I woke up on Tuesday morning the week of the Packers game with no real feeling of nervousness or anything about the Broncos game, and that typically means that my gut feeling is either a victory or a blowout loss. I truly thought the stars might be aligned for a victory to happen since we were getting healthy, but Champ Bailey was a late scratch and that really killed a lot of my hopes.
Aaron Rodgers made sure of that.
With Bailey and his new mountain man look on the sideline, Rodgers picked apart a Denver secondary that could really use his services right now. Whether it was Cassius Vaughn, Jonathan Wilhite, Brian Dawkins, Rahim Moore, or Andre' Goodman, it didn't really matter because Rodgers was going to find an open receiver, and he was especially deadly when the Packers were in scoring range.
Despite the impressive performance by the Packers--which should have been expected--I think there was quite a bit of positive to take from the Broncos' performance from individual players, which doesn't matter in terms of wins and losses, but it matters for the development of this team. Here are some of my exciting thoughts on the game:
The Offensive Line has Really Impressed
I can't even begin to bring you the type of analysis that is brought on a weekly basis by Bewsaf, which can be viewed here.
What I CAN do is tell you that I was extremely impressed with the Broncos' offensive line, both in terms of pass protection and mauling over the Packers' tough defensive line to get some yardage on the ground. Last year, as you will all remember, was a complete disaster for the offensive line, mainly because of all the injuries and youth we had along the line.
This year, our group appears to be markedly improved in both areas of their game.
I don't quite know how to explain it, but when you see a good running team like Houston, Pittsburgh, or Oakland run the ball, the line seems to flow really well and the back almost always has somewhere to go. Last year we didn't have that at all, but this year it appears as though we have the ability to pick up four or five yards almost at will. We are ranked near the bottom of the league in rushing, but that's because we have had to open up the passing game so often.
I really like what I've seen from the line, specifically the huge improvements made in the running game.
Knowshon Moreno, where art thou?
Knowshon Moreno hasn't gotten used to not dancing around before he hits a hole, which significantly decreases his chances of having a good run. Perhaps the improvement in the run game is due large in part to the fact that Willis McGahee actually understands how to run the football and he knows how to hit a hole.
Moreno must have spent too much time this offseason cutting weight and doing karate (or whatever) and not enough time practicing his cutting and keeping his balance.
His vision appears to have deteriorated, and I remember he caught a screen pass that should have gone for a touchdown had he actually followed the platoon of blockers out in front of him.
I think it would be really cool to see the Broncos move Moreno to a slot receiver position if he does not pan out at running back. He still has talent and is a very hard worker, and at this point is a much better receiver than running back.
He has been a severe disappointment to this point in 2011, and I think he will probably be considered a bust if he can't put together a huge 12 games here.
Defensive Backfield Stinks--2012 Draft the Answer?
There were multiple plays that I noted on Sunday where the defensive backfield looked like pure rubbish. The first touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson had no safety help over the top, and Vaughn or whoever was covering him was burnt to a crisp.
The touchdown pass to Greg Jennings when he ran out of the slot was uncovered because both Brian Dawkins and the left corner played Jermichael Finley, leaving the Packers' best player wide open down the seam.
The pass that was completed to Donald Driver was actually decent coverage by Andre' Goodman, and Rodgers simply fit it into a tight window.
This has led me to the conclusion that John Elway is right--in addition to adding a top notch pass rusher, having good cornerbacks is absolutely key. The Bears have not really subscribed to that theory and have had very good defenses through the years, but I think the Broncos will have to take two cornerbacks potentially in the first three rounds of next year's draft if they do not sign a top notch young player in free agency.
I know a lot of people hate looking toward the draft at this point in the year, but when you think about it, it's already been almost six months since the 2011 draft, meaning we're nearly halfway there.
As of right now, this is a very deep draft in terms of the cornerbacks available, should they choose to leave early which they usually do. At the rate which our win-loss record is progressing, we could potentially land one of the best cornerback prospects in the draft, which would be Alabama's Dre' Kirkpatrick (6'3" and a freak athlete with a killer instinct) or Morris Claiborne of LSU, who is a jack of all trades and tough as a copperhead snake.
Anticipation of the Return of Demaryius Thomas
I cannot wait until this guy comes back. He is extremely talented, and unfortunately, extremely unlucky. I think the broken finger was a blessing in disguise because you don't want to rush DT back from that Achilles injury. Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa tore his Achilles back in early November against the Iowa Hawkeyes, and just returned to action this past Saturday.
Either Thomas is extremely ahead of schedule, or he is rushing himself. You'd hate for it to be the latter.
But when this guy is on the field, he is an absolute beast, and I can't wait to see him play again.
Is there any question that this guy is an absolute stud playmaker?
Here's a stat for you--the only non-kickers to score more points than Decker this year are Calvin Johnson and LeSean McCoy.
You saw his explosive speed and quickness in the return touchdown against the Raiders, and since then, we've seen Deckers fantastic body control, route running skills, and just overall his nose for the end zone. You can't say enough about this kid.
Coming out of college, I remember grading him as a first round pick and nearly crapping my pants when we robbed him in the third round.
The guy is a gamer, and he is only going to get better. Just wait until we add Thomas, Eddie Royal, and Julius Thomas back to the mix.
This guy is slowly turning out to be one of the better decisions we made in the 2011 NFL draft. He has shown excellent promise as a blocker when he is known for his ability to catch the ball and make plays with his legs.
It sure wasn't his blocking ability that people were talking about when he ran a 4.5 40 yard dash and wowed scouts at the Combine.
Keep an eye on #85, folks.
My opinion of Orton has not changed. I think he has played awful this season and is being rewarded for it. With the exception of the Cincinnati game that featured only two legitimate wide receivers for most of the game, he has not spread the ball around--at all.
He has hit Decker and Brandon Lloyd a total of 38 times, the next highest guys are McGahee and tight end Daniel Fells with 11 catches each. Keep in mind that Lloyd also missed a game there.
I am not impressed with the quarterback that allegedly has the backing of the locker room, and the guy that supposedly gives us the best chance to win. Orton might be a darn respectable guy but for $9 million and virtually no chance of seeing Quinn or Tebow on the field, he had better play his socks off.
He has not.
Instead, Orton leads the NFL with six interceptions and is missing open receivers left and right. Even on a perfectly executed flea flicker, Orton managed to tick me off by vastly underthrowing Brandon Lloyd who was wide open for a touchdown.
Lloyd consistently took Trammon Williams to school on Sunday but Orton could not deliver, underthrowing Lloyd in particular on one bomb which would have been an easy touchdown in the back of the end zone.
He also over-threw Lloyd in the end zone--again wide open.
Overall, you have to consider whether the Broncos actually think that Tim Tebow has a chance to make it in the NFL. This game had an eerily similar feeling to the home game against Oakland last year, as well as the road game against Arizona.
There is absolutely no reason why Tebow or Quinn wasn't on the field unless the Broncos are trying to get Orton hurt so they have an excuse to put one in.
I'm sick and tired of this guy getting so many excuses, and I know you are too. he has to start playing the brand of football that everyone raved about at training camp, the type of football that made him such a "clear" starter after the pre-season.
Despite nearly perfect protection from the offensive line and another 100 yard rushing effort by McGahee, Orton had arguably his worst performance of the season on the biggest stage when the opportunities were not only present, they were plentiful.
Quarterbacks in general
I am obviously in the Pro-Tebow camp, and that has not been a secret around here for a good length of time. I realize his limitations and I realize he might not be ready, but this is slowly going from a lost season to a wasted season, and I fear our coaches don't see that or worse--they see it and choose to ignore it.
The Broncos obviously have no plans of continuing after this season with Kyle Orton. He was this close to being traded to Miami for a fourth round draft pick.
Now, I don't think the Broncos should "Suck for Luck" or anything like that, but they need to re-evaluate the quarterback situation at the bye week, and if they don't (or the longer they leave Orton in) I will continue to progress in the belief that they are really trying to secure a high enough pick in the draft to get the quarterback of their choosing, even though that has clearly not been John Fox's MO in the NFL.
Plain and simple, the Broncos are blatantly wasting everyone's time, which I wrote last week and still maintain through this week. At this point, it doesn't really matter if Tim is ready or not, you just have to throw him out there and see what he can do over the next 12 games.
Unfortunately, the more wee keep saying that, the less likely it appears to happen, so we will just have to continue to be patient and root for Kyle and the Broncos on Sundays.
As for the future of the position, until Tebow plays I think it's very much in the air. The longer Orton is in there, the more it seems like the Broncos want their own guy and not Tim Tebow.
There are a good percentage of fans who really want Andrew Luck, which is understandable. The dude is just a great athlete and probably the best QB prospect to come along since Manning--I get that, I run an NFL Draft website and watch Luck play all the time.
However, I don't know that the Broncos are going to be in place to select him at the end of the year, so assuming they are not and they are dead set on taking another quarterback, what are their options? What is my favorite option?
Well, thank you for asking.
I really like Landry Jones (Oklahoma) and Matt Barkley (USC) for various reasons. Jones is deadly accurate, Barkley is a gamer and constantly learning and improving, and both guys are above average athletes.
However, there is one guy who I really have my eye on right now as a potential favorite quarterback prospect, and that is Baylor's Robert Griffin III.
Griffin has been lights out through the first few games this season, completing over 82 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns compared to only one interception. He is also already in graduate school and by all accounts is a no-bull leader for the Bears.
He's got a strong arm and despite the fact that he was an All-American track star with fantastic speed, his first instinct does not appear to be to run the ball. This guy always has his eye down the field and is looking to make plays any way he can.
So in case you are wondering, I like Robert Griffin III as a quarterback prospect, and would rank him second behind Tebow as my favorite quarterback prospect for the Broncos at this point assuming we do not have the top pick in the draft.
You stay classy, MHR.