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Archive for December, 2007

Blueprint for fixing the Broncos

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 25, 2007

Tonight’s Monday Night Football game was supposed to be a monster contest when the schedule came out in April; Broncos-Chargers for the AFC West title on Christmas Eve, in the spotlight to itself on a night when there are no other sporting events taking place.  The teams finished 1-2 in the division last year, and both were expected to be as good or better than last season.    Unfortunately for my Broncos, they haven’t lived up to expectations, and their 6-8 record means tonight is about as meaningful for them as the preseason.  It hasn’t been this depressing around here football wise since the Wade Phillips era.  The Broncos certainly have their problems, but there is a lot to be excited about for the future.  The truth is, there isn’t that much difference between the top of the league and the bottom, but the Broncos can take steps to ensure the medicority displayed this season is not repeated.

1. Keep the young offensive nucleus intact

The offensive skill guys have a lot of potential.  QB Jay Cutler is only in his second season, and has shown at times that he has the skills necessary to be a leader.  He’s got the arm strength, the ability to make plays out of the pocket, and at times has shown great leadership capability.  Considering the injuries around him he has had to deal with this season, he has posted great numbers and has been very productive for a second year signal caller.  Add in the pressure of playing in John Elway’s shadow, and you have to be impressed with what he has accomplished.  Keep in mind too that Cutler will only get better as the players around him get better.  Two of his best weapons to throw to, Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler, are also only in their second year.  Marshall has shown the ability to be a number one receiver, while Scheffler has proven to be a great red zone target.  It’s easy to forget that Cutler, Marshall and Scheffler were all selected in the same draft in 2006.  With all three showing star potential, perhaps Mike Shanahan does know what he’s doing in terms of personnel.  With a healthy Javon Walker back next year, along with Brandon Stokley and Daniel Graham, the passing game could be special next season.  Selvin Young has shown promise in the running game, and if Travis Henry gets his act together on and off the field, the running game should be back on track next season as well.

2. Get better on defense

Certainly this easier said than done, and may seem overly simplistic.  The Broncos’ biggest problem this year has been a complete inability to stop the run.  This has gone all the way back to week two against the Raiders when they allowed 159 yards to the mighty Lamont Jordan, who for many weeks has no longer been the starter at running back for the Raiders.  Much of the blame has been placed on defensive coordinator Jim Bates, who brought in a new scheme that the players had trouble adjusting to.  Many changes have been made along the defensive front seven during the course of the season, with Sam Adams and Gerard Warren among those being released.  Thing is, Bates has had tremendous success at each of his other stops, so perhaps he should be given another shot after this season.  Let’s not forget what this defense has been through since last season: the tragic death of Darrent Williams and leader Al Wilson’s departure because of a neck injury.  Not only were both guys key on the field the past few seasons, but both guys were tremendous influences in the locker room.  Players like that are not easily replaced.  D.J. Williams has done an admirable job replacing Wilson at middle linebacker and Dre’ Bly is certainly a talented corner filling Williams’ void on the field, but things have not been the same in terms of team chemistry.  Even Champ Bailey has not had the season he’s had the past few years, although he still was the only Bronco to receive a nod to the Pro Bowl.  The Broncos have also been decimated with injuries on the defensive line, losing Ebenezer Ekuban and rookie Jarvis Moss.  Another offseason to get more comfortable with Bates’ scheme and a chance to get healthy will help, but the Broncos would be well advised to look for help on the defensive front seven in the draft and free agency.  Potential free agents include Jared Allen of the Chiefs, Takeo Spikes of the Bills and Justin Smith of the Bengals, any of which would be a significant upgrade for the Broncos if they can afford it.  The Broncos might also have to make a decision on John Lynch, who is 36, has battled neck problems  and due $3.5 million next season. 

 3. Stay healthy

There isn’t anything that can actually be done about this expect hope for dumb luck, but injuries have certainly been a factor in the Broncos’ stuggles this season, particularly along the offensive line.  A draft choice in this area would probably be a good idea for depth, and to make sure Jay Cutler gets protection and doesn’t get knocked out. 

4. Get better on special teams

This one is a biggie.  The Broncos have struggled all season long in this area.  With Todd Sauerbrun released, the Broncos will need to find a punter who can be more consistent, and as well as someone who can boom kickoffs out of the back of the end zone.  The Broncos have allowed good starting field position for the opponent too many times, and we won’t mention a certain number 23 for the Bears that ripped them to shreds.  Speaking of which, they need to find themselves a consistent returner who can be a threat.  Glenn Martinez has shown promise returning kicks and punts but has yet to show consistency.  The good news is Jason Elam remains one of the most accurate field goal kickers in the league.

As with any season, luck can be as much of a factor as anything.  Luck can often mean the difference between a 12-4 season and a 8-8 campaign.  The Broncos have good young talent, but there are several areas they need to shore up to compete next season.  The good news is the schedule is shaping up to be very friendly in 08, with Miami, Atlanta, Carolina and the New York Jets on the schedule in addition to the fact the Chiefs and Raiders don’t figure to improve any time soon.  Just don’t get me started on the coaching staff.  Mike Shanahan has turned this around once and he can do it again.  He can start by paying attention to who plays hard tonight and who doesn’t in what has become a meaningless game on paper. 

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