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(Graphic by K.J. Rigli/Bonneville Denver)
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Mile High Monday: Fangio’s impact, another WR emerges and more

(Graphic by K.J. Rigli/Bonneville Denver)

It’s a Memorial Day edition of the Mile High Monday, and there are plenty of things to go over as the Broncos have two weeks of offseason training activities under their belt.

There is another week of OTAs which start on Wednesday and then the Broncos have mandatory minicamp in early June. As we get closer to the start of training camp in mid-July, things start to come into form for the Broncos.

I like heading to UC Health Training Center multiple times during the week to cover what’s going on with the Broncos. Even at this slower time of the offseason, I can pick up clues as to what things look like behind the scenes and what this team may look like for the upcoming season.

I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep TJ. The following is a result of those trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.

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What’s Taking So Long?

It seems like every week I’m writing this article and waiting for the Broncos to get something done with Chris Harris Jr. That wait continues now.

Every single report and buzz and rumor out there claims the deal is close, so it begs the question: What’s taking so long?

It’s not like they’re negotiating a long-term deal. Word is the Broncos and Harris are going to agree to a pay raise in 2019, but that it won’t be a contract that goes past this coming season.

When that becomes official, I’ll have plenty to say and write about that. I think it’s a bad move for the Broncos if they’re going to spend all this time negotiating yet get nothing done that keeps Harris around past the next several months.

Harris might be happy with getting a pay raise and hitting the open market in 2020, but it’s going to be an unusual move for the Broncos. With mandatory minicamp coming up June 4-6, that seems to be the most likely deadline for something to (finally) get done.

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Mind Meld

The Broncos should have second-year pro Courtland Sutton take over as their No. 1 wide receiver in 2019, but he’s not the only second-year player who is looking to make a big impact this season. Fellow wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton admitted last week that he’s got high expectations for himself this season.

“I want the ball as many times as I can possibly get it. I want to make as many plays as I possibly can. I come in and I have the same mentality as Courtland, ready to step up,” Hamilton continued. “I have the same mentality as Courtland. I’m ready to basically just make as many plays as I am called on to make and really be just on top of my responsibility. I can be like a splash player for us all season. That’s just some of the standards that I have for myself.”

When the Broncos picked up Hamilton in the 2018 NFL Draft, I felt they selected the eventual replacement for Emmanuel Sanders. Hamilton was a great route-runner in college, a rare skill set for collegiate wide receivers.
He isn’t the fastest receiver, the quickest receiver or the strongest receiver, but Hamilton makes plays with guile and nuance to his game.

He reminded me a bit of former San Diego State (and San Diego Chargers) wide receiver Vincent Brown. Like Hamilton, Brown could cut a rug and get open consistently but his pro career fell apart once a knee injury slowed him down.

Last year, Hamilton was slowed down by a knee injury, but he’s healthy now. At full strength, we could see a much different and much more productive Hamilton in 2019. He is still the Broncos No. 3 receiver behind Sutton and Sanders, but I like the fact he feels he can play and produce like a top target.

That mindset is nothing but a good thing for Hamilton and the Broncos.

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Great Expectations

This Broncos defense should be elite once again in 2019 under the guidance of new head coach Vic Fangio. One player who could have a career-best season is safety Justin Simmons.

Knowing how safeties have had success under Fangio throughout his coaching career, I had to ask Simmons if he could be a Pro Bowl or All-Pro player under the Broncos new coach.

“I can remember last year watching some of the Bears film and seeing those guys run around — Eddie Jackson and (Adrian) Amos making plays. That looks like a defense that I want to be a part of. I was just super excited to hear that we picked (Fangio) up and now I have a chance to put my footprint on the defense.” Simmons said.

I think Simmons could earn the first Pro Bowl nod of his career. He is a versatile player who can line up at strong safety, free safety or nickel cornerback. That versatility is just part of this game. The best part of what Simmons can do comes upstairs.

He is one of the most intelligent players on the Broncos roster. Simmons understands coverages, concepts and deception an opponent will throw at his teammates. He can quickly diagnose a play as it unfolds and continuously finds himself around the football.

This skill set is something Fangio can do a lot with. Simmons should be a leader on the back side of the defense and seems like a perfect fit for what Fangio wants to do in the defensive backfield.

If the Broncos defense is elite once again, Simmons can be a huge part of what they do in 2019.

***

Interior Pressure

Broncos defensive end Adam Gotsis had some very revealing comments when asked about the Fangio defense during his press conference last week. One stood out to me more than any other.

“Then, we’re going to be playing a lot of subs, let us get a little more pass rush, a little more pass rush up inside, I think. I think it’s a good fit for a lot of us on the D-Line.” Gotsis said.

Outside pressure from Von Miller and Bradley Chubb is one thing – a very dangerous thing – but quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball quicker than ever before. The average time before pass in the NFL was 2.74 seconds in 2018. The best quarterbacks in the league like Ben Roethlisberger (2.55 seconds), Drew Brees (2.58 seconds) and Tom Brady (2.61 seconds) got rid of the ball before guys from the edge could get there.

Interior pressure makes any quarterback look mortal, however.

If the Broncos can do what Gotsis is talking about and use more sub-packages to create interior pressure then this defense will be tough for opponents to deal with. They actually only have one nose tackle (Shelby Harris) listed on the roster on the team’s official website. The rest of the players are either listed at DE (defensive end) or DL (defensive line).

The Broncos have versatile players who can line up inside or outside on the defensive line and they added to the mix in the draft when they selected Dre’Mont Jones in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft. Jones played up and down the defensive line in college at Ohio State and he can do the same thing for the Broncos.

Jones and Gotsis aren’t the only players who provide versatility and interior pressure. It will be interesting to see what Derek Wolfe can do under Fangio – and Zach Kerr, and DeMarcus Walker, and, well, you get the point.

Joe Woods’ defense was boring and predictable. Fangio’s defense should be the 180 degree turn this team needs it to be.

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Thank You

This “Mile High Monday” comes to you on Memorial Day. Everyone should be enjoying their three-day weekend off work, but this holiday is much more than that.

All the freedoms we enjoy in the United States of America come from the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this great country.

I am so thankful to live in this country and know the true heroes are not the players in sports, they are the soldiers who fight and die for us every day.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.