Transition’s end 01/05/2010Posted by sportretort in denver broncos, NFL, Sports, Uncategorized.
Tags: brandon marshall, denver broncos, Josh mcdaniels, knowshon moreno, kyle orton, NFL
There was an avalanche in Denver on Sunday. No, we are not talking about the hockey team. This avalanche came in the form of yards. Kansas City running back
Jamaal Charles amassed 259 rushing yards against the Broncos. The Broncos Knowshon Moreno managed only 50. That disparity, more than any other, shows the weakness in the Broncos during the 2009 campaign.
The loss to Kansas City brought the curtain down on Denver’s season. The Broncos finished 8-8 for the second consecutive year. Before the season started, there was turmoil in the Broncos camp, and not much was expected from rookie head coach Josh McDaniels and his team. The over/under for Denver victories in Vegas was 3 1/2. By that measure, McDaniels was a wild success. Denver started the season on fire, and hit their bye week with a 6-0 record. After the bye, the Broncos limped to the finish line with a 2-8 record. At season’s end, there was turmoil in Broncos camp, and Denver watched its slim playoff hopes slip behind the Rocky Mountains like a Colorado sunset. The fact that Denver was in the playoff picture on the final week of the season was an accomplishment by itself, though after the fast start it did not feel that way. The 2009 Broncos were a team in transition. They had a new coach, and a new offensive scheme. They transitioned from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme. They had traded a prima donna ‘franchise’ quarterback for a game manager. They had a diva wide out with crazy good skills that started the season having been suspended from the team for the last 10 days of camp and ended the season on the bench, coach’s decision, with his toughness in question. Now, the Broncos must face some tough off-season questions.
The rushing numbers from that last game point out Denver’s biggest area of need. The Broncos were unable to control either line of scrimmage. For a franchise that once
thought 1000 yard rushers hid behind every bush, the lack of run game was disturbing and the o-line needs to be addressed. While first year running back Moreno lead all rookie runners with 947 rushing yards, his 3.7 yards per carry average must improve, and Denver managed only 9 rushing TD’s all season. Both of these numbers point to a lack of run blocking. At quarterback, the Broncos Kyle Orton completed 62% of his passes and threw 21 TD’s to 12 interceptions. Respectable numbers, to be sure, but the average gain of 7 yards per catch must improve. Orton will probably be brought back next season, but his primary back up Chris Simms should not. While Simms has another year on his contract, he proved himself almost useless in the limited game action he saw this season. His performance was so poor in the one game he started that the injured Orton was put back into the game after Simms misfired on the 4 passes he threw. Denver needs to either acquire a free agent, or take a chance on drafting another ‘quarterback of the future.’ Honestly, with the needs on both the offensive and defensive lines, I do not see Denver drafting a quarterback.
One offensive need that will be addressed, however, is wide receiver. Brandon Marshall is a talent. There is no doubt. But he also is a head case, and he will not be a Bronco next season. Denver catches a break in the Marshall situation. Since there is no CBA in place, and the prospect of the Players Association and the Ownership group reaching an agreement is remote at best, next year will be an uncapped year in the NFL. Under the expiring CBA, Marshall would have been an unrestricted free agent. As things stand now, he will be a restricted free agent, which means he still has value to the Broncos. Denver will be working a trade for Marshall. Interestingly, the decision to bench Marshall for the final game has again highlighted his issues and probably diminished his trade value some what.
The jury is still out on McDaniels as a head coach, as one might expect. Clearly this team was not as bad as people thought before the
season started. Just as clearly, this team was not as good as the 6-0 start made people think. When all was said and done, after all the changes, after all the turmoil, Denver finished as it had last season. Denver started strong, and squandered a playoff opportunity down the stretch, just as it did in 2008. This team has now missed the playoffs for 4 straight years. The pressure will now be on McDaniels to raise the level next season. There was no back slide this year, but there was no overall progress, either. Having turned almost 60% of the roster over last season, there is still work to be done. Marshall must be traded. Perennial all pro and 11 year veteran corner back Champ Baily also should be traded while he still has value. Denver needs to continue to become younger and quicker. McDaniels now has a year of head coaching experience under his belt. Hopefully, the distractions of Marshall will be gone. Denver will concentrate on defense and receivers this off-season. They have a quality quarterback and running back returning. All returning players will now have a better understanding of the offense and defense. The pressure to make the playoffs in 2010 begins now.