How the Denver Broncos answered their most pressing questions -- save one -- this August

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Thirty-seven days ago, Denver Broncos players reported for training camp and first-year general manager George Paton settled into a chair to discuss what he hoped would happen in the weeks and months to come.

"I feel we're on the right track," Paton said then, "but [we] have a long way to go."

The Broncos have since made decisions, trades and talked it all over -- over and over -- and the roster, mostly in place, reflects some answers to the some of the biggest questions they had as July drew to a close.

The biggest question, whether they can end their playoff drought, won't come until the holidays.

Here's how they've answered their most pressing queries:

Who starts at QB?

Teddy Bridgewater won the starting quarterback job by checking all the boxes. He was consistently more efficient than Drew Lock in the pre-snap work at the line of scrimmage, led to Broncos on scoring drives in all but one possession he played in the preseason, was not sacked and did not have a turnover whether it was the first- or second-team offense around him.

If the Broncos get the level of play from Bridgewater he showed in his five starts with New Orleans in 2019 (nine touchdowns in five games) or in the 10 games before he suffered a knee injury last year in Carolina (13 touchdowns in 10 games with no Christian McCaffrey in seven of those) the Broncos can put themselves in the playoff conversation.

Are they right about RT?

Bobby Massie is the next guy with a chance to do something nobody has done since Orlando Franklin in 2012 -- start every game at right tackle. Massie is in his 10th season with 110 starts on his résumé.

Since 2016 alone, the Broncos have seen Donald Stephenson, Ty Sambrailo, Allen Barbre, Cyrus Kouandjio, Menelik Watson, Jared Veldheer, Elijah Wilkinson, Ja'Wuan James, Jake Rodgers, Demar Dotson and Calvin Anderson have at least one start at right tackle.

The Broncos have spent money, draft picks, time and plenty of aspirin without consistently producing a solution. This time around Paton signed Massie as well as Cameron Fleming in free agency and still had Anderson on the roster.

Will the D get an A?

Nothing shrivels in the autumn sun like preseason optimism. But a glance at the Broncos' defensive depth chart shows high-end players at multiple positions, backups who can contribute and a secondary that is well-stocked to have a potential answer for most any personnel grouping it faces.

And the tantalizing potential of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb together, is something that hasn't happened since Week 4 of the 2019 season. They have played 20 games together since Chubb was the No. 5 pick overall in the 2018 NFL draft and have 29.5 combined sacks in those games.

Chubb is returning from offseason ankle surgery, Miller is returning from ankle surgery last September that kept him out of the 2020 season. Good fortune on the injury front, especially with Miller and Chubb, will be an enormous factor in what the end results look like for the defense.

Is this a playoff team or what?

Maybe, and while neither Paton nor coach Vic Fangio has made anything close to a playoffs-or-bust declaration, they both have said repeatedly they like this roster, like this team and there is depth that didn't exist in recent seasons.

Still, team president Joe Ellis may have spoken for all involved when he said earlier this summer: "We've got to win. We just have to win, it's kind of enough already for me personally. ... I just want to see us turn the corner and be successful, we've got to really do that now."

The Broncos have to get out of September with something beyond a 0 in the "W" column. In each of the last five years they have had at least one three-game losing streak with the eight-game losing streak in 2017 topping the list. The result has been watching the playoffs from home for five straight years.

The Broncos have not only dealt with plenty of injuries, been decidedly unsettled at quarterback, seen what the arrival of Patrick Mahomes has done to the balance of power in the league and the division, and simply not had enough talent or performed nearly well enough in the big moments to change their fortunes.

They have also moped at times. Losing does that, a carousel at quarterback does that and put it all together and one loss becomes two, becomes three, then four, then Cancun when other folks play for the jewelry.

This Broncos team is more talented than others in recent years, it has more team speed, more depth and should have a more favorable schedule than some others. They'll need to show some grit, though, and they can't show that until things get tough in the months ahead.