I'm working on the next MHR-University story (about the 5-2 and schemes that we can expect out of it). I don't want to spend too long reviewing the third game, because right now my focus is on my next story.
So here are just a few brief thoughts I had on this last game.
First, I'm not a fan of booing. I think it is classless. But I'll admit that I felt a little bit of a warmed heart when I heard Jay Cutler booed. Not because I have anything against Cutler mind you. He's just a young man with a lot of talent that made a few mistakes, and those mistakes are far from being impactful (as, let's say, Brandon Marshall-like petty criminal behavior). What I liked about the booing was that the fans at
Invesco Mile High were united. The broadcast crew was surprised (they expected a mixed reaction), and bless our hearts, the stadium was actualy shaking!
Second, while I continue to believe that Kyle Orton will be fine in Denver, there was a clear contrast in how both QBs threw the ball. Cutler's passes look like a throw should. Orton's looked more like stones (or a baseball). He seems to push the ball more than spiral it. It isn't his mechanics (he's shown better ability in Chicago). It is that he still needs to get comfortable with the receivers, and is unsure of himself. I'm confident this will improve, but he isn't there yet. Orton threw no INTs, but his mechanics were worse than the game where he threw 3 INTs. (In fact, he threw really well in the first game despite the 3 INTs).
More below...Next, our defense will be great. The front five of our 5-2 did well. How about Elvis Dumervill almost getting a safety early in the game! QB pressure was terrific. Also, Andre Goodman did a soild job on several plays at #2 CB, and Brian Dawkins played very well despite having his entire right hand wrapped in a cast (if that isn't amazing enough, I believe the cast immobilizes his wrist!) There were some areas on defense that needed improvement, but nothing systemic like last year. When this unit gells, I expect to see a good pass rush and some turnovers - something Denver fans haven't seen in awhile.
I'm bothered by the penalties. Much of what could have looked good in this game was erased by penalties. I expect penalties in the first two games, but they should be cleared up by now. Not good.
I love the screens. The screen plays are designed very nicely, and once the execution takes off, I think we'll like what we see. (By the way, I hated the reverse play that we ran where we lost some yardage. Those long execution reverses seldom seem to work at the pro level, and I cringe whenever I see one).
Injuries are bothering me again. Knowshon Moreno (our #1 RB) was out this game. Dawkins played with a cast on his hand. Chris Kuper got hurt (high ankle sprain?), and Jabar Gaffney is hurt. Oh, how could I forget our starting QB, and our #2 QB? Has anyone else noticed that perhaps (just perhaps) we may be seeing an early warning about our team's fitness again this year? I'll be watching the injury reports carefully.
I see some great things out of Hillis, and he is one of my favorites. But please, please, please let's stop running the guy lateral on plays that aren't going to have him cut back. He is a down hill guy, and should either be plowing ahead, or running east / west with the intention of getting a cut back. I don't like the sweeps and end arounds we're sending him on.
For folks who are down on our punter - did you notice how many times the Bears had to start near their goal line? That was the pretty side of STs last night. However, we still need to learn the cardinal rule of punting - don't punt to Devin Hester. Ever.
Based on what I've seen I still rate our chances at 8-8 for the season. My overall assesment remains the same - We are a team in transition that has an outstanding core, but will take time to develop. We are moving in the right direction, but there will be some pain along the way. For me, wins or losses in the pre-season mean nothing. I look for the good and the bad, not points or wins. Overall I see a lot to feel good about, and a lot to be concerned about. We are a team with a lot of potential, but a lot to overcome. I think the first 3 games of the regular season will give us an indication of where we are as a team.
The offense has the weapons, so it will be up to Orton for better or worse. I hope to see a lot of running, with Orton just managing the game. If the running game keeps the pressure off of him, and he can toss some easy screens, we can be effective. I don't want to see Orton in a shoot out. Shoot outs are what Cutler was built for.
To me, the defense is fixed. On defense we will be average at worst, and have the potential to be very special. I expect the defense to have a good year, and to be more consistent than the offense.
In conclusion, I think we can now see why McDaniels tried to fix the offense in the off-season and not the defense. At this point, the defense looks more solid than the offense. Bringing in Nolan was smart, and switching to a 5-2 made up for the lack of strength on the defensive line. Very smart.
What does everyone else think?
(Also, let me know what questions you may have about the 5-2. I'm putting together my article for later in the week, and would like to hear any questions that folks may have about it).