Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Big Year for Shanahan?

Posted by mizzou1028 on June 27, 2008

I know, football season is still way off in the distance.  We’re only halfway through the baseball season and the NBA draft just concluded.  The way I see it though, we have only one month to go before the start of training camp, and it is impossible not to get excited about a new NFL season.  No matter how the previous season went, I always find myself drooling with anticipation over the start of the next season.  I am optimistic about the Broncos prospects in 2008, even if the realistic side me worries there are more holes on the roster than there are in Swiss cheese.  I can see anything from 12-4 and competing for a division title to heaven forbid a team that will struggle to win even a handful of games.  Mike Shanahan has run out of excuses this year, for he has gotten rid of virtually everyone around him.  I think this season is extremely important for the future of the franchise because Shanahan has to prove that the decisions he made are correct.  If the Broncos miss the playoffs again this year, it will definitely be time to take a look at Shanahan’s future.

There are certainly plenty of positives.  Jay Cutler posted very good numbers last year for being in his first full year as a starter, and now that we know he was battling diabetes and didn’t know it, it makes his season seem impressive.  I expect Cutler to have a big year, if nothing else because it will be his third season in Shanahan’s offense and he should be even more comfortable running it.  I really think Cutler started to develop a chemistry with Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler last year, and if they are both healthy (and in Marshall’s case not suspended, more on that in the negatives), then the offense should put up big numbers.  I like the additions of Keary Colbert and Darrell Jackson, both solid veterans who can get open.  The team should also be in better shape on the offensive line.  Tom Nalen and Ben Hamilton will be healthy, and I think Ryan Clady is a brilliant draft pick at left tackle.  Plus, the running game is always solid under Shanahan, especially with Daniel Graham, arguably the best blocking tight end in football, returning. 

Defensively, there is really nowhere to go but up.  With a third defensive coordinator in three years, there are bound to be some growing pains, but the team can’t possibly be any worse against the run than it was last year.  D.J. Williams will move back to outside linebacker after manning the middle last year, and that will give him a much better chance to make plays.  The defensive line will be in better shape with Jarvis Moss and Ebenezer Ekuban returning from injury, plus Elvis Dumervil remains a solid pass rusher.  The addition of Dewayne Robertson from the Jets could help if his knee holds up, and of course Champ Bailey remains the top cornerback in the NFL.  If the defense can return to the form it showed in 2005 and the first half of 2006, things could definitely be looking up again for the Broncos.

Unfortunately there are concerns heading into the season, highlighted by the offseason behavior of Marshall.  There is talk the NFL could suspend Marshall based on his three arrests in a one year calendar period, stemming from recent reports of a domestic dispute involving Marshall in March.  If Marshall is suspended for the start of the regular season, it would disrupt his chemistry with Cutler and have a trickle down effect on the rest of the receiving corps.  Marshall has all kind of potential, catching 102 passes in his first full season last year.  He has the potential to be a real team leader with his skills, but if his off the field behavior keeps getting the way, it will hamper his progress.  Marshall expects to be ready for camp after suffering serious arm injuries while roughhousing with his family last spring, but it remains to seen if that will impact him at any point this season.  The running game is pretty much banking on the fact that Shanahan has always had success, but can Selvin Young be an every down back?  Or will rookie Ryan Torian be the answer?  Those are definitely questions to be answered in camp.  There is also some slight concern about the secondary despite the presence of Bailey.  John Lynch is definitely not getting any younger and Dre’ Bly has a tendency to be gambler.  These concerns don’t even take into account what may be the biggest hole on the roster, the absence of a proven kicker.  I have a hard time figuring out why they Broncos didn’t retain Jason Elam, and I’ve never heard of the kicker that is currently on the roster.  Elam has been one of the best clutch kickers in the NFL for 15 years, and whoever tried to replace him will be filling some very big shoes.  It almost seems inevitable that Elam’s replacement will miss a key field goal at some point this season, potentially costing the Broncos a game. 

It’s funny really.  Last year’s team could have easily been 10-6 if not for one blown coverage against Green Bay, a blown fourth quarter lead in Chicago, and red zone execution against Jacksonville.  They also could easily have been 4-12 if not for last second field goals by Elam against Buffalo, Oakland and Pittsburgh.  There frankly isn’t much difference between the top of the league and the bottom, and there are so many things that go into determining a team’s fate.  I certainly hope the Broncos will be successful this year, and the fact that there is a grey area about how good they’re going to be only makes the season even more intriguing. 


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