Welcome to another week's version of ST&NO. In this edition, we'll focus on the future, rather than dwelling on the past. Specifically, I decided to focus on Kyle Orton, and what he brings to the table. I, for one, get happier by the day with the drastically new direction of the team. I've had a healthy skepticism, but I am starting to find a lot of reason to believe in the new direction. Maybe I am a McDaniels guy now. Get your Monday coffee, close your office door, and let's get back to the business of being best subset of the best fan base in the NFL. Ready.... BEGIN!
1. Kyle Orton is a good NFL Quarterback, and a year ago, I never thought I would say that. In the right scheme, and with the right surrounding talent, which we have to think he has now, he can be as good as (or maybe even better than) his predecessor at Purdue, Drew Brees, (who was once also considered "marginal," until he started playing really well.) Thanks to the fine technology provided by our friends at NFL.com, I have put together a highlight package, which you can view here. In fact, for purposes of this exercise, why don't you just turn it on now. The following text will still be here in 5 minutes and 41 seconds.
Welcome back. I am sure you made some observations from the video, and I'm now going to share mine with you, so we can compare notes. Check out in-depth evaluation, after the orange jump.
a. Kyle Orton's arm isn't as strong as Jay Cutler's, and that is very clear. I think his arm is as good as Peyton Manning's, or Phillip Rivers', or Tom Brady's, (AKA the NFL average) though. You never see Orton throw a duck, like a Chad Pennington. He knows his limitations, and doesn't try to force the ball into really tight spaces like Cutler would. He knows what throws he can make, and he sticks to those throws. It's a pretty smart approach. It is worth noting that Orton has clearly improved his arm strength since he came out of Purdue, which you don't see all the time.
b. I really like Orton's footwork, and I always hated Cutler's. Orton's feet are spaced very nicely, and there's bounce in his dropback. He looks really similar to Peyton Manning in the lower body. By staying on the balls of his feet, he's able to turn square to his target, and get his lower body into the throw, something which he (like Manning) obviously needs to do. Cutler is really flat-footed a great deal of the time, and that's because he is strong enough to go all-arm with his throws. I've always felt that Cutler's periodic accuracy issues (missing by a foot and getting Marshall decked,) are footwork-related, and I've seen where Mike Shanahan said something to the same effect in the past.
c. Orton's overall throwing accuracy is much-improved over his rookie year. He completed 58.5% of his throws this past season, compared to 51.6% as a rookie, and 53.8% as a third year player. (He took no snaps in 2006, his second season.) The 58.5% number is not stellar, but I have a lot of reason to believe that that number will take a big jump in Denver.
For one thing, Chicago's offensive line was abysmal in pass protection, and Denver's is terrific. The receiving talent in Denver is also vastly superior to what Orton has ever had before. It's definitely helpful to your completion percentage when guys can get separation for you, and hang on to the ball. Ron Turner's scheme in Chicago is not very good, and doesn't do a lot to create high-percentage throws. Josh McDaniels' approach will create a lot of easy throws. Also, Orton won't have to deal with the wind in Chicago anymore.
d. In this highlight package, you can see Orton hit on slants, deep outs, fades and crossing patterns, but what I was really impressed with was his touch on deep throws. This used to be his weakness, but he's vastly improved his skills in this area. He shows a lot of skill in dropping the ball over the top of the CB, and outside of the S against Cover-2 looks. That's something which neither of our last 2 QBs had much skill at. One of the keys to the McDaniels offense is challenging the deep outside, and I am confident that Orton has the skill set to do it.
e. Orton isn't a big scrambler, but he shows good pocket mobility, and he scored 3 TDs on the ground last season. Each is in the highlight package, and they all show good qualities. On two of them, he scrambled to his left, kept his head up looking for a receiver, and then showed solid athleticism in getting into the end zone. The third TD was on a QB sneak at the goal line, and Orton showed good toughness and run strength in scoring the TD.
f. In editing the highlight package, I chose to leave in some video of Orton celebrating with his teammates. It's different than what I've seen from Cutler in the past 3 years, in a subtle way. Where Cutler always seemed a little bit too-cool-for-school, Orton has a sort of youthful exuberance, and it's clear that his teammates really like him.
Orton may not even win the job, as Chris Simms is a starting-caliber QB also. Both players have led teams to the playoffs before. I am excited for the competition, and you can count me as somebody who thinks we'll be fine with Orton and Simms, (though I wouldn't turn my nose up at Sanchez if he fell to 12.)