Well, it's been one of those years for me as a bronco fan. I was terrified that we'd blow the draft by picking Blane Gabbert (though now, living in Jacksonville, I'm convinced he'll be the top AFC Sounth QB in 2 years if Manning doesn't come back. Yes, he will be much better than Schaub).Then I was sad that we didn't take Fairley or Peterson (I still think they are fabulous, but I've been impressively stunned by how fast and problematic to an offense Milller has been). And to top it all off, this is my first year with the NFL Sunday ticket so I could watch every bronco game from my couch in my broncos hat, shirt, and beer koozy.... but then I started helping at our church with the youth group, so I miss all of the 4pm eastern games (about half the broncos games). And this far into the season, I really though we'd be different (like anywhere other than last in the West and 1 game back from the Chiefs). This game gave me lots of hope though, and only 3 weaknesses I see that must be addressed in some fashion. So lets get to it.Studs
Dennis Allen: I'm not surprised how little attention he's gotten, but our defense has been playing very well, especially considering we have Vaughn and Miller starting, 2 DT's that no one expected to be our starters in Bunkley and Vick (well, Vick would swap with Thomas, but I think a stud DT was expected SOMEWHERE in the preseason). We've had injuries hurt us a lot with Doom and Bailey, but they still held up well against everyone we've played (I'm not counting Mr. Green Bay himself. It's just not right what that man can do. I won't be surprised if they tie Miami's undefeated streak). The thing that's impressed me the most is the adjustments along the way. When we were gashed for 10 yards or more on a run play (which still happens, we haven't fixed that completely yet), it always seems like that's where the defense toughens up and stops the run on the next couple plays. If this was the D of the past 4 years, it would have just crumbled and given up half the field in 3 more running plays. If we keep Allen around as DC, add a good 1st round DT, and upgrade the aging Goodman, I think we can have a top five defense in points and take-aways.
Joe Mays: No surprise here any more. This dude makes my TV shake with the hits he is giving. He also hasn't been a liability in coverage like I expected. IMO, he's replaced B-Dawk as the heart and soul of this D.
Wesley Woodyard: He's fast, he hits like he wants to be Joe Mays, and even when he's beat, he still makes solid tackles to keep the YAC down low. After watching this game, I was sad that DJ Williams is now our weakest LB. Then again, Woodyard and Mays are just playing very well in the passing game. I think Woodyard's only weakness is he gets beaten up by O-Linemen that get to the second level.
Champ: He got beat once or twice by Jackson, but unless we get a 4.4, 6'5 CB that has swivel hips, no one is going to shut that freak of nature down. Champ played great and had the one "sure catch" that he stripped away from Jackson late in the 4th quarter. I think we have another solid 1.5 years out of him before we need to move him to Safety.
D-Line Pass rush: I didn't really see any one person stand out constantly, but as a line, they really just punched Rivers in the mouth for a little of the 1st half and nearly all of the 2nd half. It was fun to watch on DVR, even though I knew the final score already. Ayers has been looking consistent and impressive a lot. Doom got swallowed up at times (but it happens), Miller is fast, but there were bodies all around there. I think Thomas is finally coming into his own. Vick has a mean attitude which I like (though I saw 2 bad calls for penalties that brought me to swearing and spilling beer). Overall, give me one 3-down DT that hits like Suh, Fairley, or Alualu and we'll have an edge rush that scares every Tackle in the world along with a push up the middle that will make Rivers wish he only had an injury as mild as Peyton Manning's neck.
Willis Magehee: Great Scott! I didn't know a RB over 30 could move like that! I watch a lot of Jaguar games, and this guy, at this point in his career, is as good a RB as Jones-Drew. He won't last as long, but he's playing at a crazy high level. If his ability to hit the whole, not dance around, and keep the legs churning could be passed on to Knowshon, then Know could be a top 5 back in the league. I saw it too much when Know was asked to run up the middle. The feet would shuffle with too much bobbing and weaving (which is great for screens, but not inside runs). Magaehee is one of the top signings of the year, and at the beginning of the year all I could say was "meh, whatever". That's why I'm not yet a GM.
Tebow's Feet and Head: I can't put Tim in one section, because I looked at him hard and the only thing that was consistent was the crowd noise about him (and the announcer who called Orton "Tebow" twice after Tim left the field after his run in the first quarter. I wanted to puke at the Hero-worship by the announcers, but that is more my hate of Gator Fans and idiots, who are often synonymous here in Florida). Anyways, I was impressed with how well he stayed in the pocket when he was asked to. He only ran on designed plays or after everything totally broke down. He also didn't try to run over too many people, which will keep him healthy. He also made very good decisions every time. I didn't see anything that left me pounding my head against the wall.
Wide Receivers: Loyd made a great catch at the end and nearly made another great catch earlier on the sideline, but other than that, the WR's weren't getting any separation or able to hold onto the ball. When are running game is this good, we've got to be able to make some big plays down the field (both Orton and Tebow have been able to do that with their arms in the past, so the WR's need to make it happen). Part of the reason Orton looked so bad was that the receivers were covered quite well, and the TE's weren't very viable check-downs most of the time. It was just a bad game receiving wise from my seat. I'm ready for Thomas to get healthy again and have him, Loyd, and Decker make defenses wish they were playing Green Bay instead of Denver.
Knowshon: It is well documented that Moreno was a reach in McD's first draft. He has some talent in space, which showed on the screen, but he can't seem to commit EVER to hitting the whole hard and fast. That's what I want to rub off on him from playing with Magehee. If he can ever get that "hit the whole and head up field now" type mentality, he can be very, very good. Maybe even great. If not, he'll be another Lawrence Marooney.
Andre Goodman: Really, he didn't play that horribly. He may have played better than Vaughn a little bit. But this guy is a veteran and I saw him get beat multiple times this game. I shouldn't have to worry about that from Goody. I like him, but I think this is his last year as a starter. Give me young, athletic, and ignorant over the "mature, smart, and often beatable" corner any day.
The "Meh" section
Tebow's arm: All I heard after church last night was about how Tim nearly won the game. True, he did, but I counted 2 good throws by Tim the entire time. One was the screen to Moreno and the other was the second to last pass to Fellis down the middle of the field. The catch by Loyd was amazing (he is an acrobat and a freak that I want to keep here for another 4 years), but the pass was high and behind him. Tim had plenty of time in the pocket and didn't throw a ball that was catchable to any mere mortal. There was the "dropped pass" by Fellis in one of his first drives that was wide open on the left sideline, but it was under-thrown. Then the pass to Decker should have been a TD for 90+ yards, but Tim over-threw that one, though I can understand it because he was running for his life deep in his own territory. Over-all, Tim played better as the game winded down, but he won't be a good QB until he gets his Arm throwing like a pro QB. I'm sick of the throwing-motion argument because accuracy is the real problem. I might punch someone if they bring up "throwing motion" to my face. My only concern is his accuracy and the fact that it doesn't appear that he reads the field very quickly. He can ID an open man, but I haven't seen a lot from him in terms of seeing "windows" in the pass coverage before they actually happen. IF (big if, but only the future will tell) he can get his arm and his eyes into a "pro-caliber QB" grade of quality, then he will become a top 5 QB. It is still a lot that needs to happen to get there though, and that is my greatest concern for this team.
Edit: I forgot his best throw, which was on the failed 2-pt conv to Loyd. That was the one pass I'd say made him look like an NFL QB. If he could do it from under center, than it would have been good (the Shotgun made the play take too long to happen)
Kyle Orton: Most people probably put him as a dud, but I was just thoroughly unimpressed. Even the INT wasn't that great. After reviewing the tape again, I didn't see any bad decisions, just some bad accuracy (just like Tim had). The INT was a bad throw, not a bad decision. I think he was hit a bit around the feet if I remember correctly. I did agree a bit with the decision to pull him, but I think the decision of who starts from now on should just be an open competition in practice over the next 10 days between all 3 QB's (I still think Quinn can be very good). Then let John Fox, McCarthy, and the 50 players not playing QB have the discussion and make a final choice. I'm not sold on any of them. So let it be known that it's an open competition and then remove Kyle's Captain status (I love the guy, hate the neck beard, and just hope that he gets to play somewhere that will love him next year.)
O-Line: Kyle was running for his life at times, as well was Tim. But consistency in the pass protection is what I least expected to have a problem with this year. We can run the ball very well, but some of these blitzes are going to leave us with Brady Quinn as the only healthy option sooner rather than later at this rate. And Clady has got to stop the holding penalties. It feels like it's every game. But at least the total sacks aren't very high and we're not losing 2+ yards on running plays.
What I say we need for greatness, and it isn't much.
First off, I really believe we are on the verge of having a very special Defense. If we drop Goodman for a very good CB to compliment Champ, our secondary is just what I want (curse Perish Cox for being an idiot and ruining our shot at a top 4 secondary in the league). The only other thing on my Defensive Easter list (cause the draft isn't close to Christmas) is a massive, pocket pushing DT. This will keep the QB from stepping up and is then swarmed by Miller & Doom on the edge with Joe Mays hitting anything that breathes behind our version of Suh.
The only other piece on this team we are missing, and everyone knows it, is the QB. I've been an Orton fan ever since he arrived. I still think he can be very, very good. That isn't good enough for me any more. I live in Jacksonville and I see why an average QB like David Garuard was cut for Blane Gabbert. The National Media doesn't give the kid credit, but he's the real deal and the team plays like it when he's under center (though there is some chemistry still being worked out due to the lockout. He's only been a pro-QB for about 50-60 days). I honestly have huge doubts about Tim Tebow, and it's nothing to do with his throwing motion. I wonder if he can make the accurate throws, read defenses, and spin his head while in the pocket fast enough to keep up with pro-football. In his 4 starts last year and the 2 quarters this year, I still have the same questions. I think McD would have been the BEST thing for Tebow, but that's no longer relevant. If Tim doesn't make it clear this year that he is making large, visible progress as a PRO-QB (that means ignoring how many yards or TD's he can run for, because that is a very short term answer, and a poor one at that), then we will be drafting the QB of the next 8-10 years for the Broncos this coming NFL Draft, and I'll be ok with it if that's how it plays out. I just want to have a QB in Denver that gives us the previews of greatness that I currently see here in Jacksonville and in Carolina. By Christmas, we may see that in Tim (or, heaven forbid, Brady Quinn... scary thought), but if we don't, we need to be ready for whoever John "Legend" brings in as his "hand-picked" successor.