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Five Questions with Mile High Report

Ahead of Sunday’s showdown with the Denver Broncos, I chat to Casey Barrett of Mile High Report about what to expect from this Denver team.

NFL: Houston Texans at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

1: The Broncos started 2-0 (albeit with two close wins) and looked like having every chance of competing for a postseason birth, but have gone just 1-6 since then. What was happening in the first two games that isn’t happening now, and where has it all gone wrong for the Broncos?

Honestly, Denver is just not playing like a great team right now. Great teams capitalize on other team’s mistakes. The Broncos have not done that. The defense forces a turn over, the offense starts a drive, and it falters. They get a drive extending penalty, and then get called for holding. There have been moments where Vance Joseph and company were out-coached. These are not the traits of a great team. I wish I knew what was the driving factor as to why the Broncos aren’t great. There have been a small number of players that have said things about the coaching staff, but I’m only 95% sold on that. I can see that HC Joseph has a real passion for the game and the people he coaches, but with the ever looming legendary shadow of John Elway, who knows what is causing their misfortune. They should not be as bad as their record. The ever building frustration for this particular fan has almost turned completely to delirium.

2: What’s your opinion on Case Keenum so far? He hasn’t had the season many Broncos fans were hoping for, but is he still the franchise QB of the future, or do Denver need to look elsewhere?

This is an overly talked about topic amongst Bronco’s fans (and has been since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset), but not so much in the media. You’re absolutely right about not having the season many of us expected. After all the positive vibes that came out from the players about having Keenum at the helm... we’re left with more questions than answers. My opinion, is that Keenum wasn’t ready for this particular starting job, and is playing to not screw up. After quite the positive season with the Vikings last year, Keenum seemed poised for a starting gig. But in Minnesota, what did he have to lose? He was the backup that came in and performed. When he came to Denver, he was made “the guy” that the entire region had so desperately wanted after three seasons sans Manning. To me, at training camp, and at practice, he seemed like he could very easily fill the role. When he gets into the game situation, to me, his body language looks different. Being “the guy” at quarterback in Denver is not an easy place to be. There’s a lot of unnecessary pressure from numerous places. We have been spoiled as Broncos fans when it comes to a lot of player personnel, and most fans have zero appreciation for it. I feel like coming to Denver to be the starting QB, under John Elway, with Gary Kubiak around, comes with additional pressure. I would like to see Keenum relax and see if he can ball out, or if the starting job just isn’t for him. We know what he (and the offense) SHOULD be doing or accomplishing, but it’s just not happening. That usually boils down to two things: The players in those positions are not good enough, OR the coaches aren’t preparing the players and themselves well enough. But in any ‘Case,’ what we will see out of Broncos quarterbacks will be a mystery week in and week out, and that makes the foreseeable future not very foreseeable.

3: In my opinion, Phillip Lindsay doesn’t get enough of two things - respect, and touches of the football. To me, he’s been one of the best RBs in the NFL this year. Am I overvaluing him? How exactly is the Broncos RB situation playing out with Lindsay, Freeman and Booker all commanding touches?

We have a Mile High Report chat room, which is quite active during the games. We are constantly using the term “Run. The. Ball.” As an undrafted rookie, no one in the league gets that kind of respect until they win an award or something bigger. You are in no way overvaluing him. They need to run the ball more. He (Lindsay) is still number 8 in the league in total rushing yards, ahead of Giants RB Saquon Barkley. Lindsay and Freeman are the future at running back for Denver, which should be exciting in the years to come. Booker is still the best (of the three) at pass blocking, and has shown that he can also be valuable coming out of the back field catching passes. I believe that if either Lindsay or Freeman had that pass blocking abilities that Booker has, Booker would’ve been released (or traded) coming out of camp. But Booker is not only good at picking up the blitz, he’s good at reading where they’re coming from, and that’s not always an easy class to teach RBs. Booker has an opportunity to really show off his value, but I expect it to be the Lindsay and Freeman show next season, I just hope they get something for Booker.

4: I think it’s fair to say Vance Joseph isn’t having the time of his life anymore. The consensus amongst Broncos fans (at least, as far as I know) was that he shouldn’t have been bought back for this season, and I doubt anything that’s happened so far has changed your mind. Just why has it been such a disaster for Vance in Denver?

Yet another overly talked about subject within fan communities, and again, not a hardcore topic within the local media. But it will be if this team continues to underperform. There are plenty that felt that “VJ” has had his time as head coach and it’s come to an end. And yes, there were many fans and a portion of media that felt that Joseph’s time in Denver was over last year. This... this is a topic where I wish I was a fly on the wall in Dove Valley. There is opinionated speculation that President of Football Operations and General Manager John Elway wants to have a “Yes” man in the head coaching spot. That personality is not easily found within seasoned head coaches. I feel like Vance is smart enough to be a head coach. He definitely loves the game, and loves the people he works with and coaches, but there is something missing from his style. I’m not sure if it’s knowledge, experience, swagger, or what. But there have been a number of moments where the chess match that is the game of football has gone against the Broncos, mostly because of a move that did or did not come from the head coach. Those are things that are learned through time. However, time and patience is not the Broncos way (both organization AND fans). It feels like (and this is strictly a gut feeling) Vance doesn’t have a mentor, or anyone that is giving him game knowledge. Like he’s been coaching on the terms or “trail by fire.” With the brains that make up the front office and coaching staff, there is zero reason for Vance not progress and get better. But then again, and at MHR we talk about it often, is he coaching to not screw up, knowing that Elway (and Broncos fans) have little patience for lacking success? Again, we’re left with more questions.

5: How did you feel about the Demaryius Thomas trade? Is it simply a case of making space for the talented Courtland Sutton and Daeshawn Hamilton?

On the surface, the DT trade looks legit. There have been many games where he failed at catching important passes. Not the big time TD type of passes, but those 2nd or 3rd and long situations that could’ve continued drives. BUT, underneath, DT has some very, very impressive stats. The numbers don’t lie, DT is a great wide receiver. Now, that being said, he was one of the highest paid WRs in the league when he and Denver agree on his new contract in 2015. He still is in the top 15 as far as contracts go. I think, for fans anyway, he wasn’t the performer that we see out of the comparable WRs in the league (D. Hopkins, A. Brown, A.J. Green etc). All of that considered, he was a great human. He was constantly involved with the community, and his fan interactions are something I am genuinely going to miss. But, he is in Houston now. I do believe that trading DT was about the future and the cap space it is going to require to maintain that future.This year’s Bronco rookie class is something that is going to cost some dollars in the next three years, and I do not envy John Elway and staff to figure out the numbers it’s going to take to keep guys like Sutton, Lindsay, Freeman, and Chubb. Courtland Sutton can be an elite WR in his career. He reminds me of a young Megatron, in that, not only is he big and strong, but he’s also creative in the way he sets himself up to make plays. While some WRs are only looking for the ball, he’s figuring out ways to keep the defenders hands out of the way so he can make clean catches. The other aspect of Sutton’s game that I really like is his ability to make blocks downfield. He has been a part of many big plays, simply because he’s making blocks. When guys like Phillip Lindsay or Emmanuel Sanders are running past Sutton making a block, I’m extremely encouraged by his know how of what makes a good, all around wide receiver. His future is very bright. Daeshawn Hamiltion is going to be good, maybe great, but I don’t feel like he has been incorporated enough within this offense to see his true potential. However, with things settling now that DT is gone, we may see that change.

I predict another nail biter, and praying that the Broncos can finally be on the winning side of these close games.

Broncos win 31-30.

Thank you so much for having me Bolts! Good luck on Sunday!