During and after a rough game yesterday I started giving some thought to where this team is as far as position by position, and where it could either be improved immediately by making some changes, or where the team at least could be preparing for the future.
Quarterback: The position that naturally gets the most focus is Quarterback, and right now there is not surprisingly, even understandably, more clamoring for Tim Tebow to start, or at least get more time. For some people it is because the playoffs now appear out of reach this season, so why not give more reps to the player who is likely the future at that spot. (Btw, I don't throw Brady Quinn into this discussion, even though the MNF ESPN analysts idiotically suggested just that, and no offense to Quinn who could still be a very solid backup, or even a potential trade chip if the Broncos want to keep the Orton + Tebow show going longer than this year - just look at all the desperate teams rocked by injury at that position right now. But the question is Tebow over Orton and here's why I don't think it's right to bench Orton right now, and one reason why it would make sense.
Tebow would be an improvement over Orton in one area, and that is his ability to scramble and run, which is not Orton's forte - although to be fair Kyle is not Craig Morton, either. (Heh.) The reason this is important is because the offensive line continues to be a work in progress, to be kind, and erratic to be honest. There were a few times against San Diego where it was on Orton to get rid of the ball earlier, or get the hell out of Dodge, because the protection was good and Chargers coverage was good; i.e. he had enough time and needed to get rid of it sooner than he did. But quite a few other times there were major breakdowns in blocking, as we'd seen before the KC game, and he, or Moreno, had nowhere to go. Orton continues to be pretty darned accurate on his passes when he's given time, though he did rush a few Monday, and he is generally continues to make the right decisions. Receivers also dropped some very catchable balls in that game, which will get blamed on Orton but should not. He has good rapport with his receivers, too. I think benching him entirely for Tebow would be a mistake right now because the latter is not ready to be an every down passer. In other words, things will not magically get better with him in there right now. However...
Suggestion: Give Tebow a series of downs every game, rather than a play or two, to see what he can do. Keep Orton as starter. Go back to 2 TE sets more often if you need, to give whoever is at QB better protection. Keep running the damn ball so that play actions work better. Next year, it could be Tebow backed up by Quinn, or by Orton, but there are far too many other areas the Broncos need to improve right now to focus on this glamor position.
Strong Free safety: I love Brian Dawkins to death, when he was an Eagle, and as a Bronco, but the time is now for him to step aside and let someone else step in to start. He has clearly both lost a step of speed, and is not at all the strong tackler he's always been. It's sad to see it, and it's sad to say it, but this strong safety is no longer strong; he and McDaniels and Wink need to come together and do what's best for the team, and that is:
Suggestion: Sit Dawkins and replace him with David Bruton. Bruton is still a work in progress who will make mistakes out there but he's very smart for a young player, and is lightning quick. I don't think he'll be as good a tackler as Dawkins was in his heyday, but he's certainly gonna be a better tackler than Dawkins is now, as well as be much faster to the ball.
Free Strong Safety: Even though Renaldo Hill gets picked on more by fans he hasn't imho been quite as glaringly bad as Dawkins lately, but that's not saying much. I'm still inclined to say it's time to sit him down, too, and put McBath in his place. The only problem with this is that Nick Jones is even more glaringly bad right now, and I'd almost rather McBath replace him in the nickel. So, my:
Suggestion: Replace either Hill or Jones with McBath. My longer term suggestion is of course to draft a safety high in next year's draft, to either be groomed to start or to give them more depth asap. The old guys ain't cutting it any more.
Cornerback: I don't think the Broncos have a lot of choice here right now. Goodman's coverage skills are still missed, as Cox is still learning the game, but Goodman is also pretty useless on tackling. It just makes on appreciate Champ Bailey, who is clearly getting older, but unlike Dawkins, at least is still good enough to still be starting, he's better than anyone else they have. And he can still tackle, but has also lost a step. I think Cox has a future to continue to start, Squid looks more like a good backup to me, and they need to draft another CB here. (I won't get into the Alphonso debate here again, except to say I still wish they'd kept him, but understand why they traded him.)
Suggestion: I got nothing really, except to draft a CB next year, along with that safety.
Linebacker: I'm not sure what to say here, because overall this unit has been playing better and will have more depth when Ayers is back (and next year when Doom is back). Each player has a flaw, of course, but I'm not sure the unit overall is a major problem right now, though, again, a better pass rush from the front 7 would be nice.
DL: Right now, until Ayers, and then next year Doom come back (and they presumably add more in the draft), there's only so much they can do to help this area. I will say that Vickerson was a great pick up (I wish people would praise the good picks McX have made if they're going to question the trades), Thomas has improved markedly, Williams has been very useful to have around. They clearly need to add a NT in the draft next year, whatever way they need to do that. The most glaring player I'd stop rotating in is:
Suggestion: ...Ryan McBean. He plays undisciplined, unsmart, and doesn't seem to do enough good to make up for those mistakes. he should be gone.
Tight End: Unfortunately there's not a lot of in house help here right now. And as we know, TEs in McD's scheme are more important as blockers than as receivers. Gronkowski actually seems like he'll be a good blocker, and continue to not be a good receiver. But as noted above the QBs could use all the blocking help they can get. D Graham has always been one of the better blocking TE's in the league and I haven't focused on him enough to see if he's lost a step there, but he's clearly not of much use anymore as a receiver. Quinn continues to be, shall we say, a work in progress, though like Gronkowski I can see him developing into a good blocker, if he can figure out the offense.
Suggestion: Draft another TE next year. Give Gronk more time as a blocker, and even as an HB/FB like Spencer Larsen, who whiffed on a block big time on Monday (though that was a mismatch).
Running back: Moreno to me has looked better and better every week now that he's getting healthier and now that the line is run blocking a little bit better at least. The short passes to him also seem to work well, though maybe they should've used them earlier than when they were out of the game on Monday. At any rate, Moreno may need to get better at staying on his feet more consistently (but hey he's no Gerald Wilhite) but he looks like he'll be a dangerous runner if he can stay healthy. The problem is more a lack of depth right now, which the Broncos tried to address by acquiring Maroney, but he's been useless alas. Buckhalther, another ex-Eagle I've always liked, looks done to me. Not only can't he run effectively any more but he's not even helping in receptions (dropped an easy one yesterday). I like Lance Ball's potential as a speedy backup, and apparently so do the Broncos, and think Andre Brown deserves a look, too, now that he's back.
Suggestion: Keep running KnowMo; back him up with Ball and activate Brown, deactivate Buckhalter and maybe give Maroney another chance to get a few carries if he's healthy; otherwise that was unfortunately a wasted pick in trade, though I understood the impetus behind it. But Moreno, Ball, Brown. Other guys aren't going to make any headway behind an inconsistent OL.
And at that OL, the Broncos are finally using the guys they should be using, at least, but they are still playing erratically. They were great vs KC, not as great vs SD, BUT I will say they had plenty of good moments, gave Orton time quite often when there was just good coverage, and whiffed some times, too. (And they continue to make stupid mistakes and get penalties which put Orton and co. in these 2nd and long, 3rd and 15, situations that are very hard to reliably get out of. I would keep the same 5 guys in there, understand that with 2 rookies starting there are going to be mistakes as they learn, and give them help from TEs and FB/HBs.
Coach/GM: Like QBs, people naturally gravitate towards scapegoating the coach, and they are not without blame here, but coaches don't tackle, and a new GM can only bring in so many new players to fix things, at a time. Bringing in yet another new coach would only set the team back again, as they would bring in their own scheme and players, and take 3 years of their own to get things right (though now at least the cupboard is not as bare as it was a year ago). I would rather have McDaniels at the helm, even if still learning, than a "veteran coach" like Brad Childress, who brought his team to the brink of the SB last year but is imho a terrible coach and manager of players. There is no savior right now folks. The grass is always greener. Patience is a virtue. And other cliches that fit here. I said before this season, win or lose, the new staff needs one more draft and off season to get their plan and players in place before I judge. I am frustrated, I think they've made mistakes, I want to see more consistency from the offense which is more talented than the defense and thus has less excuses, but I do think they'll get there.
On defense, I am more dubious about Wink Martindale, but in fairness will give him more time, too, given the personnel, as I pointed out above, needs more help and depth.
But these are some suggested fixes which I think will help the team both now, and in the future. Some of these decisions won't be easy for them to make, but that's why they get paid. I'm just doing this for free.
Stay vigilant but peaceful, all.