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Kyle Orton – One Last Chance to Take the Next Step

Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton (R) gets off his pass as Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) closes in during the fourth quarter of their NFL football game in Baltimore, Maryland October 10, 2010. (REUTERS/Joe Giza)

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“Kyle Orton is a game manager. He has been his whole career, whether it was in Chicago or Denver. He won’t lose the game for you, but he won’t win it either.”

You’ve heard such descriptions countless times before. In large part, they ring true. Given the proper tools (a defense and a running game), Kyle Orton excels at being an NFL quarterback. Without them, he struggles. He isn’t the type of player to elevate those around him; he needs the supporting cast to thrive.

But he’s capable of more. He’s shown hints of more. In his first season as Broncos starter, 2009, Orton showed flashes of brilliance in the first half of the season. He single-handedly dissected the New Englands Patriots defense to drive the offense down the field twice in the closing minutes of the game — once to tie it, and again in overtime to win it. Josh McDaniels’ famous sideline fist pumps never happen if Orton doesn’t deliver a flurry of game-ending clutch throws.

Orton was in the MVP conversation that year before the 6-0 Broncos’ defense collapsed, Orton struggled, and the team finished 2-8 down the stretch. Then, again, Orton put together impressive stats early in 2010. They didn’t often result in a notch in the win column, but he tallied stats nonetheless. He can put together an impressive single-game performance.

What’s left for him to put together is an impressive season.

Every year in Orton’s career, either due to injury, benching, or something unexplainable, Orton’s performances fall apart as his team heads into November and December. Orton has proven to be a reliable option through October; all bets are off come November.

That’s the key for Orton in 2011. Put together a full 16-game slate of solid performances, mixed with stellar ones. Take the next step from “Top 16 Quarterback” in the NFL to “Top 8.”

I believe he’s capable. I’ve seen enough to believe he can stand in the pocket and deliver accurate throws to this group of receivers.

Entering the last year of his contract in Denver, and with Tim Tebow waiting in the wings, this is Kyle Orton’s last chance to reward that belief. It’s time to take the next step for the Broncos. Very likely, it’s also the last chance for his career.

The Broncos haven’t committed to any quarterback in 2012. Orton has said he likes it here and would like to stay.

A 10-game extension of his first-six-game performance in 2009 would do the trick.

Now let’s look at Orton’s supporting cast, the Denver Broncos offense.

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  • LarryB

    Just a great analysis, Monty! I, too, was extremely worried about the depth on the team. Two developments, however, gave me cause for some comfort: (1) The reserves allowed only two (2) yards a carry in the last preseason game, and (2) the Broncos added only one player from outside after the final cuts, and none from the waiver wire – which indicated to me that the Broncos have more faith in their reserves than we do.

    This is reinforced by the fact that, although the Cardinals passed the Broncos dizzy, the Cardinals played their first string against the Broncos reserves through much of the first half. In addition, Dumervil, Ayers, Miller, Champ, Goodman, Dawkins, and Moore were all missing from the lineup, which likely will not happen during the season (GASP! I hope not!). So the depth just might be a bit stronger than perhaps we believe?

    Regarding Orton, it is easy to think he “fades,” come the latter part of the season. However, take note that the St. Louis game last year happened in mid-November, and he passed for 347 yards and three TDs IN THE FOURTH QUARTER, coming within a whisker of coming back from 19 down to a win.

    So it wasn’t a “fade,” but a SUDDEN fall, indicating something was suddenly very wrong. What was wrong, of course, was severe rib injury – to BOTH sides, as it turned out.

    So I anticipate a truly breakout season for Kyle. He was on his way in his first 11 games last year, and there is no reason he can’t improve even on that with a better running game and the addition of a couple bonafide pass-catching tight ends.

    I have them 10-6, barring injury to the players you listed. Kool-aid? Well, we’ll see . . .

  • http://broncotalk.net Monty

    Thanks for the kind words and great insight yourself, LarryB! Orton has suffered those sudden falls his entire career, though. I certainly hope this year is different.

  • http://broncotalk.net Monty

    BTW everybody I changed my profile name from “Kyle Montgomery” to this (Monty). Same guy. Hi.

  • Bucky

    Man I wish either of you were right on this, and maybe I will be proved wrong, but the big IF that you laid out there about Orton is just to big an IF for me. I have the unique pleasure of being a Colorado boy who went to college in Chicago during the Orton/Grossman fiasco. And while I will continue to hope that there is simply some magic hump that Orton can get over, I just don’t see it. I think we have seen the top of his game, and that top just isn’t good enough to be a franchise/dynasty kind of QB. 

    I don’t know if we have a guy on our team who is. kinda funny how we have three Quarterbacks all needing to get past that one magic mark to be “elite.” If we could take and jam all three of these guys into one QB we would have a super stud, but we can’t and because of that I am more inclined to put us at 7-9 or 6-10 than I am at 8-8, I would certainly not bet a dime on 10-6.

    But hey, here is hoping for the IF’s I guess!   

  • Blsd30

    sounds about right but i think we win against buffalo for sure and 1 of the charger game putting us at 10-6.

  • http://Facebook.com/BroncosZone Jon

    Hi, Monty!

  • Rc_sodak

    So when you tell us everything, will it be considered the ‘full monty’?

  • http://broncotalk.net Monty

    I bare all.

  • Shamzami

    As much as I like the Broncos, after seeing what I’ve seen I have a bad feeling that they’ll be embarrassed by Oakland on Monday night and won’t win more than 4-5 games this year, which is okay.  The team is by no means set at any position and our quarterback is suspect at best.  So drink the Orange Koolaid if you want, but don’t be surprised to see them struggle most of the year and build on that.  In a couple of years we may have a team that compete, but this team is light years away from that.

  • Hansen

    Speaking of full monty, I thought it was interesting how you changed your id after those rather, shall we say, unsavory photos of you surfaced on that “other” site.

    Seriously, good analysis.

  • Anonymous

    I’m never going to be in love with Orton but at least he has shown a noted desire to be in that spot with out question and pretty much shown it on the field as well.

    I still think we will have more to worry about than who is back up is. I wonder if being 7-9 or 8-8 and missing the play-offs is better than 4-12 and missing them??? Either is missing them ~shrug~… I think all of these “if’s” are the ssame as saying “if” we still had this guy or that guy we’d be better off, we dont and not all of those guys are going to start even 14 at the same time. History shows other wise. but “IF” we do, then there is that chance.

    What would be really cool though would be to turn it all around and get in by winning the division, that would be pretty exciting. Hey I can dream… right?!?

  • 5280

    I love this piece Monty keep it up.  Honestly Im kind of shocked that Julius thomas isnt starting week one.  From what Ive seen at camp and in preseason, he’s definitely ready. dude can catch everything and fells had way to many drops.  Like you said though: there are far too many uncertainties to predict anything really. we wont know what we have until 6 or 7 weeks into the season.  I’m just praying von and doom stay healthy.  tackles or not, if von and doom stay healthy, we’ll at least own 3rd down and the team that owns 3rd down is usually the one that wins the game. IMO its all about the D this year. say what you want about the Oline and the running game, if the D doesnt step up in a major way this year its another 4-12 season.

  • http://broncotalk.net Monty

    Thanks 5280, glad you like it.

    I agree, defense is everything this year. I’m feeling good about the pass defense, with Doom, Von, Champ and a handful of other solid guys. The run defense has me worried. Guess we’ll find out Monday; you KNOW the Raiders will try to run that ball on us.

  • Anonymous

    Great post. I had comments I’ve forgotten as I read…

    Two points I think though.
    With Baily at nickle, Vaughn’s skills/health are critical.

    Our Safeties are also a HUGE issue. Can Moore play with starters? AND if he gets hurt, who has the speed to replace him? Nobody. – Bdawk? Lost a step for sure.

  • Anonymous

    Great post. I had comments I’ve forgotten as I read…

    Two points I think though.
    With Baily at nickle, Vaughn’s skills/health are critical.

    Our Safeties are also a HUGE issue. Can Moore play with starters? AND if he gets hurt, who has the speed to replace him? Nobody. – Bdawk? Lost a step for sure.