DENVER (AP) – First-year general manager George Paton brought both fresh approach and return doctrine to the Denver Broncos in his first attempt at rostering after a two-decade apprenticeship in scouting and staff.
Paton refreshed Denver’s defense, starting with high school, and bolstered the Broncos’ backfield after taking over from franchise icon John Elway in January.
Paton acquired former Minnesota ally Teddy Bridgewater from Carolina for a sixth-round pick and selected North Carolina pinball running back Javonte Williams in the second round of the NFL Draft.
In between, he drafted Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II with the ninth overall pick just weeks after signing cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller in free agency.
The rookie class shone in training camp and preseason, and Bridgewater beat Drew Lock in a clash with the quarterback to win the starting position. He will be Denver’s 11th starting quarterback since Peyton Manning retired. No other NFL team has beaten so many passersby in the past half-decade.
Bridgewater resumes an attack loaded with young talent.
The Broncos aim to establish their running game with veterans Melvin Gordon II and Williams to open the passing lanes for speedsters Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and tight ends Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam.
Paton also re-signed securities Justin Simmons, who has the franchise tag, and Kareem Jackson, and wrote securities Jamar Johnson and Caden Sterns.
And he bolstered his first seven by drafting his teammates Ohio State linebacker Jonathon Cooper and Baron Browning, who quickly conquered star Von Miller.
Paton served the last year of Miller’s contract. He is returning for his 11th season after missing all of last year with a dislodged ankle tendon and will team up with pro bowler Bradley Chubb for the first time since September 29, 2019. In their 20 games together, the duo of passes combined for 29½ sacks, seven forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and one interception.
Miller sees a roster that is rightfully two-tiered for the first time since leading the 2015 version to the Super Bowl title.
“We have some of the same players as last year, but our team looks totally different,” Miller said. “The energy is totally different. I know I’m getting carried away “with his annual preseason forecast, but” this year is going to be a great year for our guys. “
A few more subplots as the Broncos look to break the longest playoff drought for a Super Bowl winner ever:
One fan of the quarterback competition that dominated Denver’s offseason was Jeudy, as it helped him focus as he struggled to cut down on dropped passes that plagued him as a rookie. The former Alabama star and 15th overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft caught 52 passes for 856 yards and three touchdowns last season, well below expectations.
Considered the best road runner to come out of college for at least a decade, Jeudy has proven his hands aren’t quite as ready. He had two crucial drops in a season opener loss to Tennessee and lost half a dozen assists in a 19-16 loss to the Chargers in Week 16.
Fangio later said he hoped it would be a “defining moment” in Jeudy’s career, and the wide-out responded with a 140-yard game, a season-high against the Raiders this week. 17, which featured a 92-yard TD, the league’s longest passing game of 2020.
This focus continued in training camp and in the preseason.
Bridgewater, with his quick reads and punctual, targeted throws if not jaw-dropping passes, has proven to be the safer bet to start than the more athletic Lock, a daredevil who can have a higher cap but also a lower floor.
Unsurprisingly, a fellow in his corner is Drew Brees, who watched Bridgewater go 5-0 in his place during the 2019 season in New Orleans.
“I think Teddy is a perfect fit for Denver,” said Brees, now an analyst at NBC Sports. “Everywhere Teddy has been, the players have loved him, he really cared for the team, he has a great leadership ability.”
Brees said it wouldn’t be easy against Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert on two occasions, “and yet at the same time I think they did an upgrade with Teddy coming in there and competing, winning the work, winning the team and now being able to help them win some matches.
Bridgewater is Fangio’s seventh starting quarterback. The only NFL head coach with more than that in their first 33 games was John McKay, whose expansion to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their first 26 games in 1976 and 1977. The Bucs were 4. -29 in their first 33 games under eight quarters.
THE DESTINY OF FANGIO
Fangio is 12-20 in his two seasons as head coach of the Broncos and that includes 0-7 in September. With a loose schedule in the first month – Giants, Jaguars and Jets – Fangio can’t afford a slow fresh start, especially after his poor clock handling cost him chances of winning September games in each of its first two seasons.
Paton has signed a six-year contract and Fangio and his staff are essentially being challenged to prove their membership beyond 2021.
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