Monday, January 18, 2010

Blogger Blitz part 2 of 4

After the 2009 season, it is obvious the Broncos have some issues to deal with. So I've contacted some other Bronco fan bloggers to get their opinions on the "issues." Today we have Bryan Douglass of BroncosStable, Steve O’Reilly of the Skinny Post, Ian Henson of The Orange Page, and Garrett Barnes of BroncoMadness. I mentioned to the guys that Shanahan was known for always have a fantastic rushing attack, but that recently the Broncos haven't had a great one. I made the mistake of saying we had a "Bad" rushing game, here's what the guys think:

Garrett: I wouldn't say we had a bad rushing game this year first of all. Average, maybe. Mediocre, probably. But it wasn't really "bad". Knowshon Moreno is great, but has hit the so called "rookie wall", something that a lot of rookies do. We should obviously keep him, because he has shown signs of being an all pro at times this season.
So while a lot of people throw the blame on him and the running backs, it's really the blocking. I don't fall for this whole: The Broncos are a magical team who drafts running backs and turns them into stars with Bobby Turners magic wand. You can be the worst running back in the world, but if you are on the Broncos, you can run for a 1,000 yards. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but what's really been helping these running backs, is the consistent blocking.
We've lost that blocking, so we need to get better Offensive Guards to create holes, and train the players that are here to fit the power blocking system. I would also advise McDaniels to get a more explosive running back, like Ryan Mathews in the draft, but the first thing we need to do, is improve the offensive line, and our backs will succeed.
Ian: When the new Josh McDaniels regime signed Correll Buckhalter and J.J. Arrington in the offseason prior to drafting Knowshon Moreno Broncos fans should have seen that there was something completely new in store. Obvious backs that they'll keep: Moreno and Buckhalter. To me Peyton Hillis is a save as well, not because he's a fan favorite, but because he fits in more with what's next for Denver. Out is the zone blocking scheme and in is a power running game...
To most Broncos fans this means that we won't see anymore ten, twenty-yard breaks... No more hundred years games, no more Clinton Portis, no more Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson... Like that's a bad thing. Can't remember the last time one of those thousand yarders got us to a super bowl. Thing is Denver's been known for awhile as a great running team, people associate running with ball control and there in lies the problem. Ball control is only as good as your worst defense. Take a look at the Broncos last four seasons- running great, defense bad = no playoffs.
For all the genius Mike Shanahan was worth, Larry Coyer is still quietly leading the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl this season. To get back to the offensive power house that Denver once was they need only to simply follow what the cards are dealing them. The New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins is as good as a Bronco if he doesn't get resigned by the Patriots. Then the Broncos have often injured Ryan Harris and All Pro Ryan Clady at tackle, Russ Hochstein swelling up the other guard position and Casey Weigmann for one more year at center... That to me is a super decent line (with two All Pros and two more Pro Bowl caliber players). You look at the fact that the Broncos could bring back Chris Kuper at right guard or that they could possibly draft someone in the second, third or fourth round at right guard and I feel like the conversion has been completed. Gone is the zone blocking scheme and hello to the McDaniels blocking thing (an official title the networks will run with in 2010).
Here's what really concerns me though, LaDainian Tomlinson... He's going to be let go, he wants to play for the Broncos, he wants to... We've got LaMont Jordan already... In a year when Ricky Williams, Darren Sproles, Leon Washington, Willie Parker, Chester Taylor, Carnell Williams and Kevin Faulk are all Free Agents... Can we afford to not sign one of them?
Bryan: At the risk of being offensive or viewed as combative, I'm going to take exception to the assertion the Broncos had "a bad rushing attack." This is a group (a) led by a rookie (granted, a top draft pick, a supreme talent, but still... he's a rookie), (b) that lost not one (Ben Hamilton), not two (Ryan Harris), but three (Russ Hochstein) starting guards during the season, (c) that was in the midst of their first season in a new system with new coaching and new schemes (again, led by a rookie learning his first professional playbook), and (d) that still managed to get Correll Buckhalter 642 yards on the ground on just 120 carries (he would have gotten more if injuries weren't his career trademark). Ranking 18th in the NFL in rushing is average under normal circumstance, and when you consider the Broncos ranked among the top 10 in passing attempts (i.e. they didn't run as often as in years past), it's fair to at least give the crew a C+. That's not "bad"... it's just not satisfying.
To be honest, I'm not sure McDaniels wants to lead the league in rushing. The evolution of the league is towards increased passing. He wants the bulk of this team's yards earned via the pass and I believe we'll see the offensive line and the commodities in the receiving corps transformed to fit that plan (that's why Ben Hamilton wasn't working out this year). While he comes from Belichick I would suggest Josh's desires, at least from the team I'm watching today, are more in line with the offense of Andy Reid.
The entire crew stays except Hillis. McDaniels is more likely to bring in Lorenzo Neal, or a Lorenzo Neal clone, at a discount than to let an offensive fullback like Hillis cloud the picture... and that may actually be LaMont Jordan at this point. And they won't be designed to be "great" so much as "explosive" or "formative."

Steve: The answer to this question is two-fold. 1. The O-Line wasn't built for the scheme that they ran. The line was built for the Zone Blocking Scheme but mostly ran a Pulling Guard, Trap scheme that is commonly known as Smashmouth football. As the season unwound we saw Ben Hamilton replaced by the bigger Guard in Hochstein. When you ask a Lineman to attack a Defensive Tackle head on, he better be a mauler. The loss of Ryan Harris hurt as well, who is the big run blocking type of lineman. NFL offenses are "Right Handed" meaning they like to run to the right. NFL coaches put their best running Lineman at the Right Guard and Tackle spot for that reason. Many times this year however, Denver ran Left. That shows you that the RG and RT were not getting it done and it tells you that Ryan Clady is just a beast who can do it all. Denver needs to beef up in order to run the scheme they want to run.2. They need to open up the offense more. How many times this year did you see a Safety make a tackle at or near the Line of Scrimmage? Remember the Ed Reed hit on Moreno to force a fumble? Remember Tyvon Branch for Oakland consistently make tackles behind the line? If the defense feels that they can cheat and stack the box than you have to make them pay by going up top. Denver never did that and often times you would see either the Guard getting blown back into the RB's face or you say the Safety come up and shoot the gaps. To fix it, you need to use all the tools in the shed. Going deep occasionally is vital, even if you don't get the big play you at least keep the Defense honest!

My Take: The Broncos' Zone Blocking Scheme is as good as out the window. And you can probably forget your dreams of having a Pro Bowl running back in McDaniel's era. Look for the Broncos to beef up the offensive line, and have a balanced - not necessary explosive rushing attack in 2010.
This is part two of a four part series so check back for more! The Zone thanks the guys for their time, they are all great guys and have great sites be sure to check 'em out!

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