There are many ways to categorize things. A book by George Lakoff, Women, Fire and Dangerous Things; what categories reveal about the mind, comes to mind when thinking about how we see the world. And it should be noted that I, like other males, tend to remember the title of that book as Women, Fire and [OTHER] Dangerous Things, which says something about my attitudes -- I guess.
What's this about?
I wish I could say that I had an elaborate entry complete with graphs and pictures but I don't. This is a subject that I had to post because I couldn't find another topic to attach it to.
We know that players develop over time, and the dreaded "upside" that we often talk about is often simply a function of age -- young players become better once they're given experience. So the question of how well we'll perform this season could be re-categorized into one that simply looks at age.
The first thing that one notices about the Broncos is that they're now very young.
QB - Brandstater (1st yr.)
RB - Moreno (1s yr.), Torain (2nd yr.)
FB - Hillis (2nd yr.)
WR - Royal (2nd yr.), McKinley (1st yr.)
TE - Quinn (1st yr.)
LT - Clady (2nd yr.), Polumbus (2nd yr.)
LG - Lichtensteiger (2nd yr.)
OC - Schlueter (1st yr.)
RG - Olsen (1st yr.)
RT - Harris (3rd yr. - first yr. was lost)
DEFENSE (note: I'm guessing on positions and who will make the team for the defense, which doesn't change the point of this topic)
LDE - Powell (2nd yr. -- lost first year), (?) - McBean, (3rd yr. -- yet to play in regular season)
NT - Thomas (3rd yr.). (?) - Baker (1st yr.)
RDE - (?) - Jones (1st yr.), (?) - Pedescleaux (1st yr.)
LOLB - Crowder (3rd yr.)
LILB - Larsen (2nd yr.)
RILB - Woodyard (2nd yr.)
ROLB - Ayers (1st yr.), Moss (3rd yr.)
CB - Williams (2nd yr.)
CB - Smith (1st yr.)
SS - Barrett (2nd yr.)
FS - McBath (1st yr.), Bruton (1st yr.)
This is a graphic way of demonstrating that we could field a team composed of young players if we wanted to. It wouldn't necessarily be a good idea but we're not going to be forced field an inexperienced team because we do have some veterans. Here they are:
QB - Orton, Simms
RB - Buckhalter, Jordan
FB - ? -- (roster space limits this position)
WR - Marshall (4th yr), Stokley, Gaffney, (?) - Lloyd
TE - Graham, Scheffler (4th yr.)
LT - ?
LG - Hamilton
OC - Wiegmann
RG - Kuper (4th yr.)
RT - ? - Gorin
LDE - (?) - Clemons
NT - Fields
RDE - Peterson
LOLB - Reid
LILB - Davis
RILB - D.J. Williams
ROLB - Dumervil (4th yr.)
CB - Bailey
CB - Goodman
SS - Dawkins
FS - Hill
It wouldn't be good if we had to field an extremely young team but there's a number of veterans who will be the starters.
I won't attempt to over-explain the developmental thesis but the basic idea is that teams that MUST rely on rookies and younger (as in lacking experience) players don't do well, but that's all depends on 'how much' they have to rely on those younger players. Teams can be young in terms of depth as long as they don't have to rely on too many rookies in key positions. The real question here is -- do we have enough quality veterans in key positions to carry us?
Curiously, many of the 'older younger' players are on defense and there's still room for them to develop and deliver on their upside. And this could be a good thing. We know that DLs take longer to develop so the fact that we have many slightly older young players could mean that they're ready to break out.
A sub-topic to this post could be summed up as: Are Thomas, Moss and Crowder ready to break out? Although many people feel that some of the aforementioned are busts, it's tough to measure success and particularly tough when DLs have undergone a rough developmental experience such as Bates' Run Contain and Slowik's scheme of last year. In particular, it's very hard to believe -- for instance -- that we simply blundered when selecting Crowder, and this could also be said of Moss, even though many believe that we should have waited to pick him.
I'm not down on traditional categories such as: will we have a pass rush?, etc., but an easier way to look at the situation is through age/experience. The defense's performance in 2007 & 2008 suffered from coaching, scheme changes and a lack of talent. Sometimes a weakest link logic applies and it's hard to point out where the problem is, and everyone looks bad as a result. That's also the saving grace since a number of incremental improvements can yield a major improvement in team success, and especially for defenses.
I won't try to predict but young teams often do have growing pains, but that also assumes that we'll be fielding a team of young starters -- which we will not. The bright side of the story is that we have an enormous nucleus of young talent that will be able to play together and grow. Unlike many fans who see our draft in terms of their own expectations, I see the largest accumulation of young talent in Bronco history.
You can question my Kool-aid drinking tendencies but the proof is in the roster above -- which is why I wanted to present it in graphic form to make my point. We already began the rebuilding project in 2006, even though many of us may not have realized it, and even the Cutler trade helped in terms of bringing more (although not necessarily qualitatively better) talent into the fold. This is a young and very talented team that should get better as they gain experience.