Greetings MHR. Last time we talked, Tim Tebow was the starting quarterback, the Broncos were going to be frugal in free agency, and the plan was to build a contender through the draft and developing our talent. As you now know, everything has changed. Tim Tebow is a Jet, Peyton Manning is a Bronco and there is a lot of excitement as the Broncos focus in on the NFL Draft. There's a lot to talk about so let's get right in.
1.The End of Tebow Time
If you follow me on Twitter (@ballinnickcast, shameless plug-in), you know my thoughts on what happened with Tim Tebow. For those of you who don't follow me, allow me to explain my thought process.
Since I started watching football, my favorite quarterback has been Peyton Manning. He is one of the best quarterbacks of all time. The way he dissects defenses is a work of art. Over the years, I have defended him against Tom Brady lovers, haters of his playoff record and people who just don't like his personality. I was extremely saddened when Peyton went down with his injury last year. Football wasn't quite the same for me because I thoroughly enjoy watching Peyton play, especially against the Patriots.
On the other hand, I love Tim Tebow. While I love the way he plays, one of the biggest reasons why I like him is because he is such a good person. There aren't many athletes who are of high character, in my opinion. When I know an athlete is a good person, I always cheer for them. Players like Drew Brees, Mark Herzlich, and Myron Rolle; I want them to succeed. I like it when the good guys win. Tim Tebow falls in the aforementioned group and I've been a fan of his since college. When I started hearing about his work ethic and when I saw his will to win, I was an even bigger fan. I was ecstatic when the Broncos drafted him.
When the Broncos started having interest in Peyton, I was displeased for a number of reasons, but here is the biggest reason: With Tim Tebow, the Broncos were the underdog.
Everybody's different, but I am the kind of guy who loves drama in sports. Was there anything more dramatic last year then Tim Tebow's 4th quarter comebacks? Every game the Broncos would enter the 4th quarter losing, and the majority of the time, they would end the game on top. I would rather watch the Broncos win 13-10 in overtime over the Bears then the Broncos win 35-14 over the Bears any day. I loved waking up Sunday mornings nervous as hell because I wasn't sure how the game was going to turn out. I loved heading into the 4th not knowing how Tebow Time was going to turn out. I loved every media analyst eating crow because the quarterback who "can't throw" was defying the odds and the Broncos were shocking the world. It was fun and exciting. This coming season, that fun and excitement is not going to be there anymore. Don't get me wrong, I'm still looking forward to the season and I'm still excited to see how well we do, but it's not going to be the same. With Tim Tebow, the Broncos were the underdog. They were Appalachain St vs Michigan. They were Rudy trying to make the Notre Dame football team. They were Kurt Warner working his way up from Arena Football. They were the the team that defied the odds time and time again. This year, everything will be different. The Broncos are going to be expected to win the AFC West and they are going to be expected to contend for the Super Bowl. Is that fun and exciting? Yes, you bet your ass it is. You can also bet your ass that I will be excited and nervous when the Broncos are in a close game, or if/when the Broncos make it to the playoffs but it's not going to be the same.
I'm going to miss the 4th quarter comebacks, the mystique of Tebow Time and defying the odds. That drama is gone and a lot of fun is going with it. So thank you Tim for the most memorable year of football in my life. It was a thrill to watch you and I will cheer for you wherever you go.
2. Peyton Manning
Now that Tebow is out and Peyton is in, there are a lot of things that are going to change. The offense is going to look completely different and many players are going to be positively influenced by Peyton's presence. Here are some of the players I'm really looking forward to watching with Peyton under center:
It was no secret last year that tight ends weren't a big focal point of the offense. This year, the tight end position is going to be utilized in a way that Bronco fans haven't seen in a long time. Julius Thomas is an athletic freak who can make some unbelievable catches. He was the talk of Training Camp last year. He's very raw, especially when it comes to blocking, but the one thing he can do is catch the ball and that's exactly what he's going to be asked to do. Peyton Manning thrives on exploiting mismatches and Julius Thomas is practically a mismatch on any given play. They have already began working together and if Thomas progresses the way I think he will, look for the buzz on him to skyrocket come training camp.
Eric Decker started the year great with Kyle Orton under center. Things went downhill quick when Tebow took over. Tebow and Decker took awhile to get on the same page and when they finally were on the same page, Decker had trouble catching passes. With Peyton Manning, I think Decker could have a break out year. Decker was known for being a reliable possession type receiver in college. If he can be that type of player for Peyton, he's going to quickly ascend to the top of Peyton's favorite targets. With a whole off season to work with Peyton, I expect Decker to be a big time player this year.
With Peyton Manning, the Broncos are not going to be a run first team. They are going to become a pass first team. That means that pass catching RB's are going to be very useful. The two best pass catchers from the RB position are Knowshon Moreno and Mario Fannin. Some of Knowshon's best plays in this league have come off of RB screens. He has shown the ability to make plays after catching the ball out of the backfield. His main competition for the "pass catching RB role" will come from Fannin. Fannin has 0 NFL experience, but he was very good in catching the ball from the backfield at Auburn. He caught 97 total passes for 985 yards and 9 touchdowns and a 10.2 ypc in his career at Auburn. If there is one person who can oust Moreno from his role moving forward, it's Fannin. This should be a fun battle to watch for in Training Camp.
3. Free Agency Thoughts
Excluding the fact that the Broncos signed Peyton Manning, I have liked a lot of the moves that the Broncos have made. In my opinion, the best moves have been:
a. Signing Tracy Porter
This is a huge move. The Broncos need a fusion of talent and youth into their secondary. They got both in Tracy Porter. Porter is only 25 and he is a very talented cover corner. He plays with a lot of intensity and has good awareness in coverage. I was surprised the best he could get was a 1 year, 4 million dollar offer. He will likely start opposite Champ in 2012 and if he plays well, Denver should look into signing him long term.
b. Signing Jacob Tamme
The signing of Jacob Tamme was a no brainer for the Broncos. They have to make Peyton as comfortable as possible. What better way to do that then by signing the tight end he's been playing with for years? Tamme is a receiving tight end who will make a big impact on the Broncos offense this year.
c. Re-signing Wesley Woodyard
This was a huge resigning. For awhile, it looked like Woodyard was going to be gone. Thankfully, he has returned. Wesley Woodyard is a high intensity, special teams stud who has the potential to be a starter, in my opinion. DJ Williams is entering the last two years of his deal and with a potential 6 game suspension, the Broncos really needed to resign the former Kentucky Wildcat. Woodyard is one of the good guys and he was a big part of the Broncos success last year. The Broncos are much better with him then without him.
d. Signing Mike Adams
Nobody knows what is going to happen with Brian Dawkins. That is why it is a big deal that the Broncos signed Mike Adams from Cleveland. Adams brings veteran leadership, versatility and experience to the Broncos secondary. With this signing, the Broncos have given Rahim Moore more time to develop if necessary. It's a very good, very underrated move that will pay dividends down the road.
Caldwell comes from Cincinnati where he never lived up to his full potential. If there was one QB who can help him live up to his potential, it's Peyton Manning. Boasting speed, good hands and good route running, Caldwell has the tools to make a big impact on the Broncos. He will compete for passes with Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Jacob Tamme, Julius Thomas and Joel Dreessen.
4. Draft Thoughts
When the Broncos lost Broderick Bunkley to the Saints, it pretty much sealed there fate in the 1st round. The Broncos have to draft a DT. Lucky for them, there should be plenty of DT's for them to choose from in round 1. It's looking increasingly likely that Donatari Poe, Fletcher Cox, and Michael Brockers will not be available when the Broncos pick at 25. That means that they will likely choose from Devon Still, Jerel Worthy and Brandon Thompson. Defensive Tackle is the Broncos number 1 need by far and I wouldn't be surprised if they selected two defensive tackles in this draft.
Other then Defensive Tackle, the Broncos could select a RB, G, C and LB depth. The one position to look out for is LB. The Broncos resigned Joe Mays so he will likely compete with Nate Irving for the starting MLB position. They resigned Wesley Woodyard to help with OLB depth, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Broncos used a fairly high draft pick on an LB. As I previously mentioned, DJ Williams is nearing the end of his contract and I would be surprised if he was resigned. I would like Wesley Woodyard to take over after DJ is gone, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Broncos take a look at players such as Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner, or Mychal Kendricks in rounds 2-3. They could be groomed for a year or two before they are given a chance to compete for the starting job.
One position the Broncos "addressed" in free agency was backup QB. They signed Caleb Hannie to be the Broncos backup. However, I think that was a horrible signing. Hannie isn't very good and hasn't shown that he has potential for anything more. The Broncos are going to need to draft a QB in the near future to groom for when Manning retires. A few options this year to look out for include Nick Foles, Brock Osweilier and Kirk Cousins. One player that I'm intrigued by is Brock Osweiler. He is very raw, but he would have plenty of time to sit behind Peyton and learn from one of the best. He's a big QB with a big arm and a lot of potential. He might be the Broncos pick in the 2nd round.
That's all I have for you today. It's good to get a lot of things out there and hopefully it leads to some good conversation and not anymore Tebow flame wars. Until next time, MHR.