Posted Mon Dec 8th by Jonathan Douglas
Week #14 is in the books, folks. We beat KC at home in an impressive manner and now we look at our remaining three games left in the season. It doesn’t look good…. With the Chargers dominating the division, we would need San Diego to lose two of their last three games and us to sweep our remaining games in order to make the playoffs.
Oh, wait… that was last year…
Fast-forward to Week #14 in 2008 and we just finished off KC at home again; however, this time DENVER is leading the division by three games and San Diego is now working hard to come up with the higher math necessary to give them post season life.
What a difference one year makes, huh?
There have been some major changes since last year… Let’s take a look back at 2007 vs 2008.
Last year at this time, Bates was trying to NOT run his style of Defense after Shanahan has castrated him during the bye week. We had players named Sam Adams, Antwon Burton, Amon Gordon, Steven Harris & Simeon Rice on the line. This year we have D-Rob and Thomas in the middle, a health Ekuban and our only starting hold-over from Week 14 from 2007, Elvis Dumervil. We still have issues, but they aren’t as big as Sam Adams, so we’re moving in the right direction!
Last year we had DJ Williams leading the LB’s in the middle, Ian Gold at WILL and little known Jamie Winborn filling in surprisingly well at SAM. This year, after a whirlwind off-season that saw the anointed one come to town (Niko), the incredible Cinderella story of Nate Webster’s rise to the first team and DJ’s return to his dominate weakside position, no one would have thought we’d see more changes during the regular season. But due to injuries this year, Week #14 saw rookies starting at WILL and MIKE and Jamie Winborn wearing the play-calling headset helmet as he led the Defense on the field. Even wackier than these changes is how well these guys are doing. Talk about ‘change you can believe in!’ :)
Who would have believed that we’d be talking about Dre’ Bly as an excellent tackler in Week #14 2008? But what can you expect of a unit that’s seen Champ Bailey limited due to injury. We also lost backups Foxworth, Cox & Shoates from last year – which leaves Karl Paymah and rookie FA Josh Bell to pick up the slack.
Last year Abdullah had supplanted Ferguson to play along side of John Lynch. This year, none of them remain. This year on Week #14, we’re talking about late round draft choice, rookie Josh Barrett.
So, we knew at this point in 2007 that something had to be done along the line during the off-season. Matt Lepsis wasn’t playing up to his normal level and Tommy Nails had suffered a season ending torn bicep. But who would have imagined that we’d have a rookie sensation like Ryan Clady? And who could have imagined that the starting Center (Casey Wiegmann) from KC – that started opposite us in Week #14 in 2007 – would be our full-time starting Center in 2008? And who could have even dreamed that our new (and surprisingly young) O-line would be giving Cutler THIS type of protection? Truly unbelievable!
Last year, rookie Selvin Young came out with a BIG (156 yard) game vs KC. This year, he and Andre Hall (both injured now) are the only two of the seven backs we carried in 2007 that still have a job in Denver (Travis Henry, Mike Bell, Cecil Sapp, Paul Smith, & Kyle Johnson were all cut).
This year, our new diamond in the rough, Petyon Hillis, was working on planting himself in a starting RB spot, when he forgot he was a +250lb Fullback and attempted (successfully I might add) to impersonate a 180lb wideout with an acrobatic catch I hardly believed (even after several rewinds). Unfortunately, that stunt, has resulted in Hillis’ first hamstring injury (ever apparently), and now we’re left with our discarded tailback from 2006, Tatum Bell. I’m not thrilled, but I hear we have an undrafted college FA on the practice squad… Those haven’t turned out too bad for us this year – so there’s still hope!
So, the deadly tandem of Marshall & Walker never really panned out. That’s ok, I still think Domenik Hixon is the second coming. Oh, wait it’s 2008 not 2007! And who would have imagined that a rookie fully 4 inches shorter than the Great Hixon would light it up like Eddie Royal has this year!?
Even our QB isn’t the same as last year. At this point last year, Cutler was struggling with undiagnosed Type 1 Diabetes and on his way to losing 35lbs and much of his energy. This year, we have a ‘fully armed and operational’ Cutler. He’s at the top of his game and leading us straight toward a our first divisional win since 2005.
Jason Elam left for Atlanta after our 2007 season and the kicker we picked up almost a year ago this week, won his job (Matt Prater). So, are we better off in 2008? I think the jury is still out. Elam would not have been playing for many more years, so I think Shanahan made a good choice to go young (and cheaper) this year. We’ve paid for it with a couple of first year misses, but over all I’m happy with Prater’s leg.
Ok, I have to admit that we have no changes here. Heck, Nate Jackson is injured again and Chad Mustard is back on our roster. Some things never change I guess.
Over all, I think what we’ve stated several times before still applies… To win in this league you need your backups (and rookies) to step up and get the job done when your starters go down. In my view the biggest difference between 2007 and 2008 is that our backups and rookies are truly getting it done this year.
What do you think? How different do you feel this week than last week after Week #14? What’s surprised you this year? Chime in, folks, the floor’s all yours!