Friday, July 4, 2008

What, me worry?

Well, under three weeks 'til training camp with the first preseason game a couple of weeks following. Ian's bold prediction of a 13-3 season has fallen on more than a few deaf ears. I guess some guys don't want their macho image spoiled by some educated optimism. To me, there is one big question mark inside of each of the three keys to the season: Offense; Defense; Special Teams.

On O it all boils down to the line. The OL must get chemistry fast and keep it. Help out the rookie LT who will be schooled by some of the best DEs/OLBs in the game. Daniel Graham can help. For those grousing about whether or not Clady should start w/1st team O, have they considered that 1st team D starts against 1st team O in preseason? If Clady isn't with 1st team, then he won't see "the Dudes". He really needs to see the best of what Houston, Dallas, Green Bay and Arizona have to offer, and then keep playing for at least three whole quarters, maybe four. I'm not worried about RT; there are three who can play that. Got seven who can play G; five who can play C. This may be the most interchangeable OL I've ever seen Denver field. This group can sustain injuries/retirements. They are coached by a trained civil engineer who plans to build roads through opposing defenses and walls for Jay Cutler. The adversity of '07 will help them in '08.

On D, it's all about the front 7/8. Is it time to expect that the Broncos will be in a 4-4/split-six where a S isn't just in the tackle box occasionally in order to give a look, but is there because the O needs to plan on accounting for him in their blocking scheme? When D reads pass, where the heck is he going? Blitzing? Manning? Zoning? Blitz which gap? Man on which receiver? Drop to what zone? Is he always going to line up in the same place? Is he always going to be the key? If I was the DC, I'd mix it up ... all the time, just as I expect Shanahan to order Slowik to do. The front group Bronco opponents will face most likely will have five new faces (Moss, Crowder, Robertson, Koutouvides and Bailey) and one of the old faces (Williams) will be in a new position. It's a new ball game for the Broncos on the defensive side of the LOS. Stopping/inhibiting/controlling the run is Mike Shanahan's priority. Expect to see a big improvement in that area. While front 7/8 is a question, the secondary is up to it even if IT requires much cover 1 & zero. Shanahan's idea of D seems to challenge the other team to throw. With Elvis Dumervil as a PRS and Jarvis Moss and DJ Williams available to rush, pressure on the opposing QB will also be improved. Too, let us not forget that Jim Ryan is coaching the LBs.

Some seem to be focusing too much on who the new punter and placekicker will be. In my opinion, that's not as important as the other ten guys on the field at that time. Yes, Jason Elam is gone. That's what he wanted and we wish him well. Move on. If your drive stalls on the +30, can the PK consistently hit a 47 yd. FGA w/% increasing the closer you get? I don't see why not since the NFL has the ball spotted almost smack in the middle of the field after each play. College kickers have more difficult angles from which to kick if the ball is spotted on the hashmark. They can do it; just keep lining guys up until you find one who isn't a head case or is so crazy he can't remember what happened five minutes ago. KICK IT! Can the the guy kicking off hang it high and have it come down on the GL even w/#s? Hey, have it come straight down on the #10 every time would be a colossal improvement over what we saw at times last year. Punting isn't so much a question of the P as it is: 1) block for him; 2) cover the punt. Those last two items are much more important than trying to outkick the coverage; how high can you kick it? Also, direction is necessary for an NFL P. Help out your lane runners by putting the ball between the #s and the sideline. Hang it high to the side and don't forget to tell your teammates which side it is.

As previously mentioned, the problem w/ST in '07 wasn't so much the PK/P as it was the other guys; Todd Sauerbrun's Chicago performance notwithstanding. ST is not rocket science. If a coach is trying to make it complicated where guys have to think, it ain't gonna work. Running, blocking, tackling. Run your lanes and find the guy with the ball. Right return. Middle return. Left return. ST is basic football skills and sheer enthusiasm on display. Show me a guy who loves to play ST and I'm looking at a football player. Can't remember plays? That's OK. He can play D. Here come the rookies. For at least ten of them, hopes of making the roster depend on how crazy they can be on ST. So, what's the question on ST? Can you guys do these basic things @ 100mph w/no fear? Good, now let's go HIT SOMEBODY! For God's sake, you are covered in protective equipment ... or should be. Everybody got some pads in their pants?

Summer '08. Defending Super Bowl Champions are the New York Giants. Can anyone remember what was going on with them a year ago? Everyone was amazed that Tom Coughlin was allowed to return after the meltdown, media-frenzy 6-10 fiasco of the year before. Tiki Barber had just retired and written a not-too-complimentary book about his NFL career. Names were named; feelings were bruised; retorts made their way back and forth through the headline hungry sporting press of the Big Apple. Teammates were secretly plotting to sew Jeremy Shockey's lips together, or so I've heard. Strahan missed training camp while trying to decide whether or not to retire ... yeah, right. Season didn't get off to a very good start, but the G-men made the playoffs as a wild card. The Giants had carefully drafted eight rookies all of whom made the team. Those guys played a key role in the playoff run right into a Super Bowl they weren't supposed to win, but refused to lose behind the heroics of a 3rd year QB.

Our beloved Broncos have had firings from the coaching staff and front office as well as cuts of high profile players. Jay Cutler discovered he has a medical condition explaining his symptoms and which seems entirely treatable. Tony Scheffler has his annual Adventures of the Foot. Marcus Thomas had an educational experience involving high school buddies and law enforcement officials which seems to have refocused his priorities. Brandon Marshall has offered many bizarre explanations of: how he managed to almost sever his right arm; knocked his teeth out; was in Vegas around the time Javon Walker was almost being beaten to death; how he was the victim of a Play Misty For ME incident in which he got busted: and, other sundry and mysterious misadventures. I would like to ask Brandon and Javon a question. What is it with spraying everyone within range with the bubbly? I know, ... you guys are pretending to be Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen on the podium. Wait, is that the Italian National Anthem I hear? In Marshall's case, we are clearly dealing with someone from another planet. Take it from me, people from NM know about these ... things.

So, all of you crusty old pessimists; break it down: Three AFC West opponents, home & away; AFC East, Bills & Dolphins at home, Pats & Jets away; NFC South, Saints & Bucs at home, Falcons & Panthers away; Jaguars at home; and, Browns on the road. You do the math. It just has to add up to sixteen, Shirley. Worst case scenario, how is it less than ten? Best case scenario ... come on, work with me here. Sweep KC & Oakland and split w/San Diego. Win both home games w/AFC East and split the road games. Sweep the NFC South. Why not? The two tougher games are at Mile High and the two weaker opponents are away. Split the two second place AFC South & North opponents. What is it? Come on ... 5+3+4+1=13, just like Ian said. Grow an imagination. It's a game. Game up. Positive vibes. I don't want the Broncos thinking this way though. They, on the other hand, should take these one game at a time and take the field always KNOWING they will find a way to win. And, as far as being overly optimistic is concerned, I'll borrow a line from Miles Davis and John Coltrane, So What?

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