The Broncos' regular-season opener isn't for another few months, but over the next few weeks, DenverBroncos.com will take an early look at each game on the Broncos' 2020 schedule. We don't know how injuries could impact each contest, but we'll present the pressing storylines, matchups, questions and more.
It's never too early to start talking football.
We continue with Denver's Week 11 game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Storylines to monitor:
After spending the first nine years of his career in Denver, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. will make his return to the Mile High City after signing with the Chargers this offseason. And while the welcome for Harris should be warm from both his former teammates and the fans in attendance, there will be fierce competition between Harris and the receiver he lines up against. It would be fun for most Broncos fans to see Harris line up against Courtland Sutton for at least a snap or two, but if Harris is playing in the slot, it seems more likely that he'll be matched up with either Jerry Jeudy or KJ Hamler.
This Week 11 game also marks the first time Melvin Gordon III will face the Chargers after five years with the team — and it's been clear from several offseason interviews that Gordon is looking forward to facing his former team.
The Broncos swept the Chargers in 2019 for the first time since 2015, and Denver has lost to their division rival at home just once since 2013. Denver will need to earn another win in Week 11 to stay on a playoff path.
Player to watch:
QB Tyrod Taylor
Week 11 may be too early to expect rookie Justin Herbert to be under center, so we'll focus on Taylor for the purposes of this section. The expected starter for the Chargers enters his second season with the team and should start for the first time since entering the 2018 season as the Browns' signal caller. Before a short stint in Cleveland, Taylor earned a 22-20 record in Buffalo as a three-year starter for the Bills. Taylor, who made the Pro Bowl in 2015, has always been a steady option who avoids turnovers. In his career, he's completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 54 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. So while the touchdown numbers have never been spectacular — the most he threw in a season as a starter was 20 — he won't make mistakes to beat the team. If the Broncos can force Taylor into throwing an interception, though, that could change the game. Taylor is just 4-13-1 when he throws an interception.
Photos from throughout the Broncos' history with the Chargers, both in Los Angeles and San Diego.
The question mark:
Can Drew Lock handle the Chargers' pass defense?
The league's fifth-ranked passing defense from 2019 could be even better in 2020. Harris joins Casey Hayward Jr., Michael Davis, Desmond King, Rayshawn Jenkins and Nasir Adderley in the secondary, and All-Pro strong safety Derwin James should be healthy after missing most of last season with an injury. James, a 2018 first-round pick, returned in time for the Week 13 matchup between these two teams, and he poses a threat every time he's on the field. Up front, the Chargers still have potent pass rushers in Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and free-agent addition Linval Joseph.
In a game that could be a defensive slugfest, can Lock find a way to make enough big plays to secure the win while avoiding costly turnovers and mistakes? If so, Denver should have the edge in this contest at home.
The last meeting:
Drew Lock made the first start of his young career in the Broncos and Chargers' Week 13 matchup in 2019. Lock threw a pair of early touchdowns to Sutton to help the Broncos build a lead, but he then went quiet for most of the game. In the fourth quarter, though, Lock again showed why the Broncos believe in the young quarterback. After throwing an interception that allowed the Chargers a chance to take the lead, Lock responded to lead the Broncos on a go-ahead field-goal drive. Then, when the Chargers tied the game with 14 seconds to play, Lock and Sutton managed to draw a long pass interference call that set up a game-winning 53-yard Brandon McManus field goal. Lock wasn't perfect, but he showed enough poise down the stretch to help Denver earn the win.