LAST YEAR: The silver sliver in third consecutive losing season in Denver was QB Drew Lock’s 4-1 run. GM John Elway evaded deep pool of veteran QBs in offseason and instead built around second-year pro. Ex-Giants head coach Pat Shurmur designed offense after replacing coordinator Rich Scangarello.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Shurmur, WR Jerry Jeudy, DL Jurrell Casey, CB A.J. Bouye, OL Graham Glasgow, RB Melvin Gordon, WR KJ Hamler, C Lloyd Cushenberry III,
CB Michael Ojemudia, QB2 Jeff Driskel, P/KO Sam Martin, TE Albert Okwuegbunam, DT McTelvin Algim, LB Justin Strnad, G Netane Muti.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Scangarello, CB Chris Harris Jr.; DE Derek Wolfe; DE Adam Gotsis, FB Andy Janovich, RB Davontae Booker.
PANDEMIC CHALLENGES: With fuzzy-faced QB and as many as half dozen new starters on offense, offseason conducted via videoconference wasn’t ideal for Denver. Lock will have to microwave chemistry with newcomers Glasgow, Cushenberry, Gordon, Driskel, Jeudy, Hamler and Okwuegbunam, whom he at least played with at Missouri.
CAMP NEEDS: LT Garett Bolles will lose tenuous grip on starting job if he can’t quit holding. In 48 starts, Denver’s ’17 first-round pick has been flagged 46 times. RT Ja’Wuan James has to stay healthy, allowing backup Elijah Wilkerson to move over and supplant Bolles if necessary.
EXPECTATIONS: Elway feels he’s finally found Peyton Manning’s worthy successor. But it’s unrealistic to expect such young group to make enough strides to catch Kansas City in AFC West. If they don’t sneak into playoffs, Broncos will become first NFL team to follow Super Bowl championship with five-year playoff drought.
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