Friday, June 20, 2008

Denver will go 13-3 in 2008

Okay, at worst 12-4. I’m not kidding, allow me to state my case:

Offseason Losses:
Javon Walker – WR
Travis Henry - RB
Ian Gold – OLB
Matt Lepsis - LT
Chris Myers – C/G
Jason Elam – K

Key Pickups:
Dewayne Robertson – DT
Darrell Jackson - WR
Niko Koutouvides – MLB
Boss Bailey – OLB
Marlon McCree – SS
Casey Wiegmann – C/G
Keary Colbert – WR
Samie Parker – WR
Michael Pittman – HB
Dylan Gandy – G/T
Ryan Clady – LT*
Eddie Royal – WR/KR/PR*
Peyton Hillis – FB*
Ryan Torain – RB*
Carlton Powell – DT*
Spencer Larsen – MLB*
*-(Draft Pick)
**- Picks are in order based on what I see as their importance to the team. With the rookies below the free agents.

See that list? Maybe that makes my point, maybe it doesn’t. One thing you will come to learn about me is that I don’t like to make points, I like to over make them. Love leaving someone who felt like they had a point, forgetting what their point was in the first place.

In 2007 Denver played every AFC Playoff team, except for New England, including San Diego twice. They also played a Green Bay Packers team that went 13-3, the Bears, who had lost the Super Bowl the previous season (and barely missed the playoffs in ’07) and teams in Houston and Buffalo who were in the playoff hunt until the very end.

All said, of the 13 teams that Denver played in 2007, six made the playoffs and another two could have easily been there. Granted the Broncos only beat two of those six, but did give Green Bay a run for their money and there were moments of hope at Indianapolis and against Jacksonville. Speaking of Green Bay and I mentioned Chicago earlier, any fans in doubt that had we won those overtime coin tosses Denver would have finished the season 9-7 instead of 7-9?

So what’s in the cards for Denver this season? On paper Denver has the third weakest strength of schedule in the NFL, Oakland has the second and New England (go figure) has the easiest schedule. Despite going 7-9 last season, Denver did finish second in the AFC West. So they are going to play the other second place teams (Jacksonville and Cleveland) in the AFC as well as pulling the AFC East (New England, Miami, Buffalo and New York Jets) and the NFC South (Tampa, New Orleans, Carolina and Atlanta). Of course they’ll have Kansas City, San Diego and Oakland twice.

Not looking so bleak anymore is it?

Or are you still concerned? Many blame last season predominantly on lousy run defense, I focus on an incredibly unfortunate amount of injuries and lack of depth. Over the course of the season Denver lost: their best receiver, their two best offensive linemen, two of their best defensive ends, their starting running back, the backbone to their defense safety and cornerback, their pass catching tight end and their other two starting receivers at different points in the season. Granted some came back during the season, but hardly any were able to return to starting fashion before the end of the season. Brandon Stokley and Tony Scheffler being the exceptions, the best part about that laundry list of injuries is that all (except Javon Walker) will be back, healthy (crossing fingers) for 2008.

Add the list of healthy onto that exciting laundry list of offseason pickups and we’re not built like a 7-9 team. Matter of fact, that’s what I would call a 13-3 team, 12-4 if you want to be an ass. Jay Cutler, whom by now everyone knows, was playing with the worst type of diabetes for all of last season, now has the disease under control. Cutler has thrown for 300 yards in his career only twice. However, he’s coming into his third season in a Mike Shanahan offense: John Elway (twice), Steve Young and Jake Plummer all flourished in their third season in a Shanahan offense.

Selvin Young may not be the answer at running back, but he’s not going to hurt, the exact same thing can be said for Andre Hall, Michael Pittman, Ryan Torain and Anthony Aldridge. Though the thought of any of them running for 2,000 yards may be a little absurd, the idea of them combining for 2,500+ yards is not. Last season Denver ran for a combined 1,957 with a makeshift offensive line. This year, even if there are as many as three injuries to starters on the offensive line, Denver has the depth to replace them with someone equally as talented.

When Javon Walker went down last season, Denver was faced with a second year player in Brandon Marshall and the NFL’s best slot receiver in Brandon Stokley (who played out of his most productive position for the rest of the season). Then Stokley was lost for the last three games of the season. Taking 12 receivers into camp is nothing out of the ordinary for a Shanahan team and due to that practice Denver doesn’t look to topple off talent wise at receiver until they get down near the 5th or 6th member of the depth chart.

This couldn’t be said last season, Walker went down and Denver had no depth behind Stokley and Marshall, who combined for 1,960 yards in 2007. Do you not think that with Darrell Jackson, Sammie Parker, Eddie Royal and Keary Colbert the team might be able to do a bit more than that? Not to mention relieve some of the time Stokley spends on the field, possibly allowing for him to stay healthy the entire season?

In fact if I had one concern for the entire Denver Broncos offense, it would be the lack of depth at tight end. Already, before training camp, we can see what Denver would be faced with if they were to start the season. Daniel Graham, Nate Jackson and… Mike Leech (our long snapper) at tight end. Though the late word out of team camp is that Jackson’s looking great.

Now, what am I forgetting about? Fullback, remember Denver’s final pick in the draft? Peyton Hillis, yeah, he was blocking for Darren McFadden and Felix Jones last season. He was also catching passes, both of these abilities will help the Broncos offense punch it in while in the end zone. What a steal, of course still employed at fullback are Cecil Sapp and Mike Bell, though neither were terribly impressive last season, yet who can blame them?

In the NFL it’s a rule, everyone is equal, on paper someone may be better, but on any given Sunday any team can win. Teams that are predicted to do well can have a horrible season losing one player. If a team can stay healthy, the team usually has a season that carries deep into January.

1 comment:

Kyle said...

Congratulations Ian. Looks like the Orange Mane, Mile High Report, and of course BroncoTalk all linked to this post. Way to get some pub! :)