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Training Camp Thoughts -- Defense Could Be Key Early On

Marcus Thomas, Are You Kidding Me?
Sure, sure, all the big news this off-season was about the offense.  All you heard was Travis Henry this and Daniel Graham that.  Jay Cutler this and Brandon Stokely that.  The majority of any spotlight shined the Broncos way has been focused directly on Mike Shanahan's offense.  I have a feeling Jim Bates and his cast of meaty defenders wouldn't have it any other way.

Let's face it, we all know offense sells cars, or hamburgers, or pizza, but defense wins championships.  The Broncos jumped out of the starting gate in 2006 with defensive performances that reached historical proportions.  In our heart of hearts, however, I think we all knew the Broncos were doing it more with smoke and mirrors than with solid play making and technique.  There were holes, and it was a miracle that those holes were covered up for so long.  In the end, the defense wore out and the offense couldn't muster enought to get the Broncos to the playoffs.  In Denver, not making the playoffs, even at 9-7, is cause for upheaval and that is exactly what Mike Shanahan did.

I wonder sometimes if Shanny would have made the changes he did had the Broncos made the playoffs.  It was likely to be a short playoff run, but would the sometimes loyal to fault Head Coach see fit to re-organize his defensive and special teams coaching units if the Broncos were among the final 12 playing football?  It's hard to say, but if early indications so far this Training Camp are any indication the near miss in 2006 could be a blessing in disguise.

While the offense continues to run around with name tags, introducing themselves to each other, the defense is flying around the football field making plays.

Should we have expected anything less?  Starting up front, the Broncos D-Line is among the biggest in football, sporting Gerrard Warren(325 Lbs) and Sam Adams (350? Lbs) in the middle.  Not enough meat for you?  Throw in Jimmy Kennedy, another 325 pound tackle and even rookie Marcus Thomas, who showed just how athletic a 330 pound man can be, completing two back-flips before practice started on Sunday.  That's a lot of meat, and better yet, alot of meat that can move.  The Broncos offensive line is small and has long struggled against beefy D-Lines.  The fact that this unit is giving them some trouble should not be a surprise, but could once again be a blessing in disguise.

Behind all that beef is a set of athletic linebackers.  D.J. Williams is my pick to be a surprise Pro Bowl participant in 2007.  He has all the tools, and after playing out of position the past two seasons gets plugged into a situation where he can really use his athletic ability to reek havoc.  Ian Gold is sure to bounce back from a mediocre 2006, largely created by all the work Gold had to do to shed blockers.  With Eddie Moore headed to the IR, Warrick Holdman gets the first crack at the starting SAM position.  While no one thinks Holdman is the longterm answer, he should provide steady, if not spectacular, play, which on a team like the Broncos is all we really need.

In back is the best tandem of corners in the NFL today.  Champ Bailey is the best CB in the game hands down, and Dre Bly is easily in the Top 10.  Together they should really make throwing the ball a problem for opposing QBs, which in the AFC is an absolute must.  While I have my reservations at safety, especially with Sam Brandon now done for 2007, the talent that surrounds John Lynch and Nick Ferguson should be enough to get the Broncos through the season.

Put this unit together with an aggressive, intense coach and you have the making for something special.  Jim Bates has been successful everywhere he has gone.  His players have loved playing for him everywhere he has gone.  Add to that intensity the talent, both young and old, the Broncos have provided Bates with and you can see the makings of one helluva 2007 campaign.

I am a firm believe that the Broncos are going to possess a Top 5 offense in 2007.  If that is truly the case, than imagine just how good this defense can be if the offense is having this much trouble against them this early.  Just don't tell anyone, it'll be our little secret!