Howdy fellow Broncos fans!
Thanks to the poor season last year and the lockout, I haven't contributed anything more than the occasional comment to this community. When football came back this week, I once again became obsessed, constantly checking Twitter and Broncos blogs for updates. Hooray! Back to football.
This first week has been frenzied - although less so than it was hyped to be - and over-analyzed, but I felt it necessary to organize my thoughts and summarize my reactions to this first week in an easy-to-read list format.
What I feel good about:
- John Fox's apparent approach to playing rookies. Miller, Moore, Franklin, and occasionally the rookie tight ends have been thrust into starting roles right away in practice. There is no better teacher than experience and I think going young will serve us well. I certainly prefer this approach to what we had done in the past, which was sign older free agents at positions of need and then draft players at the same position so they can apprentice. I think this ties up too much money in a few positions and can trap you into relying on older players. Starting rookies will likely start out rough, but it should get better. I like to look at Tampa Bay as an example of this.
- Von Miller and Elvis Dumerville. Our pass defense is going to improve greatly thanks to these two stellar rushers. Dumerville is stronger and faster (according to him) and Miller is everything we've expected so far. Just watch the new Broncos TV report at 2 minutes and 11 seconds in to see him blow by Moreno in a one-on-one. Pleasantly surprising are reports of Miller's interceptions during practice. I hope he keeps that up and continues to improve his coverage skills.
- Julius Thomas and Virgil Green. Everything I've read about this two suggests that our rookie tight ends are way ahead of schedule because of their athleticism. They're still making rookies mistakes, but I think the only thing that can hold them back is the scheme.
- Offensive line starting together from day 1. Broncos fans have learned that a good O-line takes time and consistency. Thankfully all of our projected starters are healthy and practicing together. We don't know how good Franklin will be at RT, but he's huge and getting as many reps as he is can only help.
- Our all-stars Champ Bailey and Brandon Lloyd. Picking up right where they left off.
- The battle for #2 wide receiver. Royal is back at full speed and appears to be thriving in the tweaked offense. Decker is continuing to make strides and he is catching everything. Our newest wide out, David Anderson from the Texans, should give them both some stiff competition. Hard to believe, but our wide receiver corp could be better than it was last year.
- Lendale White. He has been a forgotten man since sitting out last season, but I have good feelings that he is going prove himself a useful weapon in John Fox's "most sophisticated running attack."
- Defensive tackle. When you're as bad as the Broncos have been, free agents are going to avoid playing for you if they can. The Broncos need to rebuild their reputation and get some momentum before players will come. I think there are enough decent DTs still on the market and some of them have the potential to play well enough to help the team win and build some momentum. I think the Broncos should start by resigning Marcus Thomas and going out and getting Ty Warren. Also factoring into this is that free agency only started on Friday. Now the Broncos can bring players in and get a better feel for the middle tier prospects.
- EFX's approach to free agency. The Broncos have been in the running for several big names, but have lost out on all of them. I can't say whether this is because the front office is playing it smart and not trying to over pay or if it's because they are just getting beat by other GMs. Only time will tell.
- Willis McGahee and Mario Fanin. These are two interesting players at the running back position. Fanin needs to work on his vision a lot, but he's got a lot of talent for an undrafted free agent. McGahee could turn out to be a savvy move or he could just be another over the hill running back. Ask me again in four weeks.
- John Fox. My family is from North Carolina so I've always kept tabs on the Panthers. I like John Fox a lot and I thought he was a good hire; however, he can be excruciatingly conservative at times during a game. Will this change with a new staff and a new team? How often will Mike McCoy and Dennis Allen be able to take risks? My early impression is that there is a good balance between conservative and aggressive coaches on staff, but we won't know for sure until game time.
- Pass Offense. This stems from the last bullet. How much will the pass offense change? It was obviously the only thing we had going for us last year. Ideally, a better defense and a good run game should allow our pass offense to shine even brighter. We were a one dimensional team last year and there were times teams couldn't stop us in the air. The threat of the run should mean a lot more fireworks down field, but the team could also focus on the run too much. Again, can't wait until game day.
- What the QB soap opera will do to the fans. Every day that Kyle Orton practices and looks better than Tebow will further divide the fans and a trade will be less likely to be accepted. EFX have got themselves into a pickle here. Broncos fans love Tim Tebow, but they also love winning. The fans want to see Tebow, but they also don't want a coach who won't play the best player. Currently, it's looking like Orton will show he is the better player (and Brady Quinn might, too. Having three QBs with starting potential is a complex issue.) meaning that fans will be torn. The best way to get out of this situation without collateral damage is for Tebow to step up and to unquestionably be the best option. Then Fox can give everybody what they want: Tebow Time and the best chance to win. The second best option is to get an offer they can't refuse for Orton. Then Fox can say, "Orton did great things for this team, but we felt this trade was better for our future and we couldn't turn it down." Fans will understand that. The worst option is to keep Orton and start Tebow no matter what. The coach and the front office would lose the respect of the team and fans for that. I'm interested to see what happens, but I don't feel good about how this is going to turn out as it stands right now.
- Knowshon Moreno. I pushed hard two years ago for the Broncos to pick up Moreno. I thought he would be a superstar. I was wrong. He's great catching out of the backfield and going one-on-one in the open field, but I think he will struggle in the new run offense. He is not a good runner in traffic. The reports I am reading from camp are not too positive. I hope I'm wrong, but I think he might just be a third-down back by the end of training camp and I don't feel good about that.
- Middle Linebacker Competition. It's pretty much Joe Mays and Nate Irving. I like both, but I don't love either of them right now. They both hit hard, especially Mays, but what concerns me most is that I don't think either will be a leader. Just like QB has to be a leader so does MLB. I think that will be lacking this year and I don't feel good about it. Still, I will enjoy the big hits that I know Mays will dish out every once and a while.
- Demaryius Thomas injury. This injury still stings. We have a great receiving corp, but Thomas takes it to another level. We don't have another player like him, i.e. one that can take bubble screen and turn it into 17 yards in an instant even if the DB is right there. We have a quick, smart receiving corp, but Thomas adds strength and even more speed. His injury worries me and depending on how the first half goes, the team may decide to sit him the whole season.