This is a nice article I found at Draft Dog. It is a great read. (I hope this hasn't been posted before)
I don't know James, but I sure hope he is/becomes a member of this site.
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By James McMurtry
3 January 2008
Breaking Down the New Denver Empire
With the announcement of Matt Lepsis' retirement it is clear that this is a new era for the Denver Broncos. Since winning back to back Super Bowls 10 years ago, Mike Shanahan has tried to fill holes of a crumbling roster that was as dominant as any in NFL history in a 3 year span from 1996-1998. The biggest hole that was left was from the legendary QB John Elway when he announced his retirement after leading his team to victory and his 5th Super Bowl. After John there was the offensive line that was the Oak Tree in Denver with its zone blocking scheme that would churn out no-names into 1,400 yard rushers. Oh yea, there was a guy named Terrell Davis who rushed for 2,000 yards behind that line. Finally the defense which was known for coming up with the big play has no one from those Super Bowl teams, and recently has gone through the Cleveland castoffs, as well as a laundry list of big name busts.
So now after a disappointing season that Shanahan has called his worst in a 13 year career, we are looking at the rebuilding of a powerhouse. Yes every team has to rebuild. Look at the 49ers. Shanahan finally has his leader to build around in Jay Cutler and a core group of playmakers. Here are my thoughts on the roster heading into the draft and free agency.
The Lines: O-Line: Looking at the building process we have to look at the lines. No one looks good behind them if the big guys upfront don't do their jobs. Only a few Bronco veterans look to return to what will be a very young team. The studs of that O line in Nalen, Lepsis, and Hamilton are possibly all going to be gone after retirement, injuries, and salary cap casualties. If not this year, than most definitely after the 2008 season these are guys are all but gone. In my opinion this is where Denver may need to look at building some depth for the future or find itself in trouble when the injury bug hits. I think the Broncos have a good young group for starters that could really gel in 2008. Defense is too much of a priority to look to the O-line early in the draft and will have to wait until later rounds. The new version of O-line may be better for pass protection due to the added weight.
LT Ryan Harris (2nd year, 3rd Rd Pick, with no starting experience. 300 lbs to Lepsis 290.)
LG Chris Kuper (302 lbs. Has Started to come into his own)
C Tom Nalen/ Chris Myers (Nalen may announce his retirement before the draft after 14 seasons. Ended season on injured reserve.)
RG Ben Hamilton (Could be the only veteran left for 2008. Ended season on injured reserve.)
RT Erik Pears (Nice 300 pounder that was a FA rookie pick up in 2005)
D-Line: The other side of the line for defense has major issues. I would say that most problems in 2007 came from too many rookies, and the revolving door of veterans. They cut guys left and right in the preseason and now have to build upon youth and the draft. I think Denver really has no choice, but to have a draft similar to 2007. They may look to bring in a big name free agent such as Albert Haynsworth, but I honestly think that Shanahan has been burned too many times in recent history. The interior of the line has a tremendous amount of youth and average veteran talent. They need some playmaking studs here that can shed blocks and grab a running back before an 8 yard gain. Also, someone that can get into the back field on pass plays would be nice. There are 3 top tier DT studs in the 1st rd of the draft this year and a couple that may pan out in the 2nd round as well.
Glen Dorsey will be off the board, but the other two guys are Sedric Ellis and Kentwan Balmer. One of these guys will be called by Denver on Draft day. In the 2nd round they may look to go in this direction again if the 320 pound Frank Okam is available. I am saying don't be surprised to see the Broncos take back to back DTs in the draft. They did that with DE's last year and seem to like stacking up on the same position of need in a given draft. They did the same thing in 2005 when they took 3 DB's. It's not a bad idea considering how many drafted players turn out to be busts.
LE Jarvis Moss (1st rounder who was showing improvement until an injury. Should be back for training camp)
LT Marcus Thomas (Wore down near the end of the season, but showed some playmaking flashes)
RT Someone not on the current roster (Mallard will be in the rotation, but is not a starter. The 1st or 2nd round draft pick will take this position.)
LE Tim Crowder (2nd rounder that could explode in his 2nd year. Engleberger is a hard player, but not strong enough to be the starter.)
Pass Rush Specialist Elvis Dumerville (Stud with 12 ½ sacks in 2007. He shouldn't be playing every down.)
QB: With the full year of seeing Jay Cutler it's clear that Shanahan has his franchise QB after messing around with 2nd tier guys for 8 years. Yes, I am on the band wagon and would like to see more 30-40 yard passes in 2008. Cutler is better at those than most QBs and it would keep defenses honest as well as open up the run. The big pass play has to be a part of Denver's weekly game plan. We started to see that in the second half of the season when they were scoring more the 15 points per game.
QB1 Jay Cutler (Could be MVP of the league in 2008 ....... or just make the Pro Bowl behind Manning and Brady.)
QB 2 Patrick Ramsey ( A veteran who is smart with a good arm)
RB: I think Travis Henry could be great if he could stay healthy. That's a big if. Travis will probably have to take a pay cut to be a part of the Denver Broncos in 2008, but I don't see them getting rid of him. Selvin young is a great slasher, but Shanny likes to pound out yards and wear down an opponent's D-line. They may look to add a guy for insurance in Free Agency. Full Back may be a bigger issue.
RB Travis Henry (Will be the starter for 2008. He has too many babies' mouths to feed.)
HB Selvin Young (From out of nowhere stud speedster)
FB Cedric Cobbs/ Mike Bell ( Bell may end up as the starter. )
WR: This could have been such a dynamic group. With Brandon Marshall, Javon Walker, and Stokley, this could be the most feared WR Trio in the league. However, Javon has decided to be an idiot and pout because he wasn't the big man on campus in 2007. I think after spouting off the day after the Broncos victory in the season finally Javon may be outa here, saying that he doesn't "fit" in the Broncos scheme. The other side of the coin is that no one may want Walker for his giant contract being that he was injured and he may be stuck in D-town. The guy is a bit of a head case, but maybe Shanahan can talk some sense into him. The bright side of 2007 has seen Brandon Marshall become the T.O. of the AFC, and that Stokley is a great clutch 3rd down slot guy who will both be in Denver for 3 years. I think Walker stays and finds his "fit" for 2008. After all, he has $5 million reasons feel good about his role.
WR1 Javon Walker (See Javon, I put a 1 next to your name. Please shut up and play.)
WR2 Brandon Marshall (Stud)
WR3 Brandon Stokley (Other Stud with the name Brandon)
TE: The Broncos seem are set with their top two guys. A pass catching TE in Sheafler and a blocking stud in Graham. This will be a staple in the near future. They may look to add a little depth here in Free Agency.
TE1 Tony Shaefler
TE2 Daniel Graham
LB: Here is another major area of concern. The big story in 2007 is how DJ Williams did such a good job towards the end of the season playing middle linebacker. Yes he did, if you consider running right past the play and into the stands, great backer play. Also, if you think going to the hole that is exactly opposite of the RBs decision, and smack in to the back of your own D-line great backer play. DJ over pursues and doesn't make the cut to get in on the play. It's like he is scared to make a cut and a tackle. DJ is great on the outside and that's where he belongs. They need a stud guy who can play middle linebacker and attack the main point of threat from the offense. They may address this in the draft, but I think that a guy like Lance Briggs may be the big 2008 free agent answer here. Denver may have to draft a Backer in 2009. A main stud like Briggs can come in and make an immediate impact. If I were Denver I would drop Gold and look to completely retool this unit. DJ is a keeper, but not in the middle.
WLB DJ Williams
MLB Lance Briggs or someone else
SLB Lance Briggs or someone else (Ian Gold is gone or a backup)
DB: Denver is fine at corner, but safety is a concern with the looming retirement of John Lynch. Abdullah was a nice surprise, but Denver will have to find some depth. The kid out of Miami may be taken in the 1st round by Denver, but I still think that the team will have to draft D-line early, and look to the Free Agent Market for safety. Champ Bailey and Dre Bly are studs and will look better with a stronger D-line in front of them. Nickel back is a bit of concern with Foxworth. He may be released as he will be a restricted free agent and I would have to say that I wouldn't miss him. He never really showed ability to make a play on the ball. He mostly would back peddle, stop when the ball was in the air, and watch the WR catch it. Good DB's break on the ball before it gets to the receiver. Not just wait for a 15 yard play to happen. Just watch tape against Indy the last 2 years. Reggie Wayne loves Foxworth. I don't think he gets signed for an extension. He cost Denver a trip to the Super Bowl in 2005 and I don't think he is what Denver needs. We may see some youth come in the draft for DB.
RCB Bailey (Only Pro Bowler for 2007)
So there is the start of the new Denver Broncos. They will have to have another great draft along the lines in 2008 and look for Linebackers and depth in free agency. It takes 4 years to build a championship caliber team. 2006 was the start with Jay Cutler, Marshall, Shaefler, and Dumerville. They need to build a championship defense and you may see the final pieces fall into place in 2008 and 2009.