I was recently informed that I am a flip flopper with a connotation that I should be ashamed of it. Naturally, the comment was made in regards to the quarterback situation. With my long history of supporting Orton (2009 to mid-season 2010), to support Tebow (from mid-season 2010 to the second week of TC), then back to Orton for 2011. Some might call that flip flopping, but I call that "nobody's job is safe".
Anyway, back to the matter of flip flopping. I have been holding back for a week or two because I felt something was shifting with this football team. I wrote about it several weeks ago, which was essentially about how I had begun to feel the Denver Broncos were finally finding their identity. For the team as a whole, but more specifically the defense. Which is why I believe we are witnessing this team flip flop from an offensive oriented team to a defensive oriented team. It's still too early to tell, but I've been far more impressed with the defense thus far than I have of the offense - and their performance and statistics appear to back this up.
Now that we've had three preseason games to digest, rewatch, and evaluate, we may just have a glimpse of what this team might do in 2011. I called the tandem of Von Doom, "The Show", in my post several weeks ago - without ever seeing them play together in a game. Well, last night we saw a show alright. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil combined for 3.5 sacks and the rest of the squad threw in another 1.5 to finish with a crowd pleasing 5 sacks on the day. The game ended up being close, but anyone who thinks the Broncos didn't dominate and abuse the Seahawks offense is smoking crack (I am looking at you Warren Moon and the other guy who called the Seahawks game last night).
Let's see what the first team offenses of our opponents this preseason have done so far against the first team defense...
Denver Broncos @ Dallas Cowboys
The first team only had one series to play and the Broncos defense came out somewhat shaky, getting burned on a few screen passes. The screen pass is going to cause this Broncos D some issues in 2011, but I think they will be able to keep those kind of plays to one or two per game. I'll take that, since the bigger issues is getting off the field on third and fourth downs, as well as keeping the other team out of the end zone.
Tony Romo and the Cowboys came out crisp and drove down the field in six plays for 56 yards. Then the Broncos defense stiffened, forcing the Cowboy's to kick a field goal. Brian Shrout ran quite an experiment last season where he saw a correlation between yards and points. Essentially, the lower the number for an offense, the better it is - while the higher the number for the defense the better it is. I'll cover just the defense here. Brian went back over the past 4-5 years and found that the average score for defenses on playoff teams was 16.5, so we'll use that as our benchmark (anything over 15.8 is good). Against the Cowboys, the Broncos first team D in limited action finished with an 18.7 DYPP (Defensive Yards Per Point).
There wasn't much I could take away from this game, so I decided to just be pleased that the first teamers had a stop and seemed much quicker than last year. In the end, the Broncos defense gave up just three points and 1/1 for getting off the field on third down.
Buffalo Bills @ Denver Broncos
I knew going into this game the Bills were one of the worst teams in football. So I was hopeful I'd get to see some of the Von Doom defense we had all been waiting to see. Both first team units were going to be in the game for a full half, so I was anxious to see how it would play out. Fortunately, the Bills got the ball first to start the game, so we got to enjoy four full drives in the first half.
The defense actually struggled a bit this time and were, once again, exposed by the screen pass. This is definitely something they must work on - along with stupid penalties. In any case, my excitement for the regular season only grew from this game.
13 plays, 58 yards - 3 points. The fake punt was annoying and only proves that the Bills are poorly coached. That kind of play you save for the regular season when it matters - now you've just tipped your hand in a game that doesn't matter. Good job! In any case, the Broncos defensive unit finished 2/2 on third downs and we able to shut down the opposing offense once again just outside the red zone.
The first three and out for the Broncos defense in 2011. Thanks in large part to an eight yard-loss of a sack by Von Miller. The Broncos finish 1/1 on third downs, maintaining a perfect record through the preseason up to this point. The Bills total yards drops to 50.
The third drive netted the Bills just 16 total yards, but the Broncos perfect streak on third down was soiled by a six yard run on a 3rd and 2. However, the first team defense still possessed a 5/6 success rate on third down. I'll take it! The thing I liked the most about this drive was after that third down run, the Bills thought they could just start pounding it down their throats like it was the 2010 Broncos or something. The result, 1 YPC and a third and eight incomplete pass.
The fourth and final drive was both amazing and frustrating. The Bills benefited by 35 yards of penalties by the Broncos on third downs, resulting in very poor play. I think the Broncos players felt they were the better team and began to get lazy, although the Rahim Moore hit was legal, it cost the Broncos a third down stop. The Bills were in field goal range when a tip drill ended with a nice return by D.J. Williams. The biggest positive from this sloppy series was how the Broncos defense regained their discipline in time to stop the team from scoring. All told, the Bills gained just 17 non-penalty yards on this drive.
For the game, the Broncos gave up just 3 points and 118 total yards for a DYPP of 39.3. The Broncos defense was beating themselves for most of those yards, but they were able to come up big when it mattered most as they should against an inferior foe like the Bills.
Seattle Seahawks @ Denver Broncos
Until last night, I thought the Buffalo Bills were the worst team in football, but boy did Seattle ever change my mind. They are absolutely terrible. The Broncos defensive starters were able to show the world exactly what their goal is for the 2011 season. Find the quarterback. Hit the quarterback. Punish the quarterback. Tarvaris Jackson didn't stand a chance, no team with a poor offensive line will stand a chance against this defensive line.
The first teamers got eight full drives in against the Seahawks. I'm running a bit long here and since this game is still fresh on our minds, I'll run through them quickly.
Three and out. The Broncos defense immediately begins to assert its presence.
8 plays 17 yards. D.J. Williams suffered an injury that will cost him 3-4 weeks on the sideline, but he hurt himself trying to make a third down stop. Another penalty ruined a third down stop on this drive, the Broncos defense quickly got off the field after the next set of downs. A 1/2 on third down is still getting off the field!
7 plays, 20 yards - 3 points. The Broncos were hurting on field possession, with the Seahawks getting the ball near mid field for the second time in a row. The Broncos defense caved on a chance to stop the Seahawks short of field goal range on a third and 1, but failed to get it done. However, that would be the last positive experience for the Seahawks for the rest of the game against the first team Broncos D - they'd be Shown the Orange Rush for the rest of the evening.
A six yard loss on a sack to begin the drive, ended up being 3 plays for 2 yards and a punt. The Show begins.
A run, a sack and a pass. 3 plays, minus 5 yards. Von Miller takes down Jackson on second down and the Seahawks must punt again. The Show continues...
A pass, a pass, a sack. 3 plays, minus 1 yard. Elvis Dumervil takes his turn bringing Tarvaris Jackson to his knees, vomiting with fear(I exaggerated that last part, sorta). The Show enters intermission.
A run, a penalty, a pass, a pass, a punt. 3 plays, 6 yards. No sacks this time, just slapping Jackson around and harassing him into making poor decisions and poor throws. The Orange Rush is now all Jackson sees and feels - once you enter a quarterbacks mind and desecrate on his confidence, you will win. The Show demands an encore...
A run, a sack, a pass, a punt. Von Miller once again brings Jackson down and the Seahawks end their night against the Broncos defense with a paltry 3 plays for 2 yards. After the Broncos gave up an unforgivable field goal against this team, the Seahawks had 15 plays on offense for a grand total of 4 yards. FOUR YARDS. Now that is one hell of a show and I enjoyed every second of it.
All told, the Seahawks only had to travel 13.7 yards per point. The only problem was, they had to run 33 plays to gain a total of 41 yards. What?!?! What a Defense!
Overall this preseason, the Broncos first team defense is 13/18 on third downs. Along with a DYPP of 23.9, which is well above the mark for Top 5 defenses from a historical standpoint. We have yet to see this team play in the red zone, but so far it is playing well enough everywhere else for all of us to get excited about.
Offensively, this team is fine. I would gauge it to be more middle of the pack, so having a stout defense will certainly help them overcome some of the limitations at quarterback and running back our 2011 Broncos currently have. I'm starting to feel 8-8 to 10-6 might just be in the cards for this team in transition.