Editor’s note: We welcome contributor Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) of Mile High Report — our sister site covering the Denver Broncos — for Five Questions with the Enemy as we head into the Week 15 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Broncos this Sunday.
1) What have you seen in the first two starts from quarterback Drew Lock? Are Broncos fans buying in?
Broncos Country as a whole is buzzing with excitement — and for good reason after years of Siemian, Keenum and Flacco.
So far, I’ve seen a lot of the same things I noticed when I was studying Lock last March. He’s got a very talented arm and a swagger that’s contagious across the team, but his mechanics and decision-making remain a rather large work in progress. There are definitely some plays where he’s gotten away with being late on the play, but also plays where he shows hints of a franchise passer with a kind of rocket launcher to rival Mahomes.
I’m very cautiously optimistic, but I think this Chiefs game could reveal a lot about the young passer. Rich Scangarello received some criticism for protecting him with the play-calls in his first start and Lock rewarded the newfound trust against Houston, but Kansas City has a secondary that can punish the rookie for some of his more reckless plays.
2) Speaking of Broncos fans, do you get the sense that John Elway is on the hot seat? Why or why not?
Yes and no. Because of the Broncos’ ownership situation, it was always going to be unlikely that Elway was fired this offseason. Fans’ patience with Elway was definitely wearing thin up until these last two games, and the excitement over Lock has cooled things noticeably. Right now, the general sense is that Lock should get 2020 to sink or swim, and Elway should have a chance to rebuild the roster around him (and Vic Fangio’s system) this spring.
I do wonder — if Lock bombs over an extended trial run — if Elway’s contract won’t be renewed. It currently runs out after the 2021 season — and by then, I expect Brittany Bowlen would have the kind of power to make such a large decision.
3) If you were an offensive coordinator, how would you attack the Broncos defense?
I’d run deep deep crossing routes off of play-action concepts. The Vikings and Bills found success with this. With the Broncos’ down to Chris Harris as the lone proven cornerback, Denver is extremely reliant on communication and the pass rush to protect the back end. Unfortunately, injuries have gutted the pass rush and Von Miller is the only player in the front seven an opposing offense has to game plan for. I’d expect Reid to run more of the slow-developing kind of routes Tyreek Hill torched the secondary on in the first meeting.
4) Who is an under-the-radar player on offense and defense that has made a major impact for the Broncos this year?
Conner McGovern has been one of the more reliable centers in all of football, and it’s gone unnoticed because of the Broncos’ offensive performance as a whole. He’s in his first full season as a starter and will probably hit free agency as one of the top two or three options in 2020. My hope is he’s retained, as he offers the kind of mobility and veteran leadership that makes the Broncos’ run game work under Mike Munchak. He’s also versatile enough to move back to guard if Denver invests in a young interior prospect.
On defense, I have to say Todd Davis. He’s been a Rorschach test for years. He’s not a world-beater and has athletic limitations that have to be accounted for, but he’s a coach on the field that helps connect the back and front end — and makes sure Alexander Johnson and the younger players are in the right positions. He’s probably having the best season of his career under Vic Fangio this season, but Reid has been a nemesis for him forever. It’s going to be interesting to see how Kansas City tries to isolate him on Travis Kelce and the slot receivers.
5) Prediction time: How does this game play out?
I was shocked the Broncos found a way to slow down the Texans’ offense this week and have serious doubts lightning will strike twice. I worry that the Lock struggles in his first test against an elite team, and all of the goodwill evaporates in an ugly 31-14 loss.