Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Revamped Defense Indeed

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 19, 2009

I can’t say I’m surprised that the Broncos are practically cleaning house on defense.  As a matter of fact, I’m very much in favor of the concept after the entire unit got rolled over at the season at the end of the season last year.  Still, it’s a little bit of a scary proposition when you have no clue who will be lining up at several key positions, even though the players who are being released were clearly not productive and will likely not be missed.  

Dre’ Bly’s departure will have a significant salary cap hit of $9 million, so it is clear that new GM Brian Xanders (yes that is the correct spelling of his name) and coach Josh McDaniels don’t think much of Bly’s ability.  Bly was brought in two years ago to play opposite Champ Bailey, and he simply was not the playmaker that he was early in his career.  We actually had a nickname for him at work during the games: toast.  This was because he got burned so often that we started calling him toast.  The Broncos will certainly need another corner, but this move is as clear an indicator as any that a new sheriff is in town running things personnel wise.  This release wipes out one of the biggest trades of the Mike Shanahan era.  The irony here is Bly never would have been acquired had Darrent Williams not sadly been killed on New Years Eve following the 2006 season.  If that event had never taken place, Williams would still be the corner opposite Bailey.  

The other names released are not what you would call big name guys, but their departures still speak volumes.  Niko Koutouvides in particular was a free agent bust from the word go, a player who received a lot of money from Shanahan prior to last season to be the starting middle linebacker even though he had essentially been a special teams contributor in Seattle.  Thing is, Koutouvides didn’t win the job with the Broncos either.  He didn’t even come close, and proved to be a very expensive and very mediocre special teams player.  Even when the Broncos were losing linebackers due to injury left and right, the Broncos asked Spencer Larsen to play both ways before they called on Koutouvides.   That says a lot right there about his ability or lack thereof.  Clearly the new regime agrees that this was a boneheaded signing and they moved to correct that immediately.

The player that won the middle linebacker job last year, Jamie Winborn, is also gone.  He was released this week too despite leading the team in tackles last season.  There is chatter that he and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan didn’t get along to put it kindly in San Francisco, and that the risk of them butting heads is part of the reason for the departure.  I’m not sure how much that plays into it, if at all, but regardless it is clear that Xanders and McDaniels are not afraid to shake things up.  Also gone are safety Marquand Manuel, defensive end John Engelberger, and defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson.  It’s no coincidence that every one of these players was brought in via free agency or trade recently by Mike Shanahan.  I’m not sure whether the new pieces to replace any of these players will be an improvement, but it is clear that there is a difference in philosophy here.  

I think in this case I’m mostly excited to see these moves made because, let’s face it, the defense can’t be much worse than it was last season anyway.  As bad as it was (especially in that last game against San Diego, which should have had the intensity of a playoff game, only the Broncos allowed a franchise record rushing day for the Chargers), I think it is clear that some changes needed to be made, and that process has clearly begun.  The draft in April is very important for the Broncos especially from a defensive standpoint.  They don’t have the cash to make a run at Albert Haynesworth, Julius Peppers, or Terrell Suggs in part because the players listed above will be on the payroll next year even though they’re no longer with the team.  They might be able to sign some mid level players, but the bulk of their upgrading is going to have to be done through the draft.  The Broncos know they have pieces in place offensively, so this offseason will be focused on upgrading the defense.  I’m willing to be patient, but so far I like the initiative of the new staff to make things happen.  Should make for a fun offseason.

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One Response to “Revamped Defense Indeed”

  1. Doug Baker said

    Wow, I like Jamie Winborn. I think he’s a solid linebacker. I’m sure he’ll land somewhere as a starter.

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