I haven’t made a post for awhile and I had planned this post to be a victorious affirmation of John Elway and his leadership of the Broncos. While I had my doubts that the Broncos would beat the Seahawks, I at least thought it would be a close contest and not debacle it became. As the old adage says, "what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger" I hope will apply going forward. But with this game comes the great question, are we that much worse than the NFC best or was this an abnormality? I know that this loss will not sit well in Dove Valley and that changes will be made, and this will probably be John Elway’s most difficult offseason to date, so allow me to opine regarding what changes I think will or need to be made.
I credit this loss to one main thing, and that was attitude and fortitude. From the opening snap, the team basically looked unprepared and not willing to match Seattle’s will. Does Seattle have a talented team, yes, but why they won had more to do with their belief in themselves and their ability to impose their will over Denver. So how do the Broncos change that? Let’s look at some of the issues:
Lack of a consistent running game. While I know that as long as Peyton Manning is here, the passing game will dominate; however, I think the running game needs to be addressed to be able to take over games when teams are taking away the pass. We have a host of free agents this year, with Moreno and Beadles being on the list. I really don’t see either coming back. While I love Moreno’s play this season and I think he has earned a decent contract, I think Elway is more than confident that Ball can replace the production. Beadles, I just don’t see the nasty attitude you need from your guards. He consistently loses one on one battles and IMO was the weak link on the line this past season. I expect that they move Clark to RT, keep Clady at LT, and move Franklin inside to LG. I also expect Denver to draft a lineman and maybe sign a FA as well to try to strengthen the line. I do expect that we will sign a FA RB as I don’t have much hope for Hillman to come back, but I am guessing it will be a journeyman type back, maybe someone like Ben Tate. I also expect that John Elway will look for an explosive type back late in the draft (keep an eye on Kapri Bibbs out of CSU or Deanthony Thomas out of Oregon).
Lack of a consistent pass rush. While having Von Miller back might solve this, he didn’t exactly blow up the league when he returned this season, I attribute that to the extra weight he was carrying. My hope is he refocuses in the offseason and tries to regain the speed and flexibility. Shaun Phillips is a free agent and I do expect that the Broncos will try to resign him, but I also expect that they will look to bolster the pass rush early in the draft, I have my doubts that Wolfe will return as I suspect his condition may be career threatening. We need to have the ability to bring pressure from multiple positions.
WR not winning one on one battles, Decker will also be a free agent and I have my doubts of his return. While I like his grit, he struggles to beat one on one coverage consistently and he generally is facing the weakest DB and should not struggle as much as he does in beating one on one coverage. I also get tired of looking for flags every time he doesn’t catch a ball, and I think the attitude doesn’t play well and comes off as soft. I expect John Elway to sign a higher profile FA WR, maybe a Jacoby Jones or someone in that manner that is a true explosive threat.
Lack of consistent play from the MLB and Safety positions, obviously some of the issue had to go with the injuries suffered. And some would say that the MLB is somewhat overrated in the 4-3 when a lot of the time you are in nickel, but I say the MLB needs to be addressed from being the guy who sets the tone to being the guy who is the leader of the defense. Which brings me to Wesley Woodyard, he seems to be a guy who is getting screwed for being a team player. While I think his natural position is weakside and he was playing out of place at MLB, he lost his starting gig to Danny Treviathon on the weakside due to Danny’s play and then lost the starting MLB due to being out of place. I have been banging the drum for the Broncos to draft a true MLB for the past 6 years, that won’t change, and my hope is they do address it in the draft. There are some decent UFA available, I would prefer that the team look in the draft for someone to step in. I don’t know where that leaves Woodyard, but it probably means he is not on this team as I doubt he wants a backup role next season.
Last comes to coaching, while I don’t think anyone is in danger of losing their job, another disappointing end to next season and I do think the staff may be in danger, including John Fox. I thought Jack Del Rio did a great job this season, especially considering the MASH unit he was running, and I thought they stepped up in the playoffs and at least did their job for the majority of the SB. However, as I said, I thought we lost due to a lack of attitude and in many ways that stems from the head coach. While I think Fox is a very good coach, I do think he lacks that aggressive streak that separates the great from the very good. For this team to move forward, it needs to have a chip on it’s shoulder and want to not only win but truly dominate in all phases of the game. John Fox needs to make that attitude adjustment.
While the end of the season obviously was a huge disappointment, and John Elway will have a tough task of trying to improve this team, we all know the needs that are out there. I hope we can stand united as this was a bitter pill to swallow but you can’t appreciate the highs without experiencing the lows. Next year I have confidence that we will accomplish the ultimate goal of a championship.
Go Broncos and thank you for a great season.