Some pills are tough to swallow. Losing the first game is never a good thing, but sometimes you learn more from losing than getting lucky, and hopefully that's the way the Broncos approach practice this week as they try and correct the multitude of mistakes that were made in Jacksonville on Sunday.
It is often forgotten that Jacksonville's quarterback David Garrard is a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback, regardless of what alternate he is, and he showed today why. I was one who vastly underrated Garrard, and the Broncos might have as well.
The goal for the game was undoubtedly to stop Maurice Jones-Drew on the ground, and the Broncos seemed to do that pretty well today. But it wasn't quite enough.
The theme for the Broncos today was sloppy. As the game would suggest, when it rains it really pours, and it poured on the Broncos today in embarrassing fashion.
Despite how badly the Broncos played in their 24-17 loss, they still had a chance to tie the game near the end with a good two minute drill, and it just was not in the cards today.
Some things are for sure though--the Denver Broncos are not like the 2009 team. I'm not going to go so far as to say this team is going to start really slow and finish red hot, but they are most definitely going to get better as the season goes along. They made a ton of mistakes today: "timely" penalties, which can be tied along with mental errors, poor special teams play, and ineffective offensive line play.
I can't say I am happy with the Broncos' performance today, though I think I took a lot of good from it.
My predicted score for the game was Broncos 31, Jaguars 17. Here's why that score did not happen.
The Broncos didn't score 31 points because...
This one is pretty easy. The Broncos theoretically could have had 31 points if two plays do not happen. One, Correll Buckhalter's fumble in scoring position. That was a long drive by the Broncos that included a tough fourth down conversion, and it was cut short because of bad ball security. Inexcusable, and it was a much needed score for the Broncos, obviously.
If that touchdown happens, this one might have been a game-winner. Kyle Orton trying to hook up with Eddie Royal turned out to be a major failure, as he foolishly threw it into triple coverage and lost the Broncos an opportunity to tie the game. One of the very few poor throws he made on the game today.
The Jaguars didn't score 17 points because...
Simply because of the field position battle, specifically in the kicking game where the Jaguars were down not one, not two, but three return men, and Denver could still not stop Tiquan Underwood. Not to slight Underwood or the Jacksonville special teams, but it is simply not excusable.
However, this award goes to Ryan McBean, who gave up 30 yards of penalties on two straight plays, essentially giving the Jaguars prime field position. The first one, Maurice Jones-Drew was tackled for a short gain, perhaps even a loss. The second one was on the back end of a longer run, but still shouldn't have happened.
What I didn't like
I don't know if more even needs to be said here. Seven penalties for 70 yards, 30 late in the game with McBean's facemasks. I also count a pass interference by Brian Dawkins, a hands to the face by Andre' Goodman, holding by Zane Beadles, and two delay of game penalties by Kyle Orton. Simply terrible, but not something that cannot be fixed. Penalties will absolutely kill you if you commit them this often.
I'm also not ecstatic about our offensive line, though they should improve over time by becoming more cohesive as a unit. Beadles is playing out of position right now, and Ryan Harris is sorely missed. I am not sure what to make of Stanley Daniels, and J.D. Walton did a decent job. Ryan Clady is obviously rusty. Aaron Kampman was in the backfield far too often for my liking, and he had two sacks and broke up a running play before it got back to the line by my count.
The defense was also unable to cover the two giants in the Jaguars' offense. Marcedes Lewis and Kassim Osgood combined for a ripe three catches, all of which went for touchdowns. It wasn't that the Jaguars' tight ends were an absolute hinderance to the Broncos in this game, but they made plays when they needed to most, and they were a clear mismatch because of their size and athleticism.
Our running game needs to grow some teeth. I saw some nice runs from Knowshon Moreno today, but some isn't enough. Obviously there is rust there with he and Buckhalter playing little to nothing of the pre-season, so that should also improve over the course of the next few weeks.
Richard Quinn didn't show me anything today. He got in huge trouble with McDaniels, and might not be picking up the NFL as quickly as our coaching staff thought he could. He needs some serious refining, and might not be an NFL caliber player in terms of his mentality. I didn't pay much attention to his blocking, so we will have to see next week. I know it's only week one, but you are as good as your last play. That was the last time I saw him on the field.
I also really dislike the call to go for a fade on 4th and 3 inside the 15. It's a stupid call. You need to gain three yards in a critical time. I would have preferred a halfback toss, perhaps a screen, anything simply to gain three yards rather than going for it all when you would have had plenty more chances. That was a stupid call that nearly was turned in the right direction, one foot away in fact. I still don't like it. Bad play call by Josh McDaniels, who had an otherwise solid day calling offensive plays.
Finally, the pass rush. It was atrocious. We got some pressure on a couple of plays, and there weren't a ton of opportunities, but I fully expect this unit to be able to get pressure when they blitz seven guys. There was at least one instance when we rushed seven players, and didn't get any pressure whatsoever.
Robert Ayers had a sack, and was a lone bright spot in this area. If this does not improve, quarterbacks will have field days against us all year long. We need to be in Hasselbeck's face all day long next week.
What I liked
Our passing game is better without Brandon Marshall. Eddie Royal is already looking far better than he did last season. He looked like the 2008 version today. Eight catches for 98 yards is exactly what I expect from Royal. He is a slot receiver, and his work in the weight room will now combine with his fantastic speed and make him a very effective weapon.
Brandon Lloyd proved to me that he is not simply a roster stop-gap until Demaryius Thomas is healthy with his 117 yards on five catches. He also had two catches that were out of bounds (so, NOT catches) that were acrobatic and equally as fantastic as the others. He proved to me today that he is for real, and is going to be a favorite target of Kyle Orton all year long.
It's hard to imagine the passing game getting better, but it's going to when Demaryius Thomas gets back.
Daniel Graham is still very effective in both the run and the pass. He had two catches for 36 yards on the day. Nothing flashy, but he knows how to get open and he's reliable. A very, very underrated player in this league.
Obviously, the passing game includes Kyle Orton, who looked very sharp outside of a couple throws. He didn't quite continue off of his pre-season dominance, but he had another good game with 296 yards, a touchdown, and a desperation pick.
The only downside to Orton's game were the passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. I'm not sure if that was just a case of good pressure from the Jags, or if it was simply the fact that he was throwing the ball too low.
As ineffective as our running game was, I think Knowshon Moreno proved something to me today. He had some good runs on the day, averaged four yards a carry, and had a goal-line touchdown. It was refreshing to see him play pretty well given the fact that he didn't play whatsoever in the pre-season.
Robert Ayers, D.J. Williams, and Jason Hunter played very well today. They are all very capable against the run, and I was extremely impressed at D.J. Williams' tackling specifically. He took good angles, and showed why he was elected as a captain. Still, the Broncos allowed 134 yards on the ground, but only 299 yards in total. It wasn't a failed day for the defense by any means.
Also, the Broncos' two minute offense is the best they have had since I can remember.
For week two, I'm looking for the Broncos to improve significantly in a few areas. I want to see a better pass rush against a weak Seattle offensive line. Denver should easily be able to get three or four sacks on Matt Hasselbeck next week.
I'm also looking forward to seeing how the Broncos respond to all the penalties. They need to be more disciplined, it's as simple as that. They will not have a fun film room meeting this week. Not a single one.
Lastly, if the Broncos' special teams can consistently pin the Seahawks back, this defense showed it is good enough (sans stupid penalties, of course) to dominate the game with a long field. The Jaguars' scoring drives were from 60, 53, and 83 yards respectively, the 83 yard drive aided by 30 yards in Ryan McBean penalties.
The coverage units need to be more disciplined. They all converged on the runner too early, and he was able to take the outside every time.
This was by no means an impressive output by the Broncos, especially with the penalties. I am confident, however, that there are plenty of signs of good things to come. The pass rush is the only area of this team that I see cannot be improved without coaching. The Broncos might just have to send more players on blitzes in order to get significant pressure, because David Garrard made zero mistakes on the afternoon.
All in all, I am disappointed that my team did not come away with a week one victory after over 7 months of waiting, but I don's see this team dwelling in the cellar by any means. The defense is better than they were given credit, and without a multitude of mental errors, this is a totally different game.
Seattle comes to Denver next week after a blowout 31-6 victory over a stunned 49ers team.