The Kansas City Chiefs look destined to rule the AFC for years to come. But one team looks strong enough on paper to give them a fight twice a season, and that's the Denver Broncos. They are building an offense that can potentially keep up with KC and a possess a pass rush that can give Patrick Mahomes fits. But that doesn't mean the Broncos will be immune to errors preventing them from reaching the playoffs.
Here are three hidden traps that could rain on the Broncos' parade this upcoming season.
3. Cornerback Play
The Broncos have always prided themselves on having a strong defense to hold off the opposition. Denver's front seven and safety positions are set in stone, but their main issue is at cornerback. The team opted to let Chris Harris walk to the rival Los Angeles Chargers this offseason so they could place the franchise tag on safety Justin Simmons. Now, the Broncos have a skeleton crew at corner. AJ Bouye struggled last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, as he surrendered 60 catches for 855 yards and three touchdowns on 92 targets. Their pseudo No. 2 corner is Isaac Yiadom, who has allowed a quarterback completion percentage of 70.4 last season. Then there's Bryce Callahan, who's coming off a broken foot. Head coach Vic Fangio needs to work his magic on the cornerback depth chart this summer, or they're going to be brutalized throughout the regular season.
2. Drew Lock Learning a New Offense
In limited action, Drew Lock showed he has the potential to be Denver's answer at the quarterback position. Usually, you'd like to keep the same coaching staff around for said young passer, but the Broncos ignored that by firing offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and quarterback coach TC McCartney. Now, Lock has a new coordinator in former New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur as well as a new QBs coach in Mike Shula. While Scangarello was a conservative coordinator, he does have similar coaching styles to that of Kyle Shanahan, who is succeeding as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. This is no knock on Shurmur, who played a big role in Daniel Jones' development last year with the Giants, but it's not ideal to have Lock learn new playbooks year-in and year-out. If there's a steeper than expecting learning curve, Denver's offense won't thrive.
1. Offensive Tackle
Let's preface by saying that the interior of the Broncos offensive line is set with Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, and Graham Glasgow. Their main weakness is at the offensive tackle position. 2017 first-round pick Garett Bolles hasn't lived up to his selection due to his ability to draw penalties at league-high rates. Then on the right side, there's Ja'Wuan James, who was limited to three games last season after tearing his MCL and suffering a partially torn meniscus. That came in the very first season of his four-year, $51 million contract. Everyone's excited about the potential of Drew Lock throwing bombs to Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler this season, but that potentially explosive offense can be hindered if Bolles and James can't hold back the defensive pressure and keep Lock upright. If these two struggle, it's over.