By far the most common criticism of our growing internet community is that we "drink the Kool-Aid" or "look at the Broncos through rose (orange?) colored glasses." The negative masses fall back on this about a often as M. Night Shyamalan falls back on the plot twist, and with results often equally annoying. (Sorry, I'm still mad about The Last Airbender) There is some truth, however, to their stigma, and in fact it is extremely important to consider it. For the progress of mankind (or, on a slightly smaller scale: a Broncos website) is impeded if only one viewpoint is taken into consideration.
So, on behalf or the advancement of the human race I will take up the plight of the Debbie Downers, the Negative Nancies (I just went there) and take on a couple of uber-positive conventions I've seen around here that strike me as foolish. But don't go running for the nearest ledge, because there is a lot to be positive about the 2010 Broncos. These are just the holes I see.
I started with my favorite, because this one is the most bewildering to me. In lieu of the perceived quarterback controversy and holes at the receiver position, people have been tending to forget that the absolute biggest question mark on this team is the offensive line. Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris, our two best offensive linemen, are coming into the season with big injury concerns. Our starting center from last year, Casey Weigmann, is gone, as is our left guard, Ben Hamilton. If one of the Ryans can't go, which seems likely at this point, that's three starting spots that have to be filled to begin the season.
One will likely be assumed by incumbent utility backup Russ Hochstein, who is a cerebral veteran and a valuable asset, but based on his up-and-down play last year, when he was our only offensive lineman familiar with Josh McDaniels' system, he should not be relied on to start more than a couple of games in a row. The other two are probably going to be taken over by the two highly-drafted rookies, guard/tackle Zane Beadles and center J.D. Walton. Both are smart, tough players, and both have earned positive reviews throughout minicamps. However, it is not to be overlooked that they are both rookies, and rookies have alarmingly higher chances of making mistakes than veteran players. Walton's job will be especially tough, as it will be his job to coordinate the movement of every other player on the offensive line.
So, to recap, we have two injured stars, two rookies, a mediocre backup, and the underrated Chris Kuper. It is interesting to look at Kuper's 2009, as he struggled relative to his other two years as a starter. Clady also slipped up every once in a while, and upon investigation it seems that both players' struggles could be attributed to lack of communication in Josh McDaniels' complicated offense. Once it is taken into consideration how long it takes to learn this offense, it becomes apparent just how tough this first year will be for our two rookies. Hopefully, it does not dip into being overwhelming but instead lies closer to something like acceptable frustration.
This convention holds that these additions will magically transform our defense into a top-10 monster. It's easy to see why, as Williams has long been one of the most dominant nose tackles in the NFL, and Bannan and Green are prototype 3-4 linemen with experience in that scheme. However, I don't see them being any better than what we had last year. And that's not such a terrible thing.
As opposed to the last tirade, this one is more down-to-Earth instead of depressed. I think these three men are fine additions to the Broncos and will hopefully help our defensive line be... just as good as it was last year. Well, in the first half, at least. I thought Ron Fields, Ryan McBean, Marcus Thomas, and co. did a fine job of anchoring last year; they just got worn down as the season went on. What these three add is depth that will hopefully protect us from a similar fate in 2010. See, Bannan was a longtime backup in Baltimore. Green was a situational player for New England. These are not the kinds of players you want leading a defense. But they are valuable veteran depth and they add experience that will hopefully make everyone else better as they stay fresher. So while many Broncos fans may have visions of them torturing offensive linemen and quarterbacks every play, I see a group that will hopefully help us avoid a 2008-2009 style collapse.
I'll start with the obvious: Thomas and Decker are not only rookies, they are injured rookies. Which means they missed out on a lot of offseason work. Remember how Knowshon Moreno reacted to missing training last year? Thomas is also probably the most raw player, let alone wide receiver, selected highly in last year's draft. He didn't run an NFL-style route tree in college, so he is starting from as close to scratch as a rookie possibly can, and will therefore have a very long way to go before he is able to provide the impact a number one receiver should. Meanwhile, our most accomplished starting-caliber receiver (assuming Eddie Royal is moved to the slot) is Jabar Gaffney, who only looked great against a really terrible Chiefs secondary. Brandon Lloyd has a history of drops and should not be relied on for the majority of a game. He proved that first in San Francisco and then everywhere else he has played.
Beyond Lloyd there is... nothing. Kenny McKinley is very, very green, and has only seen action on special teams, so it is safe to assume that he will be a nonfactor in the passing game if he even makes the final roster. We don't really have any tight ends that can help take pressure off them (Marquez Branson is unproven) and none of our receivers have shown the ability to be the Man in the NFL. Hopefully this could result in a New Orleans Saints dichotomy with no true number one receiver but a bevy of legitimate targets, but it could also be really pathetic, for this year at least.
So there you have it, three conventions that I don't like. Discuss.
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