|08-08-2007, 04:04 PM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Broncos' Shanahan goes to extremes
Broncos have new look on both sides of ball
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos train in an area known as Dove Valley, but there has been little peace this offseason.
A 9-7 record in 2006 simply wasn't good enough for Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. So, after his team's struggles down the stretch caused it to miss the playoffs, Shanahan turned the Broncos into the NFL's version of "Extreme Makeover."
A defense that dropped to 12th in the league in 2006 -- after finishing in the top four in both 2004 and 2005 -- will look much different this season. Shanahan changed defensive coordinators and remade the unit along the line, at linebacker and in the secondary.
On the offensive side of the ball, the coach changed running backs, spent $6 million a year for tight end Daniel Graham and opened up the right-guard position.
If this were New York, Shanahan would be called Steinbrenner and the roster intrigue would be bannered across the back page of tabloids.
"When you end up 9-7, you try to improve," Shanahan said. "Hopefully, we can."
Where do you start when you look at the 2007 version of the Broncos? Defensive tackle, at which the team got bigger in terms of both size and name recognition.
Shanahan has gone from the Lake Erie castoffs of the Browns to a who's who of formerly touted first-round defensive tackles. The Broncos have added wide-bodies Sam Adams, Jimmy Kennedy and Marcus Thomas, a fourth-round rookie with first-round skills, to a group anchored by Gerard Warren. (Shanahan also added Alvin McKinley to maintain his equal-opportunity stance for former Browns.) The rest of the laundry list of defensive line imports includes rookies Jarvis Moss, Tim Crowder and Steven Harris.
The idea to get bigger at defensive tackle comes from new defensive coordinator Jim Bates. Other than new Cardinals offensive-line coach Russ Grimm, Bates might make the most impact of any assistant hired in the league this season. Bates is a master motivator and defensive playcaller. He's turned around defenses in Dallas, Miami and Green Bay.
"When you are thick up the middle, you can hold gaps and play with power," Bates said. "It just makes is so much easier for the whole defense. In Miami, we were also able to survive with the bigger guys. The lighter guys get knocked out of there."
Bates' other big philosophical adjustment comes in the secondary. Bates also asks a lot from his cornerbacks. He'll play a little more man-to-man than other defensive coordinators, but he's not afraid to have smart, skilled corners play some zone to grab a few interceptions.
With Lions import Dre' Bly and perennial Pro Bowler Champ Bailey, the Broncos have the best active interception tandem in the league at cornerback.
Bates loves to have the ability to switch into man-to-man matchups against opposing wide receivers, so it certainly helps having elite cornerbacks. Bailey and Bly have the ability to press receivers at the line of scrimmage, but the Broncos have been playing around with a lot of zone concepts, which allow Bly and Bailey to look at the quarterback as he throws and create interception opportunities.
"They complement each other," Bates said. "They have a knack for being all over the ball. When the ball is off, they can make interceptions. We'll mix man and zones. Champ is the most complete cornerback I've been around, and I've been around a lot of great corners. People don't realize how good a tackler Champ is. We just got to cut down his number of tackles. We don't want him making 90 tackles."
Shanahan sets the standards high on defense, and his offensive system is a gold mine to a defensive coordinator. Shanahan's offense thrives on possessing the ball. He's the game's best coordinator when it comes to a running attack. Since the mid-1990s, Shanahan and Mike Holmgren have been the best in football at grabbing first-quarter leads and letting defensive ends tee up for sacks when opposing teams try to come from behind.
Never satisfied with anything less than Super Bowl-level numbers, Shanahan has completely made over the offensive personnel in the past year. Jay Cutler has replaced Jake Plummer at quarterback. Travis Henry gives the Broncos their best pure-power runner since Terrell Davis. Javon Walker has moved into the No. 1 wide receiver role while Rod Smith, recovering from hip surgery, is being phased into the No. 3 receiver position. Graham was brought in to bolster the tight end spot.
Cutler did well as a rookie, but he should have. He landed on a team with playoff talent, allowing him to mature faster than other young quarterbacks. On bad teams, first-round quarterbacks are asked to carry the offense. Cutler is just asked to manage the offense because he's surrounded by better players, which allowed him to be a 59 percent thrower as a rookie.
Shanahan thinks completion percentage is an overrated number in football. He didn't care when Plummer was a 50 percent thrower because he managed the game well enough to be a 60 percent winner. Ultimately, Shanahan thinks Cutler will be in the 62 percent range, and he loves his quarterback's strong arm and leadership ability.
"Jay has had a great offseason and he's worked on everything," Shanahan said. "He developed a good relationship with the offensive guys. He's worked hard."
The biggest transition for Cutler is staying patient. Now that he's the full-time starter, he has to realize the importance of not rushing things. If the first couple options aren't open, he has to be able to check down to the running back or receiver near the line of scrimmage. Cutler has to be able to throw the ball away if pressure comes too close.
Cutler also has to adjust to the scrutiny of being a quarterback in John Elway's city. Eventually, that caught up to Plummer.
"I'm getting more comfortable," Cutler said. "Football is one of the biggest professions here in Colorado. Everyone knows who you are and expects big things from you after Elway. But this team has so much talent and so much experience, all I have to do is work hard and everything will take care of itself."
It better. The standards are high here because of Shanahan -- anything less than a Super Bowl is not acceptable. Shanahan plays to the extremes and if things fall short, expect another makeover.
|08-08-2007, 04:09 PM||#2|
High Blood Pressure
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Hawthorne, NJ
you are the master of diggin up any broncos info on the net
keep it up
|08-08-2007, 06:49 PM||#4|
helmet to helmet hitter
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Arlington, TX
|08-08-2007, 06:52 PM||#5|
Join Date: Aug 2006
here is the insider article as well
Observation deck: Broncos have more bulk
By John Clayton
Updated: August 8, 2007
ENGLEWOOD, Colo -- Five observations from Denver Broncos training camp, gleaned from the team's practices:
1. Big additions
The additions of Jimmy Kennedy and Sam Adams to the defensive line are huge. Why? Because both players are huge. Kennedy looks to be in great shape. The former Rams first-round pick never seemed to feel comfortable in St. Louis. For years, he played behind first-rounders Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis. When they left, his play dropped off.
Kennedy reported to Broncos camp in the 335-pound range and showed some quickness at practice. Adams will be asked to use his big body around 20 to 25 plays a game. He's a good run stopper but still has a quick first step to disrupt the interior blocking schemes. Rookie Marcus Thomas is a talent at defensive tackle, but he might initially be fourth in this mix. Thomas, who was kicked out of Florida for off-the-field issues, will have time to pick up the system and develop slowly. What will be interesting to see is how the influx of tackles will affect Gerard Warren. A couple years ago, Warren played at a Pro Bowl level, but the line play as a whole slipped last year. Warren is still the starter, but he has competition for his playing time. The Broncos also added Alvin McKinley to play on the inside as a backup three-technique option.
2. Strength in numbers
The deepest position for the Broncos is defensive end. Ebenezer Ekuban and John Engelberger are the starters, but a name to watch is Elvis Dumervil. He had eight sacks as a rookie in limited playing time. Shanahan thinks Dumervil's intense playing style could net a dozen sacks this year.
The Broncos had a scare Monday when first-round choice Jarvis Moss was carted off the field with a knee injury that turned out to be a sprain. He's day-to-day. Tim Crowder looks promising. He has the body of a pass-rushing end. Both he and Moss are right-side pass-rushers, although they may be on opposite sides in pass-rushing situations. Kenny Peterson, who faces a four-game suspension in September for violating the league's steroid policy, also shows some skills at end, but he may have a hard time making the team.
Where does all of this leave veteran Kenard Lang? Lang is the type of accomplished veteran Shanahan loves to have on his team. But the Broncos are seven deep at defensive end and clearly are developing Crowder and Moss as the starters of the future. Lang could be expendable unless he has an unbelievable preseason. Expect him to be cut or traded.
3. Big plans for Graham
The best place to observe tight end Daniel Graham is the end zone. There, you get the full effect of what he could mean to Denver's offense. Graham sets up in a three-point stance that eats up a lot of space. His legs are spread wide and ready for action. Graham was signed to be a force as a blocker as well as a receiver. The Broncos outbid the Seahawks for Graham, whom Shanahan considers a difference maker. The Broncos want to become a more effective running team, particularly in the second halves of games. Graham has the size and power to wear down a defender. Plus, he's a big target.
The signing of Graham was a bit of a surprise because the Broncos were already pretty solid at the position. Stephen Alexander is an established starter. Tony Scheffler is skilled at catching passes and is just about ready to come off the physically unable to perform list following offseason surgery. Nate Jackson, the unknown of the group, is catching everything.
4. Potentially great
On paper, the Broncos should be great at wide receiver, but there's cause for concern if Brandon Marshall doesn't develop into a starter -- and a good one -- in this camp. Marshall is like so many Shanahan wide receiver draft choices. He looked promising as a rookie. But the Broncos ask more of their receivers than most teams because they have to block and play hurt. Guess what? Marshall is missing practice time with an injury. Rod Smith has advised many young receivers during Shanahan's era that they have to learn to play hurt. Broncos receivers have to play their best when they feel their worst.
Marshall has to play well for the team to have success. Smith is coming off hip surgery. Although Shanahan will wait for him to heal, there is no guarantee he will be completely healthy by the start of the season. The plan is for Smith to be the third receiver this year. Brandon Stokley is perhaps the game's best slot receiver. But injuries ended his days in Indianapolis. Stokley's body takes a pounding going across the middle. Jay Cutler is going to need a full arsenal of receivers to succeed.
5. Impact player
Travis Henry should be a major force for the Broncos. If healthy, he should be able to rush for 1,400 to 1,500 yards. Henry runs low to the ground and has powerful legs. His style is very similar to that of former Broncos great Terrell Davis. Like Davis, Henry gets stronger as defenses wear down.
Shanahan is the best in the league at putting together a running game. Since Davis, he's turned journeymen and converted fullbacks into 1,000-yard runners. Although that's great, Shanahan needs a 1,500-yarder to get his offense peaking. The key is keeping Henry healthy all year. Shanahan will limit him a little during the preseason to keep him fresh for the regular season. Mike Bell, an undrafted gem from a year ago, remains a no-nonsense backup option. Cecil Sapp also runs hard and will be available when Henry needs a rest.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
|08-08-2007, 07:20 PM||#6|
Happenin Homer Homie
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: In The Loft / Dog House
NEXT BIG STAR
Goood shtuff!! Im starting to get butterflys,first PS game just a few days away...
|08-08-2007, 07:59 PM||#7|
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Los Angeles
Does anyone else start singing Billy Joel's "i go to extremes" when they see this title?
|08-08-2007, 10:25 PM||#9|
World's cutest Bronco Fan
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Anywhere but here!
Ed McCaffrey ;)
I'm so psyched football season is starting that I'm watching the 1998 Broncos special on OnDemand, lol.