During the off-season, the Denver Broncos learned how to embrace learning from a virtual capacity to help get players acclimated to the playbook and culture of the organization. As the 2020 season gets ready to begin with teams preparing to report for training camp, there are several players on the Broncos roster that have a lot to prove going forward.
Which Broncos players have the most to prove in 2020?
After the Broncos finished the season 7-9 in 2019, several players stood out as having more to prove going into the 2020 season.
On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback Isaac Yiadom will enter 2020 in hopes of competing to be the Broncos starter on the boundary side of the field. He’ll face competition from players like De’Vante Bausby, Michael Ojemudia, and Davontae Harris for time on the field.
Offensively, DaeSean Hamilton will be under the microscope after the Broncos brought in various wide receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft. After battling injuries during his first season and struggling with consistency in 2019, the expectations for Hamilton will be much higher as he enters his third season in Denver.
On the offensive line, Garett Bolles will be another player under the microscope. After the Broncos declined to pick up his fifth-year option, Bolles will face the challenge of auditioning for a job in 2020.
Can Isaac Yiadom build on his strong finish in 2019?
One player who was consistently under the microscope of criticism for the Broncos in 2019 was Yiadom. As the Broncos navigated around the injury of Bryce Callahan during training camp, both Yiadom and Bausby played on the outside for the Broncos at CB while Chris Harris Jr. aligned as the slot corner.
As the pre-season continued, Broncos’ head coach Vic Fangio decided that moving Harris Jr. to the outside would be in the team’s best interest. Yiadom performed well during the preseason which allowed him to be the team’s starter against the Oakland Raiders in Week 1. Through the first three weeks of the season, Yiadom struggled in coverage which led to him being benched heading into Week 4.
Bausby took over for Yiadom against the Jacksonville Jaguars but would shortly be placed on injured reserve after Week 5 due to an injury. After Bausby’s injury, Fangio elected to give Davontae Harris an opportunity to start. Harris played well for several weeks but began to struggle against the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills in Weeks 11 and 12.
Yiadom would earn back the starting job in Week 13 after impressing Fangio and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell in practice. He closed out the regular season as the Broncos starter opposite of Harris Jr. The Broncos off-season additions in the secondary indicate that they aren’t sold on Yiadom long-term, with 2020 likely becoming a prove-it year for him.
With third-round rookie Ojemudia and Bausby entering 2020 as the favorites to start on the boundary, Yiadom has a chance to find a role on the team both defensively and on special teams. With Fangio alluding to the possibility of implementing a dime package for the Broncos, Yiadom will have an opportunity to build on his strong finish in 2019.
Can DaeSean Hamilton emerge as a security blanket on offense?
Hamilton enters the 2020 season as a player who has the most to prove offensively for the Broncos. Similar to Yiadom, Hamilton ended 2019 on a high note after he struggled with drops at the beginning of the season.
While Joe Flacco was the Broncos quarterback during the first eight weeks of the season, Hamilton saw only 23 targets. Hamilton didn’t receive a single target in Week 3 against the Packers and Week 5 against the Los Angeles Chargers. His utilization on offense began to diminish with Flacco under center.
Hamilton’s season in 2019 would change once Drew Lock took over as the Broncos starter at QB. Lock began to utilize Hamilton as one of his security blankets offensively, connecting with him for 17 receptions, 191 yards, and one touchdown down the stretch to conclude the Broncos 4-1 finish with Lock at the helm.
However, with the Broncos off-season additions of first-round selection Jerry Jeudy, and second-round pick K.J. Hamler, Hamilton will have to prove himself in training camp to see time on the field. Despite his strong finish in 2019, the talent and skillset of Jeudy and Hamler will be tough to overcome.
Will Garett Bolles take the next step in his second season with Mike Munchak?
Bolles is the third player that will enter 2020 with the most to prove for the Broncos. The former first-round selection has been under the microscope of scrutiny from media, fans, and players alike. Entering the final year of his contract with the Broncos after the team declined his fifth-year option, Bolles is facing a make or break season.
Heading into training camp, Bolles will compete with Elijah Wilkinson for the team’s starting LT position, and while Bolles is the favorite to win the job, every mistake he makes during training camp will be under a bigger microscope by the Broncos personnel department.
What does Bolles’ film say?
In 2019, Bolles struggled consistently with penalties. He was called for 17 penalties last season, with seven of them being declined. Six of his penalties were holding calls, which has drawn the most criticism in his performances. However, when you watch film on Bolles, his issues are more related to technique and consistency rather than an overall lack of skill.
He has a tendency to bring his feet too close together during reps in pass protection, which allows pass rushers to get around him or push him back towards the quarterback. Bolles also displays tendencies of lunging with his hands towards defenders before anchoring his base and leverage in both run and pass protection. These traits stood out on film during the first half of the season for the Broncos.
Once Lock entered the starting lineup at QB, Bolles’ performance improved down the stretch for the Broncos in 2019. His technique improved in large part due to Lock getting the ball out of his hands quickly on a consistent basis. When measuring Bolles’ performances with both QB’s, the film shows that Flacco held onto the football longer with less pocket mobility in comparison to Lock who demonstrated mobility in the pocket and quicker decisiveness.
Despite his strong finish in 2019, the Broncos will force Bolles to earn another contract. It’s worth noting that the Broncos did not have interest in the offensive tackle position during this year’s NFL Draft, which featured a relatively deep class in rounds one through three where Denver had five selections. If Bolles can play more consistently, reduce penalties, and help the Broncos offense improve in 2020, he’ll have the opportunity to secure a longer future in the NFL.