There was much rejoicing when Jim Bates was hired to take over the Broncos defense. There was plenty of excitement when the Broncos spent three quarters of their draft on defesinve linemen that fit into Bates' system. Much praise was bestowed upon him for his energetic, vocal coaching style during training camp. Two games into the pre-season the tune has changed somewhat, at least with the fans.
Through two games the Broncos defense has looked more like swiss cheese, shredded for 34 points in 3 quarters for the first team, and as a unit allowing a 3rd down conversion rate worthy of a video game(18/33 - 54%) and that new D-Line we were so excited about has watched 1st, 2nd, 3rd and even 4th team running backs rack up yards(334 yards in two games). Is the new defensive boss concerned at the lack of performance from his pupils?
"We get in the game, and they go 10-for-16, with a lot of third-down-and-long situations. That just adds another possession for them," Bates said.
"We have to eliminate that on third downs. But we have to do a better job on run defense, too. Our run defense has been very porous -- as far as being accountable, running the scheme and not letting that run kill us."
"The biggest thing is that we just aren't playing every down and being complete," Bates said. "We're still making too many mistakes and giving up too many big plays. We gave up seven plays for huge yardage, and it was something that can be cleaned up, but it's got to be cleaned up. Bad teams always make excuses that certain plays take you (out of the game), and we have to eliminate the bad plays. But there was a lot of good, too, a lot of positive things, and we've just got to keep improving. It's a new defense, but we have 20 days until our first game and we have to make improvement on a daily basis."
"We aren't catching on as fast as we would like. There's a lot of promising things we see on the tape, there's a lot of good things happening on the practice field, but in the games, we have not played well, and we just have to get better. ... We have to do a better job of coaching as far as getting basic fundamentals taught."
Luckily for the Broncos there is still time to correct the issues plaguing the defense. All summer we have been hearing the the Broncos haven't really game planned so far, that they are just trying to stay healthy and get to the regular season. All summer I have drank the kool-aid and believed. The time for talk has ended and the time to perform is here. The Broncos will game plan for the Browns this week, their first home game of the new season, and after finishing 2006 with a 4-4 home record establising a level of play in the friendly confines of Mile High Stadium is critical, even if the games don't mean anything.
Does Bates think the team can turn it around?
"We have plenty of time -- if we can just fix these holes. It has to happen on the practice field, and we have to carry it into the games, because we've had some excellent practices, but we haven't performed well, like we expected to in the games."
Soon we'll all find out.