I haven't posted or hardly read any articles in ages. So I apologize in advance if any opinions I present speak on already hashed-out debates. I just wanted to offer my post-draft thoughts and my opinions on our current offseason situation. I've just hopped around the web and seen several negative and/or positive things that reminded me to continue boycotting anything popular sports journalists have to say, as well as a few things not produced by the major media outlets (Like TJ over at itsalloverfatman.com) that gave me a few intriguing ideas to think about.
First: Tim Tebow
I think the pro-Tebow, pro-(other rookie or KO) arguement has been hashed out well enough, so I won't get into the will or won't Tebow be starting debate. Although his chances after the Draft finished with no QB selction just got drastically higher, especially since Denver was looking for a 2nd round pick for Kyle before the failed CBA attempts. Anyhow... I just think too many people don't understand the importance of Roster size. The roster is very limited for such a complex game that's got such a high injury rate. There is barely enough room for every position to have a back-up and players from offense and defense must fill in for special teams - which could really have a set of starters for itself what with all the trick plays going around these days.
I digress... The point I'm getting at is that I think most teams have a problem in that they've got at least two players on the roster that may never see the field all year, including one activated every week thats usually just doing things a non-activated player could do: encourage the other players and observe - and hell, even the Fans do that! Tim Tebow is a special kind of player and leader. He had some impact and production for our team even while Kyle Orton was starting and taking every (or nearly every I should say) snap. Not only does it create some production essentially out of nothing - it also gives the backup quarterback live-action experience reading the defense from under center.
So regardless of if Kyle stays and manages to beat out Tebow to start, or even if we draft a QB next year - the Broncos have plenty of reasons to retain him and keep him as a productive goaline force, additional defensive coordinator headaches, and a capable backup. I just can't imagine Tim failing at something he's commiting his entire being to acheiving. If he doesn't become at least a good QB (which would make a great backup with the production he offers even while not-starting) he just might cease to exist. I will be shocked if Tebow doesn't become a great Quarterback.
Second: The Draft Picks, starting with Miller
It seems like the majority of outside sources - especially the realistic ones - have been giving Denver very good grades on the draft with one of the only negative comments at all is that we didn't select a DT. There are a few however that have exaggerated this one fact into something much worse than it really is. There are also others that have gone so far as to painting Von Miller with the Aaron Curry brush - when in fact... they are actually two different people! Sweet, I know right? Von was brought on board with the #2 pick because he has a skill set that will add instant impact at the pro-level. Aaron Curry just had the makings of an all-around great LB with amazing athletic potential and the ability to contribute from day one as an every-down linebacker.
Von Miller, on the other hand does not come on board with the ability to contribute from day one as a great every down linebacker. He has the athletic potential to be one in short order, but right now he's just got the ability to come in and wreak havoc as an edge rusher using techniques and skills that translate directly to the NFL and are proven effective. Aaron Curry got sacks in college, but not using techniques that we see succeeding regularly in the NFL. That is the big difference. One that should be noted too. We Broncos fans need to understand that Von is amazingly gifted, talented, and athletic; but will take time to develop the skills that make him an extremely effective everydown back (Hell, even Doom is still getting better at the run-attack side of his game). We shouldn't expect to see him tear it up every play. However, we can expect to see him add instant impact on obvious passing downs as he gets comfortable with his teamates and the scheme.
It also bothers me how many pundits instantly downgrade Von because he's going into a "4-3" defense and I use the quotes because its just a label. Coach Fox is pretty good about making sure listeners know that's just a label and its really not important other than describing a visual pattern of the defense or "feel" to it, when realistically... guys move around, shift alignments, trade gaps, stunt, twist, blitz, and drop into coverage (all 11 players on Defense do those things). There are DT's in some defenses that drop into coverage (Ngata of the Ravens) there are CBs who blitz and stunt (Woodson of Green Bay), and safeties and linebackers obviously do the same as well as man cover people. I just want to clarify that it doesn't matter how the heck you line-up. All that does is change how the defense "looks" to the opposing offense, and the types of players at each position hint at what their plan of defense for the given play may be (I.e. nickel usually to defend pass).
So the next time you hear people talking about a player succeeding or failing based on the alignment he plays in is crap. As long as you have all the players to cover all the different assignments (taking blockers, making tackles, covering receivers, creating pressure) then it doesn't matter what the defense looks like or who's playing it, as long as they are each individually successful at their assignment the defense will succeed as a whole unit. So long as Von starts out with assignments that he can be successful at (like creating pressure, and making tackles) he should do just fine. Eventually his role will expand to add wrinkles of coverage or interior blitzing/stunting... but just as wrinkles. A team that doesn't use Von to get after the ball (whether its in the QBs hand or wherever) has no business drafting him. I'm more than confident that the wiley old vet we have in Coach Fox knows what hes got and what to do with it.
This guy is a monster. I dug up every single clip I could find on the guy and watched it and loved it - aside from running himself out of the play on occasion (usually because he's blasting the first guy he meets completely out of the play as well). Which shouldn't be a problem because in the NFL defensive players don't make as many mistakes as college players and shouldn't run themselves out of the play - so Franklin's furocious attack should be of benefit more often than not. The guy can play just about any position on the line and has the toolset to work well in either blocking scheme, which frees us up to do both zone and power runs which the rest of our line all has experience at from our transition from a previous zone-heavy scheme. Heck of a player. I just hope his ferociousness doesn't get a bunch of flags thrown, which generally doesn't happen to aggressive linemen anyways.
As much as I love the Von Miller selection, grabbing up this player was probably my favorite selection of all three days. There aren't too many knocks against Nate Irving other than the medical from his accident that has all but completely healed up. He oviously will have a lot to learn - every rookie does - but this guy has got amazing instincts. Every minute of video i've watched of him amazes me more each time. He is lethal-fast at reading and reacting to plays! This is a guy who definitely trusts what he sees and utilizes his preparation. In the NFL half of winning is preparation, the other half is execution. As his pro-offense IQ increases he's going to get scary good - assuming no latent medical issues arise from his accident.
He also gets to learn from a particular ILB who has done it all and is always around the ball in DJ Williams. Sure DJ hasn't been specatular for us, but he knows the ins and outs of blitzing, coverages, and finding the ball somehwere in between. He's played nearly every linebacker position that exists (in no small part due to five different DC's since he became a Bronco). Nate should have everything he needs to succeed on our team, and has intangibles that can really progress and turn him into a big-time defensive leader and captain in the near future.
Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter
Before this draft I really didn't think we'd target a top-flight safety, especially two of them! I thought Renald Hill got better and better as the season went on last year after a rough start, and generally plays above average - leaving bigger fish to fry on our defense. Brian Dawkins is... well... Brian Dawkins, no big issues there other than his age. We may only get a year or two more out of him - though I think the guy has way more left in his tank because of how passionate he is and how well he's taken care of his body over the years. David Bruton still needs a lot of polish, but his special teams skills are ridiculous, there is no way you don't want that guy as a backup safety on your team. McBath is also a very good special teamer who showed tons of potential and promise while he took starting duties; unfortunately last year was plagued with injuries. I'm hoping it was just a rash of bad luck (broken bones usually are) and he can be a future starter along with one of the two safeties we just drafted. McBath was also a versitile ballhawk coming out of college, so I think he'll stick around as a back up at least.
Moore and Carter both possess similar play styles, though Carter is a lot more of a hitter than Moore, and really knows how to lay the wood down. Carter should essentially be Dawkin's heir apparent on the team, leaving McBath and Moore to compete for the starting spot at Free Safety. I think Bruton will be retained as the backup SS, and we just might have to let Hill go this year even though his play is not below average in the league, just because I don't see us carrying 6 safeties. I like that all of our young safeties are ballhawks - minus Bruton, who has great range and is very fast actually, so the potential is there. Once Fox solidifies the Defensive tackle position those guys should be freed up to do what they do best.
All in all our defense is getting much faster, more aggressive, and loaded with ball-hunters as opposed to tackling machines. We may give up similar yardage, but the risk comes with reward and the increased takeaways should greatly reduce points allowed. I like this style of defense because even if the offense can move on us, its only a matter of time before we pop the ball out and make all their effort count for nothing. Under late-Shanahan and McDaniels our defense made good stops, but being unable to force turnovers meant that they saw way too much time on the field, got too tired, and became ineffective later in the game. That shouldn't happen often anymore.
Virgil Green and Julius Thomas
I like that we're getting highly athletic again at the tightend position. I think we were trying to have too much balance at TE under late-Shanahan and McDaniels. Fox and Company seem to have a particular agenda for the TE's as active players in the passing game, with the ability to block well if need be. Let the line do what it does best, blocking, and the TE do what they do best, creating mismatches either receiving or blocking. I felt like Denver was previously a little to focused on TE's blocking ability, when in reality they should win that battle if theyre scrappy and physical regardless of skill - because TE blocking is more positioning than it is knocking someone off the ball, and they're usually bigger than the man they're trying to block anyways. I like getting the athletic guys who are geared to the passing game, but athletic and physical enough to be a decent blocker when we need them.
Julius Thomas is essentially Gates v2. We will see if Barone can replicate his previous masterpeice... or even surpass it with new experience. I think we'll just wait and see with Thomas over the next couple of years. It's Green thats intriguing to me. He has a skill set and ability that might let him see gametime immediately on certain downs. It will be spot duty, but he could be dangerous on that spot duty right out of the gate. It should be interesting to keep an eye on him during training camp.
This guy will also be one to keep an eye on in training camp. He fell to the 7th round, which is surprising given the domination he displayed in College. He was quite a force to be reckoned with and had a decent combination of pass-rushing and run-stopping skills. He may get opportunities to play spot duty for Doom and Ayers at DE, since Von can be pressure power from the edge while one of them is resting. He could have some nice impact for a 7th rounder this year, and will definitely up the competition level at that position in TC. I'm excited for this kid, he's coming into a great situation with a chip on his shoulder. I wouldn't want to be an opposing QB visiting Mile High this year. The pressure is going to come from everywhere. If we can find a way to get consistant at stopping the run, than we should have a much better year than its already shaping up to be.
This is the guy I know the least about, but like Irving he has great instincts. I also like the defense he comes out of with the Cal Golden Bears. Aggressive and speedy defense, who saw a player we're all familiar with in Syd'Quan Thompson. Mike isn't quite as fast as Irving, but he is a hard worker and should be able to add some good competition to the LB corps.
State of the Broncos
I think Denver is in a great position, potentially moving their defense from last to around 15th just by adding the pass pressure. If we can sign a solid FA DT or two and shore up the run defense with a little more consistancy than we could be looking at a possible top ten defense. The offense has begun to add a more dynamic element to the tight end position, which should give Lloyd, Gaffney, Thomas, and Royal more space and more opportunities to get soft coverage, or stretch out the D and give Moreno some wide space to work with.
We're in a new first year, with new systems... I'm not going to have unrealistic expectations. I'd like to see the Defense get very aggressive and consistent stopping the run, or at least slowing it down and force more passing situations, especially long ones. And I'd like to see the staff just give Tebow a year to prove himself. If he doesn't succeed, then we draft a QB next year and retain him to be the excellent backup and wildcat/short-yardage situations like I mentioned above. I don't expect us to retain Kyle, especially with a couple teams still needing to look to FA for QB, he should be one of the top names on the list after last years early performance.
Anyhow, hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts. Enjoy the week, and Go BRONCOS!