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With Pre-Season Winding Down, Some Defensive Observations

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Jim Bates Will Be Ready For Buffalo
The Broncos are preparing to finish off their Pre-Season slate at home against the Arizona Cardinals.  Historically, Mike Shanahan has not played his key starters in the 4th pre-season game, and when aksed yesterday if the play of his defense through three games would change that philosophy Shanny answered with a resounding "No".  That one-word answer means we won't see the Broncos first-teamers until September 9th when the Broncos head to Buffalo to face the Bills.  With over 10 days to prepare, over-analyze, talk about, break down, hype up, the first week of the regular season, we'll have plenty of time to debate the merits of the pre-season and exactly what we can take from it.

I'll start with the defense, the topic of much conversation.  I've watched the games, read the message boards, listened to fans and have come to a conclusion, which migt surprise some of you.

Defensive Observations --

I was re-watching the Browns game yesterday and suddenly became much more at ease with the state of the defense.  The Broncos almost exclusively played Cover 2.  Think about that for a second.  Jim Bates is an aggressive play-caller.  He likes to bring pressure, get after the quarterback.  He likes his corners to play up on receivers, in tight man-to-man coverage.  The Cover-2 defense, as a base formation, are none of those things.  To say the Broncos defensive strategy was vanilla is giving it too much credit.

I have firmly taken the stance that the Broncos coaches are purely playing possum with their defense and have alot up their sleeve for Week 1.  While the tackling issues are a definite cause for concern, I expect the aggression level of the players and the coaches to make up for that and the tackling to improve.

One real concern I have about the defense might be hard to alleve.  The Broncos have no answer in finding a replacement for Al Wilson.  To be honest I won't blame the team for that.  Al Wilson was a hell of a football player, even when playing injured like he did much of last year.  If it wasn't neck and should problems it was issues with his thumbs and hands.  Through it all Wilson played at a Pro-Bowl level, and while we noticed a drop off on the field there was little doubt that Wilson was the leader of the team off it.  D.J. Williams is doing as well as can be expected in learning a new position and it is going to take time, but I am waiting for Williams to stop thinking and to start playing football.  The guy is an athletic freak and he needs to use that athleticism to his advantage.  Just go play D.J, and I have a feeling good things will happen.

The D-Line has been an area of ill-repute for the Broncos in recent years, but that is going to change.  Elvis Dumervil is a monster and is going to get the chance to play every down with the injury to Ebenezar Ekuban.  Dumervil simply over-powered 3rd overall pick Joe Thomas of the Browns on numerous occassions and I think 2007 could see Dumervil approach 13-16 sacks.  The line is alot thicker up front, and I have complete faith that a vet with as many years experience as Sam Adams will be ready for the regular season regardless of his play during August.  Jimmy Kennedy and Amon Gordon have shown flashes and I think we'll hear something from Marcus Thomas before it is all said and done.  At the other end position I am looking for Tim Crowder and Jarvis Moss to be a two-headed monster and make an immediate impact.  Through all the struggles in the pre-season, the Brocnos are on pace for 50 sacks.  That, my friends, is a great thing.

Finally, John Lynch is proving me wrong, big time.  I couldn't be happier about it either.  Lynch has been a bright spot during August, making play after play, tackle after tackle, and proving that he still has alot of offer the Broncos defense.  I am interested to see how Jim Bates utilizes Lynch long-term, but Kynch has proven to me at least that he can still be an ultra-effective safety in the NFL.  Nick Ferguson has shown he is healthy and ready to go, and the Broncos have solid depth at safety with Hamza Abdullah, Curome Cox and even Domonique Foxworth who can play inside or outside.

At corner, Champ Bailey is going to do his thing and Dre Bly has shown about what we should expect.  Bly is a solid cover corner, but he is going to struggle with guys bigger than he, like Braylon Edwards.  Bly will force the QB to make the perfect throw, and if he does guys like Edwards will probably be able to out-muscle Bly for the ball.  Make a mistake, however, and Bly will make you pay.

The Broncos could have played better on 'D', no doubt about it.  But the fact remains that the Broncos are 0-2 in their last two road openers and the pre-season is just that.  Jim Bates has been a coach in the NFL for 25 years, and when you combine that with Shanny's 24 years the Broncos have planety of experience where it matters most.  It might be blond optimism but I think the Broncos defense will be ready to go September 9th and will have a little somethin'-somethin' for the Bills.  After reviewing everything one more time I feel alot better about oour defense, and our chances in 2007.