y view from the bottom of the pile.
Let me start off with a disclaimer: this is my first post ever. All right, with that out of the way let me get to the dirty. I have been a broncos fan for 27 years; I am 27 years old go figure. I have been NFL and broncos obsessed for about 10 years now. This information is given to deliver some insight on my blind optimism and hopeful thinking. Now as far as our most turbulent offseason in 16 years I have a few points I would like to highlight.
I believe the right decision was made as far as Shannahan was concerned. The only evidence I have to offer is of ex-broncos talking about Shannahan obsession with stats rather than wins (this is in reference to the J. Plummer interview and a few other articles I have stumbled upon). Enter Josh McDaniels. I was astonished at this hire. I was one of the people rooting for Spagnolo (RAMS) or Schwartz(LIONS). Upon his hiring he started building his staff and I must say his was the most blatant and in my opinion intelligent hiring strategies I have witnesses. He selected a linebacker coach from Oakland (Martindale), a D-line guru from San Diego (Nunnely) and a special team’s co. from Kansas City (Burns). Seriously, what better way to gain insight into ones division than hire (RAID) the collective division cabinet. Of all these hires I love the Nunnely the most as he is one of the top two line coaches in the league.
Bringing in Nolan also quelled some of my fears as he has a tremendous defensive background -save the 49's- and a little history on the Broncos as well. I personally love the decsion to go to a 3-4 alignment and will further extrapolate on that subject later in this book, er, post. Also the hiring of McCoy is tremendous as Carolina has always had an efficient, effective offense which was highlighted last season by their excellent use of a two-back committee run game.
All these hires have some apparent goal in mind and can be rationalized by any mild football enthusiast. This is a systematic and really simple approach to building a strong coaching core that can rapidly advance the assessment time our coach needs to evaluate within our division and to institute sound defensive play calling from a coach with years of experience on top tier defensive programs. Offensively we have an assistant with knowledge in a proven multi-back run game that destroyed the NFC last season. Hmmm, what is going on here????
2. Free Agents and the Draft
Are we still at 20 something free agent acquisitions; anyway this was the busiest I have ever seen a free agent period become. I LOVE the Brian Dawkins signing, age is an issue but like many have stated intelligence and leadership can balance the physical deterioration of an older player. The tandem signing of Hill and Goodman provide a pair of players with personnel knowledge of each other’s abilities and weaknesses and provides them an opportunity to continue what was a solid though not spectacular relationship from Miami. The signings of Askew, Parker, Baker and Fields have actually made me feel better about our D-line. All are mountains and relatively young with potential. Our linebacker signings have also been solid as Davis and Greisen are potent veterans coming from 3-4 alignments.
Offensively I like the signing of Gaffney as his knowledge of the system should assist all the receivers in learning and his skills themselves are versatile. His ability in the redzone is of a little comfort also. Releasing Leach for Paxon was a tad disturbing until I realized the reason for it. Paxon can contribute as an O-Lineman where Leach was a projected TE. Kind of splitting hairs but a coach wants what a coach wants. L.Jordan, and Buckhalter add a certified dimension to our running game that has gotten by on scheme alone recently. How many times has our rookie or random free agent back missed a gap or dropped a pass in the last 4 years. I have missed the consistencey of a reliable H-Back and now we have 2 releiable options at that position. D.Walker is a nice pick-up but I see ST all over him. The late arrival of B.Llyod is a pleasant surprise as he has routinely produced spectacular catches. Unfortunately as my San Fran. Friend has pointed out he is afraid to catch in traffic and will even duck a pass if he feels the heat. There have been other development in free agency but those are the primary players I feel will make a difference to our team. Now to the Draft.
Knowshon Moreno????? I thought I had drank too much, I thought the T.V. had just lied to me. We are a new team, with different values and any apprehension one may have had ended with this draft. Love this Draft from top to bottom. The only exception I have is on why Quinn was grabbed so early because everything I have read puts him much later in the draft. Ayers looks extremely promising and any questions I had about Smith were diminished after all the MHR articles I have read on him and his size/ability. The drafting of McBath and Bruton make the future of our long abandoned safety position much brighter. The offensive lineman picked are both known as “nasty” which in of itself an attribute I covet in lineman. T. Brandstater looks promising and is a physical specimen at Quarterback.
When looking at our draft the main negative I hear is of our ignorance of need. I have seen several gradings of our draft ranging from A-F. This is not uncommon for a Denver draft so I have come to take this with a grain of salt. I will say this is the first draft I have seen where the emphasis was on value and not of necessity. This philosophy is distinctly different from our previous regime and one that has had extreme success and abysmal failure.
3. Projections and Predictions
I will now break down my depth chart and how these units will fair.
O-Line: We have the best O-Line in the NFL. Period. Continuing from last year I expect dominance from our line and project that the emphasis will now focus more on a balanced run/pass scenario. Our pass protection is awesome with young talent in Clady/Harris at the left and right tackle positions respectfully. At guard I will give the nod to Hamilton but if his motor stalls like happened last year sporadically he will undoubtedly be pulled as our new coach is fearless and will play the best person always. Kuper gets the other spot as he has developed nicely and may even get better with the new guard pulling run attack McDaniels brings from NE. Of course that leaves us with Wiegmann at center which the resigning of made my day. Lichtensteiger is an awesome back-up at both center and guard and provides us with an insurance policy if age catches up with Casey. Adding our draftees of this year with those of last year and we have decent to solid depth for a line that is bordering on greatness.
LT- Clady, Polumbus
LG- Kuper, Schlueter
C- Wiegmann, Lichtensteiger
RG- Hamilton, Olsen, McChesney
RT- Harris, Oldenburg,
Fullback- This is where things get interesting as we have some very interesting scenario’s to look at. Obviously we have Mr.Hillis who is dangerous as a runner, receiver and blocker. We also have a Spencer Larsen who paved holes for us last season and is reliable in short ground runs. Then we have a beast in Lichtensteiger in goaline and short yardage situations. So I say pick your poison because they are all deadly. We have in them a conglomerate that can be interchanged at any scenario to optimize our goal.
FB- Hillis, Larsen, Lichtensteiger
H-Back- Um well, we all saw last year. The one positive it provided was we got to see players who may never have gotten a chance to play shine. Of serious note is Peyton Hillis. His power running football is something our broncos have not utilized in a long time; 4-5 yards a carry, unbelievable receiving skills and deceptive agility, awesome. But we are a new team; enter Knoshon, Buckhalter and Jordan. I have never seen a backfield this talented ever. The options here are limitless with the only drawback being the latter two’s age. Both Buckhalter and Jordan are over 30 but with the ball sharing systems they have been a part of their mileage is minimized. All are receiving threats and are more than adequate blockers. Even in a 4-5 receiver set don’t be surprised to see 2 of them on the field at the same time.
H-Back- Moreno,Buckhalter,Hillis,Jordan, Walker
TE- I have a theory and it shows in my tightend projections as well as my receivers. I have Quinn over Scheffler for a reason which I will highlight in my receiver projections so bear with me. Graham is a sensational blocker and adequate receiver and his skills need no more listing. He is a proven veteran and reliable in almost every situation. Quinn was a surprise pick in the draft and is considered an extra linemen in all of the pre-draft bios I have read on him. McDaniels seems sold on his receiving capabilities so I will accept that he has seen something I have not. Quinn can block though and everything I have seen and read on him suggests that this is his niche and he fills it superbly.
TE-Graham, Quinn, Scheffler
WR- In projecting this I am assuming Marshall will be traded or at least suspended/benched whatever. His skills are undeniable and if he can join our team it should be considered a gift as he is an excellent athlete and demands attention from defenses. In this system he could face much less double and triple teams due the scheme and possible become more dominant even if his # of catches goes down but for this he is out. That leaves us with what is still a ridiculous receiving corp that will twist defenses inside out. Royal is special and his speed and route running already are elite and should only get better with time. Gaffney is a multi-tool receiver with many positives and knowledge of the system. Jackson has shown flashes of excellence but remains an unknown commodity. Lloyd has glue hands and a knack for big plays but must find his courage in the open field. McKinley has Spurriers unabashed approval and had a spectacular collegiate career but must face scrutiny over his work ethic and courage in the open field. Let me not forget Mr. Stokley who should have third downs renamed after him. Ah, now to my theory of Scheffler. 6’5, 250lbs. 4.5 speed , this is why I believe Marshall may not be necessary to our receiving corps. We have all seen Scheffler make spectacular catches and he is known as a receiving threat so why not start calling him what he should be, a prototypical possession receiver. I think McDaniels who may have missed it in his first weeks at the helm has seen his future at receiver and is now beaming at the weapon he almost traded. I am not saying Scheffler can wholly replace Marshall but he can provide the type of physical, YAC type threat that McDaniels needs on offense.
WR#1- Scheffler, Lloyd
WR#2 –Royal, C.J. Jones
WR#3- Stokley, McKinley
WR#4- Gaffney, Jackson
D-Line- Now things start to get interesting. First a little history, sort of, Denver has drafted for speed on defense for generations and now that sometimes fault may provide us with an opportunity. Take Marcus Thomas for instance. Three years ago he came in over weight by Shannahan standards and was asked to trim up and put on more muscle. He has been increasingly more effective every season but now we switch to a 3-4 oh no. What this means to me is now we have a slimmed down DT that has been trained to be faster. Sounds like a pretty good 3-4 end doesn’t it. I have heard he is going for the NT position and I do believe the probable heavy rotation at that spot will include him but as with all of our defensive players left on the line the prior regimes system may make them even better prospects at their new positions. May I also point out that the 3-4 I put up shows us having close to 1000 pounds of angry players which is what we put out before but with 4 players. We are going big and fast.
NT- Fields, Baker,Parker, Thomas, Powell (Nunnely prefers a heavy rotation meaning every down could show a new look)
DE- Thomas, Peterson, Clemons, Davis,Powell, Ayers, Reid, Dumervil, McBean
LB- This is a unit that will live or die by how several key players transition to being stand up defenders. Players like Dumervil, Moss, Crowder, Reid must make a good transition for this unit to excel. Ayers too must find his niche in this line-up also. The outside of our line backing crew is my biggest concern going into the season but the one thing that gives me solace is the fact that we drafted so little in the front seven. Am I crazy you ask, well, maybe but this alludes to two things for me. Either our OLB have been excellent in their transition therefore McD is comfortable with what we have or our coach is out of his mind and we are screwed. Hopefully it is the first and not the latter. At ILB we are set in my mind. With Williams, Woodyard on one side and Davis, Larsen on the other we are set to destroy anything that moves on the field. Couple that in with Greisen previously of Baltimore and Haggan as back ups and our ILB core is spectacular.
ROLB- Reid, Moss, Crowder
LOLB- Dumervil, Ayers,
RILB- Davis, Larsen, Haggan
LILB- Williams, Woodyard, Greisen
DB- We now have not only a current secondary capable of greatness with 2 HOF on one side and a reliable tandem on the other but future players ready to learn and contribute. I don’t know how much to put here about our secondary as to the fact that any one that has seen what we have should be smiling from ear to ear. A. Smith has awesome potential and I have seen many people talk about how burned routinely I don’t see that happening this season. J. Williams provides solid depth too at CB while J. Bell seems an adequate back-up player. I have already talked up our new safeties so I will leave those alone but I will finish with this, our secondary is deep and dangerous.
CB#2-Goodman, Smith, Bell
SS- Dawkins, McBath
FS- Hill, Barrett, Bruton
Special Teams- It looks as if we will actually play special teams this season. I like Kern, I believe he will improve with experience. Prater well, if he can find any sort of consistency then we have the best young kicker in football, IF, I say. I see Walker taking kick offs as well as C.J. Jones but if Royal is tasked with this I will be praying every kick off for his safety. I see the same general set up on punts. It seems there is a much greater emphasis on this aspect of the game this year and that alone makes me feel better.
I see us in two ways. If our coach is as smart as I hope we are about to begin a dominating campaign that will lead to at worst a playoff appearance this season. I believe that the play-calling last year grew stale and predictable as the reason for it was not to win games but garner league attention with stats. I believe that while Bates was innovative at times he is still young in his football I.Q. Slowik is the worst D.C. EVER. I cannot speak on his on his other coaching abilities as they seem to be focused more on offense in the first place(I believe he was a QB coach before he was our secondary coach then our DC?) Anyway, I think that last year’s aberrations have been nullified and the holdover players are better than there disorganized play last season. I see potential in this team and every move made by McDaniels seems to have a purpose. If he is as advertised we will be dominating this division now and for the foreseeable future. On the other hand if what most of the so-called experts say is true then we just might be the new Detroit Lions/Oakland-L.A. Raiders.