Sunday, July 13, 2008

2008 Game by Game Preview: Week 5 Tampa Bay, Week 6 Jacksonville

With the NFL Preseason less than a month away we here at Broncos Denver Broncos will be previewing the entire season ahead, two games at a time. This is all in fun, but in reality it will be our best effort at predicting how the 2008 season will actually shape up for the Broncos. It should be fun to look back in January or February and laugh...

So here goes any credibility that we have, hope that you enjoy and feel free to add, subtract or crack my orange tinted glasses in half. Just do it in the comment section:

Week 5 (Sun. October 5th, 2008)
vs. Tampa Bay.

some facts: Broncos QB coach Jeremy Bates came into the league under Tampa, in 2002 he was in charge of Offensive Quality Control, as the team rode a particularly potent offense through the post season on the way to winning the Super Bowl. In 2004, under Jon Gruden, Bates helped former Denver QB Brian Griese set several franchise records. Mike Shanahan is 2-1 verse Tampa Bay and 1-0 when playing them in Denver (Denver as a club is 4-2). Broncos safety Hamza Abdullah came to Denver via Tampa's practice squad (in November 2005). Dre Bly's performance against Tampa (as a St. Louis Ram) in 1999 (Bly's rookie season) in the NFC Championship game won him a Defensive Player of the Week award. Broncos WR Keary Colbert's best game in his career came against Tampa Bay (he posted 2 TDs on 3 receptions for 74 yards). RB Andre Hall entered the NFL as a UDFA for Tampa in the 2006 off season. Safety John Lynch is third on Tampa Bay's list for most games in a career (147), in 1997 Lynch posted 154 tackles for Tampa. DT Dewayne Robertson had the best game of his career against Tampa (9 tackles, 2 sacks) in 2006. WR's Darrell Jackson and Glen Martinez both played high school football in Tampa.

Tampa Bay on defense is scary and it's not going to get any easier on offense for the Broncos for the next three weeks. The Broncos pull Tampa, Jacksonville all before playing in New England, Denver lucked out pulling both Tampa and Jacksonville at home. I love when Denver plays Gruden though, just a fun guy to watch coach I guess (blasphemy for me to say about a former Raider, I know, Shanahan's a former Raider though).

Tampa has some team moral issues this off-season, with quarterback Jeff Garcia calling out the team publicly, for a new contract. At one point even saying that he may sit out the entire season. They solidified their backfield by restructuring Earnest Graham's contract, insuring that with Cadillac Williams still on the PUP list, they should be fine with running the ball in 2008. Tampa comes to Denver after playing Green Bay in Tampa, will Brett Favre be playing for one of these clubs? At this point we have no idea, by the time this game comes around it'll be fun to look back at how ridiculous that question was.

On to the game- Tampa's great in pass defense (1st in NFL 2007) and very stingy with giving away yards (1st in Yards per Play, 4.7, in 2007) at all. This season they don't seem to be any worse. The thing about Tampa is that they played six games last season against the high octane offenses featured predominantly in the NFC South (read: sarcasm). When they did play teams with great offenses, they lost: Indianapolis, Houston, New York (Giants) all came out with a W in the 50/50 column.

Denver's still most likely without Brandon Marshall at this point in the season, but will be doing fine. Eddie Royal will be finding his place amongst Darrell Jackson, Keary Colbert and Brandon Stokley. Not to mention that quarterback Jay Cutler's favorite target, Tony Scheffler, is having a career year. Tampa simply does not have the weapons on offense to gain the yards necessary to quiet the Mile High crowd.

Denver emerges from Week 5, victorious 4-1, as they prepare for Jacksonville.

Week 6 (Sun. October 12th, 2008)
at Jacksonville.

some facts: Mike Shanahan is 3-3 vs. Jacksonville (2-1 at home). It was against Jacksonville that former Bronco kicker Jason Elam tied Jack Dempsey's 63-yard field goal (1998). Broncos Offensive Assistant Coach Joe Baker was an Asst. Special Teams coach in Jacksonville from 1995-1998. Jacksonville swept the entire AFC West in 2007. Elvis Dumervil posted two of his 12.5 sacks against Jacksonville last season. CB Domonique Foxworth won Defensive Rookie of the Week in 2005 against Jacksonville, posting 7 tackles one interception and one pass deflection. Brandon Marshall posted the best game of his career (133 yards on 7 receptions) last year vs. Jacksonville. Safety Marlon McCree played one of his best seasons as a Jaguar in 2002, recording 6 interceptions that season. Kicker Matt Prater missed two field goals (as an Atlanta Falcon) last season vs. Jacksonville. Defensive tackle Marcus Thomas is from Jacksonville, FL (as most are aware at this point). Linebacker Nate Webster posted 13 total tackles (the most of his season) last year in the Jacksonville game. DJ Williams recorded 14 total tackles in that same game. Jacksonville as a team ran the ball 47 times against Denver in 2007 (the most of any Denver opponet), Jacksonville held the ball for 38 minutes and 42 seconds in that game (the longest time of possession of the season against the Broncos).

I have the same reaction every time I see Jacksonville on the schedule (s***!), every since they beat John Elway in the playoffs in 1996. This game puts Denver in the dead center of the most difficult part of their season (Tampa, Jacksonville then New England) and they'll have to go 2 out of 3, at least, to prove to the NFL that they deserve to be considered amongst the top teams in the league. Let's face it, as far as defenses go in the NFL Jack Del Rio's defenses are consistently about as good as it gets. It will be an entertaining game, as long as everyone on both sides is still healthy at this point.

Will David Gerrard be a one-hit wonder for Jacksonville? Probably not and the Jaguars went out and got him better receivers to throw to in the off season (via free agency), including the familiar Jerry Porter and the (so far) underachieving Troy Williamson likely inhabiting the number two in Jacksonville. On the defensive side, new coordinator Gregg Williams promised that, "
The Jaguars were going to use every defensive system ever created."

Sounds fun right? That and Jacksonville SLB Daryl Smith has about the same potential to as lit dynamite, he only gets better in the big games (14 tackles last season in the playoffs vs. New England). Rookie LT Ryan Clady should be in for a long day, lining up against Reggie Hayward, we'll finally get to see how sweet his feet are. Whoever's playing RT (Harris, Kuper or Pears) is the one who will have the real challenge, Jaguars' LDE Paul Spicer. Let's just hope Jay Cutler can make it out without a concussion.

I mentioned Williams earlier, he's regarded by many to be the best defensive game planner in the league. Should be a fun test to see whether Shanahan really still has it in him. Look for Denver to handle Garrard similarly to last season, with the dynamic tandem of Jags running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor both being held in check (just like last year, when they ran the ball a combined 47 times, yet somehow didn't hit the century mark for yardage). The problem Denver had last season was running the ball, coming into the game Travis Henry was the league's leading rusher. The Jaguars held him to just 35 yards, the Broncos as a whole only had 42 plays from scrimmage.

Where Denver had success last year, is where they will have success this season. Passing the ball, hopefully Marshall's back from any suspension, and if he is, the Jaguars just do not have the talent to cover everyone. If they are able to cover every passing threat Denver has, they won't be able to stop the run, either way, Denver's better this year. Jacksonville isn't, that's not to say that they were a bad team. I believe that they were a great team last season. They did extraordinary against the Patriots. However, Denver was one drive away and one dropped pass (Daniel Graham) away from rolling into Indianapolis undefeated in 2007.

Denver wins this time, and marches to Foxborough 5-1.

UPDATE (7/19/08): Jaguars wide receiver Jerry Porter underwent successful surgery (7/18/08), he is expected out anywhere from 6-8 weeks. He should be fine by the time Denver faces Jacksonville, but it is not guaranteed yet.

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