The Quest: Offensive Comparison '07 vs '08

This post is an historic one for me as it is my 100th since joining Mile High Report almost a year ago.  I am currently working on several different upcoming posts and I was wondering if I should make a certain one my historic post, but then I thought I should just stick to what my original schedule was.  This was planned to be my next post, therefore, it will have to be my 100th post. 

I recently posted my positional comparison for the defense along with grading the performance of the 2007 group and also applying a preliminary grade for what I see as potential upgrades or downgrades for each position.  I felt incomplete not having done the offense as well, so here it is.

The 2007 offensive group had a solid core surround by a couple of glaring deficiencies.  The story of our season was told best by a series of posts called “NPTB” or No Points Left Behind that can be found all over the MHR Community during last season.  Our offense racked up the yardage without scoring very many points. 

The Quest for the offense this season is about one thing, getting into the end zone!

 

Quarterback

A few weeks ago, I would have not considered this position to be graded any differently.  Of course, there were a few times that Jay Cutler didn’t look great on the field and I had attributed that to his inexperience.  In hindsight, some of those bad throws may have just been his body struggling against his undiagnosed disease.  I can think of at least one or two deep passes that looked horrible under thrown.  Since then, my optimism for this season is incredibly high and even though Cutler is the first truly gifted quarterback to play with this disease I still think he will manage it and excel at the position.  I am looking for Jay Cutler to have a breakout year in 2008, especially if our offensive line stays healthy.

2007 Grade: B+ (Cutler was still solid all season long)

2008 Grade: A (Expect big things from Cutler this season!)

 

Full Back

This position intrigues me if for no other reason that Shanny seems intrigued by it as well.  I don't think he is sold on Cecil Sapp being the long term solution at the position.  He drafts a FB, Peyton Hillis, that blocked for two first round draft picks in this years draft and then Shanny goes out and drafts a LB in Spencer Larsen and has him start learning the offensive playbook.  Even that wasn’t enough for Shanny, he also signed Michael Pittman who could easily slide into the FB role to contribute.  Pittman’s versatility as a pass catcher makes his value at FB even greater. 

In 2007, the position was weak.  Mike Bell never fully made the transition to FB, which left Shanny with Sapp as the only viable option at the position.  With all the moves that Shanny has made, I just don’t realistically see a spot on the roster for Cecil Sapp.  If he does make it on the team, he is almost certainly gone by this time next year.  Mike Bell’s writing on the wall might be right in front of us, but not too far off from that wall is another wall with Cecil Sapp’s name on it. 

2007 Grade: B- (Even with all the injuries to RB, the Broncos still gained a lot of rushing yards)

2008 Grade: B (I am going conservative with this grade, because I really have no idea which way Shanny is going with this position)

 

Running Back

I feel we are stacked at this position.  Last year we had Travis Henry and basically two undrafted, unproven rookies in Selvin Young and Andre Hall.  We found that Henry is injury prone, duh.  We also found that Selvin Young was a great find and has proven to be an excellent change of pace runner, as is Hall.  By season’s end, Shanny informed the public that Young would never be anything more than a 15-20 carry a game back.  Four months later, Young added 15-20 pounds of muscle and looks like a real live running back.  There has been much discussion as to whether this means anything and I think it does.  IF Young stays healthy, the added weight should make him even more elusive as he will be able too break more tackles and power his way through defensive backs and even linebackers.  Will he get 2000 yards?  I really doubt it.  Will he get a 1000 yards?  I see that as a very good possibility, especially with Travis Henry being unreliable at best.

Last year we got hit with a lot of injuries.  Mike Bell even had to come in because all three guys in front of him were down.  This year, Shanny has prepared for a lot of injuries.  Our depth chart will likely be Henry/Pittman and Young/Hall as the two sides of our running back by committee system we use.  Mike Bell will be cut and since Styg50 is known for his great insight, Ryan Torain will be on IR.   If Styg is wrong, then I think Sapp gets whacked and Pittman becomes our FB with Torain on our active roster.

If anyone reading this would like to know why I am such a fan of Selvin Young, then click on his link above and then click on Travis Henry's link. They both started about the same amount of games, yet even though Selvin Young had less carries, he led the team in yards last year. Selvin Young had a 5.2 average compared to Henry's 4.1 average per carry. This is why I thought Selvin Young's added weight was such a big deal; it shows that he is serious about his commitment to the Broncos and that he also is hungry for more than what he was given last season.

2007 Grade: C (Injuries and inconsistency killed this grade)

2008 Grade: A (This may be our most improved offensive position, as long as the group stays healthy!!)

 

Wide Receiver

Wide Receiver is another position in which I feel really good about heading into the regular season.  Last year, injuries thinned out the position greatly.  Without Brandon Marshall beating every CB he faced, Cutler would have had few people to throw the ball too.  Javon Walker is gone and good riddance.  He never came back from his knee injury and I think the Oakland Raiders might be finding out that they just flushed $20 million down the toilet when they signed him, but that little tidbit just makes me smile.  Mike Shanahan decided he needed depth at WR too.  So he went out and got Darrell Jackson, Keary Colbert, and Samie Parker.  These veterans will probably fight it out for the two spots on the roster.  BMarsh will be our number one go-to guy and Brandon Stokley will line up in the slot position.  Shanny also drafted Eddie Royal who will be our return specialist and who has also made some noise in our QB camp the last two weeks with his receiver skills.  He’ll line up in the slot, but I have this personal belief that Royal will eventually develop into a solid number 2 guy in spite of his height disadvantage. 

Looking at that list of guys we got right now, I find myself thinking back to last year.  David Terrell, Quincy Morgan, David Kircus, or Brian Clark.  Tell me this years squad doesn’t look a lot better. 

2007 Grade: C+ (Injuries and lack of weapons for Cutler hurts this grade)

2008 Grade: A (Even the guys we cut at this position would have been locks on last years squad)

 

Tight End

We'll have the same starting cast of characters this year as we did last year.  Daniel Graham and Tony Scheffler will be our stars again this year.  Graham will have an entire year under our offensive system and should become more of a threat in our passing game.  As for Scheffler, well my fingers are crossed that his recent injury is as bad as it gets for him.

2007 Grade: A- (These two turned in a solid 2007 performance)

2008 Grade: A+ (You can't get much better than Graham and Scheffler)

 

Offensive Tackle

With Matt Lepsis retiring, we have lost a Bronco great.  Sure he had a bad year last season, but the guy was top rate for many years.  Filling the void he left didn't look easy, at least not until we drafted Ryan Clady.  I'll admit, the thought of drafting him terrified me.  I still have nightmares of him being the 2008 version of George Foster.  I'll cross my fingers and hope for the best.  His addition immediately improves the offensive line and perhaps this is the year that Ryan Harris finally finds a home on the right side of the line.  If not, Erik Pears might be up to the challenge.  In my view, we still have some building to do on the line, but it's looking much better today than it did throughout last season!

2007 Grade: D+ (Lepsis will be missed regardless)

2008 Grade: B (This is about as good as I can do without having seen Clady play a single NFL game)

 

Offensive Guard/Center

Having Tom Nalen back for another year will allow our team to develop Kory Lichtensteiger.  K-lich may have that mean streak we like in our center. I really like that we drafted this kid.  It helps too to have Casey Wiegmann backing up Nalen in case of another horrendous injury like the one he suffered in 2007.  Losing Nalen totally screwed up the offensive line.

As for the guard position, I am happy with the guys we got here.  Ben Hamilton, Chris Kuper, and Montrae Holland know the system and did well to keep the cohesion of the line from complete falling apart last season.  Hopefully Hamilton will be able to recover fully from his concussion last training camp.  K-lich may also get a chance to step in and contribute at this position.  Overall, I think the interior of our line has been greatly improved by the additions of K-lich and Wiegmann.  It is obvious to me that Shanny has no desire to repeat any of the struggles from last year.

2007 Grade: C+ (The loss of Nalen and Hamilton was a disaster, but these guys played tough and never quit)

2008 Grade: B+ (The depth alone bumps this grade up, having Nalen and Hamilton back helps too!)

 

Conclusion

The difference I see from this year's offense and last is the addition of key depth players.  We didn't go out and pick any big name free agents or spend our way into a hole - Al Davis style.  We picked up high quality, high character guys who mainly want to compete for a job.  We spent less this season and came away with much more in my opinion. 

Mike Shanahan has a very long memory and he remembers the troubles we had with injuries and the depth problems at running back, wide receiver, and on our offensive line.  So what did he do about that?  He signed low risk, high reward players and built strong depth at all three positions.  No matter who makes the roster, we know we'll end up with quality players at these positions.  If I were grading Mike Shanahan's offseason moves, I'd give him an A+.

God help any opposing team that has to scheme against this offense next season.  There are just too many weapons.  And if you think my grade for this year is too optimistic, then feel free to tell me how I am wrong.  I just couldn't see enough weaknesses ON PAPER to give a grade any lower than I did.

2007 Overall Grade: C+ (The yards were there, but all that matters in the end is points!)

2008 Overall Grade: A (This is one scary offense in my opinion)

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