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Mile High Morning: Why Dalton Risner's All-Rookie season disappointed him

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The Lead

Dalton Risner completed his main goals during his rookie season.

He earned the respect of the veterans and became a full-time starter at left guard, and he even earned All-Rookie honors from the Pro Football Writers Association.

But as he enters his second season, Risner looks back on his first year in the NFL with a bit of shame.

"I watched some of my film from last year, and to be honest, I shake my head," Risner said Thursday. "I'm like, 'I have so much to improve upon.' I can be so much better of a player than I was."

Risner wants to play better, of course, but instead of personal goals, he wants his play to improve as the team does, too.

"This year, I want to have a good season as a team," Risner said. "That's my main overall thing. I don't care if we go 2-14 and I might be a Pro Bowler or an All-Pro. I don't care. I want to go and be a 12- [or] 14-win team this year and do the things I know we are capable of. Of course, as an individual I want to improve on so many areas and that will help us win, whether that's pulling, being more aggressive on linebackers, having the confidence in myself that I can play in this league and I can come off the ball and drive a guy 5 yards off the ball and not be hesitant. …

"I want to get the Broncos back to being playoff contenders and Super Bowl contenders."

If Risner and the entire offensive line improves, Drew Lock should have the opportunity to take advantage of his new weapons, to take major steps as a quarterback and to lead the offense to new heights.

"As an offensive line, we've got to take [protecting Drew] upon ourselves," Risner said. "… I want to be able to protect Drew this year and I want to be able to give him time to make those plays. [President of Football Operations/GM] John Elway and [Head] Coach [Vic] Fangio went after it and got some tools for us on offense. If we can give him time to make something happen, I think we can make something shake with the guys we have — Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Tim Patrick, DaeSean Hamilton … Noah Fant — all these guys we went out and got. Those are my brothers. As an offensive line, we're the down-and-dirty guys. We've got to get after it and make sure we give them time to make things happen."

Below the Fold

We've previously discussed the strength of the Broncos' young core, but NFL.com's new "30 best players over 30" list also proposes that the Broncos have two of the best veteran players, too. Jurrell Casey comes in at No. 29 while Von Miller was ranked No. 9. "The eight-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and Super Bowl MVP has been an absolute monster his entire career, combining speed, anticipation and technique to embarrass offensive tackles, tight ends and running backs assigned the unenviable task of trying to slow him down," Ali Bhanpuri writes. "So, we're not going to rush to judgment and sell prematurely on the greatest sack artist of the last decade because of one down year under a new defensive coach."

As Drew Lock looks to become more of a leader in his second NFL season, the COVID-19 pandemic will throw a few curveballs his way, as ESPN's Jeff Legwold writes. The Broncos now have two locker rooms, fewer people are allowed in the cafeteria and people generally can't huddle together off the field. "Really, it's going to come from us being on the field, being able to build a relationship out there, show them that I'm here, I'm ready and I'm prepared," Lock said. "They're going to show me the same thing so we can earn each other's respect. Then after the respect is earned, that's when the friendship comes."

The Unclassifieds

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