Double Coverage: What will Denver’s record be this season?

Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) huddles with teammates in the second quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High.
Dec 29, 2019; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) huddles with teammates in the second quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos season is now almost a week away, so Mile High Sports Broncos analysts Rich Kurtzman and Zach Segars take a look at our expectations for what the Denver football franchise should be this season, what they see in Drew Lock and much more.

What storyline are you most excited to watch this season?

Zach Segars (@Zach_Segars): I’m most excited to see how the 2020 rookie class performs. John Elway has hit out-of-the-park home runs with his last two draft classes, and if he’s able to replicate that effort again, Denver should be a playoff contender. The reviews for some of their rookies are already in and glowing, but the verdict is still out on the majority of the rookie class.

Rich Kurtzman (@RichKurtzman): I can’t wait to see how the offense performs this year. It’s clear to see the team has loaded up on youthful, athletic players. But, how will they mesh together and what will happen when the offense — which is new to everyone — gets bogged down due to delays of games and miscommunications?

Ronnie Kohrt (@RonnieKRadio): I’m excited to see the defense. Vic Fangio’s defense traditionally has improved as his imprint on the unit grows. Von Miller appears to have an edge of hunger to get after the quarterback this season and somehow Denver acquired a former pro bowler, while retaining Shelby Harris on the line. Denver holds the cards for one of the best defenses in the league.

What are your expectations for Drew Lock?

Zach Segars: I think the story of Drew Lock in his second season will be one of inconsistency due to the incredible youth of the offense, the new offensive system, and the coronavirus-shortened off-season. As was the case with the Broncos’ two scrimmages at Empower Field, sometimes he’ll look lights-out and other times the offense will appear to be in a funk and out of sync with one another. That said, if Lock’s overall performance is that of a below-average starter with the amount of talent surrounding him, Denver wouldn’t be crazy to consider moving on.

Rich Kurtzman: Lock will have a good, but not great year in his second season. Keep in mind the kid is basically a rookie, playing only five games in the NFL to this point. And of those games, one was great (Houston) with three mediocre performances and one terrible contest last year. He’s learning a new offense, a new offensive coordinator and a ton of new teammates; it could be a long, up-and-down season for Lock.

Ronnie Kohrt (@RonnieKRadio): Competency with some flash. I need to see someone who can function an offense and not be the weakness. This hasn’t been the case for years and if Denver can find competency and some flash of potential, they will be winners with Lock in the future. That’s all I need to see from Lock at this point in his career (essentially his rookie year.)

Who will be the team’s MVP?

Zach Segars: Lock will be the team’s MVP either for better or for worse, because this team will go as he goes. Denver’s fate in the 2020 season disproportionately rests on Lock’s shoulders, which means we should get a pretty good evaluation of what he will be in the NFL by season’s end.

Rich Kurtzman: The team’s MVP will be on the defensive side of the ball, likely. Give me one of the safeties, and more specifically, Justin Simmons. Kareem Jackson sometimes makes more bigger plays (pick-6, TD denying hit) but he also missed a few games last year. Simmons is consistently great and he actually could improve his play a bit, too. That’s saying something considering he was the second-best safety in the NFL last year.

Ronnie Kohrt (@RonnieKRadio): Take out the obvious pick of Lock as Zach mentioned for better or worse, I’ll dive into the trenches for defense.

Jurrell Casey may be the X-factor that this Fangio defense has needed and should provide a tremendous boost to the defense in 2020. Pressure up the middle has historically been a nightmare for quarterbacks and if they can get that out of Casey on a consistent basis, he will be worth every penny and this defense will be in line for takeaways left and right.

On offense, Courtland Sutton. Sutton is primed for an absolutely monster year of 80+ catches and 1400 yards. Remember when Demaryius Thomas‘s stats ballooned when a competent quarterback came to Denver? Think that but with Sutton in 2020.

What will be the team’s greatest weakness?

Zach Segars: The tackle position has long been a weakness for the Broncos, but I’ll instead focus on the team’s depth at safety, which could cripple them if they have some bad injury luck. Denver’s defense relies heavily on the special safety duo of Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons, arguably the best starting safety tandem in the league, but they have nothing behind them. If one goes down they’ll be forced to start Trey Marshall who played well against the run, but allowed a perfect passer rating when targeted in coverage.

Rich Kurtzman: The Broncos will be dealing with difficulties on the offensive line again this year. Ja’Wuan James from the right tackle spot has decided to opt-out, and Garett Bolles on the left side has been wildly inconsistent while picking up too many penalties. The interior should be solid, but the outside guys will give up multiple sacks and that will hamper Denver’s offense.

Ronnie Kohrt (@RonnieKRadio): Cornerback. I’m not sold on AJ Bouye covering elite wide receivers on an island for an entire game and Bryce Callahan is better served in the slot, so who’s outside? Who’s covering the speedy Z? I could see the secondary exposed big time if the pass rush isn’t firing at 200% every snap, which isn’t a realistic expectation to set on them.

What is your record prediction for the Broncos this season?

Zach Segars: I think the Broncos will go 9-7 and be in serious contention for a playoff spot. The schedule is difficult, but so was last year’s and in 2019 Denver managed to go 7-9 despite having the Bears game stolen from them, it being their first year with a new head coach, and having their best quarterback play only five games for them. With any progression at all, the Broncos should be right in the mix.

Rich Kurtzman: The Broncos will go 8-8 and miss the playoffs. It’s an unpopular opinion but the team has seven starters in Year 3 or less on the offense, with a new coordinator and a new system. While the defense will be very good, the offense will keep this team from the playoffs yet again.

Ronnie Kohrt (@RonnieKRadio): 10-6 and I’m fairly confident in that. Denver was four individual plays away from 11-5 last year. This isn’t to illustrate that they’re an 11-win team last year, but to show you how close the margin is between last year and this year. Now insert the improvements they’ve made on the team in 2020, including at the most important position in football quarterback, and it’s hard to not see this team bettering their mark from last year by at least a couple of games.

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