The optimism surrounding the Denver Broncos soared this offseason, cresting during the NFL Draft when John Elway used a ton of capital to bolster his offense and surround quarterback Drew Lock with weapons.
A defense boasting of Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, an imported Jurrell Casey, Shelby Harris, Justin Simmons, A.J. Bouye, Kareem Jackson and others was already good. Then Elway went out and paired Phillip Lindsay with Melvin Gordon in the backfield, and drafted receivers Jerry Jeudy in the first round and K.J. Hamler in the second. He then added Lock's former college teammate, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, in the fourth.
The pairing of a veteran defense with a young offense provides plenty of reason for buoyancy entering the 2020 season.
However, on Tuesday, Elway threw a boulder of caution into that floating vessel of optimism.
"They're definitely tempered," Elway said of expectations for Lock and the offense, via the team's official website. "I don't think we can expect with no offseason for us to come out and be hitting on all cylinders. I know that we have spent a lot of time in Zoom meetings and (OC) Pat (Shumur) and his staff on the offensive side have spent a lot of time with it, but there's nothing like being on the practice field. It's going to be a slow build."
Lock started five games as a rookie and looked the part of a young quarterback on the rise with a big arm, exuding confidence and improving by the week. The question is whether the unusual offseason will stymie any growth that was on the horizon.
"The expectations of Drew -- I mean, he did play well for five games, but that was only five games last year," Elway said. "He didn't have the offseason this year, which for young football players is always very, very important. I know he spent a lot of time throwing to the receivers and getting the timing and doing what they could do away from the facility."
Elway noted that the lack of preseason games and intersquad scrimmages this offseason is a detriment to his squad.
"We're very young on the offensive side," he said. "With the way training camp is set up, I always remember as a rookie it was important for me to see other helmets and not just Bronco helmets, but to see other helmets to get used to and realize, hey, they are now in the NFL. With our young team, that doesn't help us. I was hoping for a couple preseason games just because we are so young on the offensive side to get to see somebody else. We're going to have to deal with it. Today's world is adjusting, so we'll adjust to that. The mature kids will come in and do everything they can to get up to speed, but again, they're going to be young guys without an offseason program. We definitely have to give them some rope and temper it a little bit and take it one practice at a time."
Perhaps Elway is sobering expectations for a talented but young offense that might struggle off the bat. Or perhaps he's reeling in any overexcitement or overconfidence those young players might get after reading all the glowing reviews all summer.
Now it's Lock's job to prove his boss wrong and show that the stunted offseason won't curtail his and the rest of the offense's growth in 2020.