Denver has been struggling with a single problem for over a year now. We’ve moved to the 3-4 defense, and often run the 5-2 version of it, while increasingly getting the personnel out there to run a 4-3 when the Winkster finds it appropriate. There’s not much question that the team has developed a substantial change in almost every area. We’ve increased the size of the DL (and now they have to get enough time to work as a unit, a factor that is too often ignored by the less informed fan), and we’ve got larger LBs. And although he’s currently injured for this season, we also have last year’s NFL sack leader in Elvis Dumervil, along with 2nd-year player Robert Ayers, who may give Doom a run for his money when the former returns.
It’s no small thing, remaking a team. Every position needs to be recalibrated, thought through carefully, and the best player that we can put into that slot, the one that gives the team the best chance to win, has to be right where he belongs. And that’s where Denver is struggling right now - because when you look over the team, here’s what I see:
With the return of Pete Carroll to the NFL coaching ranks, much was made over the summer debating whether or not he can make the leap back after coaching the USC Trojans. If you asked the members of the San Francisco 49ers this week, they might suggest that so far, it hasn’t been a problem for him. After destroying SF 31-6, Seattle is off to a good start. Considering that the first play of the game was a sack of Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle quickly settled in and made the plays when they needed to on both offense and defense. Denver fans will note the pattern that was fast to show itself - SF moved the ball well down the field, but couldn’t punch it into the end zone. San Fran played a mistake-ridden game, and Seattle had less, but managed to rack up a few of their own, starting with the first play of the game. Matt Hasselbeck threw an INT when Nate Clement, SF CB, jumped a route and brought in the ball.
It’s said that an NFL game frequently comes down to just a few plays that direct the outcome of the game. In this case, the culprits weren’t all that hard to find. Coaches often follow up quickly by pointing out that on any given play, it’s possible for someone to step up and make one of those plays - you can blame the victims of the plays for the outcome of the game. That’s true too - you can’t expect that only those few plays that stand out are going to be the only things that could have happened. But all too often, they seem to the fans to be the hooks that the game was hung on, the standards that led to the win or the loss. In this case, it’s easy to see which ones stood out.
The Jags, once the team that broke the Broncos’ hearts in the playoffs (and stiffened their resolve, leading to two Super Bowl wins in a row) with an unexpected post-season victory, have tended to be mired in mediocrity, trying many ways to get better, but rarely succeeding. However, this is a road game for the Broncos, its opening week, and the Broncos are changing a couple of time zones. Why that’s as much of a factor as it has proven to be remains a bit of a mystery to me, but those who research that kind of thing have made the point on several occasions. The Broncos have to charge out of the gate. Yes, it’s early, but they need to put a couple of wins on the board if they are going to have a successful season.
The Denver offense is already confusing people and the year hasn’t even started yet. What’s going on with this? Posters from sites around the web have been weighing in on just what kind of team the Broncos have. Are they a power running team? They added some weight to the line, certainly, even if some of it comes in the form of rookies, each of whom will learn some lessons this year. Isn’t Denver built for ‘the spread’ (the idea being that there is only one, a belief that gets little support from coaches around the country)? Isn’t Denver a shotgun team? “Denver is looking to develop a power running game to make up for the passing game problems,” said one fan. Another simply wondered, “Denver’s offense is…....What?” It’s a good question.
I read a couple of your archived articles this morning and I liked them both very much. The article on the running game was very interesting to me, and I thought I'd bring some things to your attention. Most of it probably isn't new.
The points that were made on the comments were quite accurate. One of the things that was a very effective for Denver under Mike Shanahan was that they would use the passing attack them to get ahead, and use the running game to close out the game. This is taken directly from Bill Walsh, the inventor of the west coast offense. Although other coaches have used this same line over the years, he understood and used ( if he did not coin it) the phrase "Pass to score, run to win". At the very least, he based much of his system on it.
One of the many things that fans are talking about, complaining about, praising and espousing right now is the talk about how Tim Tebow was NOT drafted to sit on the bench. For the upcoming season, it's entirely possible that it will prove to be exactly what he was drafted to do - at least on Sundays, for the moment. During the season, he'll get to train, practice and learn, things that he adores and that will give him a chance to eventually be a a solid, perhaps even elite NFL QB. But it isn't now, and he isn't close to ready. Therefore, sitting on the bench, unless there's an injury, is exactly what he'll get to do. There are good reasons for that, too.
Training camp has been nothing if not eventful. As is common at this time of year, some events are positive, some are not. First, I was asked on a thread about the injuries to Josh Barrett and Kenny McKinley. McKinley had a knee injury that is unrelated to size or power - get hit the wrong way and you've got the injury. I haven't heard anything on time frames for Kenny. Barrett hurt his shoulder, but he won't be rehabbing in Denver - New England picked him up off of waivers when we went to put him on IR. In a way, that works out very well - we have several new special teams players (like Joe 'Tyson' Mays and Kevin Alexander) who may be able to contribute more in regular game play than Barrett was able to. And, we needed room for the new ST players. I doubt that Barrett being exposed was a total accident.
Although the Broncos loss of Moreno and Buckhalter caused most of us to hold our collective breath, Denver seems to have dodged a bullet. Moreno's injury is worse and at least 3 weeks is expected, while Buckhalter might be back in a week. Tyler Polumbus has given us reasons to hope for Clady's quick return, and training camp has started off with a bang!
I thought that it might be helpful to those of us who like to prepare for games against the foes Denver will meet first to keep an eye on some of them in training camp. This isn't intended as a long diatribe on all 16 games, but it seemed reasonable to know what our first few foes are showing: are they getting their players in camp? Anyone important (like Jared Gaither, starting RT for BAL) going down? Anyone new standing out? You've got questions, the Great and Powerful INT (and the not-so-much Doc Bear) has answers. I thought that I'd just start with our first 5 opponents, plus a short note on our division rivals.
When Josh McDaniels took on the task of remaking the Denver Broncos into a perennial playoff contender, his approach to player personnel was relatively direct. He put in place manuals for each of the positions that laid out in detail the height, weight and physical characteristics of each of the players that he wanted to see on the field as well as the mental attributes. He also reworked the scouting department, getting them up to speed on the way that they wanted players scouted and the types of skillsets that were valued by the organization. Overall, his approach was simple - he wanted tough, physical, smart versatile players at every slot on the field. With the draft of 2010, one of his final selections seems to be the epitome of that concept.
While a defensive lineman in college, and one who played both the DE and DT positions, Jammie (pronounced JAY-mee) Kirlew is exactly what the coach ordered. Whether or not he has the level of skill to make the leap from college to the NFL is still to be determined. Whether or not Kirlew fits into the outline that the Broncos have drawn is not - it fits him like a glove. One credit that he's earned was putting in place a system from the regional scouts to the tense moments of the draft know, understand their roles within it, and it's producing the kind of players that McDaniels and Xanders like. The further question of whether these are the players that the team can win with is yet to be determined. Jammie Kirlew was on the Denver board as a 5th round player, as was Syd'Quan Thompson. A quick quid pro quo involving the Denver pick in the 2011 draft and both players were slated to wear orange and blue.