DENVER (AP) — Joe Flacco left behind his doubters and his old team for a second chapter in Denver, just as Peyton Manning did seven years ago.
“I know he’ll probably be hungrier than he has been in a while,” Manning said.
Flacco acknowledged he feels as though he has plenty to prove following his trade from Baltimore.
“Listen, I feel like I’ve got a lot left in the tank and I feel like I can do a lot more than what I’ve really shown over the course of my 11-year career,” Flacco said. “So, I’m excited that I’m going to have the opportunity here to do that.”
Just like Manning, Flacco brings an MVP Super Bowl award and a Rocky Mountains-sized chip on his shoulder to the Broncos, who have missed the playoffs every season since Manning retired following the team’s Super Bowl 50 title.
General manager John Elway insists Flacco is “just going into his prime” at age 34, even though the veteran QB and one-time Super Bowl MVP was supplanted by rookie Lamar Jackson last season and didn’t play in the Ravens’ wild-card loss to the Chargers.
“Joe is the perfect fit for us,” said Elway, who sent the Ravens a fourth-round pick for Flacco, who’s making $18.5 million this season. “He’s played in a lot of big games, he has a lot of good football left in him.”
Elway said he’s optimistic because new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello brings to Denver the roots of the Baltimore system in which Flacco excelled early in his career.
Elway also drafted QB Drew Lock in the second round to serve as Flacco’s understudy after cycling through Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler and Case Keenum following Manning’s retirement in 2016.
“It’s a hard position to fill,” Elway said. “We tried to shake all these trees around here the last four years and quarterbacks didn’t fall out of it. It’s difficult, but we’ve taken a lot shots. … I’m excited about where we are at that position now.”
Elway helped out Flacco by selecting speedy Iowa tight end Noah Fant and Kansas State guard Dalton Risner in the draft. Receiver Emmanuel Sanders looks just as fast as ever following surgeries on his left Achilles tendon and right ankle. And with Scangarello installing a run-heavy scheme, second-year pros Phillip Lindsay (wrist) and Royce Freeman (ankle) are healthy again and seem primed to become the NFL’s next great 1-2 punch out of the backfield.
Elway figures the offense, which has sputtered for the last four years, will finally take some pressure off Denver’s star-studded defense, building some leads that will make pass rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb even more dangerous.
“If we play as well as we think we can on the offensive side,” Elway said, “it’ll make us that much better on defense.”
Some other things to watch as the Broncos try to rebound from their first back-to-back losing seasons since 1971-72:
While everyone else was zigging, Elway was zagging, hiring a 61-year-old defense-minded head coach in Vic Fangio while other teams searched for the next offensive guru in the mold of Rams coach Sean McVay. Fangio turned off the music at practice, instituted a no-hollering edict to his staff, got rid of loose practice jerseys, and eliminated rookie hazing haircuts.
Sanders’ comeback was more complex than he had let on. The 32-year-old speedster revealed this summer that he had surgeries on both ankles in the offseason, one to repair his left Achilles tendon, which he tore in practice last December, and one a month later to fix a severely sprained right ankle, which had bothered him since 2017.
Mike Munchak joined Fangio’s staff after being passed over for the head coaching job. His task in Denver is pretty big: fix disappointing 2017 first-round pick Garett Bolles, who’s led the league in holding the last two seasons, and iron out the kinks in new center Connor McGovern’s shotgun snaps, which often end up on Flacco’s shoelaces or the grass.
NO FLY ZONE 2.0
Chris Harris Jr. is the only remaining member of the original “No Fly Zone” secondary that was the backbone of Denver’s Super Bowl 50 run. Elway brought in reinforcements in free agent cornerbacks Kareem Jackson, who’s been moved to strong safety, and Bryce Callahan.
The Broncos’ injury epidemic in training camp settled on two positions: tight end, where Fant’s foot injury made him the fifth at his position to get hurt, and inside linebacker, where Todd Davis (calf) got hurt on the first day and was soon joined by fellow starter Josey Jewell (oblique) and top backup Joe Jones (triceps).
By ARNIE STAPLETON AP Pro Football Writer
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