Posted Tue Oct 4th by Monty
3. The Broncos need Champ Bailey back
In the NFL, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Over the past two Sundays, that has clearly been the Broncos’ secondary. In Week 3, a decent quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, shredded Denver defensive backs on multiple third-and-longs that ultimately gave the Titans just enough for a victory. In Week 4, an exceptional quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, threw for four touchdowns and ran for two more. The Broncos mixed coverages and gave Rodgers different looks, but they sold out to contain Jermichael Finley, and Rodgers’ solution to the problem was simple: pick on Vaughn or Wilhite any given play.
Bailey has promised to return this week against San Diego. Just in time, too — a pivotal, season-changing home match against the Chargers and Philip Rivers needs #24 on the field.
4. Encouragement: the offensive line played its best game of the season
Tight end Virgil Green‘s contributions were well-noted in the staff’s Studs and Duds, and I echo those sentiments while giving kudos to the offensive line as a whole. It was the offense’s best performance of the season, and it started up front.
5. Von Doom Sack Count: 4
The return of Elvis Dumervil had the effect many people thought it would: increased chances for Von Miller. It was our first chance to see “Von Doom” in extended action this season, and it was worth the wait. Miller consistently handled Packers right tackle Marshall Newhouse, and the Packers were left to leave a running back to chip the rookie more often than not (if not the tight end). Dumervil, still not quote 100%, received the most attention, as the 2009 league sack leader should. But it opened the door for Miller.
“I think they both got some of those chips,” Fox said. “The tight end was lined up fairly tight, and he would give them a little shoulder before he went out.”
Miller and Dumervil got around those chips often, registering several pressures on Rodgers. The rookie was even able to bring down the All Pro twice, doubling his season sack total and ranking him fifth in the league. Rodgers had several near-sacks as well, at least one other by Miller and another by D.J. Williams that were one-yard gains.
“I think they’ll both (Miller and Dumervil) get a lot of attention moving forward,” Fox said. “I think Elvis will just get better as we go. He has been out, not only this year but last year, so he hasn’t had a lot of football in his background since a year ago.”
Most quarterbacks aren’t going to be able to get around that type of consistent pressure. Most quarterbacks hit the turf five or more times with that type of pass rush. Rodgers is just the type of exceptional player where he can throw and move. Furthermore, he doesn’t get rattled, so one play of decent blocking results in 50-yard gains.
Just imagine if the Broncos draft a DT that can bring pressure inside… watch out world, 2012.
6. Measuring stick
49 points is the most a John Fox-coached team has ever surrendered. Blowout losses aren’t strangers to the Broncos in recent years, but Fox and Allen had doctored more-or-less impressive performances with this defense in the Broncos’ first three weeks. Facing the Super Bowl champs was a measuring stick for Denver, and they’re further from competing with the NFL elite than I had thought.
As Ted Sundquist pointed out at length in his latest column, as a front office executive, it’s prudent to reflect on your team’s personnel and be prepared to make hard decisions. You owe it to your players, and you owe it to your fans. So where is the Broncos’ talent missing? Where are veterans no longer getting the job done?
Clearly depth in the secondary is a huge concern. It feels like Bailey hasn’t had a fully healthy season in some time, and Brian Dawkins‘ aging body has forced him to leave the conversation of the league’s elite safeties. Defensive line depth is needed, and the Broncos could use an infusion of talent at defensive tackle.
Offensively, the Broncos appear set at wide receiver (assuming they re-up Brandon Lloyd, which they clearly should), and tight end is a position on the upswing as well. The offensive line needs a lot of work — while three new players sounds nice, I wouldn’t be opposed to moving the nimbler Zane Beadles to right tackle and seeing how Orlando Franklin handles guard work next to Ryan Clady. J.D. Walton has really struggled, and I’d still like to see the Broncos pursue a veteran center in free agency next offseason, if one is available.
Then, of course, there’s quarterback. We just faced the league’s best. As far as measuring sticks go, the Broncos need a few yard-lengthed ones to illustrate the gap between Orton and Rodgers.
At least they’re not alone in that regard. 26 other teams are also on the lookout for their own Aaron Rodgers.