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DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 13: Phillip Lindsay #30 of the Denver Broncos smiles as he walks on the field after the Denver Broncos 16-0 win over the Tennessee Titans at Empower Field at Mile High on October 13, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
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Broncos Bye Week Report Card: Quarterbacks and Running Backs

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Broncos have a bye in Week 10, as they are basically at the halfway point of the 2019 season. Through nine games, Denver has a 3-6 record. They sit at the bottom of the AFC West and they have one of the worst records in the entire conference.

After the team’s Week 9 win over the Browns, head coach Vic Fangio commented on the Broncos record.

“We are 3-6. Could we be better? Yes. Could we be worse? No. I don’t really know how to answer that question other than we’ve had more than our chance to have a much better record than we do, but it is what it is,” Fangio said.

The Broncos have a really strong defense. They rank as fourth in the league in terms of yards allowed per game so far this season. Under Fangio’s guidance, the Broncos have bought in defensively and are making plays consistently even though they have had a lot of injuries to key players on that side of the ball.

While the defense can be suffocating, the offense can suck the life out of the game. They are averaging only 16.56 points per game, ranking No. 28 in the NFL after nine weeks of action. This team looked better offensively in the game against the Browns, but it’s only one game and they have much tougher tests coming up after their bye.

This week, I’m going to take a look at each position on the roster and hand out grades for their performance so far. In today’s blog, let’s grade the quarterbacks and running backs.

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Quarterbacks

The Broncos don’t fill the air with footballs in the passing game. After nine games, Denver ranks No. 28 in the NFL with only 199.6 passing yards per game. It doesn’t seem like that ranking should increase that much during the final seven games of the year.

Joe Flacco started eight games for the Broncos, but only won two games during that time. His season is now over as he was put on injured reserve after a Week 8 neck injury suffered against the Colts. Flacco finishes his first (and only?) season as the Broncos starter with 1,822 passing yards, with only six touchdowns and five interceptions. He did not fit the offense of Rich Scangarello, mainly because his mobility is shot and Flacco was a straight drop-back passer who cannot execute the bootlegs and rollouts this offense is known for.

Backup quarterback Brandon Allen has only started one game and he had a solid performance in the Week 9 win over the Browns. A sixth-round pick of the Jaguars back in 2016, Allen bounced from there to the Rams before finding his way to the Mile High City after the team’s 53-man roster was set. The Broncos scooped up Allen because of his skill set and because of his knowledge of the West Coast concepts that are prevalent in this offense.

Allen had never taken a regular season snap before starting against the Browns in Week 9. He had 220 total yards in that game and threw two touchdown passes. It was a solid-yet-unspectacular performance, but Allen remains the starter for the time being.

While Allen is getting to start after the bye, on the road against the Vikings, we should see 2019 second-round pick Drew Lock get to start practicing. He’s currently still on injured reserve with a thumb injury suffered during the preseason. Lock has a strong arm and is the most-athletic quarterback on the roster. He could be the quarterback of the future, but he also could have been designated to return a couple of weeks ago.

We should see Lock start a couple of games before the regular season is over as the Broncos need to know – or have an idea of – whether or not he can be the quarterback of the future.

Position Grade: D

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Running Backs

The Broncos feature a strong rushing attack on offense, led by second-year pro Phillip Lindsay. They currently rank No. 16 in the league with an average of 111.9 rushing yards per game. The offense doesn’t score a lot of points, but they do run the ball as much as possible.

Lindsay was a 1,000-yard rusher last year as an undrafted rookie and he’s on the same pace for similar production this year. He’s incredibly explosive with the ball in his hands and can produce a lot of yards without having to get a ton of touches.

In addition to being the team’s lead back, Lindsay is getting used more as a receiver out of the backfield. In 15 games as a rookie, Lindsay had 35 catches. This year, after just nine games, Lindsay already has 25 catches. He should be able to eclipse his rookie production as a receiver over the next few games.

Royce Freeman is the primary backup to Lindsay and gets plenty of work in the team’s running-back-by-committee. While Lindsay is the “lightning” in the backfield, Freeman is clearly the “thunder” in this duo. At 230 pounds, Freeman can grind down an opponent as the game goes on.

After nine games, Freeman has 93 carries for 374 yards and two rushing touchdowns. In addition to his carries, Freeman is also the most frequently used receiving back (just barely) with 27 catches for 181 yards. While Lindsay is explosive and capable of making big plays, Freeman is still dancing too much and will miss wide open cut-back lanes because he wants to look for contact. We’ll see if he can be more disciplined as a runner and have better vision as the 2019 season rolls on.

Position Grade: B+

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Coming tomorrow… WRs and TEs

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