When Broncos training camp gets underway next week, most people think they already know the key storylines. In fact, they’re already making predictions based on how things look at the moment.
That would be a mistake, however. While this year’s camp appears to be lacking in key battles, except at the quarterback position, that’s because of a few misconceptions.
Those have developed because somewhere along the way some assumptions became conventional wisdom. But as is often the case, that’s nothing more than groupthink disguised as insight.
It’s created a lot of incorrect thoughts with the season on the horizon. So it’s time to set the record straight.
Here then are four things everyone thinks they know heading into Broncos training camp, but don’t have anywhere near correct:
1. Fangio will lean toward Bridgewater
Given the 12-20 record he’s amassed as the head coach of the Broncos, Vic Fangio is rightfully on the hot seat. Another losing season would almost certainly end his tenure in Denver.
So when deciding who should be the team’s starting quarterback, most people think he will lean toward the veteran option. Teddy Bridgewater would be the safer choice for a coach in win-now mode.
That sounds good, but going in that direction gives the head coach no wiggle room. If Bridgewater struggles at the beginning of the season, Fangio could very well be the first NFL coach fired in 2021.
The Broncos early schedule is soft. They’re at the Giants, at the Jaguars and home against the Jets. They’ll likely face a pair of rookie quarterbacks in Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, plus a very unproven Daniel Jones.
Fangio’s much-ballyhooed defense should dominate those games. But if his offense struggles, painful losses are still possible.
If that happens with Drew Lock at the helm, Fangio has a scapegoat, as well as another direction to turn. If it transpires with Bridgewater behind center, the coach who picked the QB will get the blame.
In a weird way, Lock is actually the safer option. The other route would mean Fangio has to go 3-0 or 2-1 in September, a month that he’s currently 0-7 in as the Broncos head coach.
2. Courtland Sutton is the team’s No. 1 wide receiver
Last season, Courtland Sutton played less than one game. He only recorded three catches for 66 yards. That’s it.
This year, the former Pro Bowl wideout will be trying to return to form. But he will be doing it after recovering from a torn ACL, an injury that limited him during OTAs and minicamp.
Sutton doesn’t appear to be full speed. Meanwhile, Jerry Jeudy, last year’s first-round pick seems to be playing up to his potential.
Last year, the then-rookie hauled in 52 receptions, for 856 yards and three touchdowns. That certainly isn’t terrible.
So why isn’t Jeudy being hyped as the No. 1 guy? Because his 10 drops in 2020 get all of the attention, instead of his acrobatic TD grab at the Jets or his 92-yard score against the Raiders.
Jeudy is healthier, and arguably more talented, than Sutton. As a result, he’s way more likely to be the Broncos top receiver in 2021.
3. The starting offensive line is set
Almost everyone can rattle the five names off. From left to right, it’s Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Graham Glasgow and (most likely) Bobby Massie in the trenches. And on paper, that looks pretty good.
But a deeper look shows there are question marks along the Broncos offensive line. A lot of them.
Keen observers noted that Risner wasn’t as good in year two as he was during his rookie season, Cushenberry struggled in his first season and Glasgow didn’t play up to his four-year, $44-million deal. Massie, meanwhile, was still available this summer for a reason.
Will all of them struggle again? Probably not. But it’s equally unrealistic to expect all four to figure things out in 2021.
At least one of the group will struggle, opening the door for Netane Muti, Quinn Meinerz or someone else to step in.
4. Javonte Williams will push for a starting job
Melvin Gordon isn’t popular in Denver. For a lot of reasons.
He supplanted a local hero when he became the starting running back over Phillip Lindsay in 2020. In his first season as a Bronco, he had issues both on the field (fumbling) and off the field (a DUI). And he doesn’t show up in the offseason, a fact that runs many fans the wrong way.
As a result, a lot of people are rooting for him to get beat out in training camp. Most think second-round pick Javonte Williams is the man for the job.
Of course, none of those people have ever seen Williams carry the ball in an NFL game. The rookie is totally untested and unproven.
He may be great down the road. But the Broncos know what Gordon is right now.
In the final eight games of last season, when he became Denver’s feature back, the veteran was really good. He amassed 593 yards and five touchdowns on 119 carries, an average of 4.98 yards per attempt.
That may not be Hall of Fame numbers, but it’ll certainly do. Throw in the fact that Gordon is a good receiver, plus a reliable blocker in passing situations, and it’s hard to see him getting replaced by a rookie.
What will transpire during training camp? It won’t be what everyone is expecting.
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