While Marvin Gaye may have sang that there 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough,' the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will attempt to see that for themselves when they visit the Mile-High city for the first time since 2012. The Bucs play the Denver Broncos in Week Three at 4:25 p.m. on FOX.
This will be the 10th meeting between the two teams and Denver leads the all-time series by a large margin of 7-2. In fact, the last time the Bucs emerged victorious over the Broncos was in 1999. The last time they won at Mile High Stadium was 1993. That's 17 years ago for those keeping score at home. Should the Bucs take down the Drew Lock-led Broncos, they'll snap a four-game losing streak.
Denver has a tough division, contending with the now-Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, who don't look like they're slowing down any time soon. The Broncos also had some uncertainty last season under center. Quarterback Joe Flacco, who the team traded a fourth-round pick for prior to the 2019 season, only ended up starting half of Denver's games. Lock wasn't actually even available when Flacco went on IR following Week 8 with a herniated disk in his neck. Lock was also on IR but returned in Week 12, winning four of the last five games for the Broncos. His starting position was solidified when the team released Flacco and didn't pick up another quarterback in last month's draft.
2019 Record: 7-9
Scoring Offense: 27th (17.2 points per game)
Total Offense: 28th (298.6 total yards per game)
Rushing Offense: 20th (103.9 rushing yards per game)
Passing Offense: 28th (212.6 passing yards per game)
Scoring Defense: 10th (19.8 points allowed per game)
Total Defense: 12th (337.0 total yards allowed per game)
Rushing Defense: 16th (111.4 rushing yards allowed per game)
Passing Defense: 12th (337.0 passing yards allowed per game)
Turnover Margin: T-13th (+1)
The Broncos just didn't generate a lot of offense last season, plain and simple. Flacco got off to a rocky start before he was injured and for three games, Brandon Allen was Denver's starter. Then, Drew Lock came off injured reserve himself in Week 13 to finish out the season.
The Broncos have apparent confidence in Drew Lock, though. And it might be for good reason. Across the five games he played on his way to a 4-1 record in his first NFL outing, Lock threw for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns on 100 completions with a 64.10 completion percentage. His best game came against the Houston Texans in Week 14 when he went 22-of-27 for 309 yards and three touchdowns against one interception for a 136.0 quarterback rating. With that experience under his belt, the Broncos are hoping the 4-1 record to close out the season will translate into momentum going into 2020.
On the other side of the ball, outside linebacker Von Miller is still at the helm of a defense that admittedly struggled a bit (maybe it's because they let Shaq Barrett go?). Miller has remained the constant but didn't have a whole lot of help last year, which probably contributed to the slight downturn in his production. He failed to reach double-digit sacks for the first time since 2013 when he only played in nine games that season. He's surpassed 10.0 sacks every other year throughout his nine-year career. Going into his 10th season, Miller will be attempting to revamp the Broncos defense largely on his own (okay, with a couple free agent additions) as Denver prioritized retooling the offense to Lock's needs – or so it seemed from last month's draft. They took two receivers with their first two picks and even took one of Lock's former teammates in the fourth round. Though the Broncos did have quite the amount of capital, making 10 picks in this year's draft.
Broncos' 2020 Draft Class: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (Round 1, 15th overall), K.J. Hamler, Penn State (Round 2, 46th overall), CB Michael Ojemudia, Iowa (Round 3, 77th overall), OL Lloyd Cushenberry, LSU (Round 3, 83rd overall), DT McTelvin Agim, Arkansas (Round 3, 95th overall), TE Albert Okweugbunam, Missouri (Round 4, 118th overall), LB Justin Strnad, Wake Forest (Round 5, 178th overall), OL Netane Muti, Fresno State (Round 6, 181st overall, WR Tyrie Cleveland, Florida (Round 7, 252nd overall), EDGE Derrek Tuszka, North Dakota State (Round 7, 254th overall)
They certainly locked down Lock's targets (that wasn't even intentional, I swear) with Jeudy, Hamler, former Missouri Tiger Okweugbunam and Cleveland. They also beefed up the offensive line around Lock, drafting LSU's Cushenberry and Fresno State's Muti on the interior. Ojemudia was a good pickup for the defense in the third round and will go with another big addition made to the Denver secondary this offseason, or rather, a swap?
Key Veteran Additions: CB A.J Buoye, DL Jurrell Casey, RB Melvin Gordon, TE Nick Vannett, G Graham Glasgow
Notable Departures: CB Chris Harris Jr., QB Joe Flacco, DE Derek Wolfe, OL Connor McGovern, S Will Parks, NT Joel Heath, FB Janovich
It does seem like the Broncos just did a lot of swapping. They let Harris go in free agency once they traded for A.J. Bouye in which they parted with a fourth-round pick. That's right, Denver had even more capital that they had stockpiled prior to the draft. They also got rid of a seventh-round pick in exchange for Casey and picked up a 2021 seventh-round pick after trading away Janovich. But in the spirit of swapping, they let McGovern go, in favor of Glasgow while boosting the interior further in the draft.
The Bucs will face what the Broncos hope is a high-powered offense at a high elevation with Lock under center in Week Three. Meanwhile, Miller and Co. will be attempting to stop Brady and his stockpile of weapons he'll be bringing with him up the mountain.