Finally! The pre-season is over and it couldn't have ended fast enough. Only the unenviable task of trying to cut the Broncos roster from 74 to 53 remains between now and the Broncos doing it for real with the Raiders on September 8. That cuts have to be announced before 4PM est tomorrow afternoon, and we'll have you covered all day long with breaking news, thought and comment. Until then, let's take a look back at what turned out to be a fairly entertaining football game despite the void of talent.
1. I Really Like Darrell Hackney....A lot -- Can someone give me a good reason why #4 shouldn't be the #2 quarterback on this football team? Hackney was given the opportunity to play all 4 quarters against the Cardinals, who at times played their 1st string offense, and his numbers were fairly impressive - 17/26, 208 yards, 1TD. He also ran the ball 8 times for 35 yards.
His lack of height has been discussed at nauseum, but he's a winner. He always seems to make a play when it needs to be made. Take the long TD pass to Colbert as an example. Hackney should have been sacked. The Cardinals did a great job snuffing out the bootleg. What does Hackney do? Stop on a dime, change course, and have enough presence of mind, with a LB bearing down on him, to deliver a strike to Keary Colbert in stride. 87 yards later, the Broncos had taken the lead. Those of the types of plays winners make.
Let's face reality. If Jay Cutler would, well, I won't say it. But if it were to happen, the Broncos would be screwed. Most teams would be. Cutty is the franchise. If that is the reality, then why not have a guy backing him up that can make some plays, a guy that can improvise, a guy that doesn't make the stupid decision. I have seen enough of both guys to say with confidence that I would rather see Darrell Hackney as the backup QB of the Denver Broncos.
2. Anthony Alridge Has Talent To Spare -- Watching Alridge play tonight, in his first real extended opportunity, proved to me that there is no way the Broncos can try and get him on the practice squad. Personally, I though Alridge was the best of the Broncos' running back bunch when it came to seeing the hole and attacking, a key element in the zone blocking scheme.
Size is always going to be a factor with Alrdige, simply because he is going to take a pounding and questions will always mount about durability. One question that was answered for me was his toughness. Alridge was shaken up on a couple different occasions only to return to action.
For the game, Alrdige carried the ball 23 times for 110 yards, proving that he can carry the load as a running back in the NFL. He also caught a couple of passes out of the backfield and averaged over 35 yards on 2 kick returns. Alridge was asked to do a little of everything with the Broncos giving so many players the night off and he did them all exceptionally well.
3. Is the Pass Defense This Bad?? My gut feeling is to say no. Identifying trends in the pre-season regarding the run defense and the pass defense are two different things. The running game is football in its simplest form. It's all about being physical and beating down the man in front of you. You are either good at it or you aren't. Last pre-season, the Broncos couldn't stop anyone on the ground. This year, the Broncos have done a much better job stopping the ground attack, something I firmly believe will continue into the season.
the passing game, on the other hand, has given the Broncos fits. Almost exclusively the Broncos have rushed four defensive lineman while playing a soft zone behind it. The result is to be expected from NFL quarterbacks, even those name Matt Leinart. Once the season starts, however, the Broncos are going to do whatever it takes to get to ther quarterback, and Champ Bailey will be in the backfield. That is good news for the Broncos, bad for everyone else.
Perhaps I am drinking a bit too much of the kool-aid, but I am a big-time believer that running the ball and stopping the run are the two most important keys to winning consistently. It looks like the Broncos will be able to do both. Force a team to be one dimensional, and a defense will find a way to stop it.
4. Jason Who?? Anyone still miss Jason Elam? I know, a low blow, but with all the whining that went on at certain main-stream-media sites when Elam signed with the Falcons, I think people forgot how nice it was to have 1 kicker handle the place-kicking and kick-off duties and do it as well as Prater has been. There have been a couple misses, and yes, he did kick a ball out of bounds tonight, but for the majority of Training Camp and the pre-season Prater has been rock solid. The Broncos are in good hands for the next 14 years.
5. The Punter Battle - No Real Way To Lose. -- People keep asking me. Which punter do I want to keep. Good thing for the Broncos it doesn't matter. Both punter in competition have done a masterful job in all aspects of the punting game. They have shown they can angle punt, punt for distance, punt for coverage and each has shown an athletic play at times during Camp. The Broncos will have a tough decision to make, and the "loser" will likely have an offer form another before he has a chance to clean out his locker. For the first time in awhile i feel good abut the the special teams units, and think this could be the year special teams make a positive impact on the Broncos.
Extra Credit -- This rookie class is simply awesome. We already have the top 2 guys, Ryan Clady and Eddie Royal, starting with the first team, and now the higher round guys are coming on straong as well. Jack Williams' 82 yard interception return was a thing of beauty, agaisnt any competition, at any level. Some guys have a nose for the football and know what to do when they get it. Jack is one of those guys.
Spencer Larsen is another '08 draft pick that is coming on strong here at the end of camp. Lasen made several nice tackles on special teams, and his 4th quarter INT agains the Cardinals shows his athleticism. Coming into tonight's game I had Larsen pegged as a Practice Squad player. After watching him tonight, I'm not so sure.
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