The Denver Broncos have clear agenda this offseason: improve the offense.
Quarterback Drew Lock will be the lucky beneficiary of incoming acquisitions including new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, and free-agent signings Graham Glasgow, Nick Vannett, and Melvin Gordon.
In addition, three of the first four picks in the draft went on the offensive side of the ball. Wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler went off the board with Denver’s first two picks, and center Lloyd Cushenberry III was selected in the third round. The Broncos also drafted Drew Lock’s Missouri teammate and friend in tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth round.
Loading up on one side of the ball is not new for the Broncos. Following a 2014 playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Denver secured Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and T.J. Ward in free agency and brought in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips before using their first-round pick on Bradley Roby.
The Broncos capitalized on their improved defense, capturing Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers. Could the team make a similar run in 2020? It hinges on Lock’s ability to improve and make a big second-year jump.
The Broncos made changes on defense, parting with longtime secondary mainstay Chris Harris Jr. but adding multiple Pro Bowlers in Jurrell Casey and A.J. Bouye. However, the Broncos’ overwhelming favoring of offensive talent acquisitions show that this version of the team won’t be built on defense. Casey and Bouye are just overpriced veterans brought in to help the Denver defense remain serviceable.
This begs the question: will Lock live up to the hype? In five starts last year, Lock was 4-1 and threw for 1,020 while totaling seven touchdowns and three interceptions with an 89.4 quarterback rating. Over a full 16-game schedule, Lock’s 2019 numbers would translate to 3,264 yards and just over 22 touchdowns, while throwing for just under 10 interceptions.
Statistics aside, Lock’s true value can be perceived by the Broncos’ total offensive improvements. Denver looked much-improved with Lock compared to Joe Flacco under center.
The Broncos spent a high-level pick on Lock, and have worked to provide him and Shurmur with weapons. Gordon joins Philip Lindsay in what has become a crowded backfield, while Jeudy and Hamler will slot in next to third-year wideout Courtland Sutton.
Meanwhile, Okwuegbunam will back up last year’s first rounder Noah Fant. Pat Shurmur’s offenses are built around having four solid options on the field at all times, and while none of the aforementioned players are true top-flight options, a bunch of good-to-great receivers and backs will serve the Broncos offense well.
Lock will likely have an above-average NFL defense, a completely revamped offense, a great place kicker, a new punter, and a relatively favorable schedule. All the chips are on the table for him to take a Mahomes or Jared Goff caliber second-season leap. Now, it’s up to Lock.