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Old 02-12-2010, 04:32 AM   #1
Bronco Rob
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Default Offseason spotlight: Secondary

Offseason spotlight: Secondary

February 11th, 2010, 6:26 pm posted by Frank Schwab

How long can they hold up? Football Outsiders pointed out before the season that the Broncos had the NFL's oldest secondary, in terms of average age (32.3 years old), since at least 2000. Only one of the 12 secondaries in the decade with an average age over 30 finished higher than ninth in passing defense. The Broncos finished third this season, which was a bit of a surprise. And next year, assuming there's no changes, the Broncos will again have the oldest secondary in the NFL since 2000.

Considering the Broncos did well in not allowing big plays and had a good season against the pass overall, there's no reason to believe they can't continue at that level. But one thing to assume is Denver won't have the same luck with injuries. Among the top four starting defensive backs, three started every game, and Renaldo Hill missed only one game. Brian Dawkins started all 16 games despite a bunch of injuries. Getting that lucky again is tough to expect - as was the case for the Broncos' offensive line, which missed no games with injury in 2008 but wasn't so lucky last year. Denver needs to safeguard itself because the depth behind the top four is unproven.

Will Alphonso Smith be worth it? Let one thing be clear: Smith was a first-round pick, and fair or not, those should be the expectations placed on him. The Broncos paid the 14th pick of this year's draft to draft Smith in the second round last year. That's what the Broncos thought he was worth and paid accordingly. So far, he has done nothing to justify that projection.

Smith had a lost rookie season. He couldn't clearly beat 2008 fourth-round pick Jack Williams (who was later cut) in training camp. Then he was supplanted on the depth chart in midseason by 35-year-old Ty Law, who was signed off the street and immediately put in as the nickel cornerback. Then the worst - when Law was hurt, the Broncos brought undrafted rookie Tony Carter off the practice squad and he was placed ahead of Smith on the pecking order. That's all you need to know about what the coaches thought of Smith's ability to help the defense last year.

Smith can't be considered a bust yet; it's way too soon for that. But he will have to show a lot of improvement this year. If Denver re-signs Law, a free agent, that's a pretty clear message that Smith is still not ready to make an impact.

What about the other youngsters? The Broncos know their starters can't hold up forever, and acted accordingly in last year's draft. Safety Darcel McBath, who played very well on special teams and had a good showing when he had to fill in for Dawkins during games, might have been Denver's most promising rookie last year. Still, he's inexperienced. Josh Barrett, a 2008 draftee, and David Bruton, a 2009 fourth-round pick, are valuable special teams players but don't appear to be future stars on defense. At cornerback, Smith's struggles are well documented and Carter isn't proven either.

There's plenty of uncertainty going into the offseason, and it will be interesting to see what the Broncos do to address it. They could decide the young nucleus of McBath, Bruton, Smith and Carter is good enough to go forward with. Or, the Broncos will have a tough call if a player like USC safety Taylor Mays has a good combine and is available with their first-round pick.

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Old 02-12-2010, 07:11 AM   #2
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Surely we can find a better option than resigning Law...right?
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Old 02-12-2010, 09:09 AM   #3
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We can grab a safety in the second there are plenty of good ones in the draft this year. I wish we could have waited to this year to grab one with Eric Berry, Chad Jones, Taylor Mays, Earl Thomas, Myron Rolle, Rashad Jones, Major Wright, etc.
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Old 02-12-2010, 09:52 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Bigdawg26 View Post
We can grab a safety in the second there are plenty of good ones in the draft this year. I wish we could have waited to this year to grab one with Eric Berry, Chad Jones, Taylor Mays, Earl Thomas, Myron Rolle, Rashad Jones, Major Wright, etc.
I really like Jones and Rolle!
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Old 02-12-2010, 10:05 AM   #5
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Yes, there are some questions regarding the secondary but those concerns are so far behind the more important questions regarding the lines, that they don't even show up on the horizon. Yes, McD ****ed up on the Smith pick and I'm going to be very sad on draft day to watch pick #14 go by. No use crying over it now. Give Smith another shot this year and then cut him next year if there is no improvement. But first concern - the lines, damnit, the lines!
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