Early June, AKA underwear (right Bubba) training camp, has come and gone. We've heard glowing reviews about certain players and how others are adjusting fabulously to the new offense and defense. But what about the guys who aren't? Nobody ever talks about those guys until we're staring up at the jumbotron and it reads 24-13, and the Broncos aren't the ones with 24 points.
Because travesties like that happen from time to time (basically every year in Manning's career but 2006), I'm here to slap you all around with a big dose of reality... The Broncos will win the Super Bowl in 2016, but if they don't, here are the Top Five reasons why they won't.
Our inside linebackers just aren't up to the task. Look, I love me some Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall. I honestly think they are going to get the job done, but they are injured. Trevathan has been seriously injured the last two seasons, so while I really want to believe that he'll come back and be his dominant self, I can't bet money on him a) coming back at all, or b) being dominant after all this time off. Throw into the mix that Elway and Company did little to nothing to address this weak area, and I can see endless slants and tight end crosses in our future. When you're getting 5-10 yards a pop with little resistance, it's easy to march up and down the field and find yourself winning because the Broncos have no answer to the most basic of questions.
Our kickers scare me. I mean, c'mon guys, We had to carry 3 kickers on the roster last year, and aside from signing Karl Schmitz (my wife's favorite kicker for obvious reasons), Elway has done nothing to rectify this situation. We've heard Kubiak say that they want only two positions for kickers; one for the kicker and one for the punter. Ok, well, if this is true, then why didn't you address this area of need aside from Schmitz? Sure, he can boom an 80 yard punt with pinpoint accuracy and kick a 70 yard field goal like Ed Norton kicks people to the curb. But can we trust this guy in pressure situations? Heck, can we trust any of our kickers in pressure situations? Brandon McManus has proven to rattle in pressure situations worse than my first car did after I installed a stereo system in it, and Connar Barth can't kick off to save his life.
We've seen it before here in Denver, and I'm afraid we'll see it again: Special Teams is our kryptonite. If we have kickers who can't kick and punters who can't punt, then it's only a matter of time until we start losing games because we need a field goal, but nobody has the confidence to step up to the plate. Throw in the silly little fact that playoff games are typically close in score, and special teams become even more important, and this isn't even taking into account the new rule change about extra points. If the Broncos drop a playoff game, I can virtually guarantee that there was at a minimum of one field goal missed by us. Guaranteed.
We let teams hang around too long without putting them away. This has been a point of contention with me back before I was writing for Mile High Report. For whatever reason, the coaches that coach the Broncos refuse to take their foot off the break and apply it to the necks of their opponents. This has come back to bite us in the butt far too many times for me to look the other way and call it a fluke.
Repeat after me: What's better than winning a game by 1 point? Winning by 10! What's better than winning by 10? Winning by 20! What's better than winning by 20? Winning by infinity!
I get it, this isn't the BCS system. Curb stomping an opponent by 63 points doesn't count any more than winning in overtime by a field goal (that our kickers can't make). But do you know what curb stomping your opponent does? It puts fear into your opponent's heads. It makes coordinators have sleepless nights. It makes players know that they are likely out gunned and out matched, even before they take the field. If you can get a psychological leg up on your opponent, you've already won.
The reason why I beg and plead for the Broncos to start running up the score is because you'll force teams to take unnecessary risks. Even if they don't have to take those risks, they'll end up pushing, either from their coordinators or their players, and when you push enough, you'll make mistakes. This is the aspect of the game that has been missing in recent years. Teams have all the confidence in the world that if they just keep the score close, they'll come out victorious. To hell with that nonsense. I want them to know that they need to play perfect and pray for us to make mistakes in order for them to stay close enough to not be embarrassed. That's what I want! But if we don't do that, then sadly, we'll have a team linger around for far too long, and then we'll inevitably make a minor mistake, and we'll watch our playoff victory slip through our fingers.
There's not much as demoralizing as clutching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Someone gets hurt. Badly. This is every team's worst nightmare. While I'd love to see Brock in action, I want it by design, not because Peyton has a broken leg. I want to see Montee Ball shine, but not because C.J. Anderson is on IR because of a concussion. I want to see Shane Ray make the Pro Bowl, but not because Von Miller tears his ACL. You get what I'm saying.
My biggest fear so far is Demaryius Thomas tearing a ligament. We see it every year. Player holds out, then comes back and immediately tears a ligament (knee, pec, achilles, whatever). It's what players do, and it is what has me so petrified about DT. We also have Danny T and Brandon Marshall nursing injuries, and don't even get me started about Peyton Manning being up there in age and now officially "injury prone" (because we still have Number 1 to get to).
My point is that injuries will happen - hell, a big one already has. But catastrophic injuries at thin positions are the back breaker of any team. So while the Broncos will have to deal with injuries, we need to make sure that they aren't happening to our super stars such as Peyton Manning or Chris Harris Jr. or Von Miller. Our defense needs identity and our offense needs to click.
We witnessed what injury can do to a team just two years ago. The Broncos had more backups starting than starters come the Super Bowl, and it showed. Nothing will ruin a team's chances at a championship quite like injury. That's why this is so high up on my list.
Because Peyton Manning is the quarterback. Ok, that's a joke. Relax.
Because our offensive line is garbage. Rarely do you see an entire fan base want the front office to draft the most boring position outside of punter, but that's what all of us Broncos faithful have been doing for the last two years. And John Elway has answered with.... yeah, with not much.
Yes, I realize that offensive linemen don't have to be drafted high and that there are a ton of amazing linemen drafted in the fourth and fifth round and beyond. I know. But chill out for a minute and let me explain.
Last year was the worst offensive line that I can remember in my 38 years of life. How Peyton Manning made it through the season by only limping and not being in a wheel chair is beyond me. How C.J. Anderson got positive yardage boggles my mind. The line play by the Broncos last year was on par with how Raider fans spell "your fired." Lets just say it was laughable and tragic at the same time.
But it's cool, Elway has a plan. Want to hear his plan? It's called C-list players and also rans. Louis Vasquez has more talent stashed away inside his goatee than the rest of the "starters" have in their entire bodies... combined! What Kubiak is attempting to do is patch up the Titanic with painter's tape. It can't be done! It just can't! This is year three of failing to address the biggest area of need on the entire team.
If our offensive line can't get their act together and gel really freaking quickly, then our running backs won't get positive yards which means they won't make any impact what-so-ever, and if they don't make an impact, then why is Kubiak even here? If our line doesn't play well, we'll see our Hall of Fame quarterback limp through the back half of the season like he did last year, en route to yet another "one and done" in the playoffs. If our line can't hold their own, then it doesn't matter if we have the re-incarnation of the 1985 Bears defense, we aren't winning many games.
I hate to put the entire season on the shoulders of the offensive line, but it is seriously riding on the offensive line. We have a rookie who faded badly in college protecting Manning's blind side. We have a total bust of a right tackle in Chris Clark playing right tackle. We have third-string-at-best center Gino Gradkowski playing center, and a player with a great story (Ben Garland) playing left guard. Last I checked, Garland was a Christmas decoration, not a starting lineman. I'm afraid his play will match. Yes, he has a great story and he's a fantastic guy, but he's never shown the ability to play at a high level in the NFL.
So there you have it Broncos Country, my five reasons why the Broncos won't win the Super Bowl, (even though they will). Tomorrow I'll chime in with my five reasons the Broncos will win Super Bowl 50.