Playoff run unlikely, but several Broncos have three games to show their worth for 2022 and beyond – The Denver Post

When given the opportunity to be frank, Broncos coach Vic Fangio usually takes it and Wednesday morning was no different.

Fangio was asked about his 1-4 record against the Las Vegas Raiders and how a win on Sunday would show his team are heading in the right direction.

“We have to get victories (in general),” he said. “Would I want them to be against AFC West?” Yes, but we have to get victories.

The Broncos (7-7) need a win to keep their slim AFC wildcard hopes alive while taking out nearly all of the Raiders (7-7).

After last week’s disheartening loss to Cincinnati, there are three games left.

Big for Fangio? To be honest, absolutely – he can’t let his team limp to the finish line.

Big for quarterback Drew Lock, who starts for injured Teddy Bridgewater? To be blunt, no doubt – Lock should take the approach he’s auditioning for other teams.

But it’s also a big push for many of the players on the roster, some who are impending free agents, some who covet bigger roles in 2022 and some who have an eye on their second contract.

These seven players have three chances to make a final impression on GM George Paton:

Noah Fan

Position: Tight end.

Age: 24.

Contract status: Signed until 2022 (cap number $ 4,006,140 next year).

So far this year: Fant leads the Broncos in catches (58) and is third in receiving yards (532). He has three touchdowns and five explosive catches (all at least 25 yards) in 700 snaps. Fant’s seven penalties lead the attack, but he hasn’t committed any since week 8.

To analyse: How about a long touchdown to end his season? It’s about how Fant’s catch average went from 14.1 yards as a rookie to 10.9 last year to 9.2 this year. Is it him or how is it used? We would still like Fant’s routes to be on the downside when he’s already in high gear. By May 2, the Broncos are due to make a decision on Fant’s 2023 contract option, which Over The Cap projects to reach $ 6.657 million and is guaranteed. Is Paton comfortable with this price and this commitment? In May 2020, the Broncos declined the option of left tackle Garett Bolles and he responded with his best season and a new contract.

Melvin gordon

Position: To recover.

Age: 28.

Contract status: Free agent after the season. He signed a two-year, $ 16 million contract in March 2020.

So far this year: Gordon started his 13 games as a work-share with rookie Javonte Williams. Gordon played 435 of 925 snaps, ran 174 times for 769 yards (seven touchdowns) and caught 23 passes for 174 yards (two touchdowns). He has 13 explosive rushes (at least 12 yards gain), two 100 yard games (101 against the Giants and 111 against Detroit) and two lost fumbles.

To analyse: Gordon’s goal should be to continue to persevere. Williams is a fan favorite among Broncos backers, but Gordon’s nine total touchdowns are three more than any teammate. He said earlier this month that he wanted to sign with the Broncos again, but don’t read too much about it. If another club offers him to come close to starting tier silver and a star fullback role, Gordon should take it. Free agents include Leonard Fournette of Tampa Bay, James Conner of Arizona, Darrel Williams of Kansas City and Sony Michel of the Los Angeles Rams. If Gordon has a long-term view, sticking with the Broncos’ split carry system will extend his career.

Bobby massie

Position: Right tackle.

Age: 32.

Contract status: Free agent after the season. He signed a one-year, $ 2.275 million contract in June.

So far this year: Signed after the Broncos freed Ja’Wuan James (Ripped Achilles), Massie started his 12 games (754 snaps), missing two weeks with an ankle injury. Massie hasn’t been penalized this season and only has four “bad” running blocks (gain a yard or less not including the goal line / short distance), but The Post has it booked. for 23 1/2 pass-rush disturbances, including 3 1/2 bags.

To analyse: Massie lives in Colorado full time, so it’s assumed he’d rather re-sign with the Broncos. But could the team look to rejuvenate in this role to see if the annual turnover at the right tackle is resolved? In the first or second round, options could include Nicholas Petit-Frere of Ohio State, Darian Kinnard of Kentucky and Trevor Penning of northern Iowa. Internally, Calvin Anderson could be an option.

Lloyd Cushenberry

Position: Center.

Age: 24.

Contract status: Signed until 2023 (cap number of $ 1,269,816 in 22).

So far this year: Cushenberry tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and could miss his first game and first snaps since entering the NFL last year, a 30-game streak and 2,000 snaps. He was called for five penalties and was booked for 11 pass disturbances (5 1/2 sacks) and six “bad” race blocks.

To analyse: A tough task this year for Cushenberry, whose key figures are not as consistent as in 2020. Before he was sidelined with the virus, we thought Cushenberry had to finish strong. One scenario – the Broncos should keep Quinn Meinerz in right guard because he played well there, and move Graham Glasgow (who has a $ 6million cap if they cut him) to the center.

Bradley Chubb

Position: Outside linebacker.

Age: 25.

Contract status: Signed until 2022 and his salary of $ 12.716 million next year is fully guaranteed.

So far this year: Not much, although it is not all his fault. He aggravated an ankle injury in the Seattle preseason game and returned to play 19 snaps in Jacksonville in Week 2 before undergoing surgery. He returned in Week 12 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Chubb has played 171 snaps in his five games, making 11 tackles (three missing) and three passing interruptions (two knockdowns and one push).

To analyse: The impact of Chubb’s return has been overstated by the organization, with the exception of Fangio, who pointed out precisely how Chubb went two months without training let alone playing. If Chubb can reach the quarterback a few times in the last three games, he can at least build momentum for 2022, when he should have a full offseason to train instead of rehab. When Paton was at the Minnesota front office, the Vikings repeatedly extended their first-round picks as they entered their fifth year. Paton should wait with Chubb to see how he starts on the 22nd, then explore an in-season deal.

Bryce callahan

Position: corner half

Age: 30.

Contract status: Free agent after the season. He signed a three-year, $ 21 million contract with the Broncos in March 2019.

So far this year: The additions of Ronald Darby, Kyle Fuller and Pat Surtain II meant that Callahan was the Broncos’ exclusive nickel back, covering the slot receivers. In nine games (four starts) and 384 snaps, he made 23 tackles (two missed tackles), four broken assists and no penalties. Callahan injured his knee against Washington in Week 8 and missed five games.

To analyse: Callahan to finish the last three games in good health would be positive after missing all 19 games and the last five 20 games with foot injuries. When he’s at his best, there’s still a more than usable nickel rear that can play man cover in tight spaces and quickly change direction to defend a variety of roads. It would make sense for the Broncos to sign Callahan again on their terms (incentive per game is best) as they are set with Darby and Surtain as outside cover players, but would need to find a quality nickel if Callahan was. allowed to walk.

Baron browning

Position: Linebacker inside.

Age: 22.

Contract status: Signed until 2024 (salary cap number of $ 1,087,693 in 22).

So far this year: Browning only played four defensive snaps in his first six games, then missed a week (concussion). But injuries and underperformance in his group of positions created an opportunity and Browning took advantage of it. He started the last seven games (381 snaps) and has 43 tackles (only one missed tackle), earning a berth as the Broncos inside linebacker.

To analyse: If Browning ends the season strong, the Broncos have found one of their linebackers within Week 1 of 2022, a relief for the club as regular starters Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson are both free agents in March. If they trust Browning, and he has no reason not to, that will allow the Broncos to choose between Jewell and Johnson based on what they feel comfortable paying and the associate with Browning.

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