|12-21-2007, 10:22 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Getting jump on 2008 season
Team's second-year players are viewed as cornerstones
By Jeff Legwold, Rocky Mountain News
The Broncos have seen the jump.
The jump those in football say can come in the space between a player's first and second years. Now, with an eye cast toward the future, they would like to see another as they begin, in a matter of weeks, to try to repair all of what's gone wrong.
"You like to see guys kind of prove themselves in Year 2," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "And then, they kind of separate themselves in Year 3. Two is good, three is much better because they get the experience, but they have to put in the time, too."
And with the current season having dissolved into a 6-8 mark that includes a list of disappointments, the one thing the Broncos have held on to is their Class of 2006.
It's a group of second-year players that essentially features five starters and represents the starting quarterback (Jay Cutler), the leading receiver (Brandon Marshall), the sacks leader (Elvis Dumervil), a starting guard (Chris Kuper) and the third-leading receiver (Tony Scheffler).
Those players form the kind of core the Broncos will be looking to build around as they make the decisions about where to go from back-to-back playoff misses.
"Hopefully, we can be that group," said Dumervil, who leads the team with 11 sacks. "I think we can be. I know I have a lot of room to go to another level that hasn't been seen before. Sacks, rundowns, being more efficient, causing more turnovers, creating more havoc. Just doing what I have to do to be better and make everyone better. That's what it's about - making people better."
By season's end, barring injury, Cutler will have made 21 starts in his first two NFL seasons; Marshall, 17; Dumervil, 16; Scheffler, 12; and Kuper, 11. Injuries have put some of them in the lineup far more quickly than anticipated, but the group has had a taste of life at the top of the depth chart.
And the Broncos will head into an offseason that will determine if some of them can stay there.
"Anytime you see guys having good years in their second year, you do expect great things in their third year," Shanahan said. "No question about it. But that was a good (draft), a great (draft), and that does give us a group to work with. But you never know until you see a guy go through it.
"But we like what they can do."
Cutler drew raves from the coaching staff for his work in the offseason program in the spring and summer. This year, he will enter the review phase having seen how defenses adjusted to him and the Broncos offense throughout the year.
One of the best third-down passers in the league this season - he's fifth in the current rankings - Cutler has not been able to translate that to offensive success in the fourth quarter of games.
He's 30th in the league in fourth- quarter passing, having thrown three interceptions and two touchdowns with a 57.4 percent completion rate, far below his 64.6 percent completion rate overall.
"You look at everything," Shanahan said. "The circumstances, what happened, how everything went. You take it all into account."
For Marshall, he said running cleaner routes and being more efficient "when I do get the ball in my hands" was at the top of his list.
"I know it's about hard work," Marshall said. "I don't want this big drop-off from here, and I want to go to the playoffs, play in big games."
Added veteran receiver Rod Smith: "For him, I've told him this: It's all up to him. Brandon can be one of those guys who can put up 1,000 yards year in, year out, but he has to work to that and remember 1,000 yards is great, an accomplishment, but people remember being part of winning games."
Scheffler, already a downfield threat who's consistent in catching the ball, has said his blocking at the point of attack is "always something I work on."
He wants to be on the field as much as possible because he can work in both the passing and running games.
Kuper was pulled from the starting lineup in training camp, only to be reinserted when the Broncos had to adjust for Tom Nalen's season-ending injury. Shanahan has said, at this point, he expects Ben Hamilton, who missed the season after suffering a training-camp concussion, to be ready to return to the team next season.
That will put Kuper in a competitive mix again in 2008.
And for Dumervil, he said his goals already are on the list.
"Win games, create plays, go to the playoffs and, next year, it won't be a close decision when they're picking for the Pro Bowl," he said.
"I'm going to put the time into it and I'll make it more clear for people to make that choice."
Added Shanahan: "You look at it now and you know it's a great draft. Now you're just hoping that all of them get to be Pro Bowl players and get to play those games in the postseason, to get there and do something with it."
The Broncos are looking to dig out from back-to-back playoff misses and their 2006 draft class might be a good place to start.
Player (round, overall) Lowdown
QB Jay Cutler First, 11th First full year as starter; 18 TDs, 12 INTs
TE Tony Scheffler Second, 61st Tied for second on team with 40 catches
WR Brandon Marshall Fourth, 119th Leads team in catches (86), yards (1,136)
DE Elvis Dumervil Fourth, 126th Leads team with 11 sacks
G Chris Kuper Fifth, 161st Nine starts this season at left guard
|12-21-2007, 01:28 PM||#2|
Join Date: Apr 2004
|12-21-2007, 07:27 PM||#4|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Sep 2003
dont forget about the second rounder that was traded for javon........if he can get healthy that offseason will go a long way toward building the future
|12-21-2007, 07:34 PM||#5|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Mar 2006
I think Hamilton has played his last game as a Bronco. Don't mess with your head, Ben. Just retire. Kuper's been doing a good job, event though some around here don't like to admit anyone has done a good job this season. Sure, he can improve in some things, but he and the rest of the interior line has been good.
|12-21-2007, 07:47 PM||#6|
A verbis ad verbera
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Long Beach
I said it before and I will say it now, I believe Hamilton returns, starts, and plays well next yr.
|12-21-2007, 07:57 PM||#7|
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Villa La Angostura