Sept. 11, 2020 | By Zeke Lloyd
Broncos quarterbacks are used to scrambling, so improvising and adapting to the new state of the world should be no problem for Denver’s football team. But no matter how much the Broncos prepare to play in a pandemic ridden world, they still have a difficult season ahead.
Their current protocol prevents fans from attending games at Mile High stadium. This is unfortunate timing – the team needs the support of fans now more than ever as Denver’s schedule is one of the more difficult ones in the NFL, highlighted by elite opponents like the Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, division rivals and recent Super Bowl champions, Kansas City (the lattermost appearing twice). The Chiefs have done well to keep their best players, most notably Patrick Mahomes. Meanwhile, the Broncos signed Melvin Gordon, though Von Miller and Ja’Wuan James are out for the season.
Despite this, fans can be grateful the NFL does plan to have a season. The rules and regulations put in place ensure the safety and well-being of players, coaches, and referees. Players are tested before every practice, and the NFL canceled preseason games to prevent unnecessary exposure. Ryan O’Halloran, the Broncos correspondent with The Denver Post, has great confidence in these protocols.
“The NFL is in pretty good shape,” O’Halloran said. “They should feel very confident that they can start on time and play the entire season.”
In accordance with keeping active members of the NFL safe, many teams (including the Broncos) have said they will not allow fans into the stadium. O’Halloran does not believe that this will have a long-term impact on Americans’ interest in football.
“I don’t think there is going to be a loss of interest – I think there is going to be a loss of revenue,” said O’Halloran. These restrictive policies might not last all year, and there is some chance Mile High will allow fans sometime before the season ends.
Unfortunately, Denver’s earliest games are some of the team’s toughest, so their stadium will be empty when the support is needed the most. In the season opener, the Broncos take on Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans, a team which dominated the playoffs only to lose to the Chiefs in the American Football Conference (AFC) championship. Only two weeks later, Denver faces the Buccaneers, a team which recently signed Tom Brady, Leonard Fournette, and Rob Gronkowski. On week five, the Broncos are away at New England. While the Patriots have lost Tom Brady to the Buccaneers, they added Cam Newton to the roster and still have the formidably cunning Bill Belichick as head coach.
The Broncos have not filled in their missing spots so easily, though. Ja’Wuan James, a recently signed offensive tackle, has opted out of the league because of COVID-19 concerns. The Broncos can reshuffle the line to compensate for this loss, likely moving Elijah Wilkinson to the now vacant spot. An additional injury to the offensive line would be more difficult to recover from. And the defensive losses will certainly be much more problematic. Last week, Todd Davis was cut, and while that alone is not any sign of weakening, Von Miller’s position on the field will also need to be filled. There are also health concerns with Bradley Chubb, so Miller will not be so easily replaced.
While the pandemic is unlikely to interfere with the regular or post-season games, it will heavily impact fans’ ability to support the team. Defensive injuries and departures might hurt the famous “No Fly Zone,” but offensively, there is still hope. Drew Lock is a young, mobile quarterback who still has a lot to prove to the world, and the addition of Melvin Gordan and Jerry Judy are even better reasons why there might still be success this season. So, despite the difficulties of the pandemic, the challenges in their schedule, and the issues that have arisen on their roster, there is still hope for the Denver Broncos.