I always feel at least a twinge of excitement when training camp officially begins for NFL teams. This year, due to the Broncos’ revamped roster, as well as a brand new, high-profile coaching staff, I feel more than just a twinge.
Readers might remember that I fearlessly predicted at least a nine-win season for the Broncos in this same forum back in June. Considering recent seasons, and the brutally competitive division in which Denver competes, I personally thought that was going way out onto the end of the proverbial limb.
I still do, and most sports fans would probably agree.
But with the national press treating the Broncos as a considerable underdog, or perhaps even an afterthought behind the Chargers and Chiefs in the AFC West, I’m looking at the rebuilding job that has been orchestrated by the Denver front office in recent seasons and saying “not so fast.”
Yes, Kansas City and San Diego are daunting. They are both exceptional teams, and both are coming off of prolonged playoff runs in 2018. I agree that – on paper – both of these teams look like natural front-runners.
I’m not putting eggs in the Broncos’ basket based on the strengths or weaknesses of those extremely formidable AFC West rivals, but rather on the strengths and weaknesses of the Broncos’ projected roster, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the 2019 regular season schedule as a whole.
But even more than the projected starting lineup for the Broncos, or the seemingly soft regular season schedule, I am betting the house on new head coach Vic Fangio.
After more than three decades of developing some of the most effective and efficient defenses in the league’s long and storied history, Fangio finally gets his shot as a head coach.
With the ability to hand -pick players he deems to be most suitable for fitting his philosophy on the defensive side of the ball, and the defensive depth already available to him on this roster, I think we are all in for a treat when it comes to shutting down, or at least containing, opposing offenses.
Whether newly acquired quarterback Joe Flacco still has what it takes is admittedly an unknown. But what- ever Flacco and the offense are able to provide will just look that much better with an extremely talented and experienced Fangio-coached defensive unit serving as a complementary piece.
So, as for me, merely a twinge of excitement doesn’t quite cover it this season. I wish the season started tomorrow, because the 2019 version of the Denver Broncos is going to take enormous strides toward re-establishing credibility as a legitimate contender. I also expect this squad to revive the smash-mouth style of defensive football that has traditionally delivered so many great moments and more than a couple of Super Bowl trophies to the Mile High City.
In addition to a defense with extremely lofty expectations, look for the biggest story lines in camp to revolve around more young talent on the offensive side of the ball, especially at skill positions. Also make note of the offensive line, which finally has all the appearances of a legitimate, NFL-worthy unit potentially on par with some of the best in the league.
Here’s to wishing we could skip the pre-season and get on with the regular season schedule. I’m dreaming of a turnaround season that paves the way for many seasons of winning football in the future under the watchful eye of legendary defensive guru and now head coach, Vic Fangio.