1Enduring this abysmal product the Denver Broncos have trotted out onto the field in this 2019 season makes it difficult for fans to find the tiniest ray of hope. These are the dark days of Broncos fandom.
Frankly, many things have to turn out well in order for the team to get back to their winning ways after what looks like a third losing season in a row. Even in the darkest of times, rays of light tend to shine through.
Here are five surprising rays of light that should give fans hope for a better Broncos squad in 2020.
1. Ball Security
The Broncos have only turned the ball over 12 times on the season, seven of which were interceptions. Simple math indicates that the team has only lost five fumbles, putting them in the top-10 for fewest in the NFL.
More impressive is that there have been zero fumbles lost by running backs. Obviously, protecting the football is paramount to winning games. It can also indicate a player’s resolve and the coaching of fundamentally sound football. Both are good signs heading into the 2020 season.
2. Courtland Sutton
It wasn’t a surprise to think Sutton was going to improve from his rookie season because he has all the tools to succeed. It was the size of the jump he took in his sophomore season that was a surprise.
Sutton's 50 catches for 832 yards and four touchdowns through 11 games may not be a large jump statistically speaking from 2019, but it is how he has gotten those stats that is impressive.
Doing it with lackluster play at quarterback is part of it, but what is the most impressive is how Sutton fights for every yard and every ball thrown his way. He also catches passes that are well-contested. His mental toughness has shined bright and he has been the consistent bright spot on an otherwise pathetic offense.
It would not be a surprise to see Sutton leading the league in many wide receiver categories in 2020. He will also be a leader on the team.
3. Interior Pass Rush
The number of sacks logged by Denver's interior defensive line so far this season bodes well for the team going forward. In fact, that group is on pace to best the sack total from the IDL of the vaunted 2015 World Champion defense.
Having that interior pass rush presence was key to the Super Bowl run. In 2020, the team will have the promising Dre’Mont Jones in his second season and DeMarcus Walker will be returning for the last year of his rookie contract after a productive start to this season.
Much of this projection depends on Shelby Harris and Derek Wolfe re-signing with the team. Both are having solid production in a contract year. If they are back in the fold, this will be a strength that can be a catalyst to a more productive defense next year.
4. Alexander Johnson
Johnson’s play has been a surprise and a boon for the once deficient inside linebacker corps for the Broncos. He appears set to man the middle of the defense for the foreseeable future and should be even better in 2020 after a season of starting.
Johnson is always around the ball, rarely misses a tackle, and is in the backfield making plays on the regular. He is never going to be the straight-line speedster that teams are looking for in today’s inside linebackers, but he uses great fundamentals and exceptional instincts to make up for a lack of sheer athleticism.
Before the season began, many pundits were opining that the Broncos would have to use a top draft pick to shore up the perceived weakness at the off-ball linebacker position, but the Broncos fixed it with an undrafted free agent that is a force to be reckoned with. The team can now use that pick to shore up other areas.
5. Cornerback Depth
When the Broncos’ offseason began, the starting cornerbacks looked set, but there was a huge question mark that centered on the depth. However, injuries have forced the team to find cornerbacks from unlikely places.
The of depth chart of Davontae Harris, Duke Dawson, Jr., De’Vante Bausby, and Isaac Yiadom have all seen significant playing time. None of them have shown to be superstars, but they are solid depth players if the team can find two starters for 2020.
Add in Horace Richardson, who had a promising start to the preseason, and the Broncos can put together a solid brigade of cornerback depth next year, a complete 180 from the start of the 2019 offseason.
With five games left in a dark and dismal season, look to these areas to brighten spirits for the rest of the season and the future outlook on the team.