|09-04-2007, 09:33 PM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
A Team A Day [Day 27] A Denver Broncos Preview
Can Tons of New Faces Offset Tragic Losses?
Whether it was in or out of their control, itís hard to find many teams that had a more active offseason than the Denver Broncos. Hours after a disappointing home loss to the 49ers denied the Broncos a spot in the playoffs, promising cornerback Darrent Williams was killed outside of a New Yearís Eve party. The following month, backup running back Damien Nash collapsed and died during a charity basketball game. While it will be difficult to pick up the pieces and play on without their fallen teammates, the Broncos appear to have the horses to contend in the AFC.
The big story of Denverís season will be quarterback Jay Cutler, who showed tons of promise after taking over for Jake Plummer late last year. Cutler appears to have all the tools to succeed in the NFL: A strong arm, poise in the pocket, a solid supporting cast and Mike Shanahan. Cutlerís promise can be shown in just one play: A deep touchdown pass to Javon Walker that traveled 65 yards in the air against the Cardinals. But this year, itís his offense. With Jake ďThe Mistake SnakeĒ Plummer now in Tampa Bay out of the picture, itís Cutlerís time to shine.
Luckily for Shanahan, Cutler wonít have to go it alone like other doomed young quarterbacks. Thereís tons of talent in here and it all begins with the running game. It doesnít take a rocket scientist to know about the Broncosí potent running game. Hell, this cut blocking zone blocking scheme could probably get me over 1,000 yards in a season. Running back Travis Henry, arguably the most talented back in Denver since Terrell Davis, is coming off a 1200 yard season with the Titans and looks poised for a big year. But because Shanahan is a prick thatís hell-bent on screwing over fantasy football managers, look for guys like Mike Bell and Selvin Young to steal some carries.
The Broncosí wide receiving unit may not look as good as Indianapolisí or New Englandís, but it should be a good one. Veteran Rod Smith is old as dirt but still finds his way onto the field. Heís definitely slowing down but with the Broncosí recent influx of young talent, heíll be asked to be more of a mentor than the 100 catch guy of years past. The go-to guy here is Javon Walker, who was acquired during last yearís NFL Draft. Walker eclipsed 1000 yards receiving last year and scored eight touchdowns despite breaking in a new quarterback (and playing with the ****ty Plummer). Walkerís strength is deep routes. Cutlerís strength is the deep ball. Makes sense, right? Also, look out for second year guy Brandon Marshall, who appeared to develop some solid chemistry with Cutler late last year. Marshall will likely open up as Denverís #2 receiver and could be primed for a breakout year. New acquisitions Daniel Graham and Brandon Stokley will give the young Cutler even more targets.
The Broncos completely revamped their defense and itís no question as to why they did so. Last year, they couldnít stop the San Diego Chargers. The 8th ranked defense of the Broncos surrendered 83 points in two games against San Diego last year. If they want to win this division, theyíll need to do a much better job of slowing down the likes of Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Antonio Gates. Enter Jarvis Moss, Dre Bly, Simeon Rice and Sam Adams.
The problem with Denverís team last year fell on their pass rush, or lack thereof. The Broncosí defense totaled just 35 quarterback sacks, which hopes to improve with the selection of Moss in the first round of the draft and the signing of Rice. The Broncosí linebackers and secondary are both very good so if they can get some improved pressure up front, theyíll be in even better shape. The Broncosí linebackers appear to be on the way up. D.J. Williams out of Miami, the NFLís linebacker factory, is a budding star. Ian Gold also had a very good year.
This teamís strength undoubtedly lies in their secondary. Champ Bailey is the definition of shutdown corner. Quarterbacks simply avoided Bailey and when they threw his way, he made a play. Baileyís ten interceptions left no doubt about who the best cornerback in football is. The death of an emerging Darrent Williams will hurt. But the Broncos did acquire solid corner Dre Bly from the Lions in exchange for George Foster or Tatum Bell. Because everybody will avoid Bailey, the pressure falls on Bly to not get picked on.
The Broncos havenít had a losing season since 1999 and itís unlikely theyíll have one this year. Jay Cutler is looking like heíll be a star sooner than later and we all know Mike Shanahan is among the NFLís best coaches. But has the gap closed between a younger, more talented San Diego? We wonít know until the teams meet. At the very least, this team should be in contention for the Wild Card and appear to have second place locked up.