We shot out of the cannon with a bang for the first quarter of the season. Our defense was phenomenal, our offense was a work in progress, and our team's future was looking bright.
5 games later we're in a bit of a mire. The team has lost two games in a row. Our legendary quarterback's game has completely fallen off a cliff. Our running game has taken a big step back and our defense is starting to look very beatable. Let's dig into both sides of the ball and take a look at what is happening with the team.
This offense still looks messy as hell really. From a high level view, we really don't have an identity. There's just nothing to hang the team's hat on. We don't have a power run game, a home-run speed run game, a quick-pass game, or a vertical attack passing game. The offense looks mediocre at best.
On the bright side, I do mostly think the offense is well directed in game. We aren't running the ball too much when it doesn't work. We do keep coming back to it consistently and with better success as the game wears on. The passing game has found some nice holes to attack scheme-wise, but due to poor throws or poor catches, we've missed a lot of opportunities. The coaches can't catch the ball for them.
Five things to know about the Bears
Our team heads into Chicago this week to face a Bears team on a roll. Find out what Dane from windycitygridiron.com had to say about what's happening in Chicago and what challenges the Broncos face this week.
Peyton Manning for reasons that have been discussed ad nauseam may have seen his last action of the 2015 season. Just to review, his play has been mediocre to terrible with the last game he played in being the worst performance from a quarterback in Orange and Blue that I remember seeing.
As we move forward with the season, I expect that Brock is going to be our guy moving forward. IF Manning gets healthy, he'll play again IF Brock turns out to be terrible. Is this possible? Sure. I don't think it is likely though.
This is the part that has me scratching my head more than anything. The team isn't really making progress across the line. We seemed to peak at the Green Bay game with good run blocking and pretty solid pass blocking. Since then, there are a lot more busted run plays happening. There's just no consistency here.
The correlation with this step back from what I've seen seems to be the shuffling of the player. We've seen a lot more of Tyler Polumbus and Max Garcia with Ryan Harris, Louis Vasquez, and Evan Mathis taking breathers. Some of the linemen have been called injured, but I think there's also a drive by the coaches to get the young guys involved. If sharing snaps is working and the team is growing because of it, I'm all about it. But the old-school NFL fan in me things this is a bucket load of stupid. Just when we seemed to be getting some consistency in our line schemes, we decided to shake things up and the product hasn't been good.
We're going to find out really quickly how real our wide receiver talent is. So far, they've been productive, but mostly mediocre. Demaryius Thomas isn't dominant. Emmanuel Sanders is still awesome, but if you can't get the ball to him down field accurately, then he's not effective. We have yet to have a solid 3rd option step up.
The other thing that hopefully will be moving forward is our production from the tight end position. Owen Daniels has plainly looked old and slow. He still can run routes. He doesn't catch consistently though. Without the separation that younger legs give him, he's just not been an effective weapon. The hope is that Vernon Davis turns this around as he gets more targets once he's familiar with the offense.
Remember when Ronnie Hillman had us all on the edge of our seats? Yeah...that was a fun hope we had. He's kind a disappeared with our run blocking. On the bright side, C.J. Anderson has started looking more and more like what we saw last year.
I don't see a dominating or strong runner in our backfield to be honest. Both players to me seem like passable NFL RBs. I've still seen too many missed cut-backs and too many plays where the runners get tackled by the first defender there.
On one hand, my strongest opinion here is that our line needs to open better holes more consistently. Until that happens, we won't be seeing either option at RB going crazy any time soon. That being said, I think of the two options we have, it is more likely that C.J. is going to turn the corner the next few games and start making some semblance of a decent running game.
Three reasons to dislike the Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos have always been in different conferences.
Where the heck did our defense go!? The biggest gripe I'd harp on here is that they have to stop being stupid. You can't be a dominant defense in today's game by bullying everyone around. The rules just don't allow it. You can't poke people in the eyes or punch their helmets. The good thing is that this is just a coaching issue.
Schematically though we have some vulnerabilities starting to show up. Our team isn't having success with defending tight ends and running backs close to the line of scrimmage. Our two losses had very similar game plans that worked: throw to the middle of the field to TEs or in the flats to the RBs quickly.
Sadly, the weaknesses we're seeing in the short coverage areas are making the great talent we have at OLB not effective overall. Von Miller still looks supremely good to my eyes. He's being held a ton which has in my estimation cost him about two sacks a game. That being said, he's still causing pressures. The team does miss the DeMarcus Ware of earlier in the season. Hopefully he can get his back injuries in order and get back to productive play. In the meantime it has been good to see Shane Ray back on the field.
Between Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan, we've seen a lot of up and down. Marshall appears to me to be the better of the two, but both have had some troubles. For us to really get back to dominating play, these guys have to stick their assignments better.
When our best #1 corner isn't sitting at home practicing his Moe impression, we've seen some pretty superb play from our starting corners. We have learned last week that while Bradley Roby looks passable in coverage, Kayvon Webster has some very big holes in his game.
I think the best days of play from our corners are ahead of them, though. It is likely that our solution to the weaknesses we've had on defense is going to put our corners on an island more often. When that happens and you add a supremely good pass rush back into the mix (which I also see as likely), then you are going to see more picks outside.
T.J. Ward had me really stoked a game or two into his season. He's since then had some fairly big gaffes in play. While he may be good at crashing down on run plays or playing a deep zone that can attack the thrown ball, we saw last week that he really can biff it in the open field against a quick player.
Darrian Stewart has had a really quiet quarter of a season recently which from my perspective is a very good thing. I'd love to see him getting more turnovers, but as long as he isn't giving up big plays, he's doing a great job playing free safety.
David Bruton's game is probably the one key area of the whole defense that has taken a step back the last few weeks. He's been involved in many solid gains by the opponents. It almost looks to me like he's lost some of the wiggle in the hips he'd gained last year.
I'm still pretty pleased with how our Special Teams overall. They aren't being a liability to the team at all. We've seen a successful kickoff return. We've surprisingly had really solid coverage units. I do think our Punter can do better. He's not consistently booming the punts well. This was the case last year, but we'll see more home games as the rest of the season comes and hopefully he gets a better leg behind them with the help of the rarefied air of Mile High.
The Kubiak / Manning offensive experiment had a great go of it, but really in hindsight you have to be pretty happy right now that we spent all that time using the core offense back in training camp and the preseason. Around the corner, we'll have the opportunity to try to get this offense back to its roots and not have to adjust everything to pistol and shotgun formations for the majority of the time.
I really thought that his past few games, Wade Phillips has gotten a little too cute with his play calling. We've thrown in a lot of zone stuff more often that has led to some easy gains by our opponents. At some point, I'm hoping that Phillips gets us back to more man concepts that allow our guys to use their strengths more. If I take time to put on my tin foil hat, I'd say that they are saving something for New England.
Really I think anything can happen from this point forward with our season. We can win out. We can turn into a dumpster fire. We can win 5 or lose 5. The schedule isn't easy. The team is in a true crossroads at this point. We have to get the offense settled in to at least a mediocre level. The defense needs to dictate more and react less. There's nothing to stop this team from laying a beating on someone at this point. We don't have a quarterback starting who is good for 2 INTs a game. If Brock just be a consistent general for the offense, we should see some more exceptional production from both sides of the ball.
Chime in below. What do you think about the season a little over half-way through? What's in store for our team over the next few weeks? Is Kubiak in over his head? Chime in in the comments and let us know.