One of the most polarizing statements in the NFL world today is “just a quarterback away.” Many people would argue that certain teams can become perennial Super Bowl contenders as long as they can acquire a good quarterback. Is that true for the Denver Broncos in 2021?
On the flip side, there are people who do not think this is true, and they are often adamant about it. As we know, football is the ultimate team sport, and it takes an entire roster of players to win the big game.
Sure, the Bucs could have won if the game would have turned into a shoutout, but the defense arguably contributed more to influence the outcome of the game.
On the flip side, the 2019 Bucs and 2020 are virtually the same roster except for the quarterback, when they upgraded from Famous Jameis Winston to Tom Brady. They went from 7-9 to 11-5, and obviously won the Super Bowl.
We have seen valid examples for both sides of the argument. Just look at the Vikings in 2017, who made a run to the NFC Championship game, quarterbacked by Cardiac Case Keenum. They upgraded to Kirk Cousins in the offseason, and a lot of people thought the Vikings were here to stay.
Obviously, they haven’t been particularly close to returning to the championship game, effectively proving that teams can’t be just a quarterback away, right?
The term ‘generational talent’ is constantly thrown around NFL crowds. Currently, the NFL has quite a few generational players, namely Aaron Donald, Patrick Mahomes, potentially Trevor Lawrence, and Deshaun Watson, to name a few.
With the current makeup of the Denver Broncos’ roster, I would argue that the team is indeed a quarterback away, and here’s why.
Let’s start with the offense. It’s no mystery that the Broncos have an elite group of skill players. Even if pending free agent Tim Patrick isn’t retained, the Broncos still have Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, Noah Fant, who was statistically a top-seven tight end this year, and Melvin Gordon, who had a very strong finish to the season after a rocky start.
Take Deshaun Watson, for example, who has never had offensive skill players as good as what the Broncos currently have. Watson threw for over 4,800 yards, 33 touchdowns, and completed a whopping 70 percent of his passes in 2020.
I am incredibly bullish on the Broncos weapons, especially the duo of Sutton and Jeudy. In fact, I am not sure there are many teams who have a better pass-catching situation than the Broncos. By my count, there are only a handful of teams who can match up with the Broncos’ wide receivers and tight ends.
Who were Watson’s weapons in Houston? Outside of Brandin Cooks, who would be WR3 on the Broncos roster, Watson had Will Fuller, who cannot stay healthy, and an offensive line that allowed 49 sacks last year. Not only that, the Texans’ sack percentage was a whopping 8.3 percent.
For context, Drew Lock took a measly 19 sacks in 13 games, with a 4.1 percent sack percentage. If we extrapolate this out for a full 16 games, we could expect Lock to take just 23 sacks in a 16 game season. The only time Watson got under that number was his rookie year, when he took 19 sacks in 6 games.
Of course, Watson’s style of play leads to hitting the turf more, but it is illogical to attribute all of those sacks to Watson.
Not only that, Garett Bolles had an All-Pro year, and literally did not allow a single sack all season. Seriously, not even one. The Mike Munchak-coached offensive line will be just fine.
The line boasts young, promising players like Dalton Risner and Lloyd Cushenberry, and Graham Glasgow is a solid veteran guard. Let’s face it, the Broncos’ offensive line is not much of a concern anymore, at least, compared to previous seasons.
It is perfectly reasonable to think that Deshaun Watson would thrive behind the Broncos offensive line, which is, at the very least, league average.
Couple competent offensive line play with an elite bunch of skill players, and I think you have a lethal offense.
If Watson can be the league’s most prolific passer with a disaster of an offensive line and limited skill players, his ceiling in Denver is still rising.
Defensively, I personally am not concerned one bit. I trust that Vic Fangio will continue to put an elite defensive product on the field. This year, the Broncos still managed to have the 13th highest defensive DVOA.
Even with all of the injuries sustained by the Broncos defensive, the product was still mildly competitive. Vic Fangio continues to be one of, if not the best defensive mind in football. Just two years ago, he won assistant coach of the year when he was the DC on the Bears.
Fangio has been in the league for decades and has seen it all on defense. To otherwise argue that the Broncos won’t have a good defense next year is comical at best.
The Broncos have talent on both sides of the ball to compete for a playoff spot, and the team even received some national media attention before the season began as a potential Wild Card team.
My general point is this; the Broncos do not have a lot of holes, at all. I understand that they have some big-name free agents, but they also have cap space, nine draft picks, and what appears to be a very solid general manager, and one of the only ways to topple the Chiefs is if to equal them on offense.
There are few, if any quarterbacks in the NFL who can compete with Mahomes, but Deshaun Watson just might be one of them.
For reference, back in December, the Broncos put up a hard-fought battle with the Chiefs in primetime. They lost, 22-16, but many Bronco fans rightly pointed out that the team nearly beat the Chiefs, and perhaps would have with more competent quarterback play.
Would you have trusted a guy like Watson against a league-average Chiefs defense? I sure would’ve.
Deshaun Watson is a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback who ranks second all-time in passer rating and is already on a Hall of Fame trajectory.
If the Denver Broncos part ways with franchise cornerstone Von Miller, how would they potentially soften the blow in free agency?
If Watson becomes available, two thirds of the league would want his services, and it’s easy to see why. I am naturally an optimist, and it would be hard for me to bet against the Denver Broncos with Deshaun Watson as QB1.