October 19, 2012

Bye week perspective

The Broncos are heading into their bye week with an even record of 3-3 and the lead in the AFC West. Through six weeks we have seen a fair amount of good and unfortunately a decent amount of bad. But the Broncos have made it through the brutal end of their schedule with a .500 record and are heading into the 'softer' end of the draw. But there is a clear problem. The Broncos are yet to beat a playoff bound team (note: the Steelers are at 2-3 and injuries continue to affect their roster, so it is possible they may miss out or sneak in to the playoffs at best). The Broncos three wins have come against less than impressive teams, Steelers being middle of the pack. The three loses we have sustained are to teams that should be competing come late January. Against all three we have fallen behind early, mostly due to our own mistakes (turnovers). In all three games (four if you include the Chargers on MNF) the Broncos have fought back in the second half and made these contests close, though in the end falling short. Looking at the rest of the schedule outside of the Ravens, who are also dealing with some key injuries, the Broncos may not drop another game. We then head into the playoffs 12-4, 13-3 at best not having truly beaten a top-notch team. Even with such a good record I would temper expectations in the playoffs because competing against those three teams has shown we are not quite there yet.

Offense Breakdown
Manning has come out and quieted most of his doubters. Through six games he is having an outstanding MVP like year (1808 yds, 14 tds, 4 ints ) and outside of the Atlanta game has been smart with his throws. He just needs his team mates to hook him by holding onto the ball.

McGahee hasn't been as explosive or productive as he was last year on the ground but he has been used more in the passing game (432 yds, 3tds, 18 rec for 133 yds). Other than a few fumbles there hasn't been much bad to McGahee's game and he will need to keep it up as there isn't much behind him. Hillman has taken over the backup roll thankfully over Ball and Moreno. Hillman has soon some good pace when in space or hitting the edge but is still having struggles with finding his hole and pass protection. To me he still looks a little lean and not overly muscular in his frame but that should develop over time. Ball is still on this team.... For whatever reason Moreno seems to be in the doghouse and been inactive of late with the coaches choosing Ball instead. This is probably due to the type of player Moreno is, since Hillman was drafted to replace Moreno it makes no sense having two smaller type backs active when you can have the bigger bruiser in Ball.

Gronk where art thou?

The receivers have been playing on a whole new level compared to previous years. D-Thomas (32 rec, 542 yds, 3 tds)and Decker (34 rec, 441 yds, 3 tds) have started to come into their own and been very dynamic. Both have had a few issues, DT with fumbles and Decker with falling over but it seems they have turned the corner (pun intended). Stokley found the fountain of youth Manning and Champ had been sharing and drank himself silly. Stokley, other than Tamme, are Manning’s go to guys when the offense is in a jam and they have come up with big plays. Hopefully Stoke can avoid the dreaded C word and play out the year. Ninja Willis still needs work in this offense and his snaps have gone up but he can’t hang Manning out to dry. Caldwell thus far has been a huge disappointment.

Tamme and Dressen…fantastic buys. Green is back from his suspension and slowly working his way into the rotation, mostly as a blocking tightend. Thomas will probably be in plain clothes on the bench for the rest of the season barring injury.

Kuper is back in the starting line-up replacing the ‘decent’ Ramirez who belongs on the bench. Clady, Beadles and Franklin are enjoying playing in front of Manning this year. Clady’s eyes are rolling with dollar signs with his current form. Beadles must be having a good year because no one is bitching about him. Koppen is our buy of the year. With JD out for the season Koppen has been pretty decent.

Defense Breakdown
Vickerson and even Unrein so far this year have out played the veteran Bannan. Big Vick has been a force in the middle and the defensive front continues to get better. He has blown up his fair share of offensive linemen and has a nose for the screen game. Hopefully he doesn’t ever go back to Little Vick. Unrein has surprised a lot of people. He has developed his game and become a key component on the D-Line. Bannan’s solid play has continued but been unspectacular.

Dumervil’s (28 tckls, 5.0 sck, 4 FF) been quietly putting together a dominate season. His run defense is still improving but it is no longer the weakness it once was. Wolfe is very much the same. Quietly going about his work, stopping the run and pressuring the passer, that is until we hear the wolf calls. Ayers has done well in his limited snaps and his heads up tip on the fumble to Carter against the Chargers was perfect.

I am very pleased to see the way Woodyard has developed. I myself have stated that Woodyard hadn’t shown or struggled to be productive making big plays. His progression though is far more along than I thought he would ever be and I give some of that credit to JDR. For putting him in places to take advantage of his skills and to make plays. His stats reflect that, 48 tackles, 2.0 sacks and one intercept.

Miller has improved as well and continues to be the best player on the defense (26 tckls, 6.0 sck, 1 FF). He has become much better at setting the edge and sniffing out the run. As well as dropping into coverage. Miller will be in there fighting for defensive player of the year honors.

‘Miss Tackle’ Mays has finally been replaced by Brooking. Who it seems will rotate with Trevathan and Irving. Both of whom I want to see play more. Whether DJ plays MLB when he gets back or rotates with the others has yet to be determined. But I feel more comfortable with Mays on the pine.

Champ is still world class. But it has been the surprise work of the young guys to be must interested in. Porter has been a solid pick up and the first corner in a long time that has been able to play across from Champ. Harris had one poor game against the Patsy, as did most of the defense. But he is young and still developing. Carter is the surprise one of the bunch. Stepping up ahead of Bolden and making key plays when most thought he was just there to make up the numbers.

Adams has been rock-solid but unremarkable in the secondary. Moore on the other hand is evolving into a quality player (41 tckls). This year he has been more confident and usual takes good angles to the ball carrier. He does make a few mistakes and dropped his share of intercepts, nevertheless he is not the same player that got benched last year. Leonhard is unimpressive and it is a bugger that Carter is on IR.

Special Teams Breakdown
Prater and Colquitt are still money but both have had an easier time of it with Peyton in town.

Bolden and Holliday are a decent team of returners. Both with any luck will hold onto the ball going forward. I wonder if Holliday gave Irving any crap about concussing him.

That's me done, have a good one ~ Aussie.