The early forecast as the Broncos report | VailDaily.com

The early forecast as the Broncos report

Revisiting familiar topics like the o-line and secondary

Von Miller remains the source of all goodness for the Broncos, sacking quarterbacks, menacing running backs and even making this kid's day by signing his jersey.
David Zalubowski | Associated Press

On the previous episode of “John Elway Tries Build a Football Team,” No. 7 acquired Joe Flacco in his latest bid to find a quarterback while also having what we thought was a pretty good draft.

Yes, welcome to Englewood and Broncos preseason, where we spend the next six weeks hemming and hawing about the upcoming season and trying to divine meaning out of four utterly meaningless exhibition games.

Offense

We weren’t sold on Flacco, and we really still aren’t, but we do like what Elway seems to have done in the other skill positions.

At receiver, Emmanuel Sanders will take it slow coming back from injury, while Courtland Sutton is on the other side. Sanders gets the benefit of the doubt with his recovery plan and thus, the Broncos have two good wideouts.

The 2018 NFL Draft and ensuing free-agent period yielded Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay, which is a nice backfield. Elway went with Iowa tight end Noah Fant in this year’s draft, so that looks solid.

And then we’re back to the nuts and bolts of it — the offensive line. Garett Boles, sigh, is back at left tackle, and Ronald Leary joins him on this side. At center is Connor McGovern. Newbie Dalton Risner and Ja’Wuan James are on the right side.

There’ll obviously be a lot of shuffling through the next six weeks, but this is what we watch.

Must. Keep. Joe. Flacco. Upright.

First, this still looks a little weird. We’re being honest. But for Joe Flacco to be successful, the offensive line has to keep him upright. (David Zalubowski | Associated Press)
joe flacco, r m

Whatever’s left of Flacco’s skills won’t be visible if he’s running around for his life/getting pummeled.

Fant, in particular, should be interesting to watch. From his Baltimore days, Flacco likes his tight ends, so the rookie could be a good outlet. Blocking might be a work in progress (anything to help this offensive line).

Yes, the mere presence of a running game with Freeman and Lindsay will help slow opposing pass rushes, but Flacco has to have time. He wasn’t exactly mobile quarterback in his youth. He’s 34 and a statue.

And, now, about his heir apparent. Good to see Drew Lock sign on the bottom line and not miss any time in camp. Best case scenario, Flacco has a renaissance and Lock can hold a clipboard for two years.

More realistically, Lock shuffles in during some late-season games against Detroit at the Raiders at home, weeks 16 and 17. He needs the snaps in practice and the preseason games.

Defense

The tendency is to say everything is fine here. Of course, Von Miller is the source of all goodness, if you’re a Broncos fan or just a fan of good football. Bradley Chubb has proven to be a good complement.

The worry here is two things. First, the Broncos cannot leave these guys on the field for 40 minutes per game. A lot of that goes to what went above.

There’s also the fact that the “No Fly Zone” is dead. As high-maintenance as Aqib Talib was, the Broncos missed him last year. Chris Harris is back, but that’s about it from the original secondary.

Chris Harris is the only remaining member of the “No Fly Zone” secondary, which is a cause for concern in a pass-happy division. (David Zalubowski | Associated Press)
chris harris, r m

By yardage, the Broncos were 22nd in the league in defense last season and 20th against the pass. In Scooby-Doo parlance, ruh-roh.

This has got to get better, especially when you consider that the Broncos are in the same division with Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and the Los Angeles Chargers’ Philip Rivers.

And this brings us to our stirring conclusion. Even if a lot of things go right — Flacco rejuvenates the offense, Bolles goes the entire season without a holding penalty (ha-ha) and the defense stiffens against the pass — the Broncos still have Kansas City and the San Diego … umm … L.A. Chargers in their own division.

It’s an improbable path from 6-10 to a return to the postseason.