It was nice while it lasted folks. The 2011 Denver Broncos, in the midst of a regime change and fresh off the lockout, won the AFC West and beat the defending AFC Champs in the playoffs. Some of us knew the ride this year would be a roller coaster. Elite highs (O-Line, Tebow, DT, the D) and huge lows (Detroit, Buffalo, KC #2, Green Bay, the Pats). That's not to say we weren't and aren't a good football team. But a great one? Not yet my friends. As of today....Jan. 17th, 2012.... the New England Patriots with Tom Brady at the helm are a much better football team (at least offensively) than our beloved Denver Broncos. Who's to blame for this disheartening loss? I can tell you this in all honesty.... no bias here.... our entire TEAM lost that game, and lost it badly.
Here's the good news though..... we.... are.... a young.... team. We are fresh off year one of yet another regime change, and not only that, but no offseason time for the new coaches to install. Our Denver Broncos had to do it on the fly. Not only a HC change, our franchise completely erased the flawed, fractured power structure from the top down. As I see it, John Elway did one helluva job his first year, as did many young Broncos. SB competing teams take time to build.... but you already knew that. Whether you convinced yourself otherwise, that's on you. Deep down, you know the limitless success this franchise is headed for, and you know it's gonna take a few more talent pools to change.
Follow me after the jump for my ideas on what it will take to improve from year one to year two, and ultimately, fix this inexperienced team for the long haul.
1. I know this has been talked about a lot on here recently, but it is a biggie to me. This offense needs to get some passing production out of tailbacks and tight ends. We need to get our screen game working again to keep these all out blitzing defenses honest. A few well placed screens in the play calling last Sautrday, and NE would have thought twice about sending the house again. We can't just throw deep balls and nothing else forever.... can we? Lance Ball is a 3rd string back (not 3rd down) at best. I doubt he even makes the final roster on many teams across the league. We kept him because of familiarity. Now that EFX will get a full offseason to scout talent, I think Ball should be upgraded. Knowshon Moreno is making me very impatient, but I think we give him one more year or else. He'll be playing for a new contract somewhere soon, so he needs to make the most of it. I like Lamar Miller in the late 1st.
Julius Thomas, come to find out, was hampered by a nasty ankle injury all year. Instead of forcing him back into the lineup, the staff gave him a red shirt year to learn the game and to rehab. Sweet...... now just come out and beast for us next season and we won't have to find your replacement. Daniel Fells, and Virgil Green as well, will be better players next year with a camp under their belt. Did you guys realize that all of our TE's were first time Broncos last year?
If Chris Kuper is hurt beyond recognition, then I'd love to somehow grab that David DeCastro out of Stanford. I bet Elway would love that too. Tell me you guys wouldn't die and go to heaven with a Guard combo like New Orleans has? Evans and Nicks are the gold standard for Guards in the NFL.... I'd love to see us get bigger / badder in this dept.
2. This is a simple and obvious one - we need to get better on D. Another year together will help towards that goal. I love Brian Dawkins as if he were a career Bronco, but we cannot realistically count on him to do his thing for another year. If he can.... great.... but a backup plan better be in effect soon. Quinton Carter could be that guy.... who knows yet. Rahim Moore and David Bruton are also young, so we're not real sure what we have at the Safety position yet. Mark Barron in the late 1st round is also an option. Other than Von Miller & B Dawk, I don't think anyone on the team has the hit power of Barron. A new, young enforcer for the middle of our D sounds wonderful.... Carter can be our FS, should Rahim bust.
Joe Mays has to go!!! I know that continuity is crucial for a young D, but this Foxy/Allen D can't get by with him as the starter. Mays is too stiff and too slow. We need someone back there with power and feet. Burfict would be great if he actually panned out. Such are worries when drafting any player. If I know John Fox right, he will push for a new RB and a new MLB. We need to find a new Jon Beason for Foxy.
I also think we have to get some more talent infused into the DT core. Bunkley should be a top priority, but we need to draft our own guy. We need a consistent pass rush in the middle, and we need to get stouter against the run there too. Someone relentless will do.... a healthy Jared Crick perhaps? Okay, where does that leave us. We need a Safety or two to step up (in house, draft, free agency.... does not matter), we need a new Mike Backer (if Nate can't take it, then he can be our depth.... every team needs it and he was a 3rd rounder), we need some young talent injected into the DT rotation.... preferably a starter. So, now that leaves us with finding a 3rd pass rusher.... and a CB (Goodman is probably a goner). Draft... FA..... who cares as long as the holes are filled.
Basically, every level of our defense needs more talent.
3. Tim Tebow has to get better (not perfect) as a pocket passer. Once this happens (bet your life it WILL happen), we'll start to see more replays of the Pittsburgh win. John Elway, Adam Gase, and Mike McCoy (if he doesn't jump ship) are salivating at the chance to help Tim Tebow get better. Having the Duke teaching him..... priceless. Is there any doubt now that Tim Tebow is the long term, franchise guy? If you think there is, then you either lived in a cave during this season, or you are just so biased against Tim's beliefs, you'd be mad if he won a Super Bowl with us.
To me, a fanbase should shun other fans who hate a player so bad, they'd rather see their own team go down in a heap than that player have success. There was a lot of talk that a few people around here were just in this thing for Tim, not the team. Turns out, I know at least dozen of those same people who don't even get on this site anymore because we did good things with Tim at QB. I thought they loved the Broncos? Not just Orton (still so weird to me). The Raiders, I hear, are looking for a few good fans (thugs). Tebow rant over.
4. This entire franchise, from VP of Football matters, to the trainers, to the coaches, and finally the players, needs to band together, learn from prior mistakes, and progress naturally.... together. If more deadwood is needed cut, then so be it. But for the most part, we need continuity here. I pray that Allen and McCoy stay here for a few more years.
Some key areas of emphasis should be: eliminating all the WR drops.... receivers beating press-man coverage with more consistency.... cleaning up the turnovers, namely fumbles, on offense.... creating more turnovers on D (we need to learn how to pick off passes).... Tebow getting better with his reads/drops/footwork/mechanics.... finding a 3rd pass rusher either on the team already, or bringing that talent in.... creating a pass rush from the interior of the D-Line.... stopping the run more effectively/tackling better.... and our Safety play needs to get steadily better.
I'm sure I forgot some, but that's what the comment section is for. Thanks for reading... what are your thoughts about the direction of this young team? On a parting note, I'm relieved to learn that Rich Tuten, master of the pulled hammy, is finished here in Denver. Perhaps now the black cloud injury bug is done with us for a good while.