Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Blogger Blitz (part 4 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 are honored to have Frank Schwab of The Colorado Springs Gazette, Bryan Douglass of BroncosStable, Steve O’Reilly of the Skinny Post, and Ian Henson of BroncoTalk and TheOrangePage. I mentioned to the guys that the Broncos have placed 2nd in the AFC West 7 of the past 10 years, and I went on to ask what the Broncos need to do to take back the 'West from the Chargers. Here's what they had to say:

Frank: The most direct, but probably most difficult, solution would be finding an elite quarterback. The 2009 Chargers weren’t particularly great in any area except passing offense (and, with a couple of horrendous breakdowns, special teams). Philip Rivers carried the Chargers this year, as Drew Brees and Peyton Manning have done for their teams. After an odd trend in the early 2000s which saw a bunch of mediocre quarterbacks in the Super Bowl, we’re back to a normal world order in which elite quarterbacks are at a premium.

But, having a blue-chip quarterback is not necessary for success. That’s a good thing for the Broncos, because they aren’t easy to find. So unless the next Philip Rivers falls in their lap, the Broncos can cut the distance between the Chargers and themselves by drafting better. Yes, that’s a simple answer, but it also comes from a simple reality: The Broncos aren’t as talented as the Chargers. And the reason is the Broncos have wasted plenty of draft picks over the years.

Since 2003 the Broncos have had 56 draft picks. Of those, I’d consider seven as good to great players on the current team (D.J. Williams, Tony Scheffler, Brandon Marshall, Elvis Dumervil, Chris Kuper, Ryan Harris and Ryan Clady) and some others are above average contributors (Eddie Royal, Knowshon Moreno, Spencer Larsen, Marcus Thomas). The Chargers, since 2003, have drafted (and had one big draft-day trade) for 13 players in the top category (Mike Scifres, Shaun Phillips, Nick Hardwick, Nate Kaeding, Rivers, Shawne Merriman, Luis Castillo, Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles, Antonio Cromartie, Marcus McNeill, Eric Weddle, Louis Vasquez), a few others in the contributor range (Brandon Siler, Legedu Naanee, Antoine Cason) and a couple others like Igor Olshansky and Michael Turner who are not in San Diego anymore but contributed to the division title streak. Also, San Diego signed Antonio Gates as an undrafted free agent in 2003. Add all of that together and it’s pretty easy to see why the Chargers have been so dominant.

Perhaps if the Broncos had hit more home runs in the draft (DeSean Jackson instead of Royal, Marion Barber or Brandon Jacobs instead of Maurice Clarett, etc.) then the gap would be closer. The Broncos had a new regime in 2009 but still didn’t dominate the draft. Denver had five picks in the first or second round of the 2009 draft. Yet, when ESPN AFC West blogger Bill Williamson picked a rookie of the year from the division, it was Vazquez, a guard picked by San Diego in the third round.

The Broncos and Chargers haven’t been huge players in free agency recently, and probably wouldn’t be in an uncapped NFL. Both teams need to draft well, and the simple matter is, the Chargers have drafted better than the Broncos. That’s why the gap exists, and it won’t shrink unless the Broncos start finding more blue-chip draftees.

Ian: The Broncos have perennially had one of the best secondaries in the AFC, if not the NFL, over the last eight seasons. This is not the key to domination in the AFC West; the key, as it has always been (see Minnesota, see Indianapolis) is an incredible defensive line with an All Pro center fielder... Denver just happens to be extra lucky to have Champ Bailey and the extremely underrated Andre Goodman... Not to mention Brian Dawkins (that center fielder that I mentioned earlier). The Broncos swung for the fence several times in the Mike Shanahan era, attempting to find that great defensive linemen in the draft and Josh McDaniels picked up Robert Ayers in the first round last season.

So with rumors spiraling over North Carolina that Julius Peppers is not likely to return to the Carolina Panthers, not only that, but that he would love to play in a 3-4 defense... Of course we here at The Orange Page are going to start to lick our chops. Elvis Dumervil and Peppers lining up opposite of each other? Come on man... In an uncapped year!?! Sure Peppers may go to the New England Patriots, the Dallas Cowboys can afford him (but due to a weird top eight rule can't actually pay him), but if Pat Bowlen is serious, if Josh McDaniels really wants to win now... They'll make a major play for Peppers, he is the Reggie White of this era and White led the Green Bay Packers to two Super Bowls as a Green Bay Packer (not as a Philadelphia Eagle).

I am a true believer that McDaniels' offense is a system offense and yes Chris Simms looked horrible in it compared to Kyle Orton, but had Simms started the season instead of Orton, we would have still been 6-0. I'm not as caught up in the whole 'Denver must re-sign Orton/Brandon Marshall/Chris Kuper/Tony Scheffler now,' hype as the rest. I feel like Denver could easily lose Marshall, Myers and Scheffler and end up even better next season. Remember the season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs? How many catches did Jabar Gaffney have? Could have been anyone really through... Kenny McKinley my friends? I hope that I'm not over your heads my friends.

Now, let the McKinley/Gaffney cue be our perfect lead in to what needs to be done on the Broncos offense... While, I love Colorado native Daniel Graham, the man has dropped key passes for at least four season now. Time to let the man go and as much as I love Scheffler, if the Broncos can't figure out a way to make up for his lack of blocking ability then he's got to go too.. Broncos need a Shannon Sharpe, a Tony Gonzalez, an Antonio Gates... We can't settle, we need a man who can block his butt off (Richard Quinn) and a man who can catch nearly everything that comes his way (Tony Scheffler). I don't see anyone out there in Free Agency that's going to accomplish that for Denver. This is why I would actually back the Broncos is picking one up with their first round draft pick (Vernon Davis, minus the attitude).

I feel like it's fairly obvious at this point that Denver will begin their complete transformation on their offensive line... Starting at the guard position. This will lead to more success in running, more success in passing and whomever the Broncos quarterback ends up being... He'll throw for less interceptions and more touchdowns. Let's be honest though, if Orton is back, this will be his second season under the system, second season with the receivers and second season with Josh McDaniels... That spells game over for opposing defenses... With a schedule like we've got this season... Yeah, we're golden.

Bryan: I'm going to watch this year's playoffs and I'm going to be betting that the team that wins will be one with two outstanding features: an offensive line and a defensive line. The Broncos are transforming to a new offense and the line that protects that system needs to be reformulated to fit the mold. This team desperately needs to address the defensive line... the overall numbers suggest Denver's defense was adequate to, at worst, average against the run but those that watched this team over the closing weeks of the season know all too well that the run was the straw that broke this team's back. Those boys up front just didn't get it done and the entire league figured them out. The Chargers, the Colts, the Ravens, the Steelers, the Chiefs, the Raiders... they all ran early, they ran often, and they ran throughout. They kept those old men in the defensive backfield out there too long and they wore... us... down.

Add a defensive tackle, if not two, of worth... get the guard position fixed... and do whatever you need to do to replace what will be lost in Brandon Marshall, and I'll maintain faith. I believe better production from those two positions would have brought a definitively better end to this season and I'm the first to admit fear that not replacing the third, if that comes to reality, will be a downfall next.

Steve: The Broncos have to do a few things to catch the Chargers. Play their best football late in the season. If the Chargers are anything it's finishers. Philip Rivers is now 18-0 in the month of December while Denver has faced yet another late season collapse. My theory on the Denver collapses is the lack of pure size. Denver was team built undersized on speed. As the season wears on, guys get nicked up and worn down and by the end of the season as the speed advantage is gone, it's just a bigger man pushing you around. Also, I think Denver got stale offensively and became very predictable. They need to open up the offense and learn to become a Big Play offense. You simply can't count on 13-15 play drives in the NFL as too many things can go wrong. Batted balls, sacks, penalties, drops all can easily happen and stall a drive. You need to be able to score quickly and San Diego can do that in spades. Denver has the talent at WR and RB to score in hurry but they need to call the plays. Teams that can score in a blink are never out of a game. The Defense in Denver is a much, much improved unit and they are on the right track. The issues are on offense, mainly the overly conservative play calling.

My Take: We need to beef up the O and D line first off. And like Frank said draft better. The Zone thanks all the guys for stopping by! Be sure to check out all their blogs.

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