Season in Review – Denver Broncos

By Chris Tod (@ctdk1980)

Today we take a peek back at the Denver Broncos’ season. One of a few teams that deployed 3 Quarterbacks in one season, which kind of tells you how successful it was. They do say that every cloud has a silver lining though.


ENTERING THE SEASON


The Denver Broncos entered the season with a new signal caller after trading for former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco from Baltimore.

GM John Elway hoped he had finally found a viable successor to Peyton Manning after failures (to at least some extent) with Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Case Keenum since the future Hall of Famer’s retirement in 2016.

Image result for vic fangio
Joe Amon/DP

Vic Fangio came over from the Bears as a first time Head Coach at the age of 61, hoping to capitalise on a defence boasting the abilities of Von Miller, Chris Harris and Bradley Chubb among others.

However, they were probably always an outsider for a playoff position, battling with phenom Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Chiefs in the division.


DURING THE SEASON


Denver, perhaps understandably considering the changes undergone in the offseason, started slowly, losing their first 4 games.

With an offence struggling to get out of second gear, added to a defence strangely passive in the early going, indeed exalted pass rush duo Von Miller and Bradley Chubb failed to record a sack between them in the first 3 games of the season. With Chubb tearing his ACL in the week 4 loss to the Jaguars, as the season threatened to fall out of control.

However, the Broncos certainly showed some fight, as they managed to end the season with a respectable 7-9 record, good enough for 2nd place in the division.

Image result for joe flacco drew lock
Joe Amon / DP

On the offensive side of the ball Joe Flacco struggled to recapture his former magic, and when he went down to a neck injury after week 8, Brandon Allen was thrust into a starting role that he probably wasn’t ready for.

When Drew Lock returned from his own injury in week 13 however, he promised at a better future to come in Mile High. He went 4-1 to finish the season on a high note. WR Courtland Sutton also took a big step forward in his play, finishing with over 1,100 yards despite the turmoil at the QB position.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


Denver are in a more settled position this year than in recent years, with the franchise’s confidence in Drew Lock, meaning Flacco will likely be moved on, or at least brought back on a reduced salary as a back up. That should mean they are able to be active in free agency, projected to have around $60million in cap space available.

Although some of that money will almost certainly be tied up in bringing back key personnel like Justin Simmons. It’s likely too that Denver look to invest in the lines, with most of the defensive linemen up for free agency, as well as improving the offensive line.

It feels like a big offseason coming up for John Elway as he tries to catch up with Super Bowl winners, the Kansas City Chiefs. However, with a few well-judged forays into free agency and a strong draft, there is no reason why they can’t improve next season and be a factor in the playoff chase for 2020.

Rob’s Rankings Explained: Why will Phillip Lindsay not repeat in 2019?

Undoubtedly Phillip Lindsay was the surprise package in 2018. Nobody saw the 5ft 8 undrafted free agent out of Colorado lighting up the league and putting up over 1,250 yards from scrimmage with 10 total touchdowns the way he did – It just does not happen, does it!

Well, not since Arian Foster came into the league as a UDFA and dominated at the running back position anyway. The question remains, was that the start of something special or was 2018 just an anomalous season? I lean towards the latter, here’s why.

Before the NFL

As a college ball-carrier, Lindsay flew under the radar as a pretty efficient back. His junior and senior years at Colorado saw him amass 3,476 yards from scrimmage and 32 total touchdowns, so it was not surprising he was picked up as a UDFA after the 2018 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos. 

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Photo Credit: Cliff Grassmick/Times-Call

The problem he had (and likely the reason his stats from college were ignored by the draft scouts) was with his size. At just 5’8 and 190 lbs, his physique could become his downfall with 240 lbs linebackers mowing him down the moment he escaped through a gap in the trenches or 330 lbs lineman flattening before he even had the chance to do that.

Rookie Season Triumph and Decline

Despite all of the draft profiles pointing out his size weaknesses and choppy feet, Lindsay was an unpredictable, unknown quantity when he started out his rookie campaign. Fellow rookie Royce Freeman struggled to get going during the pre-season which subsequently allowed Lindsay to come in and seize his opportunity.

He was able to find the gaps and evade the tackles, meaning he could put to good use his 4.38 40 yard dash speed he showed at his pro-day which resulted in back-to-back 100+ yard games in weeks one and two against Seattle and Oakland.

He continued to elude defenses up until week 14 when his performances started to tail off. During these weeks his yards per carry declined considerably, only managing to gain 2.14, 1.71 and 4.60 (which was on only 10 carries, and the game he got injured). These came against defenses that were middle of the pack when it comes to defending the run in 2018, San Francisco, Cleveland and Oakland.

Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders, NFL Week 2

Photo Credit: Andy Cross/The Denver Post

The Worries and Injury Concern

My worry is, did teams towards the end of last season start to figure out how to defend against him? After all, the majority of his carries funneled through the inside zone where he was able to take advantage of an average of 6.9 defenders in the box per play throughout the season (ranked 30th most per playerprofiler.com).

It seems when defenses are able to stack the box, or even when facing better quality rush defenses, Lindsay isn’t as effective – and whilst he was able to ride the “unknown” tag for the majority of last season, once defenses figured him out, he became vulnerable.

Then there is the current wrist injury to think about. Off-season surgery and “no specific timetable for a return” raises questions to when Lindsay might return this off-season and therefore how much opportunity colleagues Royce Freeman and Devontae Booker will have to impress new head coach Vic Fangio. 

The wrist, after all, is a vital body part for a running back, whether it be when clamping the ball during the carry, or to use as a stiff-arm, so it will take Lindsay a while to get up to full speed again.

The Upcoming Season

I don’t want to take too much away from him and his 2018 performances though, he was good, just watch the tape. But will he be able to replicate those eye-opening performances this coming season, especially if the last 3 games were anything to go by?

Denver Broncos vs. Cleveland Browns NFL Week 15

Photo Credit: Aaron Ontiveroz/Denver Post

Joe Flacco is in town after the Broncos decided Case Keenum’s $21million 2019 cap hit wasn’t worth it after a mediocre campaign last season. Flacco is renown for having a nice deep ball and when he has a decent plethora of receiving talent, he utilizes them. Since Ray Rice was booted off the Ravens’ roster, Flacco has only sustained one rusher over 1,000 yards, Justin Forsett in 2014.

Flacco does like to use the running backs in the passing game however, striking up a good rapport with Javorius Allen most recently but with Forsett and Rice in years passed. That doesn’t do much for Lindsay’s fantasy stock though. Lindsey was ranked #26 in receptions among RB’s last season with 35, two spots behind teammate Devontae Booker, and in the same company as players like Jacquizz Rodgers and Giovani Bernard.

Another potential spanner in the quest to repeat his impressive rookie numbers could be the want around Mile High to get Freeman more involved. Owner John Elway has said recently that he wants to see more of Royce this season and ultimately goes on to say that he wants to utilize them both equally in the rush and passing game. If that doesn’t scream “committee backfield”, then I don’t know what does.

In Summary

Look, i’m not writing this article to tell you Phillip Lindsay is going to be a bust this season, as I don’t think he will be. But it seems the most common  word associated with him in fantasy circles this season is ‘regression’, and that is the term I agree with.

Flacco’s use of his arm worries me, especially with the young talent they have in the receiving corps with Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton and Noah Fant. Despite the Broncos having a young, talented team – in a division with big hitters such as Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers, i still think they will be playing from behind a fair amount this season which in itself takes away rushing opportunities.

The wrist injury scares me a little, but hopefully Lindsay can get back to full go during training camp and get himself reconciled with running the rock effectively.

Finally,  the second-coming of Royce Freeman rings alarm bells for me towards Lindsay’s 2019 fantasy outlook. I think the new look Bronco’s offense is going to want to give every opportunity to Royce to prove he was worth the high draft capital spent on him, taking touches and opportunities that Lindsay had last year away from him.

These are the reason’s why I currently have the rookie sensation ranked just outside RB2 territory at RB28 (PPR). With a current ADP (average draft position) of RB21 in PPR leagues, i’m not a million miles off the public’s estimations but  i’d defintely be hesitant to trust him as a week to week starter, but more as an flex upside option. Definitely a far cry from his RB13 finish last year.

Stat Projection – 892 rushing yards and 32 receptions for 225 yards with 8 total touchdowns

by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller  

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