When Denver Broncos' DL Shelby Harris and TE Noah Fant did a joint appearance on the team site, it was the big lineman who generated all the headlines. Harris threw considerable shade at his former team, the Raiders, over their move to the Las Vegas desert.
Stoking the fires of a traditional Division rivalry can sit well with an established veteran like Harris. The less experienced Fant, perhaps more wisely, instead opted to look forward optimistically to Week 7 when the Broncos will host the Kansas City Chiefs and strive to break their nine-game losing streak.
“Yeah, I’m super excited," Fant told Broncos Country Tonight. "I think Mr. Elway did a great job of drafting different receivers, any offensive skill positions that we needed to kinda take our offense to the next step."
GM John Elway entered the 2020 offseason well aware of the Broncos' need to add weapons to an offense that did little to scare opposing defenses last season. Elway's desperation to catch up to the offensive juggernaut Chiefs saw the Broncos load up on speedy pass catchers early in the draft.
WRs Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler will provide much-needed speed to help Drew Lock stretch the field and keep up on the scoreboard. Fant will now be counted on to show significant progress in his second year after posting a very encouraging 40 catches for 562 yards and three touchdowns in his rookie campaign.
Broncos' OC Pat Shurmur will be keen to open up the vertical passing game and capitalize on the strong arm of Lock. Fant's 6-foot-4, 248-pound frame, combined with his 4.5-speed, will provide a significant matchup problem to challenge the Chiefs and other NFL opponents.
Despite only entering year two, Fant believes that fielding a balanced team on both offense and defense will be the key to mounting a real challenge to the Chiefs in the AFC West.
“So, expressly from an offensive mindset, we are going in to compete with that high-powered offense,” Fant said. “But at the same time, specifically for me and our teammates, we have a lot of confidence in our defense. Also, we had a couple of key additions with Jurrell Casey and A.J. Bouye. Guys like that are going to help out our defense a lot.”
Elway opted to make some early trades this offseason to retool a defense that was likely going to see Super Bowl 50 holdovers like Derek Wolfe and Chris Harris, Jr. walk as unrestricted free agents. It also could prove to be a shrewd move contractually further down the road for Elway because Casey and Bouye are both still playing on existing deals.
The moves to acquire established veteran defensive pieces also allowed the Broncos to focus more fully on offense when the draft rolled around at the end of April. Such an offense-focused draft class has lit a fire under the Broncos and Fant is now relishing the challenge of showing what they can do against the high-flying Chiefs next season.
“I’m definitely excited," Fant said. "I think that’s going to be a great game for us and obviously we get a chance to play twice every year. So, they are definitely going to be good games for us."
Every NFL team is riding a wave of new optimism that only the clean slate of a new season can bring. But this time around, the core of young emerging Broncos, like Fant and Lock, appear confident and genuinely hungry to face up to the elite teams in 2020.
Make no bones about it, the explosive mix of talents Kansas City always brings to the party will provide a litmus test to determine just how competitive the retooled Broncos actually are.