Things got pretty ugly at times for the Denver Broncos in 2018. But try to imagine what that team would have looked like without its phenomenal rookie class.
Most fans think of Bradley Chubb and Phillip Lindsay when the Broncos’ 2018 rookie class is mentioned — and for good reason. Both produced at a prolific level.
But what makes it arguably such a brilliant class of draft picks by GM John Elway was the quality of depth, round after round. Elway did a great job, no question. And with improved coaching, each one of those selections has the chance to make a massive impact in Denver.
What the Broncos really need, though, is for wide receiver duo Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton to take a quantum leap forward in year two. Sutton came out of the gates as a rookie strong, as the third wideout on the depth chart.
Alas, after Demaryius Thomas was traded ahead of Week 9 and Emmanuel Sanders suffered his Achilles injury down the stretch, Sutton was unable to separate himself as Denver’s suddenly No. 1 receiver. Instead, we saw Hamilton rise to the occasion in the final quarter of the season, along with Tim Patrick, who was in his first-year as a pro.
Both Sutton and Hamilton have the chance to really put the Broncos over the top offensively, especially with the addition of the 12th-year veteran quarterback Joe Flacco, if the duo can take the next step in their development. Flacco is unafraid to work the middle of the field — which bodes well for Hamilton — nor does the QB fear throwing the slant or pushing the ball deep — which is where the 6-foot-4 Sutton really thrives.
With Sanders’ future availability in question as he recovers from his injury, the Broncos really need Sutton and Hamilton to step up in 2019.
“They’d better be ready to step up,” Vic Fangio said last week at the NFL Head Coaches Breakfast in Phoenix, AZ. “We’re counting on them. You always need reinforcements. Like I said, it’s a league of receivers and DBs right now, so there’s always room for improvement and to add to those groups. You never have enough of them, but I like where we’re at with receivers.”
Fangio is of the opinion that with the arrival of Flacco and offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, the offense “has the chance to be better than people think”. I don’t disagree.
If you look at the skill positions — from Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman to Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton — the Broncos have young, explosive talent teeming with potential. There are questions about the offensive line, especially with the unit’s rock, Matt Paradis, departing in free agency. But the team expects the arrival of O-Line Coach Mike Munchak to mitigate those questions.
“I think our line is better than people think it is and I’d like to think that if we’re right with Joe Flacco, he’ll have a hand in making those guys look better too,” Fangio said.
The wildcard is Rich Scangrello. Although he’s been coaching for two decades, this will be only his fifth year in the NFL and his first time as a play-caller at the pro level.
However, Scangarello was selected by Fangio because of his root philosophies offensively, which jive with the head coach’s. As one of the preeminent defensive schemers in the NFL, Fangio knows what type of offenses give him the most fits. Its one of the reasons Fangio is bullish on the Broncos’ offense, talking publicly about teams sleeping on them.
“Because we try and go to the extreme to make run and pass look the same for the first couple of seconds for the down,” Fangio said. “There is the indecision of the defense of is it a run or a pass? That is so fundamental that some people forget about that.”
The ingredient that could take such an offense to the next level is a QB who can make defenses pay for their indecision. That’s where Joe Flacco and his young receiving corps come into play.
Most concepts usually look better on paper. Its the practical application that either exposes the flaws of a plan, or reveals it to be special.
Right now the Broncos’ plan offensively is all in theory. The team will have to put all the pieces in place, and to the test, on the grid-iron against NFL competition.
Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton will get the chance to show their new coaches what they’re capable of a little earlier than usual, as the Broncos will play the first of their five preseason exhibition contests on August 1 against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL’s Hall of Fame Game.