Let me first intorduce this piece by stating that it is not my intention bring unwaranted negativity to this site. On the contrary, I vehemently oppose it. But the title of this series should make it clear what my goal here is:
Cause: \koz\ n. Something that brings about an effect or result.
Concern: \ken-sern\ n. An uneasy state of blended interest, uncertainty, and apprehension.
In short, there are areas of this team that concern me, and they concern me for a reason. I wish only to make those reasons as clear as possible, while excising any inconsequential uneasiness, as the the Broncos move forward on The Quest.
OLB Boss Bailey
The first thing to understand about 6th year player Boss Bailey, is just what he was supposed to bring to the football field. When he came out of Georgia, he was a consensus number one talent. He was considered the fastest OLB in the draft, and was one of the fastest players in the draft period. On top of that, he was quite strong and very explosive, boasting of a 48 inch vertical, which puts him solidly into basketball territory.
His talents in many ways mirrored our own DJ Williams, since they both shared freakish athleticism and speed. The opinion of the scouts was unanimous: Boss was the best weakside LB in the draft. But unlike DJ, when draft day rolled around, team after team that needed help at WLB passed on Boss, until, at 34, the perrenially struggling Detroit Lions picked him up. Bailey's talent, work ethic and character left only one reason as to why those teams passed on him: his injury history at Georgia.
Even Bailey had to admit that having 2 knee surgeries in 4 years wasn't conducive to draft day fortune, but as it was he was on a team, his injury history was behind him and he went on to have a very promising rookie season with the Lions, where he recorded 88 tackles and an INT. From the Lion's vantage point this wasn't exactly viewed as a huge rookie splash, but all agreed that his immense potential showed and that they would be able to build on that.
Bailey went down during the Aug. 3rd training camp practice, and though initial reports were favorable, a week later his knee went under the knife to repair previously undetected cartilage damage.
"The damage was worse than anyone had realized from the tests," Lions coach Steve Mariucci said. "The doctor immediately repaired it, but Boss will be off the knee for several weeks, and then will be looking at a rehab period on top of that."
Mariucci declined to put a timetable on Bailey's return, but said the Lions hope to have him back this season.
Bailey would end up missing the entire 2004 season. As the 2005 season kicked off, Bailey was finally back in pads after a lengthy and frustrating rehab, and his potential began to shine through again, as he played solid through 10 games, ranking 3rd on the team in tackles. But an ankle injury in game 11 turned out to be more severe than expected, and he found himself going to IR for the second straight season in a row. (Editor's Note: The player that replaced him on the roster was none other than Glenn Martinez.)
2006 saw an additional similarity between Bailey and DJ: both were moved to SAM early in their careers, despite the fact that they were not drop and cover LBs but fast, powerful hitters, and in their fourth years, both players were asked to fill in at MLB. DJ because of the implementation of Bates' "run-contain" scheme, and Bailey because of the implementation of Marinelli's "cover-2" scheme. The results were very similar. Just as Denver staggered to their worst finish in years, the Lions finished as the worst in the league that year, and Bailey's frustration was palpable. He was benched before the season was over in favor of "spare-part" Paris Lenon.
2007 saw him moved back to the SLB position where, though he was experienced at the spot, he was not nearly as effective as he had been at WLB. He also racked up mor than his share of injuries that resulted in him not finishing games. Through the years he left games for numerous contusions, hamstring pulls, groin strains, etc. It is one thing to lose a player before a game or season, when you have a chance to better prepare his replacement. It is another thing to go into a game relying on someone, only to be left forging forth alone when they are injured and have to leave. You can understand why the Lions fans regard Boss as a "glass-jaw."
An injury history that he just can't shake, coupled with the fact that, though his natural skillset made him an ideal WLB, he has had to "reinvent" himself as a SAM, causes me a great deal of concern. What are our options if Boss doesn't work out at SAM? Last year we struggled mightily in many facets, and while I don't want to dismiss Webster out of hand, he certainly showed why Denver was his second-chance team, and why he was not considered an automatic lock for ANY position this year. Winborn, like DJ and Boss ahead of him, shows a skillset that is emminently more suitable to WLB. While Larsen/Woodyard have tremendous strides yet ahead of them, and there is no potential like youth potential, one projects as a MLB while the other is yet another prospect ideally suited for WLB. There is very little info to be had on Archer, who has never started as a LB in the NFL and played all three LB positions in college.
We have seen that Lynch is less than ideal as a candidate for covering a TE, though his run support would make any LBs coach proud. Creativity from calling nickel packages could potentially alleviate some of the stress on the players, but it is clear that Boss Bailey is a major piece of the Bronco's defensive picture in 2008.
I hope we are all prepared for what the 2008 Broncos will look like, if Bailey isn't suiting up on Sundays...