After rookie quarterback Drew Lock finished his first training camp practice Thursday afternoon, Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio made it clear he would not be threatening starter Joe Flacco’s status anytime soon according to Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic.
“He’s not a quarterback yet,” Fangio said. “He’s a hard-throwing pitcher who doesn’t know how to pitch yet.” It is a pretty blunt criticism of the rookie but a fair one. Lock displayed a hug arm during his four years at the University of Missouri but was inconsistent and at times struggled to complete routine touch throws. It is the primary reason he fell to the second round in the first place as he always figured to be a work in progress.
Ironically, it was much the same criticism leveled at Flacco when he came out of the University of Delaware as a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens way back in 2008. Things worked out pretty well for Flacco, as he ended up starting all 16 games his rookie season and eventually became a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and one of the highest-paid players at his position. Things may not move quite so quickly for Lock but he has all the physical and mental tools to be a very successful QB in the NFL.
The first potentially serious injury of the 2019 training camp season happened Thursday when Broncos linebacker Todd Davis was taken of the field in a cart with an apparent leg injury according to Kevin Patra of NFL.com.
Reports from Broncos camp indicated that Davis was noticeably limping when he made his way from the cart to the locker room door.
James Davis of NFL Network is reporting that Davis suffered an injury to his calf and will undergo an MRI but trainers believe he avoided a major injury.
Davis had a big season in 2018 for the Broncos, including a pick-six on the second play of the game in the team’s October win over the Cardinals.
A full-time starter the past three seasons, Davis compiled 114 tackles, an interception and half a sack in 2018.
Last season was basically a disaster for the Broncos, as the team went 6-10, third place in the AFC West, which will be even more competitive in 2019.
The team had issues scoring points, playing well late in games, and the defense had some moments, but overall has to play better to be a force again in the AFC.
The job of head coach now goes to Vic Fangio, as the team decided to part ways after the season with Vance Joseph.
Today we take a quick look at three questions about this team as they get set to embark on what they hope will be a much better season in 2019.
1. Can Fangio Get it Done?
There’s no doubt that Vic Fangio has experience, to the tune of 40 years, 32 seasons in the NFL experience. He has been a defensive coordinator for 20 of the last 24 seasons at the NFL or college level.
With that, the Broncos should have a coach that is going to put pressure on the defense to succeed, but is it enough for an offense that was 24th out of 32 in the league in scoring points?
Some think that bucking the trend with an older coach (Fangio is 60) is a bad move for the Broncos, but only time will tell if it’s the right decision.
2. Flacco Playing with a Chip
The Broncos wanted a veteran quarterback who could not only still play at a high level, but also mold a young quarterback for the future.
They didn’t like watching Case Keenum last year simply failing to get the ball downfield and hitting big plays when they needed it, so they made the trade for Flacco and let Keenum go.
Flacco wants the chance to prove to the Ravens who gave up on him and the league that he’s got gas in the tank at the age of 34.
Last year he went 4-5 as the Ravens starter, and started to fold after a hot start to the season. The Broncos need a consistent playmaker at the QB spot, they hope they got it in the former Super Bowl winning QB.
3. Has to Play Better in the Division
Last season in a year of chaos, the Broncos went 2-4 in the AFC West, a division that looks like it will be just as tough in 2019.
The Raiders, who the Broncos split with in 2018, are much improved, the Chargers are a Super Bowl contender, and the Chiefs took the Super Bowl champs into overtime before falling in the AFC Title Game.
Fangio has to install a winning attitude for the entire organization, but he really needs this team to play better in the AFC West, or making the postseason will be just a dream.
What now for the Broncos following owner Pat Bowlen’s death?
Will the Broncos stay in the family with one of his seven children serving as the controlling owner? Will the trustees, led by president/CEO Joe Ellis, continue to run the day-to-day operations until Brittany Bowlen in particular is deemed ready to take over? Will NFL commissioner Roger Goodell step in and suggest/demand a Bowlen child replace the trustees?
Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post reports that according to a source, Bowlen’s seven children, who range in age from 22-49 and were all present when their father passed away at his Denver area home late Thursday, have had productive conversations about how to proceed. Bowlen had two daughters (Amie and Beth) with his first wife, Sally Parker and five children (Patrick, Johnny, Brittany, Annabel and Christianna) with his widow, Annabel.
It is believed Bowlen’s children will get an equal share of the team, which was valued last fall by Forbes at $2.6 billion.
Because Bowlen has passed away, the children for the first time will be able to see the Pat Bowlen Trust and its documents.
The big issue for the children regarding the trust will be when Pat’s wife, Annabel, passes away. She announced her Alzheimer’s diagnosis in June 2018. Upon her death, the children will be saddled with the “death tax,” which is 40 percent of the value of the shares they inherit. It is unknown how the children would pay the tax. They would have one calendar year to make the payment; if they ask for an extension, the bill would include interest.
Also not known: How Bowlen’s death will impact his brother Bill’s lawsuit against the trustees, filed last October, demanding they be removed from their responsibilities as well as the arbitration process at the NFL level led by Carmen Policy. It is possible those two situations could continue on parallel paths.
Beth Bowlen Wallace and Brittany Bowlen, have expressed interest in becoming the team’s next controlling owner and it is believed that the trustees who currently run the Broncos (Ellis, Rich Slivka and Mary Kelly) have prioritized a transition to Brittany.
The Bowlen family has chosen longtime Broncos employee Steve “Greek” Antonopulos to be Pat Bowlen’s official presenter during the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 3 in Canton, Ohio, Mike Klis of 9 News in Denver reports.
Antonopulos started with the Broncos as the team’s assistant trainer in 1976 before getting promoted prior to the 1980 season to replace Allen Hurst as the head athletic trainer. Antonopulos was promoted to Director of Sports Medicine in 2017. He’ll begin his 44th season with the Broncos this fall.
Antonopulos is the only employee to work full-time at the Broncos’ training facility during Bowlen’s 35-year tenure as owner.
Bowlen will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, alongside longtime Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, on Saturday, Aug. 3. Bowlen and Bailey are the sixth and seventh Broncos to become Pro Football Hall of Famers.
The Broncos will play the Atlanta Falcons in the 2019 Hall of Fame Game on Thursday, Aug. 1, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, kicking off enshrinement week.
Broncos’ general manager John Elway continued to talk with agent Frederick Lyles Jr. over the Memorial Day holiday weekend about a 2019 contract adjustment for Chris Harris, Mike Klis of 9 News in Denver reports.
The two sides have been moving closer to an agreement, sources said. But as every negotiator would tell you: A deal is never done until it’s done.
Harris was scheduled to make $8.9 million this year in salary and bonuses in what was supposed to be the final year of his current contract.
The Broncos are offering Harris a pay raise. Although such contract adjustments without an extension are rare, if not unprecedented, it’s clear Elway doesn’t want to leave anything to chance as the Broncos attempt to rebound from back-to-back losing seasons.
There is cautious optimism Harris and the team will reach an agreement by the time the Broncos hold their final segment of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The Broncos’ offseason program continues the following week with a three-day mandatory minicamp June 4-6.
The Broncos are not looking to sign veteran cornerback Chris Harris to a longterm extension according to Ncki Jhabvala of The Athletic.
The Broncos exchanged offers with Harris, but it sounds like talks are moving toward a pay raise over an extension. Harris wants an increase on the $8.8M he is due this year.
The Broncos have been unwilling to match the $15M he’s seeking to this point. Under the parameters of a short-term pay raise, the 29-year-old Harris would still hit free agency next spring.
Harris was a no-show at offseason workouts and could carry his holdout into mandatory minicamp. The former free agent out of the University of Kansas has been a fixture in the Broncos secondary for the past eight seasons.
Nose tackle Shelby Harris followed his 5 1/2 sacks in 2017 with a career-best 39 tackles a season ago, and the Broncos rewarded him with a second-round restricted free agent contract tender, which raised his salary from $705,000 to $3.095 million (a 227-percent raise). Harris is looking for a long-term contract, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post reports.
“That’s every man’s dream,” Harris said after an organized team activity workout this week. “I would love a multi-year deal here, but the way that works, you have to focus on this year, go out and play.”
What works in Harris’ favor is that he figures to play more this year. He played 390 of 1,077 snaps in 2018, but starting nose tackle Domata Peko (522 snaps) was not re-signed. Harris worked with the first-team defense during Monday’s OTA.
In a reserve role, Harris posted numbers that should invite optimism. Per The Denver Post’s game charting, he had 1 1/2 sacks and 10 1/2 disruptions (pressures/knockdowns/sacks), fourth-most on the Broncos. Against the run, he had 12 1/2 “stuffs” (gain of three or fewer yards), fifth-most. And his end zone interception sealed the Week 12 win over Pittsburgh.
Harris said coach Vic Fangio’s defense calls for one- and two-gap responsibilities for the nose tackle, which will require equal parts patience, power and aggressiveness depending on the call.
“He’ll use the nose all over,” Harris said of Fangio. “You have to be able to move, hold down the middle and also pass rush a little bit.”