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Old 05-12-2010, 07:58 AM   #1
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Default Long dry Summer, Offseason Broncos questions

The period after the draft and before mandatory camp is always a long time. No news, nothing to sink your teeth into, unless someone on the team gets arrested.

So, I wanted to pose a few questions about the upcoming season to see where folks think we're at. Let's start with the defensive line. Last year the D-line consisted of Ronald Fields, Ryan McBean, Lekevin Smith, Marcus Thomas, Darrel Reid, Kenny Petersen, Chris Baker, and Vonnie Holiday.

This year we have Chris Baker, Justin Bannan, Ryan McBean, Jamal Williams, Ben Garland, Jarvis Green, Ronald, Fields, Jaron Baston, Lekevin Smith, Jeff Stehle, and Marcus Thomas.

Key additions: Bannan, J Williams, and Jarvis Green
Key departures: Kenny Petersen, Vonnie Holiday

Questions:
--Is Jamal Williams the Jamal Williams of old, or have we paid for a broken down, past his prime Nose Tackle?

--Does Chris Baker become the heir apparent to the nose tackle position?

--Are Bannan and Green an upgrade over Petersen and McBean? If so, is it a huge step forward, or is DE something we'll be looking at drafting with a high priority next year?

--Stopping the run was a big problem last year. Do we have the tools to be a legit run stopping team. And, will we be as strong in December as we were in September?

--What do we know about our UDFA defensive linemen Ben Garland, Jaron Baston, and Jeff Stehle? Are they training camp fodder, or might we have a hidden gem with one or more of these guys?
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Old 05-12-2010, 08:01 AM   #2
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Just a point of order, there will be activity at Dove Valley next week.

OTA's May 17-19.

More Tebow for everyone...
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Old 05-12-2010, 08:10 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by JCMElway View Post
Questions:
--Is Jamal Williams the Jamal Williams of old, or have we paid for a broken down, past his prime Nose Tackle?

There was no drop-off in his play before the injury last year so I think he is fine as long as we limit his snaps.

--Does Chris Baker become the heir apparent to the nose tackle position?

I think he already is. We carried him on the 53-man roster all year for a reason. Fields recent arrest doesn't help his cause. I can see Fields being depth at DE and NT, however.

--Are Bannan and Green an upgrade over Petersen and McBean? If so, is it a huge step forward, or is DE something we'll be looking at drafting with a high priority next year?

Both. Much improved over last year but in the short-term. I think we need to address the DL with some young players next year.

--Stopping the run was a big problem last year. Do we have the tools to be a legit run stopping team. And, will we be as strong in December as we were in September?

Yes, I think so. Better starters and better depth.

--What do we know about our UDFA defensive linemen Ben Garland, Jaron Baston, and Jeff Stehle? Are they training camp fodder, or might we have a hidden gem with one or more of these guys?

I honestly know nothing about these guys!
Good questions. My thoughts are in bold.
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Old 05-12-2010, 08:11 AM   #4
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Just a point of order, there will be activity at Dove Valley next week.

OTA's May 17-19.

More Tebow for everyone...
Whoever is questioned will be asked about Tebow. How many players asked before it gets old?
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Old 05-12-2010, 08:24 AM   #5
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Whoever is questioned will be asked about Tebow. How many players asked before it gets old?
I think in all honesty, if the team can deal with the Cutler and Marshall sagas, they can deal just fine with this. At least TT should come in humble, and fight to make the team better.

But I digress from the original post.

Back on topic, I am most excited to see how the D-line has improved. If we get Jamal playing at his 2008 level, our run defense should be much better, and we will reap the rewards of having a talented secondary.

This helps the offense get "on it's feet," because the offensive start could be a little, well, offensive. I just hope we get to focus on the run, and solve our short yardage situations. If so, we will have the chance to figure out our issues all across the O-line. It is exciting to see so many talented young players on the O-line, but with a new system and new players, we will be in for a few speedbumps.
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Old 05-12-2010, 08:26 AM   #6
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Good thread, JCM.

The only thing about Baker is that I don't think he was active one game last year. Maybe I'm wrong. I would have hoped to see him out there at least in spot duty. Maybe this is the year. It would be huge if he could work into the rotation. (No pun intended.)
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Old 05-12-2010, 08:26 AM   #7
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As for answering some of my own questions....

I do think Bannan and Green will be an upgrade. How big an upgrade they are is yet to be seen. I know that we did not have the ideal pieces in place when switching to the 3-4, but these guys seemed to be at the least players designed to fit this system.

What I really want to see in this team is avoiding the late season swoon. I think I could even stomach a slow start if we could win 4 out of our last 6 games and get into the playoffs. I am so sick of just falling apart at the end of the season....I've come to really dread December. Hopefully beefing up along the line helps towards that.
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Old 05-12-2010, 08:45 AM   #8
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Jeff Stehle (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) is a rookie defensive lineman from the University of Wisconsin who joined the Broncos as a college free agent on April 26, 2010… Played 38 career games (13 starts) at Wisconsin, totaling 40 tackles (23 solo), 6.5 tackles for a loss (27 yds.), four sacks (20 yds.) and two pass breakups… Started all 13 games as a senior in 2009, placing fifth on the team with three sacks (16 yds.) while adding 19 tackles (11 solo) and four tackles for a loss (20 yds.)…

Grand Junction native Ben Garland signed a rookie free agent contract with the Denver Broncos Monday.

The Central High School grad played the last four seasons as a nose tackle at the Air Force Academy, where he was named second-team All-Mountain West Conference.

Garland made 34 starts with the Falcons and and recorded 115 tackles and 11.5 sacks.

Listed at 6-foot, 5-inches and 275 pounds, he could be moved to defensive end.

Garland also plans on graduating with a degree in systems engineering.

Jaron Baston, Height: 6-0.5
Weight: 300
40: 5.24
Year: 5Sr

School: Missouri
Position: DT
Bio: Two-year starter who finished with 25/2.5/1.5 as a senior after 49/8/1 the prior season. All-Conference selection as a senior.
Positive: Straight-line defensive tackle who flashes power in his game. Plays with good pad level, keeps his feet driving up the field, and displays a burst bearing down on the action. Flashes the ability to bull rush opponents off the ball, works his hands throughout the action and plays hard to the whistle blows.

Negative: Rather easily controlled at the point of attack by a single blocker and very slow to disengage. Lacks the quick change of direction. Cannot sustain his speed. Marginal pass rusher.

Analysis: Baston is a short defensive tackle who lacks the quickness and change of direction to be a three-technique lineman and the overall body strength to be a plugger in the middle of the line. He could find a home as a backup in a conventional system.


Hmmmm....Maybe Stehle makes the practice squad.....
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Old 05-12-2010, 08:51 AM   #9
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I had hoped and assumed with the offseason veteran signings on the DL that the team was pursuing the same formula they did last year with the defensive backfield: sign veteran starters/mentors and draft replacement players to learn behind them for a couple seasons. I had no problem with the OL picks in this year's draft, but I'm concerned the team missed an opportunity to grab some young guys to sit and learn behind Jamal Williams and crew this year. I thought Dan Williams at 24, for instance, would have fit this strategy perfectly. (No, this is not an invitation to talk Tebow).

In short, I'm still concerned about the long-term plan. If everyone's healthy and has something in the tank, this year's DL should be competent. But beyond some vague hand-waving in Chris Baker's direction, I'm still scratching my head about the long-term.
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Old 05-12-2010, 09:21 AM   #10
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It looks like for the first time in almost half a decade that we'll actually be trotting out a respectable unit on the defensive line.

Kudos to the staff, they've really made some quality strides since they came in. Of the guys who'll be in the rotation next year, only Marcus Thomas was inherited from the previous regime, and even he could be cut in training camp.

However, the unit is still far from being a really good one, and there are some serious question marks over our DE's.

I think Bannan will be a solid signing. Not an elite 3-4 DE or anything, but a guy who will at least know what he'd doing out there and give us a solid level of play.

Jarvis Green is not a starter. He started last year in New England and the results weren't exactly pretty. His best football in NE came when he spelled Richard Seymour in the base defense and played inside in the nickel D.

What I expect will happen is that he'll spell Bannan at one spot in the base defense and play inside on 3rd downs. You need pressure up the middle on passing downs, and if we keep this guy fresh then I'm confident he can give that to us. If he's spending the first two downs trying to hold the POA against gigantic OT's in the run game then he'll get worn down and won't be as effective.

So we need a starter opposite Bannan at DE.

The candidates appear to be McBean, LeKevin Smith and Marcus Thomas. I can only hope one of these guys makes a big leap next year and proves to be a capable starter, right now they're all huge question marks. Maybe Ronald Fields could be a candidate to play DE if the staff feels Baker is ready to be the #2 NT.

Either way, we really need a solid starter to emerge from that group.

At NT I think we're looking good, in the short term at least, as long as Jamal Williams can keep healthy. Even if his play has dropped off a bit, you have to figure I guy with his size and talent is still going to be a real asset in the middle of the LOS.

Ronald Fields is a really good #2 NT, and should spell Williams quite adequately. As a starter I'm not overly enamored with him, I expect he'll be gone in 2011 unless he accepts another relatively small contract.

Obviously NT is a concern for the long terms. Williams can't have more than two or three years left in him, and that's being really optimistic. Fields as I said isn't a long term solution at the spot IMO.

Chris Baker emerging as a legit NFL starting NT in the next couple of years would be absolutely wonderful, because we're going to need a long term starter at the spot sooner rather than later. The odds of that though are slim you would have to imagine... hopefully he shows some promise in preseason.
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Old 05-12-2010, 09:33 AM   #11
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I had hoped and assumed with the offseason veteran signings on the DL that the team was pursuing the same formula they did last year with the defensive backfield: sign veteran starters/mentors and draft replacement players to learn behind them for a couple seasons. I had no problem with the OL picks in this year's draft, but I'm concerned the team missed an opportunity to grab some young guys to sit and learn behind Jamal Williams and crew this year. I thought Dan Williams at 24, for instance, would have fit this strategy perfectly. (No, this is not an invitation to talk Tebow).

In short, I'm still concerned about the long-term plan. If everyone's healthy and has something in the tank, this year's DL should be competent. But beyond some vague hand-waving in Chris Baker's direction, I'm still scratching my head about the long-term.
I think we had pretty significant needs on both lines. The FA class at DL was better than OL where the pickings were pretty slim. Because of that, we went the FA route on defense and addressed the OL via the draft. Our DL should be solid, if unspectacular, for a year or two during which time we can bring in and develop some youth.
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Old 05-12-2010, 09:37 AM   #12
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I had hoped and assumed with the offseason veteran signings on the DL that the team was pursuing the same formula they did last year with the defensive backfield: sign veteran starters/mentors and draft replacement players to learn behind them for a couple seasons. I had no problem with the OL picks in this year's draft, but I'm concerned the team missed an opportunity to grab some young guys to sit and learn behind Jamal Williams and crew this year. I thought Dan Williams at 24, for instance, would have fit this strategy perfectly. (No, this is not an invitation to talk Tebow).

In short, I'm still concerned about the long-term plan. If everyone's healthy and has something in the tank, this year's DL should be competent. But beyond some vague hand-waving in Chris Baker's direction, I'm still scratching my head about the long-term.
I believe that McD has addressed this in the past. He feels that we already have several young guys along the DL (Fields, McBean, Baker, Thomas all under 28 if memory serves.) The older guys were brought in to both fill immediate roles and mentor the younger guys. I do question what was different with guys like Holiday and Peterson though... older guys that could mentor as well
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Old 05-12-2010, 09:50 AM   #13
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FYI, McDaniels said in his post-draft press conference they are really excited about Baker and what he can bring to this team in terms of depth. So it sounds like he's doing well, but not well enough to start anytime soon. More like a role player. Probably AD&D or Shadowrun.
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Old 05-12-2010, 09:53 AM   #14
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I think we had pretty significant needs on both lines. The FA class at DL was better than OL where the pickings were pretty slim. Because of that, we went the FA route on defense and addressed the OL via the draft. Our DL should be solid, if unspectacular, for a year or two during which time we can bring in and develop some youth.
Of the young guys, Baker and McBean seem like developmental guys with promise. I don't think Marcus Thomas fits that profile anymore (swing and a miss). I have zero knowledge of this year's UDFA - you think there's some promise there? My worry is that we get a couple years at best out of Jamal Williams and Bannan, and without depth we're either back in the draft asking some first rounder to step right in and start as a rookie or we're back on the free agent market renting an aging starter for a year or two. Sounds Shanahanesque.

But you're right that the OL needs were even more pressing this year, and I like what they did there. Hopefully this DL holds for a couple years, and next year brings one more veteran free agent and 2-3 DL draft picks.
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Old 05-12-2010, 10:01 AM   #15
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Questions:
--Is Jamal Williams the Jamal Williams of old, or have we paid for a broken down, past his prime Nose Tackle?

Most likely it'll come down to frequency of use. With Fields and Thomas in rotation, he should stay fresh and be effective. Not 2005 effective, but a significant upgrade.

--Does Chris Baker become the heir apparent to the nose tackle position?

Activated for one game and didn't touch the field. Character issues aside, he was a lazy college player then, probably a lazy player still.

--Are Bannan and Green an upgrade over Petersen and McBean? If so, is it a huge step forward, or is DE something we'll be looking at drafting with a high priority next year?

Neither Bannan nor Green are highly talented guys, nor do they have a wealth of starting experience. They ARE veteran players who have actually been more effective in backup rotational roles. That being said, they're also coming from programs with outstanding coaching at their position. Are they world beaters? No. But I expect the DE depth to be adequate this year. Also, Peterson was cut, McBean was not (I'm pretty sure at least). So he'll be around to compete/for depth.

--Stopping the run was a big problem last year. Do we have the tools to be a legit run stopping team. And, will we be as strong in December as we were in September?

Run stopping isn't isolated to the DL. We need better LBs. Haggan played well in 2008 rotating with Spencer Larsen, but I'd prefer to see a large, talented, plays well in traffic, angry human being manning this spot. Until that day, I think we'll hold up better than last year but wearing down seems inevitable.

Also notable on this point:
Jarvis Green has missed time to injury each of the past 2 seasons


--What do we know about our UDFA defensive linemen Ben Garland, Jaron Baston, and Jeff Stehle? Are they training camp fodder, or might we have a hidden gem with one or more of these guys?

Even if we have a hidden gem, it most likely won't develop and materialize until 2+ years down the line
Above. Good thread.
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Old 05-12-2010, 10:22 AM   #16
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Of the young guys, Baker and McBean seem like developmental guys with promise. I don't think Marcus Thomas fits that profile anymore (swing and a miss). I have zero knowledge of this year's UDFA - you think there's some promise there? My worry is that we get a couple years at best out of Jamal Williams and Bannan, and without depth we're either back in the draft asking some first rounder to step right in and start as a rookie or we're back on the free agent market renting an aging starter for a year or two. Sounds Shanahanesque.

But you're right that the OL needs were even more pressing this year, and I like what they did there. Hopefully this DL holds for a couple years, and next year brings one more veteran free agent and 2-3 DL draft picks.
I agree with you that Baker and McBean are the young guys with promise on the DL. I wouldn't be surprised if Thomas gets cut at some point. Still, I think we bought ourselves a year or two to upgrade with the FA signings.
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Old 05-12-2010, 10:36 AM   #17
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Good thread, JCM.

The only thing about Baker is that I don't think he was active one game last year. Maybe I'm wrong. I would have hoped to see him out there at least in spot duty. Maybe this is the year. It would be huge if he could work into the rotation. (No pun intended.)
Baker had a big transition to make. Only played three years in college and spent his last year at Hampton University playing DE. I think he is being developed the way McDaniels would ideally like to develop young players. That is, they typically see the field little if at all playing behind solid veterans the first year with gradually increasing playing time until they are ready to take on a starting role. We had, and have, some glaring needs so some of the young guys will be, and have been, forced to play ahead of this schedule - Ayers, Walton, Thomas, Smith, etc. I expect Baker to play a significant rotational role at NT this year. I think Seth Olsen will be expected to start this year after a "redshirt" year last year so I wouldn't read too much into Baker's lack of playing time as an indication that the staff has a lack of faith in him.
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Old 05-12-2010, 10:38 AM   #18
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While I want this team to get younger on the DL, I would like to see us sign Vonnie Holliday to one more one-year contract. He came up big in some situations last year and I agree with what was said earlier about his ability to mentor some of the younger guys.
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Old 05-12-2010, 10:53 AM   #19
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Baker had a big transition to make. Only played three years in college and spent his last year at Hampton University playing DE. I think he is being developed the way McDaniels would ideally like to develop young players. That is, they typically see the field little if at all playing behind solid veterans the first year with gradually increasing playing time until they are ready to take on a starting role. We had, and have, some glaring needs so some of the young guys will be, and have been, forced to play ahead of this schedule - Ayers, Walton, Thomas, Smith, etc. I expect Baker to play a significant rotational role at NT this year. I think Seth Olsen will be expected to start this year after a "redshirt" year last year so I wouldn't read too much into Baker's lack of playing time as an indication that the staff has a lack of faith in him.
Do you mind if I ask why you believe in this outside of one nice quote from McDaniels?

The three guys ahead of him at the nose are:

Williams, Fields, Thomas

What makes you think he can supplant any of them?

Williams resume speaks for itself.

After last season Fields has a wealth of starting experience at 3-4 nose.

That leaves Marcus Thomas, who has a lot of NFL experience, is significantly more athletic, played well in rotational duty last year, has similar size (only 10lbs smaller than Baker, but another inch of leverage in his height), and a significantly better collegiate resume

What's the reasoning for the year long Chris Baker love affair? He couldn't even crack a spot anchoring a ST unit... Because he had gaudy stats in the MEAC playing an entirely different position?

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Old 05-12-2010, 11:05 AM   #20
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Do you mind if I ask why you believe in this outside of one nice quote from McDaniels?

The three guys ahead of him at the nose are:

Williams, Fields, Thomas

What makes you think he can supplant any of them?

Williams resume speaks for itself.

After last season Fields has a wealth of starting experience at 3-4 nose.

That leaves Marcus Thomas, who has a lot of NFL experience, is significantly more athletic, played well in rotational duty last year, has similar size (only 10lbs smaller than Baker, but another inch of leverage in his height), and a significantly better collegiate resume

What's the reasoning for the year long Chris Baker love affair? He couldn't even crack a spot anchoring a ST unit... Because he had gaudy stats in the MEAC playing an entirely different position?
Having watched Baker during his one year at HU, I think he has exceptional athletic ability for a guy his size. He is quick, light on his feet and flexible. He played DE at Hampton at over 300 lbs. which speaks to his athleticism. Fields is a nice rotational guy who has been in the league for a number of years and had never started until last year. We brought in Williams to take his place. That says a lot. Likewise Thomas has had several years to develop and was even a starter at times yet he has never made an impact or been a consistent player - guy just doesn't make plays. Finally, I put more emphasis on the fact that Baker took up a roster spot all season than the one McD quote. Actions speak louder than words and we know McD would not have taken up that spot if he didn't see something in him. I also thought Baker looked good in limited preseason action for what that is worth.

I also remember reading that Thomas was dropping weight in anticipation of moving to DE.

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Old 05-12-2010, 11:15 AM   #21
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I also remember reading that Thomas was dropping weight in anticipation of moving to DE.
Yup - I remember seeing that too. If he makes the team this year, it will be at DE in the 3-4 set, not NT.
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Old 05-12-2010, 11:20 AM   #22
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Quote:
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Do you mind if I ask why you believe in this outside of one nice quote from McDaniels?

The three guys ahead of him at the nose are:

Williams, Fields, Thomas

What makes you think he can supplant any of them?

Williams resume speaks for itself.

After last season Fields has a wealth of starting experience at 3-4 nose.

That leaves Marcus Thomas, who has a lot of NFL experience, is significantly more athletic, played well in rotational duty last year, has similar size (only 10lbs smaller than Baker, but another inch of leverage in his height), and a significantly better collegiate resume

What's the reasoning for the year long Chris Baker love affair? He couldn't even crack a spot anchoring a ST unit... Because he had gaudy stats in the MEAC playing an entirely different position?
FYI, Marcus Thomas said a few weeks back that he was dropping weight to compete for one of the DE spots.
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Old 05-12-2010, 11:25 AM   #23
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Having watched Baker during his one year at HU, I think he has exceptional athletic ability for a guy his size. He is quick, light on his feet and flexible. He played DE at Hampton at over 300 lbs. which speaks to his athleticism. Fields is a nice rotational guy who has been in the league for a number of years and had never started until last year. We brought in Williams to take his place. That says a lot. Likewise Thomas has had several years to develop and was even a starter at times yet he has never made an impact or been a consistent player - guy just doesn't make plays. Finally, I put more emphasis on the fact that Baker took up a roster spot all season than the one McD quote. Actions speak louder than words and we know McD would not have taken up that spot if he didn't see something in him. I also thought Baker looked good in limited preseason action for what that is worth.

I also remember reading that Thomas was dropping weight in anticipation of moving to DE.
Yet with these limitations you perceive to Fields and Marcus Thomas (who had zero NT experience), they were the ones on the field playing while Baker sat. Also, anyone would look athletic at Hampton...
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Old 05-12-2010, 11:25 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Broncoman13 View Post
FYI, Marcus Thomas said a few weeks back that he was dropping weight to compete for one of the DE spots.
Great news. 1 year too late, but great news.
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Old 05-12-2010, 11:40 AM   #25
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--Is Jamal Williams the Jamal Williams of old, or have we paid for a broken down, past his prime Nose Tackle?
We will be getting a solid rotation nose tackle that can really hold the point of attack and eat space. He is nothing more than a 1, maybe two year band-aid. Short term, this move has given us a solid performer who exceeds anything Fields was able to do.

--Does Chris Baker become the heir apparent to the nose tackle position?

It will be interesting to see how Baker pans out. Obviously the coaches are very high on him, so at the least he seems in a position to hold onto a roster spot. With another offseason, and another year in a new system(for most, not just Chris) I think many players will benefit greatly and find more ways to contribute.

--Are Bannan and Green an upgrade over Petersen and McBean? If so, is it a huge step forward, or is DE something we'll be looking at drafting with a high priority next year?

Bannan and Green are solid players and I think both will come in and be top of the rotation for defensive end, though I believe McBean will likely still garner plenty of opportunities as well. Having said that, neither of these guys sticks out as an elite level talent, so come next offseason I would expect a large effort to draft some talent along the front three looking toward the future.

--Stopping the run was a big problem last year. Do we have the tools to be a legit run stopping team. And, will we be as strong in December as we were in September?

I think having a year under their proverbial belts is going to benefit many players on our roster as well as adding players such as Bannan and Williams who are at the least are farmiliar with the 34 defense and understand what is expected of them. I think we've only acquired more talent since last season and can't see any reason to not expect a defense that is proficient against bot the run and the pass. My biggest question is will the defense overcome injuries if they present themselves, and can they maintain solid performances for a full season and not tire down the stretch?

--What do we know about our UDFA defensive linemen Ben Garland, Jaron Baston, and Jeff Stehle? Are they training camp fodder, or might we have a hidden gem with one or more of these guys?

Honestly it's hard to expect too much, if one of them sticks it's obviously a big plus. However, the more realistic scenario would probably include a handful of these players getting signed to the practice squad.
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