There is a lot of new talent on the Broncos offense. But no one that has been added is more exciting than Phillip Lindsay. While many have chosen to view signing of Melvin Gordon as unnecessary, the reality is it could end up playing a key role in the future success of the Broncos.
Gordon is coming to the Broncos at a time where they are desperate for firepower. Watching the Broncos attempt to play offense in recent years has teetered from a snoozefest to downright infuriating.
Combining young talent with a big-name free agent has worked for the Broncos in the past and the situation is looking very familiar to the current situation. It happened first in 1994. While largely forgotten, it was one of the most-important acquisitions in Broncos history.
Prior to the 1994 season, the Broncos made their first big-name, free-agent signing in team history when they signed Anthony Miller away from the Chargers. While not awful, the Broncos offense was hovering around mediocre and needed a playmaker. Miller was a four-time Pro Bowl selection before arriving in Denver and had been terrorizing Broncos defenses for years. He was a perfect fit.
Miller proved to be worth the money. In his first season in Denver, he caught 60 passes for 1,107 yards and five touchdowns. Miller’s production was a bright spot in a rather forgettable season for the Broncos.
The 1994 Broncos were a mess. There was a lot of talent, but the team started 0-4, finished 7-9 and head coach Wade Philips was fired after the season. When Miller came to Denver, the Broncos acquired former first-round pick and University of Colorado standout Mike Pritchard. Unfortunately, Pritchard was injured early in the season and the Broncos big plans for the receiving duo would have to wait until the following season.
In the 1995 season, under new coach Mike Shanahan, Miller would be voted to the Pro Bowl. He would post a very similar stat line with 59 receptions for 1,079 yards, but he upped his touchdown total to 14. The Broncos finished 8-8, but it was clear they were a team on the rise.
Miller’s production would dip in 1996, with 56 receptions, 735 yards and three touchdown receptions. With the emergence of Terrell Davis as a dominant player, the focus of the offense shifted away from the pass to the running game. The 1996 Broncos would finish with a record of 13-3 and the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Following the 1996 season, the Broncos parted ways with Miller. Rod Smith had proven he was ready to take the next step and start opposite Ed McCaffrey.
Miller’s time in Denver was important because he was the bridge to the Super Bowl team. While Miller shined in 1994 and 1995, Ed McCaffrey, Rod Smith and Terrell Davis all were able to develop under him and Shannon Sharpe grew from endless potential to truly elite. Miller was the first top-five or top-10 wide receiver John Elway played with in the NFL. Miller was the proven player on those offenses that were full of future stars.
Melvin Gordon can be that player in Denver.
Much like the Broncos offense prior to the arrival of Miller, this current offense has been stagnant for years. They need a spark right now. Gordon is established in the NFL. He has proven to be a threat both running and catching the ball and should be able to help bail out Drew Lock on quick passes should the offensive line not hold up. Gordon’s most-important skills are that he can convert both on third down and in the red zone, two areas in which the Broncos have struggled continually in recent years.
While players like Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant continue to develop, the Broncos need a player who is a proven threat to opposing defenses. Somebody that commands attention anytime they are on the field. It’s nice to have a young talented core, but young players make mistakes, they’re still learning. A veteran playmaker is needed to balance out the inexperience.
If this Broncos offense is ready to take the next step and return the team to playoff contention, they need a proven commodity on this offense. Gordon is just that.
Anthony Miller’s time in Denver isn’t talked about much aside from the long-time Broncos diehards. He left the offseason before the Broncos won their first Super Bowl and he was replaced by Rod Smith. Had Miller (along with Mike Pritchard) not been a consistent talent on the Broncos offense, Rod Smith would not have had time to develop. There was no pressure on Smith. He worked at his own pace and would become arguably the best receiver in team history.
Many people are taking the micro view of the Gordon signing and only worrying about how it affects Lindsay. The acquisition of Gordon should be viewed with a macro approach. He may not be here more than two to three seasons, but Gordon will be productive in important areas while also giving time for this young core to mature. In the long run, the signing could end up being one of the best in Broncos history.
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