DENVER — The NFL deals with sobering truths. Offenses are either good, contributing to wins. Or they are anchors, pulling teams to the bottom of the ocean.
It takes little time to categorize where the Broncos have fallen the past five seasons, averaging 19.9 points per game. They overcame the issues in 2015, but have failed to make the playoffs since, posting three consecutive losing records.
I asked Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton on Thursday if the days of 17 points of game -- last season's average -- are finally are over.
"It is frustrating when you hear those things because the potential is there. We see it everyday with all the weapons we have. That shouldn't even be a concern when we go into a game, us not being able to put up points. But it was. And we have to face the facts," Sutton said. "We need to move on from that, learn from that, continue to grow -- understand we have every weapon we could possibly need to be successful in every position offensively. It's on us to apply it so that we are no longer in those conversations (about scoring issues). If anything, it should be a conversation about us being in the top of the league for points per game."
If the Broncos jump into the top 10 -- that requires 25 points per game -- they will Toosie Slide into the playoffs. Even 23 a week should allow them to return the postseason for the first time since Peyton Manning retired. For Sutton -- the new additions aside, like Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler -- the optimism sprouts from quarterback Drew Lock and new coordinator Pat Shurmur.
Not only did Lock go 4-1 over the final five games, but he earned the respect of his teammates.
"Drew went out there and played very well as you all know. The only game he lost was to the Super Bowl winners, a snow game, where we missed some opportunities," said Sutton, who blames himself for not making more plays against the Chiefs. "To do what he did as a rookie, it brings so much promise to this upcoming season. I know everyone in our building is excited to see what he does in his second year. The dude plays with so much swag, heart and want-to to learn. You have heard the stuff about him being around Peyton, that should say something right there about his character and his drive."
If it is accepted that Lock will continue to improve, the next challenge remains puzzling together the pieces. That onus falls into Shurmur's lap. He has a history of working well with quarterbacks -- young and old alike, and most recently Case Keenum and Daniel Jones -- and using deep strikes. The latter will be critical to the Broncos moving the needle after years of acoustic performances.
"He wants to give us chances to make plays. It's pretty rare I feel, but (Shurmur) sees the game like receivers see the game," said Sutton, who made his first Pro Bowl last season, posting 72 catches for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns. "Screens, taking shots down the field, him giving Drew the ability, if he sees a mismatch, to take advantage of that. Not just saying, we will come back to that next series. That's something that's going to be huge for us."
Sutton's performance and status have grown dramatically as he enters his third season. He is not only the most accomplished receiver in the room, but the veteran. He entered the league as a sponge, learning from Super Bowl champions Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Now, he must provide guidance for the rookies, players the Broncos need to contribute to execute their long-awaited U-turn.
"It is funny to look back at that now. Our room is very young," Sutton said. "The roles have transformed where DaeSean (Hamilton) and I are looked at as the older guys. It's something where we want to help Coach Z (receivers coach (Zach Azzanni) coach these guys. That's what we had when we came into the league and Demaryius and Emmanuel were not afraid to give us advice."