It's the start of the season and this is my first article for MHR.
This article is focusing on what many are missing about Josh McDaniels and the Broncos. Because most of the preseason analysis in the media has been on negatives, as is the media's nature, what remains is a lot of positive information that is being overlooked.
Some of this will seem obvious to the loyal readers of MHR, but certainly isn't obvious to the casual observer. First up...
Josh McDanielsHe doesn't care what you think or what pundits say, for that matter.
And that's a good thing. With the help of Brian Xanders, the team is not buying into the hype of the highly-talked about players. This team gives fresh looks to players that are being overlooked or misused (Orton, Mays). As a result, the Broncos are acquiring high-value players at fair prices.
As long as Josh McDaniels is around, you are going to see him pick up players that will make you scratch your head at times. Don't be surprised when they turn out to be better than expected. Also, don't be surprised when he cuts or trades popular players. Performance, not reputation or age, matter for this head coach.McDaniels believes in using preseason games to work on weaknesses.Never bet on the Broncos to win their preseason games.
McDaniels takes the weaknesses that he sees in practice and pounds on them during the preseason games. He spends less time on what is working well.
This year, in the first preseason game, he focused on the long ball. In the final preseason game, McDaniels focused on short yardage play. If something is not working, he'll keep working on it...even if it looks ugly to the viewer. After reviewing the tape he throws out the plays and players that aren't working in those packages for the next game. As a result every year, like clockwork, in preseason you will hear the armchair quarterbacks complaining about McDaniels 'horrible' play calling.
Every year, the Broncos will always look worse in preseason than how they will play in the opening game. Count on it.The 'Character Counts' pays dividends with the raw rookies.
Rookies develop the right work habits and attitude when surrounded by players who exhibit that behavior. Their development is accelerated as result. Syd'Quan Thomas, Parrish Cox, Eric Decker, etc. all benefit from being around the high character players with strong work habits. Conversely, coach believes that a high talent, low character player poisons the well and hurts the play of those around him. The character counts philosophy pays a million small dividends that aren't generally noticed by the casual observer.Coach is a big believer in player development.
McDaniels is not afraid to draft players that will not bloom in the first season. He picks players that are 'teachable' and have the raw ingredients to become outstanding football players. An example of this is his willingness to grab talented but undersized defensive ends and teach them to play linebacker.
Teaching requires good teachers and McDaniels has surrounded himself with assistants that have the ability to teach fundamentals. As a result the coach is less-focused on "NFL Ready" draft prospects (which often aren't) which are more expensive. This gives the team far more value out of the total player payroll. Don't forget, McDaniels came up in the scouting system at New England and looks for players that show upside.McDaniels believes that depth is king in the NFL.
The players are bigger, faster, and hit harder than in the past. With a 16-game season, soon to be 18-games, players WILL get hurt. Many teams spend their payroll on a few high-cost players and pray they'll stay healthy. The rest of those teams are filled with 'affordable' players and try to scheme as to hide their weaknesses. This philosophy rarely works, especially in the playoffs when deeper teams eventually overwhelm these teams.
In future seasons you will continue to see the coach bring in players, even in positions that appear to be strong (especially at the 'skill' positions). Your star players are one injury away from being out of this league, as we found with Terrell Davis. Don't be surprised when we are not interested in a high priced veteran as that comes at cost of affording quality depth.
Every year expect to hear the pundits complain about McDaniels drafting at positions that don't show a need or not biting on an expensive veteran. Depth is king, just because we don't have a need today, doesn't mean there won't be a need tomorrow.
Information is more valuable than gold.
McDaniels places a very high value on information. That's not surprising considering his college training was in math and statistics. He'll always invest in scouting and acquiring information on players and other teams. Since he highly values information, he hoards it from others. He'll never become forthcoming with information to the media.
Because the media makes their living with information, expect them to continually be critical of McDaniels habit of hoarding this precious commodity.
The downside of this philosophy is that it puts McDaniels in a bind when there is conflict with others (see Cutler, Marshall). You'll never get the full story from the Broncos regarding what went on behind the scenes, so agents and players will often win the PR war in conflicts. McDaniels isn't interested in what you think about him. As a result, he'll accept losing the PR war if he feels the decisions he made were correct.
McDaniels is a player's coach.
Initial impressions can sometimes be wrong. What we saw in the first few months with Cutler and Marshall is not indicative of how McDaniels works. Reports are filtering out of the Bronco's organization about how McDaniels is willing to work with the players. He listens to their concerns and will make adjustments if it doesn't affect the overall scheme. He protects the players by not putting out public timetables for player development or injury recovery.
It's not in McDaniels nature to publically single out a player for poor play or 'hang him out to dry' in the public eye. Older players get that extra time off in preseason. If a player wishes to leave, he is willing to put them in a good situation. If a veteran isn't going to make the cut, he does what he can to maximize their chances of getting picked up elsewhere.
What else are you missing...Take the 'Over' on wins.
What do you get when you have a coach that doesn't share much information with the media, is willing to lose a PR battle in the press, calls preseason plays with a high probability of failure, and is willing to take players that aren't expected to contribute immediately? You get a team that will be under-valued by the pundits.
Josh McDaniels will win the Over/Under on season wins until the media figures it out (which may be never). He beat the over/under last year and he'll beat it again this year...easily. (The line is currently at 7 or 7 1/2 season wins).
The Jacksonville game will have some rough spots.
We'll win the Jacksonville game. But expect some rough moments as the offensive and defensive units learn to work with each other after a preseason filled with injuries. The first game is not indicative of how the season will go. The team will play much better in the second game of the season and beyond.
Our Red Zone problems are finally over.
Believe your eyes. Unlike last year, the first team offense and defense are making some noise in the Red Zone. This will continue in the regular season. Scoring will be up considerably. Last year, we won 8 games against a tougher schedule and with major red zone problems. We'll do much better this year with a lighter schedule and better play inside the 20's.Special Teams are going to surprise people.
In one season, the Bronco's are going to go from one of the worst at special teams to one of the best in the league. We are going to win the battle for field position. A shorter field for the offense will help scoring and a longer field for the defense will help stall opponent's drives. You can once again believe in the special teams play.The offensive line will be better than last year.
Clady's speedy recovery is a miracle, as far as I'm concerned. There is no way he should have played as well as he did last night or even have been on the field. J.D. Walton is the ultimate nasty boy and Beadles has been impressive for a rookie. Barring injuries, expect the offensive line to be significantly improve over the course of the first few games. I'm very happy with the long term prospects of this unit.
Our Run game will be better than expected.
What we saw in preseason is a lie. Our backups on the O'line were starting and the rookies were learning. We started 4th string running backs. In Jacksonville, we'll have back our top two running backs and a better offensive line than we ever fielded in preseason.
Starting with game 5, it looks like we'll have our answer for strong goal line running in LenDale White. Our passing game looks like it'll be very strong which will make things easier on the running game. It's anybody's guess how good the running game will be, but it will be better than expected.Our Top 10 defense will be stronger this year.
While everybody has been focusing on Doom, we've seen upgrades in the rest of the defense. We bought ourselves a wall on the defensive line and we've beefed up our depth in all areas. The coaching is going to be more aggressive, by all reports, and we've generally got better personnel to stop the run and kill short yardage situations. We lost Dumerville, but we're stronger elsewhere on defense. It's not the end of the world.
So what does all this mean?
We're underestimating the Broncos.
Last year the team went 8-8 with a tough schedule, new coaching staff, and huge player turnover. This year the Broncos have a weaker schedule, improved quarterback play, a better backup quarterback, a healthy & beefier offensive line, a second year starting running back, a meat wall in a defensive line, more aggressive play calling on both side of the ball, better depth at most positions, a top 10 defense, vastly improved special teams, better red zone play, and a better passing attack. Don't be surprised if the Broncos win 11 games this season.
Remember, it's ok to sip a little orange cool aid, just not the purple 'drank' (just ask Jamarcus).