|07-19-2007, 03:04 PM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
ESPN Insider AFC West Camp previews
By Jeremy Green
Denver Broncos training camp
Site: Dove Valley
Location: Englewood, Colo.
First practice: July 29
2006 Record: 9-7
Three Burning Questions
Is Jay Cutler the man?
He has to be, but he also very much looks up to the challenge. He has all the tools to succeed in this league and an outstanding teacher in Mike Shanahan to bring him along. Cutler also should have a top-notch running game at his disposal and plenty of weapons in the passing game. There will be a lot of pressure on the second-year quarterback, but he also has an extremely strong support group and should excel in this system. Expect big things from Cutler.
Can Travis Henry carry on the tradition of excellent Denver running backs?
Yes. He is not as good as Terrell Davis or Clinton Portis, but he certainly brings more to the table than Reuben Droughns or the running backs who Denver used last season. Henry is powerful and compact. He is quick to get north and south, and should fit in very well for what Shanahan asks of his runners. Henry needs to stay clean -- as he has been suspended by the league once. He also needs to prove that he is durable enough to handle a heavy workload, but overall, this was an excellent addition to an already potent offense.
Can the Broncos compete with San Diego in the AFC West?
For certain. San Diego is very strong and has one of the best rosters in the NFL, but the Chargers lost their head coach and both coordinators. That transition could result in some early growing pains. San Diego better not slip up very much because Denver is a very good team that can play with anyone in the league. Expect the Broncos to be improved in just about every area. The running game will be better if Henry can stay healthy. The defense is more talented. The quarterback now has a year under his belt. The Broncos are a Super Bowl contender. The AFC West has two excellent teams and either of them could win the division.
The player under the microscope
Cutler. Last year in the midst of a playoff push in late November, Shanahan pulled the plug on Jake Plummer and anointed the rookie, Cutler, as his starter. It was an extremely gutsy move and it rubbed some people wrong -- including players on the team. But Cutler performed very well in the starting role, and it's pretty clear that his ceiling is far higher than Plummer's. It was the right move and it will pay off in a big way in the years to come. That being said, the microscope will be focused directly on the young signal caller.
Brandon Marshall. Cutler could very easily earn this distinction, but Marshall has a chance to really elevate his game in 2007. Rod Smith has had an outstanding career and has continually defied the odds, but he is on the decline and Denver needs another wide receiver to step up opposite Javon Walker. Enter Marshall. Marshall has big-time tools and has made some big plays in limited opportunities in his career. He is fast, very strong and built more like a small tight end than a wide receiver. He should see a lot of single coverage with the wealth of options in Denver's offense. Marshall could blow up.
Comeback player of the year
Matt Lepsis. Lepsis tore his right ACL in the sixth game of the 2006 season and was lost for the year. He is now 33 and his recovery won't be easy, but he is expected to be back to full strength for the start of the season. Lepsis was missed. He was playing at a high level before his injury and is a perfect fit for Denver's scheme. Lepsis is a tough guy and should return at a high level and make a good offense even better.
Shanahan has overseen Denver's offense for a long time now. He has done an exceptional job of finding and utilizing players to fit his system year after year. Teams around the league try to duplicate the Broncos' now-famous zone-blocking scheme, but none do it as well as Denver. Shanahan utilizes mobile, athletic linemen who are smart and tough. The Broncos' offensive linemen are not afraid to go low and bend the rules at times, but their success cannot be questioned. They ask their running backs to get the ball, make their read and get downhill in a hurry. Denver's passing game should be more vertical than it was the last few seasons. Look for the Broncos to utilize the deep speed of Walker and the outstanding arm strength and downfield passing ability of Cutler.
If they chose, the Broncos could have Champ Bailey shut down just about any No. 1 receiver in the league in tight man coverage -- and any wideout in the AFC West without much problem. Dre' Bly would then draw the offense's No. 2 wide receiver, which would usually be very favorable to the Broncos, since both players excel playing man coverage. By doing so, Denver could bring heat like few other teams in the league are capable of. New defensive coordinator Jim Bates is blitz-happy to begin with, but with the personnel at his disposal, he will bring serious pressure. The Broncos also completely overhauled their defensive front, which should pay dividends in several areas. This should be a very aggressive and much more productive defense in 2007.
Camp battle to watch
Denver has a solid starting group of former Cleveland Browns in DEs Kenard Lang and Ebenezer Ekuban, and DTs Gerard Warren and Alvin McKinley, but all of these players are aging. Shanahan obviously felt that his defensive line needed a lot of work; he brought in a lot of players this offseason. McKinley was brought in via free agency, as was massive run-stuffer Sam Adams. Denver traded for Jimmy Kennedy in hopes of lighting a fire beneath the underwhelming former first-round pick. On draft day, Denver selected Jarvis Moss in the first round, Tim Crowder in the second and took a chance in the fourth round on Marcus Thomas, who had off-field problems in college but could be the most talented incoming defensive tackle from the draft. Add pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil to the mix and it isn't hard to see that there will be a ton of competition up front, and probably much more production.
Last edited by dragondawg; 07-19-2007 at 03:21 PM..
|07-19-2007, 05:38 PM||#3|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Sep 2004
For the season, but they go to camp a week from Sunday.......
I have some Sockeye Salmon and Bull Trout, a couple of King Salmon and some other fish to catch (maybe a Sturgeon!) before the Broncos play the first Exhibition Game.......
|07-20-2007, 11:34 AM||#5|
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Denver, CO
Every day I get more and more excited to see what our team is going to do this year. I can hardly contain myself any more.