Posted Mon Apr 20th by Mr.East
Josh McDaniels has made quite the noise with signings and with the league as a whole. I’m definitely not going to beat a dead horse with the repeating the Jay Cutler story. There are a few ways to sum up Denver’s situation, to be obvious, the defense really needs to be improved. Hiring Mike Nolan as a defensive coordinator was a step in the right direction, unless you’re Woody Paige. Here’s the needs broken down:
Wide Receiver Depth
If McDaniels had it his way, the receiving line up would look like this,
Brandon Marshall = Randy Moss
Eddie Royal = Wes Welker
Jabar Gaffney = Jabar Gaffney
Thank god McDaniels signed Jabar Gaffney. Gaffney will bring in experience from the system to help smooth the offensive playbook change. If indeed Brandon finds himself with a lengthy suspension, which doesn’t seem to happening, look for Gaffney to see a lot more balls thrown his way. Gaffney and Royal won’t be able to go it completely alone, Brandon Stokley is running up in age, and don’t expect much receiving wise from the tight ends in McDaniels’ system. Depth at this position will be needed seeing how Brandon loves wearing metal bracelets attached to each wrist. Despite the comparison to Randy Moss, Marshall will most likely see a hybrid of plays. Some receptions will be use his brute force, and others will use his size to catch the deep ball. Royal lined up extensively at the slot position during training camp, so it does seem that McDaniels wants to bring out the Welker in him.
Fun Fact: Jabar Gaffney’s father, Derrick Gaffney, player receiver for the Jets and Jabar is also cousins with newly signed Jets corner Lito Sheppard.
Reliable Running Back
Josh McDaniels would look at this as optional. I don’t really blame him because he took a bunch of shmucks and had the 6th best run offense last season. It wouldn’t really hurt to have a go to back though. It would be interesting if Denver drafts Knowshon Moreno but that would state that McDaniels wants to commit to the run, but thats not really his playbook. Moreno does have exceptional hands and slot experience though so thats still not out of the question. It would be great to see Denver draft a back like Gartrell Johnson or Ian Johnson in the later rounds. I’ll let it be known I really like Gartrell Johnson and I’ll be thrilled if Denver drafts him in the 6th or 7th round.
Don’t rule out Denver taking a running back like Donald Brown or Rashad Jennings. Both of these backs have worked out with Denver and are 2nd and 5th rounders respectively. Here are my brief scouting reports on Brown and Jenkins. Do though rule out Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells who blew off the Broncos.
As of now it’s up to Kyle Orton and Chris Simms. Does that inspire a lot of confidence? Not exactly. The reason why all of our pants aren’t soaking wet is because of Josh McDaniels and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. Both of these coaches have proven over the past few years to be the best of the best when it comes to coaching quarterbacks. If you’re unfamiliar with Mike McCoy, see this article I wrote on him a few months backs. If history means anything (and hopefully it does) McDaniels and McCoy will find a way to win with nearly anyone.
It will be interesting this weekend come draft day. Will a quarterback be taken? If so, how high? Mark Sanchez high? Stephen McGee or Graham Harrell low? As happy as I would be with taking Sanchez, once again being able to have that giddy feeling of potentially having a franchise quarterback, I would advise against it. Grabbing McGee or Harrell in the later rounds is the smarter decision for a first year coach. If Sanchez fails, Denver fans cry… for McDaniels’ head. If McGee or Harrell do not pan out, Denver fans just say “He was just a 4th round pick.” On the other hand they do pan out, Denver fans can say “He was just a 4th round pick!!!” In all seriousness, the first round should be reserved for defense only.
Week one I expect Kyle Orton to be suiting up over Chris Simms. However, if a few weeks into the season Orton starts to suck it up, Denver will have a bench Jake Plummer for Jay Cutler situation on their hands. This time Chris Simms and or which ever possible rookie, will take the place for Cutler.
The linebacker core is still a problem. The outside linebacker position is very dependent on Jarvis Moss and Elvis Dumervil who have never played an outside linebacker snap in the NFL. In the 3-4 it is very important to have outside linebackers that can rush the passer. I used to have this strange faith that Jarvis Moss would adapt to this position nicely. Moss has the speed and size to play coverage, hopefully the intelligence too, and he can finally utilize his technique to get to the passer. This ’strange feeling’ diminished after hearing Moss practiced with the second team and saw little reps. Injury plays no role in this as far as the public is concerned. Elvis Dumervil’s difficulty transitioning is a big question. Doom has good speed and long arms, but it’s hard transition from a 4-3 end. Also expect to see development of former defensive linemen such as Tim Crowder and Darrell Reid who have both been seen playing the outside linebacker position at mini camp.
D.J. Williams position is still up in the air, he has the versatility to play all linebacker spots. Due to his current injury he is not getting any practice time in at camps, therefore the coaches cannot assess where he might land. According to a recent Denver Post article, Wesley Woodyard intercepted Chris Simms during mini camp. Woodyard was reported as an inside linebacker filling in for Williams.
The inside linebacker spot gives me an uneasy feeling. There is no clear starter at all. The job of an inside linebacker is to shed blockers and to stop the run. Andra Davis is a player I like when it comes to depth only, Woodyard is highly undersized, Spencer Larsen is a wildcard, and there has been speculation that Boss Bailey might see time at this position. Woodyard cannot hold his ground consistently on downs, and Larsen is still too raw of a player to expect a starting impact. Boss is very injury prone and is still sidelined. Davis will most likely be the starter unless Denver drafts high at this position or gets lucky with a hidden gem. Don’t count out Spencer Larsen though, he is a lunch pail player, and will bring his best to the field time after time.
Denver has been a bit frugal only signing defensive tackles Darrell Reid, Ronald Fields, and Kenny Peterson to relatively inexpensive contracts. Since the defense is in a transition to a three man front defensive ends such as Elvis Dumervil and Jarvis Moss will have to change positions, weight, or teams. On the other hand Marcus Thomas will fit in perfectly as a 3-4 defensive end. Thomas has been highly underutilized throughout his career at Denver and finally he will be able to make a difference like a Chris Canty or an Igor Olshansky. However, Thomas is rumored to bring out his inner fat kid and vie time for the nose tackle position as well.
I expect the defensive line to be addressed in the draft, maybe Tyson Jackson, Ron Brace, Chris Baker, Terrance Taylor, or perhaps Sammie-Lee Hill. This is extremely important for any football team no matter what scheme. Great defensive linemen make mediocre linebackers and defensive backs look good. If Denver wants any shot at a record above .500 fixing the defensive line is where it all begins. B.J. Raji seems to fall farther out of Denver’s reach more everyday, moving up will be the likely option if Denver truly wants him. Jackson is an ideal choice, he is similar to the Patriots’ defensive end Ty Warren, who was selected in the first round of the 2003 draft.
The defensive line start up in week one is a complete mystery. It’s not certain if Marcus Thomas will play defensive end or nose tackle, Tim Crowder as defensive end or outside linebacker, and the same goes with Darrell Reid. The history of Mike Nolan’s defense will probably contain hybrid packages that might possibly be to complicated for some of the players to learn. However, if the learning curve goes smoothly, the defensive line will be able rotate out players with confidence. This means that Dumervil will see time on his feet and at the line with his hand in the dirt. If this rotation goes well the defensive line will stay fresh.
This is where all the fun comes in. Now that Brian Dawkins is in the secondary some real magic can happen. Dawkins’ defensive philosophy is simple and beautiful, and Denver has the defensive backs to fulfill it. The philosophy is just for every man to focus and do their own job. I know, obvious, and simple, but think about it. Last year in the secondary was comprised of confusion and trepidation. Dawkins will bring simplicity and confidence. Champ Bailey will do his job, Dawkins will do his, we have to hope that Andre Goodman will continue his success and Renaldo Hill as well. Josh Barrett can only gain from this leadership. Renaldo Hill shown extreme confidence in the secondary this year in a Denver Post article, Hill stated,
“We can be a complete secondary, one of the best, if not the best in the league,” Hill said.
Some say Dawkins is on the wrong side of 30, but I think he’s on the best side of 30 that any safety can be. Champ Bailey also believes the secondary is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
“I’ll tell you what, we’re a pack of veterans,” Bailey said. “We’ve got a lot of experience back there. I think if there’s one area where we can definitely look at and say, ‘We’re going to be good,’ it’s definitely our defensive backfield.”
All of Denver hopes that these experienced defensive backs are right. I’m also very certain that Denver fans are excited to see him hype up the players come Sunday.
The defense will probably have a lot trouble getting to the quarterback. At some games the defense will be able to stop the run, but against an elite run team they might get blown away. If the defensive line can do their job the secondary will be allowed to reach their full potential. Denver will be very fortunate if Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins can play at a high level.
At the inside linebacker position there is no dominant player, unless it’s D.J. Williams who is more of an outside linebacker. If the defensive line isn’t completely shored up the inside linebacker will find himself with a lot more responsibility of stopping the run. Andra Davis will be consistent but not much different from what Nate Webster brought to the field. Woodyard and Larsen have the tenacity and heart to play hard on every down they’re given, but elite to good running backs will get the best of them, and especially when it counts.
Imagine the following. Thanksgiving day, 2nd and goal on the 6 yard line (possible passing down, Woodyard is in), Brandon Jacobs gets the ball, Ronald Fields gets beat by pro bowl center Shaun O’Hara, Jacobs goes up the middle with Woodyard only to stop him from scoring. Who wins? It wouldn’t just be that scenario, Jacobs would have a field day with undersized players like Woodyard or inexperienced ones like Larsen. There is no doubt they are solid players, but if the defensive line isn’t there, they won’t be able to step up and make the plays consistently. Honestly who can?
If the defensive line can eat up the blockers, pass rushers like Moss and Dumervil will be able to effectively come off the edge and get to the passer. Mike Nolan is good with linebackers, however, can he change Jarvis Moss to an effective pass rushing outside linebacker? Elvis Dumervil has a history of silencing the naysayers. Learning the new system will cause problems for certain players. Denver most likely will not have the players to recover from consistent defensive line failure. It’s not good to see Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins with 7 or more tackles each game.
That’s it Bronco Nation. What did I forget? What else needs to be done to solidfy this team? Air it out!