Look, I haven’t been this sick over a loss since the 49ers whipped our butt in the SB and I still went to school the next day wearing my Broncos coat in northern California. I admit, I have not been enamored with McDaniels and how he has constructed this team. I am not a kool-aid guy, what I am is a results guy. The result is 2-5 and looking like another disappointing year. What is frustrating to me is that this team has not gotten any better since last season, and seems to be regressing. This is a team that should be able to compete now in that we have veterans at almost every position (with the exception of the O-line). I actually missed most of the game yesterday due to having to move. So forgive me if I don’t rehash the gory details. What this post is about “is this team fixable?”.
Here’s the real question, this team is obviously a long way away from being a Super Bowl contender and probably a way out from being a playoff contender, so I thought lets look at the team and see what we have and what we can build on or what we need to rebuild.
QB – I know everyone has been gushing on how well Kyle Orton has played, and granted he has a lot of yards, his TD passes are too few and his ability to make big plays in critical situations is lacking. I think what you see from Kyle Orton is what you are going to get out of him, he is smart, tough, but not going to win you games by himself. He generally won’t kill you, but he is not a playmaker at the position. He is willing to give you what the defense will give but he can’t make those tough throws when you need it. There is a reason Tebow was drafted in the 1st round and that is because he is seen as a playmaker, hopefully he becomes that guy sooner than later or the Broncos will be hard pressed to advance much in this department. (Outlook – Undecided)
RB – Moreno is an average RB at best, Maroony is also average to below average. Buckhalter looks to be at the end of his career and is doubtful he will be back next year unless there is a rash of injuries. What the Broncos lack is that true work-hoarse type back, a guy that can carry the load and be dynamic force that the defense has to account for. Right now our best RB is Tebow, that is a scary proposition (IMO). We need to find a guy to tack the load and be that guy the offense can rally around. (Outlook – Poor, likely need to rebuild)
WR – This position seems to have the most talent. It is deep and the guys compliment each other fairly well. McDaniels has stated he doesn’t want a true number 1 guy (ala Brandon Marshall) and I would agree with the philosophy to a point. But if we go back to New England’s offense when Moss was there, the defense always had to account for Moss’ ability to make deep pass plays and it helped open up the field underneath for guys like Welker and Gaffney. D. Thomas looks like he has the potential to be that home run threat that can stretch the field, the question will be can he develop into that guy. If he does, then the WR corps are set up nicely for the next few years. (Outlook – Great)
TE – We obviously have some issues here, but I am not sure if that is personnel or the fact that McDaniels doesn’t seem to like to utilize the TE other than a blocker for the most part. Graham obviously is starting to wind down his career, and depth is a concern behind him as there is a rotation of ineffective players. (Outlook – Poor, need to rebuild)
O-Line – Where to start, I knew this would be a problem this season starting two rookies and loosing Dennison as a coach. I am not sold on our rookies starting and having the likes of Russ Hochstein take snaps shows we lack any depth. JD Walton needs to step up and be a leader on the line, much like Tommy Nalen. Unfortunately Walton is not surrounded by a bunch of strong vets, Clady still looks a step slower and probably won’t be fully healed until next season. Harris seems to be the great unknown as I am not sure if his play really went that far down or if he is still recovering from his injuries. I think we could use a new guard/center and maybe a new tackle. (Outlook – Fair, can build off of)
D-Line - We brought in a host of aging vets to fix the D-line. The result equals failure. The bigger problem is that the depth behind them is poor at best. The problem is all the guys we have signed are at the ends of their career and there are no obvious replacements sitting on the bench. We need a dynamic DE that can generate pressure and a NT who demands a double team all the time, Mr. Williams just is not that player anymore. (Outlook – Poor, need to rebuild).
LB – Again this is a veteran group that seems to lack any playmakers other than Dumervil. Hopefully Ayers develops, but he seems destined as more of a run-stopper LB that maybe can generate pressure now and again. Our ILB crew stinks, yep I said it. The heart of a 3-4 defense is really the two ILB, those guys need to bring attitude and passion every game and every play. DJ Williams may lead the team in tackles (and he should), but how many of those tackles are behind the line of scrimmage, how many are bone jarring hits on RB’s in the flat. And Haggen is MIA on most games. We need a dynamic force at ILB, someone like a Ray Lewis or a Brian Urlacher. I don’t think DJ is a fit for the ILB role that they have him in, I think he would excel at his natural position on the outside where he could play in space more, but too often he gets eaten up by blockers and gets out of position. The depth at LB is even worse, J Moss is a complete bust and Wesley Woodyard, while having a lot of heart is too light to be an ILB in this scheme. (Outlook-Poor, some pieces but need to rebuild).
DB – Again this is a veteran laden group, but also an aging group. As we have seen that generally a risk as older guys tend to get hurt more often than the younger guys. I like our depth here though in the CB department with SQ and Cox, both have shown some very good potential and should get much better. Safety is a concern though, while I like McBath, he does not have the frame to be a safety in this league and he has been injured both years. I think we need that intimidator safety, the guy like Atwater or Dennis Smith, someone who WR fear. Dawkins hasn’t shown he can stay healthy for an entire year and I don’t expect that to improve next year. (Outlook- OK, can build off the young guys)
K/P – I think both guys are great and look like long time fixtures. What needs improvement is the coverage and return games. (Outlook – OK, need better coaching and a return specialist)
Coaching – While I think McDaniels is a good offense coach, I question his ability to attract and keep top assistant coaches. I am not sure what the perception of McDaniels is around the league, but it does not seem like too many people are in a hurry to come and work with him. If he can’t change that perception and attract some better assistant coaches he will continue to struggle. Most great coaches are surrounded by a great staff, they don’t try to do everything themselves. (Outlook – Poor, need an upgrade at many assistant coaching positions)
GM – While I think the GM is really handled by McDaniels, I think the bigger issue comes in running the draft. We have spent a lot of picks to upgrade the offense and few picks to upgrade the defensive front 7 (Ayers being the exception). In addition, we have spent a lot of draft picks on acquiring veteran players and have gotten little back for those picks. The team is honestly built to win now as the depth is lacking at many key positions and most of our FA vets pick-ups are well past the 30 year mark. Without a change in the philosophy, we are going to continue to struggle (Outlook – Poor, need a new GM)