With Peyton F. Manning now having graduated from a Colt to a Bronco, I truly believe Denver is in position to now grant him the supporting cast that he's been denied for so much of his career while in Indianapolis. Think for a minute about how the Colts only gave Peyton two run-games that ranked in the top-half of the league. And think for a minute about how the Colts only gave Peyton five overall defenses that ranked in the top-half of the league. He was often an army of one, and it was good enough to get him to the tournament, but not good enough to get him multiple rings. I like to think those days are over.
In addition to Peyton often having bad defenses and poor run-games to work with, the argument could be made that we've already got as good of a nucleus at wide receiver as what Peyton's been used to. That's not to knock Reggie Wayne, nor to say Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker are a better receiver at this point, but rather to say that as a whole, Peyton's often done more with lesser receivers than what he already has here. You could argue it, sure... But it is arguable. Get it? Got it? Good.
In fact, the same argument could be made about our offensive line. Ryan Clady and Chris Kuper are pretty darn good. Now I do have concerns about Walton, and even Zane Beadles, and I'm also concerned that Orlando Franklin was much better in run-support than in pass protection. However... Franklin, or "Deebo" as I like to call him, got better with every Sunday meal last season, and both Beadles and Walton were drafted for, and are better in, a passing offense. So that should get better. I also think I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Manning gets the ball out of his hand about three times faster than Tebow used to.
So why not just stand pat on the offense and let the honey badger do what the honey badger's gonna do?
My friends, what I'm getting at here is probably not what you think. I'm not saying leave it and let Manning be Manning - to let the offense stand and to focus on the defense. Quite the opposite, in fact. I'm saying flip it and secure it - do what it takes to guarantee that we give him better than what he's had in the past.
We can't fix everything we would like to, and we can't draft everyone we'd like to. A line has to be drawn. So if I'm GM for the day, I say let them run on the Denver Broncos. Yeah, really. It's not about ignoring the run-defense, though; it's about resource allocation and prioritizing. I want to be elite in offensive scoring, and I want to be terrific in pass defense. To do that, I'm willing to sacrifice some run-defense and might not draft those middle men until late in the draft.
Peyton's had a top-four scoring offense nine times in his career, ranked 7th once and then in the teens just twice. That gets him to the pro-bowl every year and it gets him team to the playoffs every year, regardless of his defense. So I'm thinking we should give him the extra tools to insure that eliteness and then just trust our defense to be better than what he's used to. And trust our run-game to be better than what he's used to. I think this is a responsible plan for getting him over the hump and back to the Super Bowl...
To get there, however, we're going to have to sacrifice in other places. So it's time to shift our focus away from the run and more specifically, away from the run-defense, and at least partially away from the interior of the defense as a whole. You simply can't have it all and I submit to you that the run defense is now the least critical aspect of the way we need to build this team around the better of the Manning brothers.
Do you guys remember when John Elway told us last year that he feels like you need to be really good on one side of the ball and elite on the other side of the ball in order to win a Super Bowl? I'm paraphrasing of course, but what most of us assumed at the time was that we'd need to make the defense the elite phase. That's since changed. That changed when Peyton came on board. We spend more money on defense, sure, and it's where more of our stars make their living - Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, Champ Bailey, DJ Williams. But just never mind all that from now and forever.
Throw out last year's overall defensive statistics for a minute. Throw out those games where our defense gave up a lot of points that effectively smeared what they had really accomplished. What we had was three rookies giving major contributions on defense last year. We had Dumervil ineffective for the first half of the season and then Von Miller ineffective for the back end of the season - both due to injuries. We had major troubles at safety with Dawkins slowing down and the rookies just trying to find their grove after not having the benefit of an offseason. There were multiple turnovers in those blowout losses and multiple three and outs that gave the ball right back to the opposing offenses. Gentlemen, we had a lot of games where the defense kept the score so low that we were able to win games with less than 20 points. Now I'm not here to discuss the old offense or to place blame on the old quarterback. I'm here to underline that our defense was absolutely lights out in many games. They'll be much better in their 2nd year in the new 4-3 scheme, especially with a healthy Batman and Robin.
Now we lost Bunkley, an elite run-stuffing defensive tackle, but one that added absolutely nothing to the pass rush. Bunkley signed up with the Saints after we added Manning and I'm not entirely sure that was a coincidence... nor that it was necessarily his choice. I think the team no longer has such a great need for a high-priced interior lineman that offers no pass rush.
Think about it like this. Your outside guys all over the field are absolutely lightening quick and excel best against the pass over the run. That includes our new pass-specializing safety, Mike Adams, and it includes our new corner, Tracy Porter, who runs a 4.37 40 yard dash. Champ Bailey is incredibly fast, you know this. Andre Goodman is just as fast as both of them. Then you've got both starting OLBs (DJ and Von) that run sub 4.4's and we also brought Woody back to backup DJ and play in sub packages at linebacker.
So let's underline that boys. Champ, Goody, Porter, DJ, Von and Woody have all run the 40 yard dash in under 4.4 seconds. That's insane. We're building the outsides for speed - to protect against the pass and to prevent runs from becoming big runs. Joe Mays is the exception to the rule, and in my opinion, it's because you've got to have an enforcer at MLB if you plan to have lighter, faster guys everywhere else.
The one major fix that remains is that we need to add pass-rush to the interior. We need to take away the opposing QB's ability to step into the pocket while trying to escape VonDoom. But how much do we really need to spend on that position, either through the draft or through free agency? Granted, we need a stop-gap at DT and that can be accomplished by adding a guy like Antonio Garay, Shaun Rodgers, Amobi Okoye or Abruyo Franklin. Rather cheap contract for a short term, and we really don't have to allocate a 1st round pick to the problem either. It's just not as important when teams have to pass the ball so much more.
So there you have it. Our defense is being built with too much speed for them to let runs consistently turn into big runs, and our offense will score too much for an opposing offense to sit on their hands and run the ball. Not to mention, it certainly helps when a bunch of three-and-outs don't give the opposition 40 drives per game. So the plan, IMO, is to prioritize defending the pass through Free Agency, and prioritize offensive scoring early on in the draft. Opponents might be able to run a little bit against the defense, but they won't be able to run against a Peyton-led offense.
My first mock draft is in the comments below. I have us giving Peyton two more weapons with my first two picks... Kendall Wright and LaMichael James.