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Mile High Monday: Praise for Lock, Freeman odd man out, Callahan in the slot

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

The NFL is moving towards the regular season, but in a different way this offseason. In-person minicamps and OTAs have instead been replaced by Zoom meetings and private workouts. However, league offices have a schedule to reopen and we’ll see if they can keep to that schedule as the summer gets here.

I like believing the NFL season will begin on time. It’s too early to know that for sure, but the league is proceeding as such. We can maintain hope while things are starting to open up around certain parts of the country.

I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep TJ – and loving this great weather in May! The following is a result of those trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.

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Betting on Lock

The Broncos may have finally found the franchise quarterback they’ve been looking for in Drew Lock. There is
no doubt that Broncos Country loves Lock, but so does Fox Sports TV/Radio host Colin Cowherd.

In a segment last week on his TV show, Cowherd set the internet on fire. He predicted that out of the second-year quarterbacks, Lock would be the favorite to win MVP. Cowherd wasn’t saying Lock could be MVP eventually – in a few years – but instead he was saying that Lock could be the MVP of the 2020 season!

It would be quite a story if Lock won NFL MVP this season. We all should be excited about his upside and potential as a quarterback. I don’t think he’d win MVP this year, as guys like Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) or Lamar Jackson (Ravens) or Russell Wilson (Seahawks) seem more in line to win that award. However, Lock could put himself into that conversation – realistically – in the 2021 season if he takes care of business and plays at a high level in 2020.

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Odd Man Out?

With all the activity this offseason, we don’t talk about or report on Broncos running back Royce Freeman that much. The Broncos wanted Freeman to be “the man” in the backfield in each of the last two years. Instead of that happening, Freeman has been banged up and beat out by Phillip Lindsay.

Freeman accounted for 32.3 percent of the carries in 2019 and 33 percent in 2018, and he appears to be the odd man out of the running back rotation in 2020 following the addition of veteran free agent Melvin Gordon. Those numbers are set to go down in 2020 with Gordon on the depth chart. In fact, Freeman may barely touch the ball this season if Gordon and Lindsay stay healthy.

I believe that confidence has been the main issue with Freeman – or lack of confidence, more accurately. Freeman was a great running back in college at Oregon, and the Broncos picked him up where most expected him to go – in the mid-rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. So, what happened to this powerful runner who had an incredibly productive career in college?

I think Freeman lost confidence as a runner and that is difficult to get back once it’s gone. I could be wrong, but it just seems like Freeman looks for contact instead of looking for rushing lanes. It’s like Freeman wants to punish defenders and prove how powerful he is rather than find cutback lanes and pick up extra/more yards. We’ll see how Freeman responds to being further pushed down the depth chart in 2020.

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Thank the Maker!

I did a dance of joy when I read a report from 9News Broncos Insider Mike Klis last week about the Broncos secondary. In the breakdown of the team’s depth chart, Klis noted that veteran corner Bryce Callahan was expected to line up in the slot this upcoming season. Last year, the Broncos wanted Callahan to compete on the outside even though he played primarily as a slot corner during his pro career with the Bears.

Callahan is built like a slot corner and he can be one of the best in the league at that position. I didn’t want him playing outside where his smaller frame would be getting picked on by larger receivers this season. Instead of that, Callahan is set to play his more natural position of slot corner.

Broncos 2020 third-round pick Michael Ojemudia is expected to start on the outside opposite of free agent addition A.J. Bouye. The new-look Broncos cornerback depth chart does have plenty of question marks, and we’ll have to see how these guys perform as a unit this upcoming season.

Ojemudia played zone coverage almost exclusively and that makes him a great fit for the Fangio system, which plays more zone than man coverage. When they do play man, Ojemudia has the size and skill set to play well, but he needs more experience in that style. It will be important for him to get up to speed quickly because the talent level he’s going up against is going to be much tougher than what he saw in college at Iowa.

Bouye was a good addition for the Broncos, but is he more of a No. 2 corner rather than the No. 1 the Broncos are going to have him play this year? Last year with the Jaguars as their No. 1 corner, Bouye led the league with 806 passing yards allowed – and that was only in 14 games. Bouye only gave up 360 yards two years ago when he was the Jaguars No. 2 corner opposite of Jalen Ramsey. He needs to show that he can excel in Fangio’s system and have a bounce-back year in 2020.

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Last Dance Finale

On Sunday night, we got to see the final two episodes of the ESPN docuseries “The Last Dance” and it was incredible. Episode nine started with the great quote of Michael Jordan telling Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller “Don’t ever talk trash to black Jesus!” The sports world is filled with the most competitive people on the planet, but Jordan was at a different level. The sacrifices that he made to win and the sheer drive that he had on the court are legendary.

It was awesome to see more of the man that is the greatest basketball player of all-time. Learning about who he became close to in his entourage, learning about how he built trust with the likes of Steve Kerr, seeing his interactions with legendary players like Larry Bird, it was all just a joy to watch.

What a great trip down memory lane. We’ll never see another docuseries like “The Last Dance,” but I’m excited for more great moments of sports we can take a deep dive into via a TV series.

I’d love to see a documentarian to examine the old Heat/Knicks rivalry from the NBA in the late 1990s. What sporting event, games, series, rivalry would you like to see done in “Last Dance” fashion? Hit me up on social media and let me know.