And the Broncos didn’t really have a good back-up plan there - well they actually did but Brock Osweiler decided to leave Denver, chase the money, go to Houston, we all know how that turned out for him - but I believe the future would’ve been better for Osweiler if he stayed in Denver, but that completely derailed things.”
Of course, the Broncos and general manager John Elway then went on to try several other quarterbacks including Paxton Lynch, Trevor Simiean, and Joe Flacco before ultimately moving to Drew Lock last season.
“Certainly, what we saw from him in five games, he went 4-1 in a five game sample size. We saw some really good things, but we also didn’t see enough from Drew Lock to be like, ‘Ok, this guy is the guy of the future.’ He’s getting all of 2020 right now to be able to demonstrate that.”
One of the players brought in to help Lock prove he can be the man for the job is veteran running back Melvin Gordon. His arrival to Denver surprised some who felt the team was in a good position with Philip Lindsay having a strong start to his career, even though back-up Royce Freeman has failed to impress up to this point.
It’s the struggles of Freeman, Roark points to, as perhaps the biggest motivation for adding Gordon to the Broncos roster.
“The Broncos want a little bit more value at the running back position, not against Philip Lindsay though, they didn’t feel like they got enough value from Royce Freeman in 2019. So one of the things that they did was bring in Melvin Gordon, who in a Pat Shurmur offense is a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield, probably more established right now than Philip Lindsay at this point in his career.”
Since losing Manning to retirement, the Broncos have failed to stay competitive in the AFC and their division simultaneously. The NFL has a strong reputation for being impatient, so the question about whether or not a franchise legend like Elway can be immune to some of those quick turnaround pressures was bound to come up. Apparently, according to Roark, the questions about Elway’s job security are already being brought up locally, saying,
“I’d say the one indictment that a lot of people have on John Elway, some of his draft classes from probably 2016, 2017 even a little bit into 2018, a lot of people were wondering where the Broncos went. But the 2018 draft class, the 2019 draft class, have proven to be phenomenal for the Broncos and then so far on paper right now the 2020 draft class looks very talented. We’ll see what happens with the on-field product, but obviously that and the evaluation at quarterback have really been where Broncos fans have said John Elway needs to go, but really I don’t think John Elway is ever going to leave the Denver Broncos until the ownership situation really gets situated or unless he retires.”
Confidence may not be at an all-time high in Denver, but the franchise doesn’t seem to be hanging their heads by any means. Roark expects the team to be competitive, and unlike a few other teams on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers schedule, this one at least seems to know who they are for 2020.