Denver Broncos: “A New Hope” on horizon for the team

DENVER, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 14: Justin Simmons #31 of the Denver Broncos celebrates an interception with teammates during the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Empower Field At Mile High on November 14, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 14: Justin Simmons #31 of the Denver Broncos celebrates an interception with teammates during the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Empower Field At Mile High on November 14, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /

The future is coming and bringing “A New Hope” to the Denver Broncos and Broncos Country. Better days are ahead with the foundation that’s been built.

Von Miller’s trade signaled a sign of the future for the Denver Broncos. Miller has been for the longest time the face of the franchise. Once the trade happened questions arose if the youth would be ready for the bigger stage. Miller’s time of staying with the organization was never a guarantee.

In sports, it is rare to see a player stay with one team. This is due in large part because of the direction of the team, players passing their prime, and teams often cannot keep them in the off-season. However, the trade did signal “A New Hope” to the Broncos and Broncos Country with its recent performances of how good this team can still be.

Let us start first with the young players on the offensive side of the football. The wide receiver room is led by two players who are elite talents at the position. Both Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy are different skill sets; however, they help change how defenses prepare for them.

Sutton himself is a physical specimen who does everything well. Especially the ability to stretch the field on deep passes. Sutton has stretched his wide receiver route tree to underneath while using his brute strength. He parallels the two wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Marshall in this regard.

On the other hand, Jeudy is not the most physical by appearance but can show his presence in how he operates in every position asked. In the game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Denver Broncos used Jeudy in motion or misdirection to keep the defense in check with who to monitor.

Both of these players also make the quarterback play exponentially better. This is the case for Sutton who has excelled with Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen, and Drew Lock at the helm. With Teddy Bridgewater under center, we are starting to see Jeudy take the stage in the offense by how he operates running on every blade of grass.

The biggest signal of “A New Hope” and a bright future is the 2021 NFL Draft orchestrated by new general manager George Paton. Every once in a while there are draft picks or a draft pick that hits right away. What is rare is for production to be seen from numerous draft picks taken in a single class.

Led by cornerback Pat Surtain II, the 2021 class is dripping with talent everywhere. Surtain, Javonte Williams (second-rounder), Baron Browning (third-rounder), Quinn Meinerz (third-rounder), Caden Sterns (fifth-round pick), and Jonathon Cooper (seventh-rounder) are seeing playtime during the season and showing potential.

Potential is a loosely used word in the sports world, but if fans watch the play of these players it’s easy to see why the future is bright for Denver Broncos. Starting first with Surtain, he is the best cornerback.

In an off-season that saw Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby come aboard, Surtain asserting himself as best cornerback has generated quite the excitement in his first season. Surtain came into the NFL as one of the most polished players overall. It might not be a total shock, but Surtain stepping into the role he has and performing at an alarming rate is beautiful to watch.

There are not many players with his size, weight, and measurements that do things he does daily. The family lineage or tree can afford a player like Surtain to use his father as a soundboard.

Williams is the running back of the future. It’s not hard to notice that. He struggles sometimes with first contact, but every week there are a few runs that take your breath away. Williams’ balance and strength allow him to be one of the league’s best tackle breakers so far in his rookie season.

He hails from the Mack Brown system which helped create the likes of Jamal Charles, Cedric Benson, Priest Holmes, and Ricky Williams to solid NFL careers. Melvin Gordon has carved out a great year this season and deservedly has a right for extension talks. Yet, Williams is the younger option and still has a lot left in his tank with the reps, he is in line for a huge career if he shows the continuation of being successful in all three phases.

Quinn Meinerz, aka “The Belly”, is one of the young players who has not seen a ton of playtime; however, when he is on the football field, he looks the part. Meinerz is pushing dudes like he did the trees in his college highlight tape.

Since stepping onto the field, there is an important point to note regarding where he’s played. Meinerz is not dependent on one position. Against the Dallas Cowboys Meinerz showed he more than belongs in the NFL with how he handled the defensive line of the Cowboys. On Williams’ highlight-reel run, it was a beautiful sight to see Meinerz finish the run blocking via belly flop.

Meinerz will see an uptick in playing time due to the loss of Graham Glasgow at right guard. Meinerz should stay there at right guard and is projected to be a starter there in 2022. Glasgow has done well, but due to his contract and injury issues, the Broncos might choose to move on from him after this season. Thus, it would issue in “The Belly” era.

Caden Sterns and Jonathon Cooper have now entered the conversation of the most impressive rookies as well, in my opinion. Sterns was always the most athletic between him and Jamar Johnson (another 2021 NFL Draft pick who still could hit). Back when he was a freshman at Texas, Sterns inserted himself as a first-round pick but later saw inconsistent play dropping his draft stock.

Sterns has become a sponge in a room with Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons. The rookie safety already has two interceptions on the year. He even has added responsibility in the run game being a third safety. Giving Head Coach Vic Fangio a different safety who intelligently can be a “rat” or “rover” for this defense. His athleticism and smarts have been on full display since the preseason.

As for Cooper, it’s still an uphill climb for seventh-round draft picks to hit. In two performances against the Browns (entered game due to Von Miller injury) and the Dallas Cowboys, Cooper has shown to be playing with his hair on fire. Not only that he has proven to display an array of pass rush moves to help create pressures for himself getting at quarterbacks. If this performance continues, the Denver Broncos will be fortunate and blessed that Cooper was still available to be taken in the seventh round.

Lastly, it seems appropriate to lump these two together since they are also in the same position. “A New Hope” to the linebacker room is bringing energy to the defense. Due to a depleted room there, the Denver Broncos were forced to add Baron Browning to the starting lineup.

Browning, the third-round pick, has tools Micah Parsons displayed against Denver. Browning used to be a pass rusher before being converted to linebacker at Ohio State. His measurements athletically compared to Von Miller and Khalil Mack as a rusher. As an inside linebacker, he compares to Luke Kuechly.

Long story short, he’s a unicorn and already in two games is transformed the defense. Reading and reacting have always been a big question for Browning as a prospect. If Washington and Dallas are any indications of where he’s at, Denver will be in a tremendous position. One play, in particular, is the 3rd-and-2 against Washington. Despite the first down allowed, Browning ran about 20 yards to close out on a player who barely converted the first down. It was exceptional.

The other is Kenny Young. In the grand scheme of things, it might be a 2nd, 3rd, and Kenny Young for Von Miller in two separate deals. Young is also an off-ball linebacker who in a short time has blended with Browning both in instincts and playmaking.

It seems like the Young and Browning duo have been playing together for 10 years. Young has filled a need for a depleted position and a move no one saw coming. It very well might be a position for the future at linebacker.

Young, after two weeks, has entered the extension conversation for this team. If the Broncos get the play they have with Browning and Young, then Denver should do right rewarding Young. Not only that but Young and Browning should be the starting linebackers for 2022.

Most importantly, Paton deserves a ton of credit for the Young trade. It caught some off guard due to whether the Broncos would-be sellers or buyers. It might have been a bit of both. Both win now and win from now on.

In a season filled its tumultuous trials and tribulations, it seems there is “A New Hope” on the horizon as the Denver Broncos have players who bring forth a better future for the franchise led by general manager George Paton.