If there's one thing Aric DiLalla and Phil Milani like more than watching football, it's arguing with each other about it. In this new DenverBroncos.com series, they'll get the chance to do just that. In each edition, we'll present several statements. Aric and Phil will then say "Yeigh" if they agree with the notion or "Neigh" — get it? — if they don't.
Read on for Aric's and Phil's answers, then let us know (on Twitter via @AricDiLalla and @PhilMilani) to let us know who is right.
Bradley Chubb should be the favorite for Comeback Player of the Year.
Flashback to this time last year. Bradley Chubb was being talked about as a top candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. After an impressive 12-sack rookie campaign, Chubb was expected to take his game to an even higher level under Fangio. Of course none of that came to fruition because Chubb tore his ACL against Jacksonville, just four games into the season.
Now back to the present. Chubb has spent nearly every day rehabbing and finding ways to be ready for this upcoming season. Rather than sulking about his injury, Chubb looked at it as an opportunity to regain the drive and hunger he had when he was under-recruited coming out of high school, when he tore his ACL the first time. He has a chip on his shoulder. And unlike other top-notch players looking to come back from major injuries in 2019 – Ben Roethlisberger, J.J. Watt, Cam Newton and A.J. Green – Chubb is young and still has plenty to prove.
According to at least one site, Chubb is tied for 15th-best odds for this award. That's nuts! Sure, I get that quarterbacks are in the spotlight more, so Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Nick Foles and Matthew Stafford will all have their crack at the award. But Chubb was a monster as a rookie. His 12 sacks in 2018 led all rookies, and he was in the conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He would need to record double-digit sacks to be in the conversation for the award and the closer he could get to 15 sacks, the easier it would be to make his case. That's possible, but it might come at the extent of Miller's chances for Defensive Player of the Year. The Broncos' improved offense and the defensive playmakers around him should give him the opportunity.
Von Miller should be among the top three favorites for Defensive Player of the Year in 2020.
Earlier this week, Von Miller was one of eight players unanimously selected to the 2010s All-Decade team. Instead of taking time to reflect on his many accolades — Super Bowl MVP, Defensive Rookie of the Year, three first-team All-Pro selections — the Broncos' all-time sacks leader already had his sights set on next season and the one award he has yet to claim, Defensive Player of the Year.
After turning 31 at the end of March, Miller seems to be more focused than ever on regaining his form as one of the most feared pass rushers in the league. His motivation could be that he only mustered eight sacks in 2019, the second-lowest total of his career. But there are several explanations: 1) Bradley Chubb missed most of the season, causing opposing offenses to focus squarely on Miller. 2) The Broncos were adjusting to a new defensive scheme under Vic Fangio. 3) Sack numbers around the league were down. Players like Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald also saw significant dips in their stats. So there is no need to fret. I fully expect to see the eight-time Pro Bowler getting back to his good sack celebrations in 2020 and maybe even tackling the one award that's avoided his grasp.
Make this the top five, and I think you could make an argument that Miller has a legitimate shot. There are just too many other players — T.J. Watt, Nick Bosa, Stephon Gilmore — who played at an elite level in 2019 to toss Miller in that group. Is he as talented as Watt, Bosa, Gilmore, Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, etc.? Absolutely. There's no doubt about that. But Miller has to prove that he can bounce back from an eight-sack season in 2019. Pass rushers have won five of the last six DPOY awards, and they've averaged just north of 16 sacks per season. Miller has crossed that threshold just once in his career. It's possible a lower number could get it done, though. When Miller came one vote shy of the award in 2016, he had 13.5 sacks to Mack's 11. Let's talk more after the first three or four games of the season. If Miller averages a sack a game to start the season, he'll be right in the mix. Jurrell Casey and a healthy Bradley Chubb should help him do that.
The Broncos should take more than one receiver in the first three rounds of the Draft.
If the Broncos are able to fill other needs by finding a linebacker, cornerback and interior offensive lineman, there's no reason why they can't take two receivers with their first five picks. With the depth of the class, it seems quite likely you could still find a quality player in the third round at picks No. 77, 83 and 95.
Take this scenario: The Broncos select a top-three receiver with the 15th-overall pick, snag a cornerback in the second round, grab an interior lineman with No. 77 and then take another receiver at No. 83. The Broncos would still have their last third rounder to draft a linebacker — Logan Wilson, maybe? — and they'd be able to add a second dynamic player. It's clear the Broncos are still adding to their group of weapons for Drew Lock, and finding a second-tier guy like a KJ Hamler, Chase Claypool or K.J. Hill could only add to the room. You'd be sacrificing at other positions, and that's a risk. I do think DaeSean Hamilton showed flashes of potential at the end of last season, so maybe you move forward with him or Tim Patrick as the third wide receiver. Adding talent and competition, though, is never a bad thing. In as talented a draft class as this, it's worth considering.
The Broncos have five picks over the first three rounds, but they also have several positions to address: WR, LB, DB and O-line being the biggest in my opinion. Fangio is on record saying the Broncos "still have enough needs on both sides of the ball that I think the best player will still be the philosophy used for the most part." If that is the case, I don't think Denver has the luxury of spending two of its first five picks on the same position.
I do think the Broncos will be in position to take one of the top three wide receivers in the draft with the 15th-overall pick. If John Elway and company go that route, Drew Lock will suddenly have quite the trio of weapons with Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant. And behind them, the Broncos still have young players like Tim Patrick, DaeSean Hamilton and Diontae Spencer that should continue to improve. Denver could add some depth and competition by drafting a second wideout, but I don't see that happening until Day 3.
The AFC West is the best division in football.
Tom Brady and Drew Brees have an argument, but the best divisions in football live out West.
The Broncos will face some stiff competition in the division this season. For starters, the Chiefs are defending Super Bowl champs. I could go on and on about how good they are but I don't think that is necessary. 😫 The Raiders aren't messing around either. Entering Jon Gruden's third season, they added the likes of LB Cory Littleton and WR Nelson Agholor. Those are gambles likely to pay off in Las Vegas. The Chargers will also have a new look as they move into a new home. Philip Rivers may be gone, but Los Angeles will have a formidable defense – especially with friend of the program Chris Harris Jr. playing defensive back in a powder blue uniform.
But top to bottom, the best division is the NFC West. Not only did both the 49ers and Seahawks make the playoffs in 2019, they both had a chance to finish with the number one seed heading into the final week of the season. I fully expect both teams to once again be in the mix this season, although the Super Bowl hangover is real. Speaking of that, the Rams should bounce back after some major changes this offseason. Yes Todd Gurley is gone, but they still have Sean McVay calling plays and Aaron Donald wreaking havoc. Finally, the Cardinals are sure to improve in Kyler Murray's second season, especially with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins.
I agree with you, Phil. We know that's rare for me to say that, so we can just enjoy that without me adding too much to the conversation. While the AFC West is getting better and better and features the defending Super Bowl champion, it's not quite at the level of the NFC West. The 49ers and Seahawks were one play from swapping spots as the first and fifth seed, respectively. The Rams are a year removed from making the Super Bowl. The Cardinals, with Kyler Murray, could foreseeably make the postseason in 2020. It wouldn't shock me at all if this division featured three playoff teams this year. I think the AFC West is firmly in the second spot.