I was afraid this would happen. I was afraid that the bright, shiny new toy called "the freaking," would elevate expectations so high, we would end up being brought back down to earth a bit. These past two games have been nothing short of ugly, but there is still hope my friends. A loss is a loss, but we all need to take some comfort from the fact we possibly played the number 1 & 2 teams in all of football the past two games.
Something else to take comfort in.... we were a TD/extra point away from the win in both contests. Had Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton, and even possibly Tim Tebow started these games for us, the outcome would have been ever so predictable - a landslide defeat to the tune of 45-10. After the Patriots in two weeks, the schedule opens up for us, and I'm banking on a much improved team by then. It will be perfect timing to run the table and make the playoffs.
Follow me after the jump to see my thoughts on what went wrong and what needs to get better (some of which can't be totally corrected until another talent pool is available).
1. Manny Ramirez! If I had to pick one glaring weakness from that entire game, the worst of it would be the play of Man Ram! Simply put, the guy was HIDEOUS, and was outmatched in every way! If we don't get Kuper back soon, I'm afraid Peyton Manning isn't going to last too much longer. I'll discuss this more in another point down below, but this was BAD NEWS!!!
All Man Ram is, is pure power..... no feet, no technique, no smarts..... just raw power. That raw power doesn't even look that powerful when his fundamentals are so sloppy. I really don't want to see him in a Bronco uni for another moment..... he has proven worthless as a reserve lineman. If he could help out more in the run dept., it would be a little more bearable, but alas, he doesn't.
2. A bad, bad case of the dropsies! We all saw it in the preseason.... receivers being hit in the hands by the ball, yet unable to make the snag. Eric Decker is the absolute worst on the team at this.... and I think it's an absolute joke he made the All Fundamentals Team last year for his hands. How many did he alone drop yesterday? 5? 6 or 7??? What a damn joke!!! DT and the rest of the team wasn't much better. Joel Dreessen should have never had the opportunity to make that TD catch.... IT HIT DECKER IN THE HANDS, triple coverage or not.
How many wide open receivers dropped balls yesterday? And DT should have EASILY tapped both feet in bounds on that deep ball. Decker and Thomas are now 3rd year receivers..... there is no excuse why drops are still a problem with them. If this doesn't start correcting itself, we will be taking some receivers high next year (and I don't think we can afford to do it with some many holes in the middle of our D).
3. The middle of our defense is as weak as water. Joe Mays IS NOT a starting MIKE in this league. He's a valuable role player, but this guy has nowhere near the speed or instincts to play 4-3 MIKE backer. I think we'll even see his run stuffing skills erode as the season moves along if we keep relying on him like we have been.
Our DL has played better than once expected, but don't fool yourselves..... Vickerson and Bannan will wear down and get exposed as the season goes on. I don't think it will matter too much, since I think our offense will be high flying by then, but until then.... We need some more upgrades in the middle of that DL. A huge, athletic NT would be fine by me.
The final level of the middle would be the Safeties. So far, they have been lackluster. I've been pleased with Moore for the most part, but Adams is as mediocre as it gets.... Carter may or may not be somebody.... Bruton is a STer only.... and Leonhard needs more time to get acclimated. Not only do the WR's/TE's have the dropsies.... so does the Safety core. We need some size/speed back there..... some playmaking ability added. The youngsters may get better, but there's no guarantee.
We have to upgrade the middle of our defense to protect our aging QB. This is a huge reason we've been so horrible on 3rd down, which brings me to my next point.....
4. Where is the pass rush??? Before this season started, it looked as if our pass rush would be top 5, at least!!! Outside of some late game sacks, even Von has been neutralized. JDR is being way too conservative. I think he's focusing so much on stuffing the run and fundamentals, he's forgotten that you have to gamble sometimes (especially when the opposition has the lead in the 4th). So what if the gamble doesn't pay off and we end up getting torched on the play. I'd rather lose by two scores and see my pass rush wreak havoc!!! I honestly think this on the play calling more than the lack of talent. When it's 3rd and long, your team is losing in the 4th, and the most you ever send is 4, it's going to come back to haunt you. Most times we'd send 3! Not good, must get better or JDR is a goner.
5. No depth!!! What quality depth do we have on the OL (Koppen? I'm not banking on yet another ex Patriot working out, nor should I)? What depth is there behind McGahee (maybe Hillman)? The Safety core doesn't even really have a sound starter.... the LB core has depth, but it's so young. The DL has some maybe, but we can't tell with the passive play calling. This is going to take time, but it needs to happen.
6. Overall confusion! Penalties.... busted coverage.... drops.... no rhythm. Yes, this can and will get better as the season rolls along, but it's something to keep an eye on. I think that sometimes Manning is confusing our own players.... they need more time to get in tune with his shenanigans.
In conclusion, I still believe we are a good team who just got beat by two elite teams. The Houston Texans are the most complete team (run, pass, defense) in all of football. This weekend will be the true test of how good this football team is. We lose to the Raiders, it's going to be tuff sledding. I'm looking forward to the opportunity, and I hope we're up to the task. We need to come out of the Saints game at 3-3.... then the schedule softens up (around the time this team should be gelling).