This is just a collection of things that have gone through my mind the past few weeks.
- I read the ESPN.com columns on the next wave of young QB’s. I loved the analysts there and elsewhere who complained that Jay Cutler appeared to force the ball late in the season last year when perhaps Cutler’s primary issue with his undiagnosed diabetes was that he did not have the zip on his throws. I wonder who else would appear to force their throws if the ball came out at only 80-90% velocity.
- Tony Scheffler needs to step it up. He has made some nice good plays, but also some costly ones – most notably the fumble vs NO and the dropped TD vs Oakland. He is not on the field in goal line situations; Denver is using Graham, Nate Jackson and Lichtensteiger in the jumbo set which makes me think he may never be the (run) blocker that Denver wants.
- On the other hand if Scheffler manages to win the starting job and Nalen gets healthy, all eleven offensive starters will be Broncos draftees or free agents they signed out of college. On the defensive side of the ball there are only three (Doom, Marcus Thomas and DJ) with three others seeing any time on defense (Paymah, Crowder and Moss). Looks like the 2009 draft will be focused on defense, like both the 2005 and 2007 drafts (and unlike the 2006 and 2008 drafts that focused on offense primarily)
- The offensive line looks very good so far - no sacks allowed and relatively few penalties (and none that were costly). If you did not know better, you would never guess how inexperienced our tackles are, that there is only one starter returning from last year or that he is playing a different position. The only weird thing I have noticed is that a couple times Wiegmann seems to be slow with the snap (or the exchange is not perfectly smooth) and as a result he and Cutler are the last two players moving.
- Michael Pittman is doing a pretty good impression of the 1991 version of Gerald Riggs. Riggs had 5 TD's in the first four games that year and finished the season with 11 TD's that covered 17 yards total (his long was 7 on his fifth TD of the year so do the math on the other 10). He had 78 carries for 248 yards the entire season and did not start a game, yet he was a key part of the Skins Super Bowl champion team, including a pair of TD's in each of the three playoff games. He really opened it up in the playoffs with runs of 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, and 3 yards. So far Pittman has TD runs of 3,1,1 and 2 yards. He has totals of 19 carries for 44 yards (2.3 avg). We'll see how that changes if/when Torain is healthy and ready to play.
- I am trying to reserve judgment on the defense until I take another look at the Saints game, but one thing I want to comment on is the nickel corner situation. I don’t think the issue is Karl Paymah vs Jack Williams so much as the way that the nickel CB is being used, especially against San Diego. Do you blame Karl Paymah for not being able to cover Chris Chambers or do you blame the coaches who allowed those two to be isolated on the outside while Dre Bly covered Legedu Naanee in the slot where he has safety help?
- The defense seems to lack in-game flexibility and adjustments. In general, the defense has started off pretty strong. But then the offense seems to figure out what Denver is doing defensively and they make adjustments. Right now, Slowick does not seem to be making good, if any, counter-adjustments. Related to this, the defense does not seem to be varying the pre-snap looks they show the offense.
- As for special teams, the coverage units still need to improve but the rest of the unit is improved. Prater and Kern look good so far (as good or better than the men they replaced). The return units look better too although I see the opposing gunners on punt coverage beating their blockers downfield too often.
- Teams should be fined if they accumulate a certain number of personal foul penalties in a game. (Sorry, watching Man U vs Chelsea while I type this and the EPL has a rule for yellow/red cards)
A couple things that probably go without saying
1) The red zone turnovers have to stop, especially in the fourth quarter
2) The offense needs to be able to maintain a long drive with the running game, especially when they have a lead.
3) The defense needs to get a more consistent pass rush out of their front four.