Many around here think I am the eternal optimist, but that really isn't the case. If you go back, way back, to last season you'll find my posts were not all cheery and rosy. However, during the off season I must, as a fan, take on a different persona. I must cheer on and rah rah my favorite team in the anticipation of the upcoming season. The off season in my mind ends in two days with our first preseason game, therefore, it is time to get serious.
I have some major concerns about this team that I have really only hinted at over the past few months. You could call some of them "IFs" or just simple deficiencies. Whatever you might call them, these are the things that I beleive will be the difference between another 8-8 season and a 13-3 season.
#1 Concern for the 2008 Season: Our football team is still fairly young and inexperienced and we have lost some major players who were big parts of our veteran leadership over the past few seasons. A short list would include, Jake Plummer, Al Wilson, Rod Smith, Jason Elam, Matt Lepsis, and John Lynch. These roles are being filled by younger players like Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, DJ Williams, Nate Webster, and Elvis Dumervil who are taking on the leadership roles along with guys like Champ Bailey, Tom Nalen, and Dre Bly.
However, the problem isn't just with leadership it's more of an issue about identity. I do not believe that this team has fully created a Bronco identity. The only way to really create an identity is to play the game and my hope is that this season will be the year that this team comes together in both continuity and leadership.
#2 Concern for the 2008 Season: Injuries. I am sure we have all noticed that an injury bug has plagued this team for two and half years now. I am beginning to wonder if Shanny drafted 9 rookies and brought in another 4 or 5 just to offset the number of injuries he expected. I know that is being cynical, but I am getting tired of losing guys. We have already lost several guys for the entire season, including two of our draft picks and if we lose any more I am going to start worrying. The key for this season to be successful is health. The more of our guys that stay healthy, the closer we will get to my predicted 13-3 record.
#3 Concern for the 2008 Season: The San Diego Chargers. This team owns us. They own us on both sides of the ball even. This psychological hump must be hurdled if this team is ever going to get anywhere in the near future.
On paper, these two teams have just as much talent on either side of the ball and there should be no reason that the contests should be close hard fought battles. No more of those 41-3 or 23-3 games. The Chargers are, in fact, a paper tiger. They lack the professionalism and maturity to go anywhere beyond the AFC playoffs. The Denver Broncos have tons of professionalism and maturity for such a young football team and I believe that over time this will become the decisive advantage in this rivalry. Whether it happens this year or next has yet to be seen. We will surely find out Week 2.
#4 Concern of the 2008 Season: Defense. In particular, our Defensive Tackle position. I had huge hopes for Carlton Powell and with him going down I am deeply worried about our lack of quality depth at this position. The level of play at this position will determine how well the entire defense will play this season. Last year proved this point. After watching some of the games from last year over and over again, one thing seemed to stand out to me.
That one thing wasn't Nate Webster or other LB missing gaps, rather that there were more gaps to fill than Linebackers to plug. The reason for this was the lack of play at the DT position. I realize now that the Defensive Tackle position was to blame for the vast majority of our horrible defense last year. It's no wonder we traded for DeWayne Robertson and drafted Carlton Powell.
We are now so thin at this position that we will need to depend solely on Marcus Thomas, Robertson, and basically Kenny Peterson. I know we have other guys, but they are unknown to me and unproven. Perhaps Mallard will be a solid option or maybe Crowder will transition well... Who knows, one thing is for sure a hell of a lot hinges on how well our defensive tackles play this year.
#5 Concern for the 2008 Season: Brandon Marshall. It pains me to say this, but the beast is one misstep away from ruining his career. I hope and pray that he truly has turned a corner in his life and will go on to dominate the position for the next decade. However, after his two game suspension he will be on thin ice for quite a long time. The next suspension would likely be for 8 games to an entire season, if that happens then he would no doubt be cut by an angry Shanny. I really don't want this to happen, but it still concerns me greatly and will continue to worry me for at least the next two seasons.
#6 Concern for the 2008 Season: Red Zone efficiency. This concerns me less and less as training camp goes on. The reason is that we just have so many weapons on offense now and a healthy offensive line as well. The more I see, the more I feel like 2007 was an aberration as far as the Red Zone was concerned. However, it will remain on my list until they prove me wrong come Week 1.
#7 Concern of the 2008 Season: Selvin Young. I love this guy, and I have since the start of last season. However, I have heeded to Guru's fact finding mission which showed that Selvin Young has only carried the ball enough over the course of 4 college years and 1 season in the NFL to break 2000 yards. Selvin Young has never carried the load on his shoulders for an entire season, so the biggest question now is. Can he? With Ryan Torain out now for what will likely be the entire season, can Selvin Young stay healthy and carry the load for 17+ weeks? If Young goes down, we suddenly go from stacked at running back to "Holy Mother of God, what do we do now?!?" Disagree or not, much of our season hinges on the health and ability of Selvin Young...at least for 15-25 touches a game.
That is basically it for this season. Seven happens to be my favorite number(I wonder why...lol), so we will just leave it at that for now. If every one of these concerns turns out to be unwarranted then we'll certainly be Super Bowl bound, but in reality we'd only need a few of the major ones to work out for this hugely talented team to reach my lofty goal of 13-3. Truthfully, I'd be happy with a Division Title...even if it was won with a 9-7 record. I want to unseat the Chargers and prove all the "punDITZ" wrong. In my eyes, the great pendulum is swinging and it is swinging in our favor. Great things will happen to Bronco fans over the next few years. Great Things.