In just four games as a Denver Bronco, rookie left guard Dalton Risner has already etched himself into the minds of the fanbase with one of the most iconic plays in recent team history.
It's unfortunate that Risner's play, in conjunction with running back Phillip Lindsay, happened in a game the Broncos would go on to lose, but it's not one Broncos Country will soon forget.
On 4th-&-goal, the Broncos trailed the Green Bay Packers in the second half back in Week 3. Denver opted to go for the touchdown over the automatic field goal, due to the margin of lead Green Bay had at the time, and the hand-off went to Lindsay.
Just when you thought he'd been stopped short, a sudden surge saw the diminutive running back squirt through and into the end zone to pay-dirt. That surge? None other than Dalton Risner, who picked Lindsay up from behind like one of his "hogs" on the farm in Wiggins, CO, and physically tossed him over the goal-line.
No doubt, Risner's presence on the Broncos' offensive line has been a lift and it can even be argued it's helped to steady out third-year left tackle Garett Bolles. It's just unfortunate the rookie is yet to see his first NFL win, with the Broncos sitting at 0-4 through the first quarter of the season.
With the Broncos preparing to travel to take on the Los Angeles Chargers this week, head coach Vic Fangio talked about both Dalton Risner and fellow rookie tight end Noah Fant. Fant was drafted in the first round, with Risner being the team's very next pick in the second.
Fangio's impressions on Risner not only encapsulates how the rookie has performed thus far but also speak to what the future has in store for the former Kansas State stand-out.
“Good. I think Dalton’s done extremely well," Fangio said on Wednesday. "He’s fit right in with that O-line. He’s adjusted to playing NFL football. He’s doing very well and really glad we have him. I think he’ll be a cornerstone for this franchise for a long time."
As for Fant, the rookie has steadily plugged away in the Broncos' offense. The floodgates finally seemed to open for him in Week 4, as he took a short screen pass 25 yards to the house, showcasing his speed and athleticism. He's on pace for a surprisingly productive rookie campaign.
"I think Noah’s done well also," Fangio said. "He’s had his ups and downs, which positions out in the perimeter can have. He’s had some plays that he’d like to have back, but we’ve also seen his ability and we’re really pleased to have him. I think he should be a cornerstone of this franchise moving forward.”
If the Broncos' first two selections in the 2019 NFL Draft indeed turn out to be the "cornerstones" the head coach envisions, that would represent a pretty good haul. If it turns out that the first three selections are "cornerstones", it'd mean that the Broncos would have finally solved their QB-of-the-future issue.
Drew Lock — taken one pick after Risner in round two — has yet to see the field as he's been recovering from a sprained thumb on injured reserve. If the Broncos activate him (at this point, not doing so would be dereliction of duty), Lock can return to the practice field in Week 7 and play as soon as Week 9.
It's encouraging to see the young players on this roster performing as well as they have. We're witnessing a passing of the torch and a changing of the guard (finally) post-Super Bowl 50. It'll still take some time for all these young guys to fully turn the corner as group to the point that it elevates the Broncos back into competitive form, but that's why so much hangs on Drew Lock. Only a young franchise QB can bring it all together.
Joe Flacco, though he hasn't played poorly, has proven through four games that he's nothing more than a bridge starter at this stage in his career. GM John Elway might have hoped for more but that's what Flacco is.
Like Caesar, the time will soon come for Elway to cross the Rubicon to Drew Lock, burn that bridge, and never look back.