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Old 01-10-2010, 05:14 AM   #1
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Default Changes sure to start at line of scrimmage

Changes sure to start at line of scrimmage


Broncos' run game, run defense in need of boost
By Mike Klis
The Denver Post
Posted: 01/10/2010 01:00:00 AM MST



No one ever wants to go there.

Maybe because it's too dirty, too rough, too bruising. Too anonymous.

Focus is always on the spotlight, from where quarterbacks throw, receivers catch and tailbacks run.

When considering what went wrong with the Broncos' once-promising 2009 season and how they can end their playoff drought in 2010, discussion usually starts with quarterback Kyle Orton. The real answer, though, may lie directly in front of Orton.

The gritty, sweaty, widely ignored line of scrimmage.

When the Broncos began the 2009 season 6-0, credit went to Orton and Brandon Marshall, or to safety Brian Dawkins and pass-rushing linebacker Elvis Dumervil. Looking back, it was the players up front who were dominating, particularly in the second half of games. The Broncos could not have outscored their first six opponents by a combined second-half score of 76-10 if not for their linemen moving the line of scrimmage a yard or two in their desired direction.

Then there was the Broncos' free fall after Week 6. They got beat up by Baltimore, wore down by Pittsburgh. The pitiful Oakland Raiders rushed for 241 yards — despite running at the disadvantage of 5,280 feet above sea level. kansas city's one trick pony Jamaal Charles, all 199 pounds of him, gashed the Broncos for 259 yards.

In contrast, Broncos rookie Knowshon Moreno averaged just 43.3 yards, on 2.7 yards per carry, in his final four games.

The difference between the 6-0 Broncos and 2-8 Broncos? Look no further than where people never look: the line of scrimmage.

"If you have to pass the ball 56 times (as Orton did in the season-ending debacle against Kansas City), now your protection is going to be significantly more challenged when the defense knows you have to throw it to gain yards," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. "If you also struggle to stop the run, you try to start moving people down in the box on defense. Now, all of the sudden, everybody is in one-on-one coverage in the secondary or you start blitzing to try to stop the run, which is never a good formula because if you do that, you've got all (heck) breaking loose at the line of scrimmage. Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's terrible. That's never a good formula."

To say Denver's late-season fade should be blamed on McDaniels' coaching, Orton's throwing or locker-room disharmony is to disrespect the significance of the play at the line of scrimmage. Priority No. 1 this offseason for McDan- iels, his coaching staff and general manager Brian Xanders is addressing the line of scrimmage, where blockers push tacklers and tacklers push back.

"There's two positions you've got to look at," said former Broncos guard Mark Schlereth, now an NFL analyst for ESPN. "The inside of the offensive line, and you've got to find a complementary pass rusher to Elvis Dumervil somewhere. Who knows if that guy exists?"

Where have you gone, Robert Ayers? Here's a look at the positions the Broncos are certain to address this offseason:

Interior offensive line. Every time McDaniels was asked why he didn't use Peyton Hillis in short-yardage situations, his response, in so many words, was that the problem did not necessarily lie with the running backs, but with the blocking up front.

McDaniels believes in Moreno. He would not have used the No. 12 overall pick in the 2009 draft if he didn't. But there's no way to sugarcoat Moreno's 3.8 yards per carry for the season as anything but disappointing. Moreno will stay. The offensive line will change.

In Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris, the Broncos are plenty good enough at the tackle position. There will be a new left guard next season, and 285-pound Casey Wiegmann will again confront the possibility of getting replaced by a larger center.

Defensive front seven. Ayers, the No. 18 overall draft pick, finished with 17 fewer sacks in his rookie year than Dumervil, now a restricted free agent. Because both were outside linebackers who are defensive ends by trade, the Broncos employed more of a 5-2 defense than 3-4 in Mike Nolan's first season as their defensive coordinator. The Broncos will again search for a true 3-4 outside linebacker who can rush the passer, cover a tight end and disrupt the run. And given the way the Broncos became so passive against the rush in November and December, they may look for a 3-4 inside linebacker who more closely resembles take-on-the-blocker Andra Davis than free-lancing D.J. Williams, and more stoutness at five-technique defensive end and nose tackle.

Receiver. The question isn't if Marshall will leave Denver, or even when — his departure should happen March 5, the first day of the trading and free-agent season. Will the Broncos try to replace his Pro Bowl talent?

"New England did it forever without a No. 1 receiver," Schlereth said.

Nor do the Broncos have to find the equivalent of Wes Welker at slot receiver. They already have one in Eddie Royal. They just didn't realize it during the 2009 season.

"I know that I'm frustrated and disappointed that we couldn't do more in terms of using Eddie Royal," McDaniels said. "I've been asked that question a bunch. I know Eddie is frustrated with it too. I'm not happy with that, and I don't want that to be the case. We're going to work hard to try to fix that and get that to change dramatically going into next season."

Receiving tight end. In veteran Daniel Graham and youngster Richard Quinn, the Broncos have two block-first tight ends — but neither can replace the pass-catching role of Tony Scheffler, who is likely to be traded.

Quarterback. Orton will return, but it would be a surprise if the Broncos gave him a Matt Cassel-type contract when the current labor laws say it's not necessary. The Broncos may bring in another veteran to compete with Chris Simms as backup or continue to analyze the draft for their quarterback of the future.



Broncos' wish list?

The Broncos' needs are many, including improving the interior of the offensive line, the front three on defense, linebacker, a No. 1 receiver and a future quarterback. First comes free agency, then the draft. Following are players the Broncos may pursue this offseason:


Free agency

1. Logan Mankins, LG, Patriots, 6-4, 310, RFA-UFA*

Interior offensive line may be top priority.

2. Ryan Pickett, NT, Packers, 6-2, 340, UFA

Pickett will be best 3-4 nose tackle available.

3. Larry Foote, ILB, Lions, 6-1, 240, UFA

Might be better 3-4 fit than D.J. Williams.

4. Jarvis Green, DL, Patriots, 6-3, 285, UFA

Versatile lineman who can rush the passer.

5. Benjamin Watson, TE, Patriots, 6-3, 255, UFA

Well-known by Broncos coach Josh McDaniels.

Others: Rex Hadnot, C, Browns; Mark Clayton, WR, Ravens; Marcus Spears, DE, Cowboys; Ryan Denney, DE, Bills; Stephen Neal, G, Patriots; Chad Pennington, QB, Dolphins; Casey Hampton, NT, Steelers; Derrick Johnson, LB, Chiefs.

* Restricted free agent if labor agreement is not reached; unrestricted if there's a new contract agreement.



http://www.denverpost.com/premium/br...#ixzz0cD8aGG6U
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Old 01-10-2010, 09:19 AM   #2
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Mankins and Foote would be fan-****ing-tastic
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Old 01-10-2010, 09:24 AM   #3
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Exactly were would Foote play? Are we going to cut/trade DJ? not likely and Davis was pretty solid. What this team needs on defense is better DE that can hold up the run blocks.
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Old 01-10-2010, 09:25 AM   #4
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Well, if Mankins ends up being an RFA, no way we give up a first and third for him.
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Old 01-10-2010, 10:12 AM   #5
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Why does everyone assume that we will get all the Patriots free agents?

there are 30 other teams out there that need players as well
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Old 01-10-2010, 10:36 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elsid13 View Post
Exactly were would Foote play? Are we going to cut/trade DJ? not likely and Davis was pretty solid. What this team needs on defense is better DE that can hold up the run blocks.
first, you can't have enough good linebackers

second, don't be shocked if DJ is shipped...I am a fan but he isn't as great as people make him out to be either
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Old 01-10-2010, 10:39 AM   #7
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first, you can't have enough good linebackers

second, don't be shocked if DJ is shipped...I am a fan but he isn't as great as people make him out to be either
I'd replace Davis before I got rid of D.J. Davis looked terrible down the stretch. He's slow and for every nice play he makes, there's two where he completely disapears.
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Old 01-10-2010, 10:48 AM   #8
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It's interesting to me...that most of the so-called draft gurus happen to be saying we should draft a LB and/or a DE with our #1.

You hardly hear anyone talking about our NT or lack there of. I agree we could use a 5 technique DE and a OLB who can rush the passer and of course replacing Davis soon makes sense as well. But, to me...we need a monster in the middle at NT.

Perhaps we get Pickett in free agency and don't have to focus on NT in the draft...but absent of that...we need a NT somehow.

At #10 we'll have to take either McClain or a DE. We'd be reaching for a OLB at that draft position and Cody would be a reach there as well. So, we either take a DE or McClain at #10 (outside chance we take a QB). OR;

We trade back and take Cody and the best Guard/Center available.

I really think we can improve our team this offseason and if McDaniels can grow himself and improve his playcalling....we'll be in the playoffs next year.

We absolutely have to have: Moreno, Ayers & Smith make bigger contributions next year. All three guys were less than impressive in their rookie seasons.
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Old 01-10-2010, 10:53 AM   #9
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I'd prefer the trade down, and get a LG and a C, maybe a DE or LB. It is no secret that McD thinks the Oline needs to be improved. He said it a couple of times in the conferences.
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Old 01-10-2010, 10:55 AM   #10
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I like the idea of taking McClain, he seems to me like a can't miss pick. If Gerald McCoy falls to there then he'd be ideal, IMO.

That said, I agree that a quality NT would be a huge addition to the team. I think Fields is serviceable, but not really a difference maker by any means. He'd be a great #2 NT, but as the starter not so much.

If we can get a late #1 back if we trade Marshall, I'd love to see Cody be the guy we pick up.
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Old 01-10-2010, 11:00 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hamrob View Post
It's interesting to me...that most of the so-called draft gurus happen to be saying we should draft a LB and/or a DE with our #1.

You hardly hear anyone talking about our NT or lack there of. I agree we could use a 5 technique DE and a OLB who can rush the passer and of course replacing Davis soon makes sense as well. But, to me...we need a monster in the middle at NT.

Perhaps we get Pickett in free agency and don't have to focus on NT in the draft...but absent of that...we need a NT somehow.

At #10 we'll have to take either McClain or a DE. We'd be reaching for a OLB at that draft position and Cody would be a reach there as well. So, we either take a DE or McClain at #10 (outside chance we take a QB). OR;

We trade back and take Cody and the best Guard/Center available.

I really think we can improve our team this offseason and if McDaniels can grow himself and improve his playcalling....we'll be in the playoffs next year.

We absolutely have to have: Moreno, Ayers & Smith make bigger contributions next year. All three guys were less than impressive in their rookie seasons.
I'm of the opinion that it takes time to grow those guys and you're paying a premium for a 2-down player.

Investing high draft picks in the DL of a 3-4 is a risky proposition. You get situations like KC had with Tyson Jackson. Where's the production? Well, it's hard to account for production from that spot, like you would expect with a top 10 draft pick.

I wouldn't touch DL this year with our #1 pick unless the whole draft collapsed and Gerald McCoy or Suh some how made their way down to our selection... not gonna happen.

Instead, I would turn our attention to FA where we can find ready made contributors, such as Picket, Woolfork (fat chance), Jolly, or a lesser known name, Abrayo Franklin who Nolan tutored in SF and is a FA this year.

I think Fields is a solid player at NT, more of a backup though. Add a player like Franklin and we're looking much better at that spot and the depth is solidified.

I would also bulk up Ayers and put him at DE permanently. He's a good player, nice quickness, excellent strength but he's not a natural pass rusher. He's got two moves, bull rush, spin. He can do that at DE. We need a premium guy at OLB rushing the passer. MLB is another spot were we need help.

As for the OL, we do need to improve the middle of this unit, especially LG. It would be great if we could land a guy like Mankins in free agency. Doubtful that NE lets him go. Another NE guy is coming up and I wouldn't be surprised to see us go after him... Stephen Neal. He's had some injury concerns but I could see us land him at more of a bargain price considering he understands the system.

I'm also leaning towards offensive line in the first round. Seems to be where the depth is for us unless we could trade back.
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Old 01-10-2010, 11:20 AM   #12
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"I know that I'm frustrated and disappointed that we couldn't do more in terms of using Eddie Royal," McDaniels said. "I've been asked that question a bunch. I know Eddie is frustrated with it too. I'm not happy with that, and I don't want that to be the case. We're going to work hard to try to fix that and get that to change dramatically going into next season."
This quote gives me more hope than anything else I've heard.
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Old 01-10-2010, 11:25 AM   #13
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This quote gives me more hope than anything else I've heard.
The most frustrating thing about this is why just think about it after the season? Why not try something new to fix it IN season, especially when we were struggling so bad down the stretch?

Head coach, offensive coordinator... it's a tough job... but if you're going to do both, you better have your head on straight and be able to think outside the box and objectively look at the personnel and find roles for them and how best to use their talents.

You could argue about many misused players during this season. Eddie Royal is just the most apparent. You could also point to the failure at the offensive line, short yard running game, etc, etc, etc.

McDaniels is very green as a head coach.
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Old 01-10-2010, 11:33 AM   #14
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The most frustrating thing about this is why just think about it after the season? Why not try something new to fix it IN season, especially when we were struggling so bad down the stretch?

Head coach, offensive coordinator... it's a tough job... but if you're going to do both, you better have your head on straight and be able to think outside the box and objectively look at the personnel and find roles for them and how best to use their talents.

You could argue about many misused players during this season. Eddie Royal is just the most apparent. You could also point to the failure at the offensive line, short yard running game, etc, etc, etc.

McDaniels is very green as a head coach.
Unfortunately, I think he was trying to fix it the whole time, he just couldn't. He made comments about it a few times during the season.
I think there is no doubt about him being green as a head coach, but I actually think he has done a pretty good job at it.
But I think he is also green (one scheme with one basic set of hall of fame players for most his career) as an OC, and has failed almost completely at that IMHO, based on what he said he wanted to do before the season.
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Old 01-10-2010, 11:38 AM   #15
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In Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris, the Broncos are plenty good enough at the tackle position. There will be a new left guard next season, and 285-pound Casey Wiegmann will again confront the possibility of getting replaced by a larger center.
Clady needs to get stronger. Not upper body, but rather his lower legs. Too often the last 4-5 games he was driven back by rushers and didn't have much push/drive in the legs.

Harris, hopefully can comeback from the turf toe and continue to improve.

I'm hoping for a new Guard-Center combo that can push the LOS and make the 3 & short plays eaiser in 2010.

The entire offensive line needs to get stronger.
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Old 01-10-2010, 11:42 AM   #16
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I'd replace Davis before I got rid of D.J. Davis looked terrible down the stretch. He's slow and for every nice play he makes, there's two where he completely disapears.
can't argue with you there holmes
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Old 01-10-2010, 01:33 PM   #17
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first, you can't have enough good linebackers

second, don't be shocked if DJ is shipped...I am a fan but he isn't as great as people make him out to be either
DJ is a great talent. He's kinda like Trevor Pryce in terms of long term talent, and only needs to be shipped to a team that already has a talented defense like what Pryce is playing with in Baltimore.
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Old 01-10-2010, 01:48 PM   #18
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I'd replace Davis before I got rid of D.J. Davis looked terrible down the stretch. He's slow and for every nice play he makes, there's two where he completely disapears.
Sounds just like DJ to me. DJ overuns plays, gets caught up in blocking
and tends to chase the blocking back rather than the ball carrier too much.
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Old 01-10-2010, 01:50 PM   #19
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When considering what went wrong with the Broncos' once-promising 2009 season and how they can end their playoff drought in 2010, discussion usually starts with quarterback Kyle Orton. The real answer, though, may lie directly in front of Orton.

Yep. Fairly simple stuff if you're paying attention. The problems with our running game started there, as well.

It'll be addressed this offseason, that's for sure.
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Old 01-10-2010, 01:53 PM   #20
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Sounds just like DJ to me. DJ overuns plays, gets caught up in blocking
and tends to chase the blocking back rather than the ball carrier too much.
I wonder if there's a way to find out where our longest runs allowed were directed? I'd bet my life that most of our 10+ yard runs ran to his side.

He's far from our biggest problem, but he has flaws in his game that really cost us at times.

He'd be great on the weak side in a 4-3 with a great MLB to help him out.

I'm not remotely sold on him as a middle linebacker. Never have been. High tackle numbers or not.

Again, I don't "hate" him... I just don't think he's a good fit in the middle.
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Old 01-10-2010, 01:58 PM   #21
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I'm glad it's been put out there that DJ isn't working on the inside. I think they can still find a use for him though. I know he's not the prototypical body type, but with his athleticism, does anyone else think he'd be well suited to rushing the passer opposite Doom on obvious passing downs? Take the guess work out of it for him, just say "go get the QB".
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Old 01-10-2010, 02:15 PM   #22
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Defensive front seven. Ayers, the No. 18 overall draft pick, finished with 17 fewer sacks in his rookie year than Dumervil, now a restricted free agent. Because both were outside linebackers who are defensive ends by trade, the Broncos employed more of a 5-2 defense than 3-4 in Mike Nolan's first season as their defensive coordinator. The Broncos will again search for a true 3-4 outside linebacker who can rush the passer, cover a tight end and disrupt the run. And given the way the Broncos became so passive against the rush in November and December, they may look for a 3-4 inside linebacker who more closely resembles take-on-the-blocker Andra Davis than free-lancing D.J. Williams, and more stoutness at five-technique defensive end and nose tackle.

What a great ****ing write-up this is.

I pray to god he's on-target with his predictions. It's so logical, I can't imagine it going any other way.
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Old 01-10-2010, 02:18 PM   #23
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I'm glad it's been put out there that DJ isn't working on the inside. I think they can still find a use for him though. I know he's not the prototypical body type, but with his athleticism, does anyone else think he'd be well suited to rushing the passer opposite Doom on obvious passing downs? Take the guess work out of it for him, just say "go get the QB".
He can't beat anyone once he's engaged. He's phenomenal in open space, but he's done once hands are on him. He'd never beat a lineman one on one.

He's also carrying a huge contract, so keeping him in a reserve role isn't likely. I hear you about his athleticism, but I just don't think he's a long-term solution for anything on this defense.

That said, I think he can be a placeholder while we build things up around him. Particularly if we get more help up front.
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Old 01-10-2010, 02:20 PM   #24
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"I know that I'm frustrated and disappointed that we couldn't do more in terms of using Eddie Royal," McDaniels said. "I've been asked that question a bunch. I know Eddie is frustrated with it too. I'm not happy with that, and I don't want that to be the case. We're going to work hard to try to fix that and get that to change dramatically going into next season."

I've been saying this around here. McDaniels is very dedicated to Royal's abilities. He loves the kid, and I think they did really try early in the year to keep him involved. He'll absolutely keep trying to find a way to use his skills.
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Old 01-10-2010, 02:33 PM   #25
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I've heard the same stuff before, whether or not McDaniels actually does something to fix the DL/OL remains to be seen.

I think with Kuper, Harris, and Clady we already have three guys that can get the job done. And along the DL we already have decent players but not difference makers. Start with the draft and fix it.

Although I would love to get Casey Hampton at NT, with Seymour at DE as two DEs that can immediately come in and give us near pro bowl play. That would allow all four LBers to wreak havoc.
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