I commented last week on my breakdown of the Cornerback position that I was lucky to have drawn a position that Broncos fans can clearly feel very positive about. The offensive tackle position is in even better shape, and actually, is the strength of the team. Expect more great offensive-line play in 2009, and it will start from the outside.
During last year's reloading season, I spent a fair bit of effort in writing about the offensive line, which, at the end of 2007, was pretty lousy. I talked about my concerns, and why I advocated the selection of a Tackle in the first round in 2008 (which ultimately came to fruition with the selection of Ryan Clady.) In 2008, the Broncos line was terrific, and it was the OT position which led the way. After the jump, we'll discuss the individual players at the position, and the prospects for further improvement in 2009.
Bronco Fans, training camp is next week. It's time to face the cold hard facts.
Your Denver Broncos are now the worst team in the NFL. It ain't even close. In 2009, you ought to prepare yourself for imminent doom (and I don't mean Dumervil).
How can I make such a claim? After all, the Broncos do reside in a division home to California's 10th best football team (USC, 49ers, UCLA, Cal, Fresno State, San Diego State, and a handful of junior colleges best the Raiders). And the Chiefs scalped themselves when they shipped Tony Gonzalez to Atlanta (welcome to KC, Matt Cassel!). Even media darling San Diego (Chris Berman's wet dream in powder blue) seems to change character more often than Dr. Jeykll on a potion binge.
So the Broncos can't be the worst. No way. Not possible.
The Broncos and Mike Shanahan developed quite a reputation for running the ball over the past 14 seasons. Denver basically became known as Running Back Central, where Shanahan and backs coach Bobby Turner turned several late-rounders into stars. While Shanny and Turner worked their magic in 2008 by turning seventh-rounder Peyton Hillis into a Denver cult hero, the season was noted more for its multitude of backfield injuries. New coach Josh McDaniels is no stranger to running-back attrition, as the 2008 Patriots suffered a similar fate; rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis started 3 games after being elevated from the practice squad.
Lesson learned, McDaniels and GM Brian Xanders spent the offseason turning over the depth chart. Among the pair's first moves were cutting P.J. Pope, Alex Haynes and Anthony Alridge; the departure of Cory Boyd followed soon after. Xanders and McDaniels began adding new runners at the start of free agency, signing Correll Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan and J.J. Arrington in short order. Next came the draft, and the consensus of fans and experts alike was that Denver would emerge with at least one more back; the only question was when that would occur.
The cornerback position has reputedly been a strength of the Broncos since 2004, when Champ Bailey was acquired in a trade for Clinton Portis. Of course, that has never really fully been the case. Bailey struggled somewhat in that 2004 season, and his accompaniment at the position was terrible. I am sure we all remember the complete coverage debacle against the Colts in the January 2005 playoffs. In 2005, to make up for the shortcoming, the Broncos drafted Darrent Williams, Domonique Foxworth, and Karl Paymah, landing a very good player who tragically died much too soon, an average player who is a very bright and upstanding guy, and a total stiff who has never figured out the NFL game.
Going into the draft, a lot of folks expected that tight end was one position where the Broncos would stand pat. Before the first pick of the third round, that belief bit the dust. The Broncos shocked many observers by taking on second-round pick Richard Quinn. Having graduated from North Carolina in December of 2008, Quinn has a reputation as a talented blocker whose receiving skills were suspect, due to lack of evidence (12 receptions in his college career, which had several pre-NFL players on the roster). Tony Scheffler was the subject of trade rumors. Was Quinn a replacement? Where were the Broncos going?
Myth #3: Mobility and the Quarterback
"He makes plays with his feet!"
That's something that you frequently hear from color announcers on football games when trying to explain the value of a quarterback. They're talking about the guy who can move the pocket, who can gain you yards out of the pocket, who loves the bootleg and the roll out. There's not a thing wrong with that - in Elway Country, there had better not be if you want to avoid being spammed, flamed, tarred and feathered (in no particular order). But the quarterback who really makes plays with his feet isn't necessarily the guy who leaves the pocket.
Your recent post that mentioned the pass-happy ways of Josh McDaniels got me to scrounging around in my records and I found a few things that might interest you. The idea of pass-happy, to my thinking, has to involve what exactly the averages are and what is, therefore, unusual or extraordinary. Here's what came to light.
The Denver Broncos and Michael Lombardi
I was meandering through some old materials this weekend when I found a pre-draft set of concerns about the Broncos by Michael Lombardi. I had thought at the time that they were reasonable and a fair consideration, so I kept them around. Here is what he said:
Happy Tuesday to all MHR community members. I've been absent for a few weeks, mostly due to craziness in my day job, but at least partially due to a lack of awe-inspiring topics to write about. This is the worst part of the football year, where nothing is going on.
Today, we'll talk about the other teams the Broncos play this season, including AFC second-place teams and the AFC West, and time permitting, I kind of feel like beating up on some MSM writing. We shall see how far I am able to get, and for now, I am going to get right to it. Ready.... BEGIN!!!
Often, you hear someone say or post, "Yeah, he's this year's _____ (fill in your own blank)". It's a kind of verbal shorthand that can be useful if we are either on the 6th beer or clear on why a certain player has something in common with the one cited. Commonly, it's a just way to denigrate the player without giving any specifics, as in 'He's this year's Ryan Leaf'. Anyone who's followed football for a decade knows exactly what is meant by that - Player X is going to be an utter bust (and probably a felon as well). It's an easy way to say something. Sometimes he's just going to be this year's Frunobulax.