Hi folks! Mdierk's back with Season Two of "Unfinished Business". I had been contemplating changing the theme for the 2014 season, but after some feedback from the reading public at MHR, I will just leave it as is. Had Denver won the Super Bowl, I would have called it "Defending the Lombardi". Let's hope that will be the case after February 2015.
The last time I wrote "Unfinished Business", I had never been so down on this team after a loss. Even the 59-14 loss to Oakland in 2010 didn't sting as bad to me as much as the 43-8 embarrassment. It also didn't help that I was suffering with a severe bout of the flu during the Super Bowl and just made my misery even worse. This game rated up there with the 55-10 beating that Denver took from the 49ers in SB24. For me there was too much talent wasted, underutilized and unused (thanks to many defensive injuries) for an AFC Champion against the Seahawks. I have been so bitter over that game that I haven't even donned any Broncos gear since that gawd-awful day. By Friday, August 1, I should be fully back to normal in my fandom (I'm still very slow in my forgiveness of this team now). The last time that I put my gear in the closet was 1997 after the loss to the Jaguars in the playoffs and it worked out pretty well that following season. Enough of my grumbling on this. Time to take a look and talk about 2014.
Well, we are almost to the start of Training Camp where the Broncos will hear no cheers at Dove Valley thanks to the building being constructed nearby this year. At least there will be some packed scrimmages at Sports Authority Field at Mile High for the fans to enjoy. While fans will be disappointed for not being able to witness the practices at Dove Valley, the team that is being forged looks to be even better than the 2013 team. Since the 43-8 skunking, John Elway has been a man on a mission to get stout on defense and keep the offense humming. Hopefully the team has been fumigated to keep that evil injury bug away this season. So far, all the guys that were put on the IR last season are on or ahead of schedule. The aggressiveness of Elway in getting top free agents in March showed me that he has no other drive than to get back to the Super Bowl and win it at all costs. He has a vision of the Broncos as not just "win now" but "win from now on". That is the kind of commitment that powers the elite franchises in the NFL.
I have always thought that Denver was one of the elites already (warning: homerism in that statement), but I do see what he is talking about. Elite franchises don't have mediocre or bad seasons too often and for a time Denver was not in an "elite" category. The end of the Shanahan and the short McD regime showed us what we don't ever want to witness again. Watching the way he signed Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Emmanuel Sanders was amazing. At first, I thought they would get Jared Allen, but then Allen wanted too much cash and Jerry Jones decided to let Ware go. Ware still has a ton of football left and I believe he will be a great mentor to Von Miller. This defense definitely gets me excited at what they can do this season. As with everything in football, injuries have got to stay away. Offensively, losing Eric Decker and Zane Beadles won't be a devastating one. Decker can try to catch balls from Geno Smith and Michael Vick while Jessie James-Decker makes music/showbiz contacts in NY as well as continue starring in their reality show. Good luck to them, but Denver doesn't need that kind of attention. Beadles took the cash and headed to Florida to keep Blake Bortles upright. Unfortunately for the rookie, he still has little help. From the reports that have been coming about Emmanuel Sanders, I think we will see the passing game kept at a high level.
As for the draft picks, I wasn't too excited about them, but I didn't hate it either. At least Denver had some good fortune having Bradley Roby drop to 31 and he could be a steal. His college game tape looks impressive and his special teams work could provide a big payoff. Cody Latimer was also an interesting pick since I had never heard of him before the draft. I have heard many people comment that he is a great blocking WR. One concern of this past draft was Denver not getting a top tier MLB. If memory serves me correctly, Elway tried to trade up with the Cowboys for C.J. Mosley once Ryan Shazier was taken by the Steelers. As usual, Jerry the GM wanted to charge a king's ransom for the pick. Who does he think John Elway is? The Vikings of 1989 (for you young folks out there, look up the Herschel Walker trade)? As far as the others that are rookies or UDFAs, I will have to watch the preseason games and keep tabs on MHR regarding their development. I'm looking forward to Kyle, Jon and hopefully Kirk providing us with up to the minute news and analysis of camp. TC wouldn't be the same without (HORN).
My worry about this team and many of you have expressed concern about the lack of a MLB on this defense and who will be handling the RB duties behind Montee Ball. With Knowshon Moreno leaving Denver for peanuts and arriving in Miami out of shape and injured, the rest of the field is young and untested. I think that Ronnie Hillman is in his last camp unless he turns in a career-saving preseason. From all accounts so far, don't expect to see Peyton Manning passing for 55 TDs, but I think the scoring will be close to last season. Adam Gase is now focusing on having more balance on offense and committing to running the ball more often. Another question is how the OL will handle things since Orlando Franklin has been moved to LG (for now) and the RT battle between Chris Clark and Winston Justice. Fortunately for Denver, the depth for this group will help in the event we lose anyone for a long term. If this OL group gels, Manning will enjoy a great wall to protect him. Since Peyton isn't getting any younger, the less hits on him the better. I do like the focus of the O in reducing turnovers by using a green material to cover the ball to teach them to protect it. With as many turnovers the O gave up, I'm pleased that they are taking strides to lower them. With this revamped defense, I expect a lot more turnovers to come Denver's way and leading to shorter fields for the O.
Something else that has bothered me this off-season is the upcoming schedule. I find it very odd that in the preseason Denver plays Seattle and SF and then turns around and plays them both again in the early part of the regular season. They get to battle the Seahawks at CenturyLink in Week 3 and then they have the Bye in week 4. Three weeks later, Denver has to play host to the Niners on a Sunday night only to turn around and play the Chargers that following Thursday. With as much talk and focus as the NFL shows in wanting "player safety" as its top goal, it is simply a farce. If there is any time that the injury issues could hit it will be in this section of the season. After that eight week long gauntlet, they get to travel to the East Coast to play the Patriots in Week 9 to the West Coast to play the Raiders Week 10 and then to St Louis to play the Rams Week 11. I get that the schedule was not easy to build, but they did Denver zero favors this season. At least there is no trip to London and season wraps up at home against the Raiders.
Unlike last year, there has been much less off-field news. The big news so far has been the Matt Russell DWI conviction and jail sentence and Jack Elway's legal issues. I have commented in the past that Russell should be out of a job for his actions. In my line of work, I would have been terminated immediately if I did the same thing as him. I guess Elway is more forgiving and is willing to give Russell a chance. Hope this is the kick in the tail Russell needs. If you need to get inebriated, please do everyone a favor and hire a driver in the future. As for Jack Elway, while he his not on the roster, it's a major distraction that his father doesn't need to have before the season gets going. We still don't know what happened officially between him and the woman he got into it with. We will find out all of the details when his trial starts August 6th. Maybe young Jack can have a long conversation with his dad, mom and sisters to explain how decent men are supposed to treat a woman. I sincerely hope he learns from this.
Well, that's about all I have for now. I will be back with another "Unfinished Business 2" the week before the Sunday Night Colts game. GO BRONCOS!!!