I don't post very often, and it's mostly to make very pedantic points about statistics. But I find myself more excited for the start of this season than I have been since start of the 2000s. So, since optimism is easy with a 0-0 record, I thought I'd say why I'm feeling good about the team and predicting 10-6 with one playoff win. That would give us great momentum for next year, too.
1. QB. I agree with everyone that Orton is not the next John Elway. However, looking around the league, it's clearly possible to break .500 with a worse QB than he is. He's good in play action (actually very good at that) and throws a deep ball pretty well. With a coach committed to a more balanced offense and, based on the preseason, a functional running game, I don't see why we can't get as far as 10-6 with him. Backing him up are Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn. Tebow has shown signs up being successful in games, and Quinn is a lot less bad than most 3rd string QBs. Heck, he's less bad than many second string QBs. So, while we're far from excellent at QB, I think our overall situation is adequate for producing a solid winning season.
2. The running game. I think we'll have a pretty good one this year. We won't light the world on fire, but I wouldn't want to spend my days on defense getting pounded in the run game by the right side of our line.
3. Pass Defense. We have a pass rush, our back field has some strengths and some weaknesses, but it's pretty good overall. Our defense may not be world beating, but QBs won't have all day to throw, and their receivers aren't going to get open all that easily on us. That's a recipe for turnovers and, for a change, stopping teams on 3rd and long.
4. LBs. We have serious issues in run defense do to our thin interior line. But, we do have solid LBs, and I think Fox and Allen have enough combined experience to use the second level intelligently enough to compensate partially (I grant it's only partial) for our problems at DT. So, while our run defense is likely to be a weak point, it may not be so bad that it sinks the boat. Compared to last year, that's a reason for optimism.
5. Schemes. Exciting or not, I think we're looking at an offense that appears to be much more appropriate for the current personnel. I'm hopeful that Mike McCoy will turn out to be a real success and that he can take more of what he learned from McDaniels' passing game and add it into the offense over the course of a few seasons. To start with, especially with a shortened offseason, I'm just glad to see that our offense and personnel are a better match than last year. As for defense, I'm personally a big fan of the 4-3 base defense. I think in the long run it's easier to staff with the players who are coming out of college these days. Allen learned from one of the best in Greg Williams, and Fox certainly produced some excellent defenses in his day. 3-4 and its cousins have some excellent results over the last decade, but Denver is not currently there personnel-wise, and I think we can win more quickly with a 4-3 and sustain it more easily.
6. Coaches. Last but not least. I was never a McDaniels fan, although I appreciated his early energy and enthusiasm. He was my least favorite choice among those who applied for the Denver job. He's clearly very bright and knows a lot about football, but like many bright and enterprising 32 year olds, his experience and judgment don't match his intellect. The whole Denver coaching staff is much steadier this year, and I think Fox has been very prudent about his staffing decisions that have mixed continuity and some much needed changes. We can argue about the draft in its details, but already it looks like there is a much closer correlation between what the coaches need and who got picked than over the last several years. That's ironic, given how much say McDaniels and Shannahan had in the drafts.
So, 10-6, here we come!