BRONCOS

Mile High Monday: The future looks bright for the Broncos

Dec 30, 2019, 6:43 AM

The Broncos were able to finish the season on a high note by beating the Raiders on Sunday. The win was ugly, but it was a win nonetheless by a score of 16-15 at Empower Field at Mile High. The victory meant the Broncos have gone 4-1 with rookie quarterback Drew Lock as their starter.

Denver is not going to the postseason, but it feels like that could be in the near future for the team, starting as soon as 2020. With the win over the Raiders, the Broncos actually finish second in the AFC West with a 7-9 record.

I like where this team is heading in the future. They are young and talented, so they have a lot of growing and development they’ll be able to do together. Add in another quality draft class and some good players in free agency, and this team could contend with the best of them.

I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep TJ – even in December! The following is a result of those trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.

***

He’s the Guy

Five games are not enough – but I feel like I’ve seen enough to declare Lock as the clear-cut starter in 2020. Lock has the “athletic arrogance” that the best quarterbacks in the league must possess. He has been “the man” for his team since high school, but he had to humble himself when he came to the pros as a second-round pick.

Lock had to have further patience when a preseason thumb injury landed him on Injured Reserve to begin his rookie season. The young quarterback called the injury – and time away from the field – a “blessing in disguise” because of how he was able to focus even more on the things he needs to improve as a professional quarterback.

I love his attitude and the energy that he brings to the football field. The team is responding to his leadership, and Lock is slowly showing more and more of his personality on the field. Lock is a fiery competitor who hates to lose. I believe the Broncos should announce him as the unquestioned starter for 2020 and do their best to put more weapons around him on offense.

He has a lot to work on this offseason, but Lock revealed after the game that he would reach out to two of the best quarterbacks in Broncos history for guidance. John Elway and Peyton Manning are the two guys he’s going to contact in order to put together an offseason plan. One is in the building (Elway) and would be more than happy to further guide his potential franchise quarterback. The other one (Manning) is nearby and has already helped out Lock with great advice – specifically before the road game against the Texans earlier this year.

Broncos fans should be super excited about the future of Lock. He’s not a finished product by any means, but the tools and work ethic are there for him to be one of the best in the league. I cannot wait to see how he further develops in 2020 and beyond.

***

Disappointing No More

I have to admit that wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton had another impressive performance for the Broncos. Those have been few and far between for the second-year pro, but he did put together back-to-back good games to end his second season with the Broncos. Last week, Hamilton finished with six catches for 65 yards and one touchdown against the Lions. On Sunday against the Raiders, Hamilton was again a reliable target for Lock and caught five-of-six targets for 65 yards.

Hamilton was known for great routes and glue-like hands coming out of Penn State as the Nittany Lions all-time leading receiver. However, his 2019 season will best be remembered for him getting banged up and dropping key passes for the team. Something has clicked during the last two games, and Hamilton has flashed the ability of what he could be in the pros.

I remember watching, and being impressed by, Hamilton at the 2018 East-West Shrine Game. He was breaking ankles during the week of practice, and showed off his crisp route-running and strong hands. Hamilton was so impressive that he got called up to the Reese’s Senior Bowl the next week (are rare occurrence) and looked good there against better competition.

Hamilton was supposed to be better than this. When the Broncos picked him up in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft, it was as a potential replacement to Emmanuel Sanders. He was just too disappointing earlier this year to trust as anything more than a third or fourth receiver on the depth chart.

This 2020 wide receiver draft class is the best I’ve scouted in 15 years of covering football professionally. The Broncos have to take a wide receiver in this draft, even if it’s not in the first round. Hamilton showed well in the final two games of 2019, but he still could be competing for a roster spot next training camp.

***

Good With Vic

I’ll be 100 percent transparent – I have always liked the hire of Vic Fangio as the head coach for the Broncos. His “old school” approach is not only what the team brass wanted but it’s what the team needed after the failure that was the Vance Joseph era. Sure, there were some rough spots along the way as the team transitioned to more of a disciplined approach, but I feel Fangio has the most important thing he could possibly have after one year.

Fangio has “buy in” from the players. Both on the record and off the record, the players I talk to with this team know they can win with Fangio and are excited about their future under him. Again, it took some time for players to get used to Fangio and some have expressed how it feels like “the principal entered the room” when he’s around, but it’s that respect that has them buying in.

I’m giving Fangio a B-minus for his first season as a head coach. The record is not what the team wants it to be, but the team is close to breaking out. Fangio has been too rough around the edges when it comes to certain players like Von Miller, while being too forgiving for other players like Garett Bolles. Even though he took too long to warm up to Drew Lock, Fangio has finally acknowledged that the future is tied to the young quarterback.

Fangio expects a lot from his players and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Would I like him to be a bit more complimentary? Sure, but that’s just the way he is. I don’t want him to be fake and try to pretend what he needs to be now that he’s a head coach. Fangio is who he is and there is no changing that. I appreciate the authenticity.

So, what kind of grade would you give Fangio after one season? Let me know via social media.

***

Wacko for Mando

I spend most of my time watching and studying the game of football. When I’m not watching football, I like to spend my time reading comic books or watching movies. As many of you know, my favorite movie of all time is Star Wars – and even though I’m disappointed by the recent movies I have been super excited by the Disney+ show “The Mandalorian.”

I’m not going to spoil the show for you if you haven’t seen it, but make sure to watch it ASAP. The season finale came out on Friday and it was the best episode of the series so far in my opinion. This TV show just feels like Star Wars and it takes time to properly develop characters and build mystery behind the world the Mandalorian is in.

It’s a fun show that is easy to digest as most episodes are around half an hour long. This show is set 30 years after the events of “Return of the Jedi” and give us a glimpse into the lore and history of the Mandalorians in the Star Wars universe. Even casual fans know the most famous Mandalorian, Boba Fett, but this new look into the bounty hunter world will have fans hooked.

It certainly has me already looking forward to next season. For the first live action TV series by Disney+ they did a fantastic job and set the bar high. What did you think of season one of The Mandalorian? Let me know on social media!

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