A whole new ball game for Denver team

Hall of Fame game offers first look at revamped Broncos

Adam Hothersall
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 8/7/19

With a rookie-heavy Hall of Fame game behind them, all eyes at the Denver Broncos Training camp have turned to the Seattle Seahawks and beyond. The team has plenty of storylines to track and a new …

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A whole new ball game for Denver team

Hall of Fame game offers first look at revamped Broncos

Posted

With a rookie-heavy Hall of Fame game behind them, all eyes at the Denver Broncos Training camp have turned to the Seattle Seahawks and beyond.

The team has plenty of storylines to track and a new direction for the franchise under John Elway’s guidance. Overall, the Broncos expect improvements over last season’s 6-10 finish.

The Bronco’s 2019 preseason continues Aug. 8 against Seattle.

After two woeful seasons under Vance Joseph (11-21 record), Denver appointed 19-year defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, as their head man. While leading a fierce Chicago Bears’ defense the last four years, the 2018 season may have given Fangio his chance to become an NFL head coach, finally. With an eye-popping 36 (27 interceptions) team turnovers forced a year ago, the Broncos hired the journeyman in hopes to get the organization back to their defensive prominence of the Super Bowl 50 season.

Fangio, however, isn’t the only crucial addition to this team. A revolving door at quarterback since Peyton Manning’s farewell hopes to be stabilized in 2019 by 34-year-old, former Super Bowl Champion and MVP, Joe Flacco. The proven gun-slinger was traded to Denver from the Baltimore Ravens this offseason and takes over for last year’s starter, Case Keenum (traded to Washington).

The rest of the offense rounds out with playmakers ready to prove themselves, again. After successful first years for running back Phillip Lindsay and receivers, Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, their maturation from thir first year to their second is something to keep an eye out for under new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello. Also, after tearing his Achilles, Dec. 5, 2018, nine-year veteran Emmanuel Sanders anticipates being ready to go Sept. 9 against Oakland in the season opener. Taking it slowly early in camp, the two-time Pro-Bowler has ramped up activity in 11-on-11 the last few days. As well in the first couple weeks under a new positional coach, Mike Munchak, the offensive line has passed the eye test in camp and against the Falcons in the preseason opener.

In the 14-10 victory Aug. 1, a lot of the highly-touted rookies received playing time, starting with the sixth-round pick and University of Colorado product, Juwann Winfree. The lanky, strong-handed wideout recorded the game-winning catch with 1:33 left to seal the win after getting the starting nod.

To follow, first and second-round picks Noah Fant, Dalton Risner and Drew Lock also saw snaps against Atlanta. Risner played two series starting at left guard while Fant and Lock took reps into the second and third quarters. Lock had his struggles in the preseason opener, but Fangio expects the 22-year-old rookie play-caller to go through ups-and-downs in an entirely foreign style.

“I was hoping for more, but I’m not surprised by his play,” Fangio said after practice Aug. 4 about Lock. “He’s a rookie, playing in a pro system that he didn’t play in college. He’s not ready yet, but that’s to be expected.”

Expected to help the in the passing game is newly signed running back Theo Riddick. The former Detroit Lions’ pass-catcher brings a new element out of the backfield for the Broncos and Flacco. As the projected No. 3 RB, Lindsay and Royce Freeman will take the majority of the snaps on first and second down before handing the baton to the 61-catch man in 2018 (only 40 carries last season).

“Right now, he is getting thrown around into the mix. He’s had a good history in his career of being a good receiver out of the backfield and a good threat in that way,” Fangio said. “Obviously we will see if we can fit him in that way.”

Feeling defensive

Fitting in on the other side, a few individuals have made their presence known on the defensive end. Rookies upfront in third-rounder Dre’Mont Jones and undrafted Malik Reed have improved over the camp as potential backups going into the season. With the dynamic-duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb off the edges, a deep, talented secondary as well puts the foundation in place for the defensive-minded Fangio and DC Ed Donatell to get after the quarterback. Flexibility and leadership from Chris Harris Jr. and Justin Simmons will be crucial in the back-end as this unit has thrived early on in the new system.

“He definitely has a high-ceiling,” Harris Jr. said of Simmons, who has five interceptions in training camp. “He can make a lot of plays in this defense, and I think it fits Justin perfect. He’s able to read and view the quarterback and also do a little bit of covering.”

Fangio’s no-nonsense approach has filtrated through the Broncos organization on and off the field through 15 practices. And despite still fighting a kidney stone from July 31 in which he called “still in there and kind of moody” on Aug. 4, the wily veteran likes what he has seen so far at the helm.

“Overall, I thought the guys played well, especially on the defensive side,” Fangio said of the first preseason affair. “Offensively, I thought our line played good overall. I know the stats don’t bear that, but we just have to catch it and throw it better.”

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