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Denver's '08 Offense - Part Two

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And now a look at the remaining elements of the Denver Offense.

Tight Ends

This is an exciting element of the Denver offense to look at.  We have two very good TEs, and some decent depth.  We don't have the pieces for a "magic 3" system, but we do have much more versatility than most teams in the NFL.

The first player to consider is Scheffler.  He blocks well (but not great).  But he has great hands, gets to the ball when it is near him, shows great balance and footwork, has good (not great) speed, and is big enough to bowl over many DBs.  His biggest asset is his youth because he will just continue to improve.  He has built a good relationship with Cutler, and they seem to read each others minds on the field.

Graham is another solid TE.  His blocking skills are elite for the TE position.  Because of that he is able to help Denver cover for the transition period that the team will go through next year as players change positions on the o-line.  He gained a bad reputation for a couple of high profile missed catches early in the season, but he has done well since then.  The team also claims that he is a receiving threat in practice, but with Scheffler being so dominant in this aspect we don't see Graham so much.

We can stop there and sing praises to the TE corp.  In one TE sets we can put in a TE to match the play.  We can also be tricky since each TE is able to do a decent job in his opposite role (block or catch).

But we also have the exciting option of playing two TE sets.  This is beneficial because the two TE set is ideal against 3-4 teams (the TEs are able to prevent blitzes from the OLBs, and make the five to three match-up on the line more pronounced).  In twin TE sets (both TEs to the same side) we have an overloaded strong side for teams to deal with, allowing the QB to roll to the opposite side.  We have a lot of nice options to open the playbook.

In depth, I like what I saw from Mustard when he was used at the end of the season.  Mustard is known as a blocking TE, but he made some solid catches for Denver and might get another look.  While he won't displace Scheff or Graham, he may become part of a two TE rotation to spell one of the starters.

This position is safe from offseason need.  It offers Cutler more protection, as well as a safety valve in broken plays.

Running Backs

Henry got off to an excellent start this season.  But a false positive on a drug test hurt his reputation, and injuries (chest and knee) kept him from performing to his full potential.

He will be at full strength next year, and will give Denver the power, one-cut runner they need to set up Cutler's play action passes.  Henry is a short down specialist, and helps the offense to wear down the opposing defensive line.  When he reaches the second level he is hard to bring down, and has just enough speed and agility to make him hard to bring down.  He keeps his legs moving when tackled, and is always good for an extra yard when brought down.

Selvin Young was a bright spot in Henry's absense, and has replaced him in the minds of many fans.  He is a speed back, and more "fun" to watch than Henry.  He doesn't force his way through the line as some other backs do on their cuts, but his speed after getting through makes him a TD threat if he isn't caught on the first tackle or in the first 6 or so yards.  He won't get caught from behind.  He's also not afraid to catch the ball on screens.

Hall showed his skill at #3.  He (like young) is a speed guy.  He is also a good threat on special teams returning the ball.

Sapp is a HB/FB hybrid playing at FB.  He's good enough to play HB, and not a terribly strong run blocker (for a FB).  His pass blocking is ok, but also not great.  His strengths are solid though.  He is a threat on the screen pass (and dangerous near the goal line in this role) because he has good hands.  He is also a threat in FB carries if the defense doesn't account for him.

Offensive Line

My guess a few weeks ago was retirement possibilities for Nalen, Lepsis, and Hamilton.  Lepsis has retired, and Nalen and Hamilton have not made any official decision.  However, both Nalen and Hamilton DO seem to be indicating they will return.

If so, Nalen will take over the Center position and continue to be a powerful force for one more year.  I think Pears will move back to LT, and Harris will promote to RT.  The team sounds like they believe in young Harris, and feel he has a good future with the line.  Hamilton will probably get his spot back if he returns at guard, with Holland at the other guard position.  Kuper is a solid back-up who can play any of the line positions.

I don't think the line will look as elite as it has in past seasons, but it will still be very good.  With Nalen and Hamilton probably back, it gives and rookies brought in this year extra time to develop, and that is a good thing (expect one or two in the draft).

On the other hand, I don't like players moving around so much on the line, especially in a zoneblock scheme that requires players to "read each other's minds" so much.  Chemistry is a must, as is stability.  I'm looking forward to Harris, and I think Nalen has one more good year in him.  My biggest concern might be Pears.  I worry about some of the pass rushes that come in wide against him.


TEs - A

A+ would be legendary, and they aren't there yet.  But elite?  Yes, and at two spots.

RBs (including FB) - B+

Not the best group in the NFL, but good enough to get 100 yards most games and good enough to set up the pass game.

O-line - B+/A-

Again, not the best line in Denver's elite history of O-lines, but still darn good.

Offensive Overview for '08

We have an elite, young QB.  We have a deep roster of incredible WRs (let's hope the Walker thing is blown over and he returns).  We also have an elite double threat at TE.  Our o-line and RBs are far above average.  We really have no forseeable weak spots.

Areas where we could fall apart include:

  1. If the o-line turns out to have a weakness based on poor play or injuries.
  2. If the RBs fall apart as in the o-line above.
  3. An injury to Cutler (but this is a threat for any team's QB).
  4. If Walker doesn't return we lose the three WR set threat.
  5. An injury at WR.
On the other hand, we may well get a WR in the draft, and I expect one or two o-linemen in the draft.  The depth we pick up in the offseason should mitigate (1), (4), and (5) above.

While the bulk of the offseason will try to fix the defense, our offense on paper looks good enough to be a top 5 unit next year, particularly in the passing game.  An already good (and young) offensive unit is still improving, and will be the heart of next season's team.