I realized I am rapidly losing track of the differences between last season and this season. So below the jump is a list of who we've lost and gained so far, and my impressions on whether we've improved. I'll edit the post if the comments show I've missed anyone.
|Head Coach||Josh McDaniels||John Fox|
In terms of innovation, McDaniels probably has the advantage. And there's the outside possibility that McDaniels has only begun to meet his potential, and that Fox might be going downhill - if you believe that Fox's 2010 season was explained by anything other than a lame duck contract year and a tight-fisted owner. But in just about every other area - intangibles, respect, locker room atmosphere, ability to attract staff - Fox is clearly an improvement.
|Defensive Coach||Don "Wink" Martindale||Dennis Allen|
I personally believe that this shift is still extremely underrated. I'm one to believe that last season's poor defensive performance was much more about scheme/coaching than it was about talent. Maybe 70/30. We didn't have excessively poor tackling, we didn't seem particularly slow. And I still remember the last San Diego game, and theannouncers talking about Norv Turner claiming our defensive schemes were flawed and easy to exploit.
|VP of Football Operations||Nobody||John Elway|
John Elway is better than nothing here. Of course it's not quite right to say there was "nothing" here before - what has really happened is that a group of duties that used to hit some combination of Xanders, McD, and Joe Ellis is now completely reorganized. Joe Ellis is removed from the football side, which is a very good thing. While we're seeing preliminary indications that the EFX trio might be a little less aggressive than we like, this still seems like a large improvement.
Overall verdict for Administration? MASSIVELY IMPROVED
Next up, Offense. I'm only going to list players that saw field time last season and have since left, and new players that are expected to see the field.
So, we have a fourth quarterback. He's either going to replace an existing QB out of being better, or, we're going to lose a quarterback for other reasons. Hard to say if we'll be improved here, but since 4 is better than 3 right now, I'll say Improved.
|Offensive Line||Ryan Harris||Orlando Franklin|
I think the Ryan Harris story is one of the great unsolved mysteries of the last year. There's no way the certainty Harris would be gone was simply because of the fact that Harris is "frequently injured" - especially when his injury history basically involves one injury that got reaggravated from McD putting him back in too soon, and Correll Buckhalter rolling up on his ankle. Ryan Harris is a free agent now, and was active in our offseason workouts, but no one's heard a peep, and now Franklin has his number. I think the whole thing kind of stinks. At any rate, Franklin has a different skill set, so it's hard to compare the two, but Harris was good and Franklin is a rookie, so for now I will say this is a step back.
|Running Back||Correll "Carl" Buckhalter||Lendale White, Mario Fannin, Willis McGahee|
I think losing Buckhalter kind of hurts, actually. He had better open field vision than Moreno early on. He did worse early in 2010 when our offensive line was awful, when Moreno was still able to fall forward. But later in the season when our line was improved (thanks to Harris being back at tackle), Buckhalter was showing some really good activity again, more than Moreno. I still think Moreno is best as a receiving back and we still need a downhill runner that Buck was the closest fit for. However - Fannin has good potential, White has returned and there is cause for optimism there, and McGahee has a good stiff-arm. Overall, I'll say this is improved.
|Wide Receiver||Demaryius Thomas*, Jabar Gaffney||David Anderson|
There are a couple of things moderating the step backwards the WR corp has seen - for one, we're likely to use less 3-WR and 4-WR sets. And, we can assume that Eric Decker is willing to step up and may even be an improvement over Gaffney. But, it still hurts that we've lost veteran presence and that Thomas is injured. It's still an area of strength on our team, so not a major concern, but this is a minor step back.
|Tight End||Daniel Graham, Daniel Coats||Julius Thomas, Virgil Green|
I still get those two new guys mixed up, does anyone want to share any mnemonics? Daniel Graham had a poor receiving year last year but there was reason to believe it was just a fluke as he historically had a high catch rate. But with two new talents, and indications that Richard Quinn is ready to step up as our blocking TE, there's reason to be optimistic. Since Graham was such a steady blocking presence, for now I'll say this is a step back, but we might say that this is an improvement before opening day.
Overall verdict for Offense? The only clear improvement has been with the running backs. Otherwise, we've seen churn without any clear indications of improvement, and some steps back. MINOR STEP BACKWARDS
|Defensive Line||Justin Bannan, Jamal Williams, Ronald Fields, Marcus Thomas||Elvis Dumervil, Jeremy Beal, Jeremy Jarmon, Robert Ayers|
Bannan and Williams actually played pretty well last season - according to some stats I saw, Williams played much better than we gave him credit for. Fields is in Miami now, reunited with Nolan. For now, I think we can still say this is a step backwards, despite the pass-rushing improvement we get from Dumervil.
|Linebackers||Robert Ayers||Von Miller, Nate Irving, Mike Mohammed|
This is a clear and obvious upgrade in personnel, and we didn't really lose any linebackers since Ayers is on DL now.
|Safeties||Renaldo Hill||Rahim Moore, Quinton Carter|
I'm higher on Hill than a lot of commenters here, but overall this is an upgrade in personnel. We still have Dawkins around for veteran leadership. We might have lost a little bit in terms of actual "secondary quarterbacking" since that was Hill's strength, but I think that overall this is still an improvement even today.
|Cornerbacks||Perrish Cox's innocence||-|
I think this position is cause for concern. You can arguably say that Goodman is back after being gone last season, but he wasn't injured the whole season. Goodman and Bailey are one year older. Perrish Cox is Perrish Cox - and it doesn't help that Cassius Vaughn got mixed up in all that. Squid has some potential as a nickel back, and Rahim Moore can also cover as a CB, but overall, even with Goodman being over his injury, this looks like a step back from last season.
Overall verdict for Defense? Well, this is a tough one, because we're clearly improved in two key areas, but we have holes in the DL and potentially in the secondary. I'll say MODERATELY IMPROVED, but it could also backfire.
Overall? The offense and defense are kind of mirror images of each other. The offense today is a step back, but time works in its favor - there's good reason to believe that WR, TE, and OL will all solidify on their own and lead to an overall improved offense. The defense today is a step forward, but if we stop now, there are some real problems in the DL and the cornerback slot. The front office still has work to do to find some more DL help and some quality backup at CB. Given the work they've put in so far, I think there's still reason to trust that they'll pull through, so I currently see the team as IMPROVED, with an asterisk. Right now things feel like 6-10, but maybe improved defensive coaching will give us a couple more wins than that. Maybe 7-9 or 8-8. I'd need to see some unexpected flashes from players in camp, and some new signings to feel more optimistic than that.