Hello out there my blue and orange brothers and sisters!
With one week left to go in the 2008 regular season I was clinging to blind faith there was hope and, "that's why they play the games." But orange and blue lightning failed to strike down Rivers and the Chargers!!! The blundering Bolts somehow managed to salvage their miserable season.
I hate that sickening feeling at the bottom of my stomach, I'd be lying if the beatings San Diego put on the Broncos doesn’t make me think of every lopsided game in which the Broncos has ever appeared (I'm thinking Broncos/49ths Super Bowl and Peyton Manning playoffs scary).
There’ll be plenty of dissecting what went wrong in the coming weeks. So let’s start by discussing how the Broncos make the Super Bowl next year?
I, like most others, have seen the Denver offense is in very gifted hands. It's young and has considerable talent. At the beginning of the season it seemed like Jay Cutler and the offensive gunslingers were capable of taking the wild AFC West by simply outscore opponents. That's exactly what they set of to do each week. And, with the emergence of a star in Ryan Clady and dependable wide out in Eddy Royal it looked like with a 4-0 start they would be able to do just that. But even as the defense struggled mid-season the offense also began to falter. At first it was simple mis-queues like false starts and illegal procedures that cost Denver points in the red zone. Then there were drop passes and the laughable injury situation at tailback. Without the threat of a legitimate run game defenses said, "make Jay Cutler beat us!" He did it a few times but this isn't all on Jay Cutler to produce Ws.
So what does the offense need? I don't think too much. But first things first…
A tailback is a must. Now, let me start by saying I think Bobby Turner is as good a running back's coach as you're going to find in the NFL. The job he's done this year to take guys off the street and get them ready for games is extraordinary. But man.... the Broncos need a stud tailback!!!! The team has managed to rush okay in the past several seasons but I think the tread life has finally worn out.
I liked how Peyton Hillis was toting the rock there for a couple weeks too. But don't you wish DeAngelo Williams was in a Broncos jersey racking up 4 touchdowns, and a buck-oh-eight against the Chargers this week like he did in the Giants game last week? No slouch defense there. When was the last time you remember a Broncos running back helping dismantle a quality opponent? For me it was December 7th, 2003. Clinton Portis racked up 218 yards and 5 TDs against an 11-1 Chiefs team. 1..2..3..4..5! Remember how sweet that win was? I replayed it on Tivo for a month! That sizzles!
But ever since CP took the P-funk show and heavy weight championship belt (held up prominently by CP in the 2003 home game against K.C.) to D.C. the talent level at that position has continued to drop.
The 2009 draft is looking a bit soft for RBs and the thought of drafting another RB with over 10 on the roster doesn’t make me feel very good. But to improve the position I’m willing to take a healthy back in the late rounds. But with some salary cap room to spare next year the team should go after a top flight FA RB. The Broncos should go after unrestricted FA Derrick Ward and Darren Sproles. Here’s why.
Ward is the quick one-cut runner that fits the Broncos system perfectly. He’s in the prime of his career and looks fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered last season. With that said he doesn’t have the credentials to break the piggy bank. And, unlike Travis Henry he’s a good locker room presence who knows what winning a championship is all about. The NY Giants don’t want to pay for 2 big contracts and Brandon Jacobs will cost enough the Giants will say goodbye to Ward since Ahmad Bradshaw is waiting in the wings. Darren Sproles excels as a RB and a return specialist. He is the type of speed back Shanahan has been seeking for years. He’s speedy, changes the pace of the game, and demands attention in the play action pass game. Sproles could be lured away by a big contract and chance to start. Making a solid offer to Sproles hurts the Chargers in the pocket book and would force the Chargers to find a fill in when LT needs a breather.
The Broncos offensive line saw a vast improvement this past season. It will be a joy to avoid guessing the starting tackles next season as the Ryan boys will anchor either side of the line. The interior line could still stand to make some improvement. I think Casey Wiegmann was the best FA pickup in 2008. This is especially important since I don’t see Nalen returning next year. I think the Broncos will be solid here though with Kory Lichtensteiger providing depth. The biggest OL need for the Broncos in 2009 will be at guard. The Broncos must address this need and I think best bets are a mid/late round pick in the 2009 draft.
The Broncos also look to have a solid receiving core next year. With that said the Broncos rarely go without drafting a WR in the late rounds for depth and insurance and I think we’ll see the same thing again this year. TE, however, is a position where I think the Broncos should try to upgrade again the draft. Tony Scheffler didn’t look as productive to me this season and remains an injury concern. And, is it just me, or does anyone else out there think Nate Jackson is Mike Shanahan’s long lost son. How the Broncos haven’t found a 2nd/3rd team player with more talent on special teams is a major disappointment for me each year. I’m not sure this is the year for drafting TEs but the Broncos should be thinking about how to upgrade the position and a late round pick is probably the best place to do it.
Jay Cutler is the obvious future but the Broncos DO need a backup that can win a game if he’s out. Hackney is a good guy… but the ‘no fun league’ demands you have a player that can pass the football. I like Jeff Garcia. He’s out of favor with Tampa Bay head coach John Gruden and won’t be back there next year. He also knows he’s out of chances to start in the NFL but I don’t think he’s ready to hang up the cleats just yet. The guy’s a gamer and wants to win. In a pinch the Broncos could have confidence in him to get the job done.
With that said, with another year to play with the same core group of players the Broncos offense will be scary next season.
This is how the Broncos offense will win the SuperBowl. I’ll look to share my thought about the defense very soon.