Before you jump down my throat and bang your pots & pans, hear me out. Elway said he wants to go into the draft with no "Glaring holes" so that we can go BPA in the draft (we all know BPA in true form doesn't really exist, but BPA-lite if you will, best player that fits our likely future needs).
We all know that the defense has some problems, but we also know that Von, Harris, Wolfe, Vick & Moore are coming back to the rescue. That's 5 stud starters returning, already significantly improving the defense from the 2013 playoffs.
We also know from the tea leaves/visiting players that Elway *is* going to sign a FA MLB (or 2), a perennial weakness. We can also expect a #1 CB to be signed as we currently don't have any starters from last year not currently on crutches.
So, what's the #1 Glaring Hole remaining, after CB, MLB & 5 stud starters return on defense? THE *OFFENSIVE* LINE.
Improving the mirage of our supposedly "elite" oLine is even more important than a high-dollar RDE or SS I'm saying (we can speculate that a RDE or SS (or both) will likely be added anyways, and with only 2 WR's from last year's 4 on the roster, 2 WRs to be added (at least one via FA likely, even if only Caldwell). A veteran RB is also likely seen as a glaring hole...but the #1 glaring hole is that sub-par oLine. I don't understand why everyone is always clamoring for SS or RDE but I hardly ever hear people clamoring for OL improvement?
Yes, Clady is going to be returning which will help immensely, and yes, Football Outsiders grades Broncos as #1 passing defense line, but we all know that is a mirage, due to:
- PFM's quick release making average players appear to be pro-bowlers when playing against marginal opponents
- Often Playing against 5-6 defensive fronts
When we play teams with quality DB's at all 4 positions (ie, the Seahawks, *not* the Chiefs), and the OL has to face a real Front 7, it becomes quite clear where the weakness in this team lies and where the $$ needs to go this free agency season: the oLine. We've seen firsthand the last 2 playoff exists against the Ravens & Seahawks what a sub-par oLine will get you against a quality front 7 matched with a quality defensive-back group.
The reason for the OL being the #1 glaring hole after CB lies partly in the fact that our offense sustaining drives is a big component of a successful defense. But, when we go up against quality front 7's, & PFM isn't allowed more than 2 seconds to find a WR further than 5 yards down the field, which results in a smaller field for DB's to defend against (since the DB's don't have to fully respect the deep routes knowing that PFM doesn't have time to let those routes develop), which simultaneously helps shut down the running game (defenders are closer to LOS for run support if camping on short routes), results in short or failed drives, results in our tired defense being on the field too long and giving up easy 2nd half points.
Some state that PFM relied on a "short throwing game" all season long, and give credit solely to the Seahawk stellar DB's for camping on "those short routes" that held our offense to 8 points. But, check the NFL.com stats here, PFM threw *THE MOST* passes of 20+ yards (68) in the 2013 regular season, and the 4th MOST passes of 40+ yards (13). Take the KC game on the road for example, that was bombs away when PFM had enough time to let routes develop, or the home opener Ravens game (when they had new LB's/DB's), 7 throws beyond 15 yards (4 for TD's). Yet, the oLine couldn't provide that time in the SB, just like the OL couldn't provide that time last year in the Raven's loss (when the offense could only score 21 points (Holliday had the other 14)). Ravens & Seahawks DB's were able to camp on short routes because they KNEW PFM didn't have enough time to go deep, which led to low YAC #'s and also interceptions.
Many people look at the score (43-8) and quickly blame the defense, and naturally conclude that the defense is where the $$ should be spent this FA season, but let's take another look at the SB Box Score:
Denver's defense held the Seahawks to 2 field goals through 2 red zone possessions, and almost 3 FG's on 3 SEA redzone trips (but Carter's PI on 3rd & goal led to Skittle's 1 yd rush TD). So, the defense (missing 5 of it's starters) gave up a "horrendous" 13 points in the first half (minus the safety & the pick 6...and wouldn't you know it, the pick 6 wasn't caused by Seahawks secondary either, it was caused by their dLine dominating our oLine: BOTH RDE & LDE's are having a QB sandwich that led to that pick, don't take my word for it, watch the play again below:
Take off the 7 points from the kick return to start the 3rd (not the defense's fault), minus the 2 point safety (which isn't the defense's fault), and minus the the pick 6 which isn't the defense's fault either, the Seahawks offense only scored 27 points. Hopefully we can stop errantly saying the Bronco's defense gave up 43 points.
The most PROLIFIC OFFENSE IN ALL HISTORY couldn't even score 27 points; worse yet, they only managed 8 points? But why is the question? I think the repeated & thorough pressure getting to PFM is what failed the Broncos in the game (two 3 & outs in the first quarter) I'll bet you Elway sees the OL as a big problem as well, the OL is going to get some loving this off-season, mark (this fanpost).
I'm tempted to go with Rodney's hypothesis of a RT in the 1st round draft, but Elway said "no glaring holes" by the time we get to the draft; and, I'm betting that Elway and PFM see the oLine as a glaring hole (at least I hope they do), and so I'm stating I wouldn't be shocked to see some decent money spent on the OL in FA, even at the expense of NOT spending money where the fan favorites currently are (SS, RDE, RB, or WR).
Many think the Bronco's oLine is the "best" because of some inflated stats against powder-puff 5-6 man boxes, but that is a mirage, in fact the OL is a rather large "glaring hole" to fix before the draft; it is the tide that would have raised all boats in the SB, and if Elway is smart, looking at our upcoming NFC West opponents and road to the Lombardi, he'll pay some good money to fix this glaring hole.