Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Resetting Expectations

The kool-aid tasted oh so great in the past few weeks.

Over the summer, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Dove Valley twice for a training camp practice as well as see the team beat the Buffalo Bills in the first game at newly named Sports Authority Field at Mile High. What I saw was a defense that made major strides after being ranked last or second to last in most of the major statistic categories. I saw an offensive line that was able to control the trenches on most occasions and a starting quarterback who took care of the football.

Rather than confirming the positive that most of us believed about this Broncos team in the first game of the season, we got a (un)healthy dose of reality instead. Reality is that this team is not much different from last year. Reality is that a run game, despite flashes in the preseason, was nowhere to be found last night as the offensive line struggled to create any room for Moreno or McGahee. Reality is that despite excitement about the return of Elvis Dumervil and the addition of Von Miller, a pass rush really does not help if your opponents run you over on first and second downs.

I'll give Darren McFadden the credit that he's one of the top 10 backs in the league, but we'll be facing plenty more of those down the road in Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles (twice) as well as another meeting with McFadden in the Black Hole.

I'm remaining optimistic that the run defense will improve over the season. One thing that could benefit the Broncos is that, now that week 1 is over, teams can sign veteran free agents without having to guarantee their full contract. I'm fine with Broderick Bunkley, Kevin Vickerson and Marcus Thomas (who's still recovering from injury) settling into their roles considering the short offseason we've had, but I keep wondering, can the Broncos really afford to wait for Ty Warren for more than half of the season? Not if you ask me. Ryan McBean... Mitch Unrein... well. Upgrades are always possible. With so many good rushers on our schedule, improving the run defense will be key if the Broncos want to have any success this season.

Despite the fact that this team struggled in several different areas of the game, the main focus of debate, as the Broncos prepare to face the Bengals in week two, will be the quarterback. Broncos fans seem divided over the situation, with many ready to have Tebow at the helm of the offense. While Kyle Orton clearly struggled on Monday, such a move would be a knee-jerk reaction after only one game in the season, and I'm sure the Broncos will not give in to any of the outcry.

However, imagine this scenario four weeks down the road, in which the Broncos are 0-5. Unable to improve their run defense after the Raiders game, the Broncos face, as previously mentioned, Cedric Benson and the Bengals, Chris Johnson and the Titans, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers and Phillip Rivers and the Chargers. While many noted the Bengals and Titans games as winnable before the season, things do not look to be so sure now. In the case of a 0-5 record, what should the Broncos do?

By then, arguing for a change at quarterback is not only a matter of having more faith in Tebow than Orton to lead this team to success. With what looks to be the best quarterback class in at least eight years eligible for the draft, the Broncos will NEED to know what Tebow brings to the table. As of yet he is the only quarterback under contract next year, and many questions still surround his future. While a few fans already seemed to have embraced the "Suck-for-Luck" movement, reality is that we might end up in a situation in which the Broncos are in a position to draft one of the top quarterback prospects available next year. If so, the team must know if Tim Tebow has any future with the organization.

As bleak as things looked on Monday, there is no need to overreact. Of the 16 teams that started this season 0-1, some will still make the play-offs. While the road back to the play-offs is still a long one for the Broncos, let's wait and see how the team looks against the Bengals on Sunday.

Overreaction is an easy form of escape in the situation that we are in right now and one that we need to avoid as much as possible. But while we're doing that, I'll put my kool-aid back in the cupboard, and hope they'll let me take it out again next year.

Follow Broncos Zone contributor Bert Jan Brands on twitter, @BertJanB.

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