Time for our weekly installement with Lee Rasizer, Broncos Beat Writer with the Rocky Mountain News. AS always, we thank Lee for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us. Without further ado....
MHR -- The Broncos have lost 4 of 5 and have been completely decimated by injury. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
LR -- No, that's the train-a-coming. While the games over the next several weeks are completely winnable, Denver's track record (no pun intended) on the road doesn't instill confidence. The team played decent at Oakland in the opener but was pitiful in trips to woeful Kansas City and New England, which is merely average this season minus Brady. The Broncos have four straight treks to the Eastern time zone coming up in Cleveland, Atlanta, New York and Carolina. It's normally difficult to adjust to those early games after a cross-country trip. That said, I give Denver a decent shot this week. It's a night game. I don't think the Browns are very good and they're starting a rookie quarterback in Brady Quinn. The offense is going to have to avert turnovers, though, which it hasn't shown it's able to do in recent games.
MHR -- What reason do you have for Jay Cutler's struggles?
LR -- Teams are doing everything possible to keep Brandon Marshall out of the passing offense: deep zones, rolled safeties and exotic pre-snap reads that hide the true intentions to make someone other than Denver's top target beat them. At first, Cutler tried to throw it Marshall's way anyway because it was seen as the best option, sometimes impatiently. Against Miami, he probably didn't target Marshall enough. There has to be a middle ground. But whether he'll admit it or not - and he won't, because he was asked this week - Cutler seems to be frustrated and pressing. Deep down he knows the defense is suspect and that the offense needs to produce in a big way. The running game isn't doing him any favors by lacking consistency. Then there are the injuries. Cutler needs a positive to build upon. It would help to get a solid start to a game, without turning the ball over, so he isn't having to pass while facing substantial deficits. That's been another factor in his downturn.
MHR -- Do you get the sense that Mike Shanahan's message is no longer being heard by the team?
LR -- That's really hard to know, because I'm not behind the scenes. I believe he's respected. His football acumen isn't questioned. He puts the onus on his players to execute and if they don't, they're held accountable. But Shanahan's biggest issue isn't so much whether he's being heard, it's the input he's giving putting the roster together during the off-season. Even someone, like Shanahan, capable of drawing up the Xs and Os with aplomb, can't consistently overcome talent deficiencies. Injuries, especially on the defensive side, have made the scenario even worse.
MHR -- Brandon Marshall's post game comments - a good or bad thing, and do you think some of comments about Cutler are rooted in what Jay had to say about Brandon this spring?
LR -- This is not a Donovan McNabb-Terrell Owens type relationship. Marshall and Cutler are friends and they seemingly can jab at each other publicly and still be fine once they talk it out. Cutler, according to Marshall, text-messaged him on Monday, writing that they needed to get back to their dominant early-season form and quickly. As for Marshall coming out publicly, I wrote a blog on that very subject on our Rocky website. My take is that it's actually refreshing that someone shows genuine emotion in the media, since so many quotes are canned these days. There are certain instances where calling out a teammate crosses the line. But in this case, I don't believe it did that.
MHR -- A little either, neither or both. Chances Selvin Young and Tony Scheffler play on Thursday.
LR -- My guess, based on the limited information in the top-secret injury world that I have, is that Young will play and Scheffler won't. Scheffler still hasn't opened up in practice with ‘explosive' type moves, even though he was listed as a limited practice participant. The injury situation at running back almost forces Young to come back, even though he's likely not 100 percent. I still think you'll see Ryan Torain get the bulk of the work, with Young backing him up.
Thanks again to Lee, and be sure to check out his work over at the RMN!