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Chiefaholic
07-05-2005, 06:55 PM
GRETZ: Off-Season Look AFC West: Denver
Jul 04, 2005, 7:03:02 AM by Bob Gretz



Nobody in the AFC West made more moves in the off-season than the Denver Broncos. Eliminated the last two seasons in the playoffs by the Indianapolis Colts by a combined score of 90-34, Mike Shanahan went about trying to beef up his defense for the second straight year.



But the guy who hasn’t won a game in the post-season since John Elway’s retirement has one major problem: Elway’s still retired. Denver’s chances to unseat San Diego in the division, and possibly get a match up against the Colts in Invesco Field, depends on how well Jake Plummer plays.

It’s been a mixed bag over the last two seasons for Shanahan with Plummer. In 2003, the Denver coached coaxed the best season the quarterback has had since coming out of Arizona State. But last year, Plummer took a step backwards. His accuracy was down (62.6% to 58.2%), his touchdowns were up (15 to 27) but so were his interceptions (seven to 20) and his passer rating fell (91.2 to 84.5.) In the division, that rating ranked him third among starting quarterbacks behind Drew Brees and Trent Green.

The Broncos seemed to spend most of their off-season making deals with the Cleveland Browns for players. No offense to the Browns (who had no offense last year), but there was a reason Cleveland finished last season with a 4-12 record: a lack of talent. Some of that questionable talent has come west, apparently all based on the evaluation of new defensive line coach Andre Patterson.

Here’s a look at the 2005 Broncos as they get ready to start the season:

OFFENSE – Last year’s leading rusher is gone, as Reuben Droughns was traded to Cleveland. Four of Plummer’s top five receivers return for this season, losing only Droughns. There’s a big change on the offensive line as right guard Dan Neil is gone, replaced by Cooper Carlisle.

Shanahan proved again last year that he can plug in just about any back and they’ll be able to carry the load for the Broncos offense. This year, he’ll have Tatum Bell, Quentin Griffin and Mike Anderson returning, along with Ron Dayne signed in free agency and draft pick Maurice Clarett. Bell had problems with fumbles last year, while Griffin and Anderson are coming off stints on the injured reserve. In four seasons with the Giants, Dayne was nothing but a disappointment, averaging 146 carries and 517 yards per season. Last year, he had just 179 yards rushing. Clarett hasn’t played in a game for almost two seasons after his well publicized problems at Ohio State.

Rod Smith is back for another season; it will be his 11th year with the Broncos. What a career for a guy that was not drafted out of Missouri Southern. Smith had another 1,000-yard season in 2004. Joining him was Ashley Lelie, who finally showed some of his promise by catching 54 passes for 1,084 yards, an average catch of 20.1 yards.

One of the better off-season moves the Broncos made was keeping tight end Jeb Putzier; he signed an offer sheet with the Jets that Denver matched. Putzier became valuable for Plummer last year, catching 36 passes. In a division with tight ends like Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, Putzier isn’t going to grab many headlines, but Plummer needs him. They also added veteran TE Stephen Alexander.

And, also in the receiving corps is Jerry Rice. Unwilling to walk away for his storied career, Rice will attempt another season. He could be a factor in the red zone or on third downs for the Broncos. To think he’ll make a major contribution would be unrealistic.

Neil was released by the Broncos, and they were able to keep Carlisle in free agency. Otherwise the blockers are intact. Last year, they allowed only 15 sacks in 536 passing plays, or one every 36 times Plummer went back to throw. That’s an outstanding ratio. They also added a couple of veteran names in case they run into problems, with G Cameron Spikes and T Anthony Clement. The offensive line remains a strength in Denver.

DEFENSE – The Broncos ranked fifth in fewest yards allowed last season and they allowed 33 touchdowns to rank in the top half of the league in scoring defense. But Peyton Manning still lit them up for 49 points in the playoffs and over the last quarter of the season, CB Champ Bailey – last season’s big defensive acquisition – was shown to be entirely human as he struggled against both the Raiders and Chiefs.

So back to the drawing board for Shanahan, as he made some changes on his coaching staff and then went out and signed or traded for four different Cleveland defensive linemen: ends Courtney Brown and Ebenezer Ekuban and tackles Michael Myers and Gerard Warren. All have been underachievers throughout their careers with the Browns and Cowboys, despite the fact all but Myers were first-round draft picks. Combined they have 65.5 sacks, or an average of 16.4 sacks per man. But Ekuban has averaged just two sacks a season, despite his eight last year. Brown’s averaged just over three sacks a year, Myers less than two sacks per season and Warren just over three sacks.

The odds would say that one of those four could come through and have a big season for the Broncos. Shanahan wasn’t taking any chances, and he found a way to keep Trevor Pryce around after it was first thought his salary cap number was going to be too big for Denver to swallow. Pryce battled a back injury last year, but reportedly is back to showing his old form.

But for the second year in a row, the Broncos lost their best pass rusher. In 2004 it was Bertrand Berry, who went on to a Pro Bowl seasons in Arizona. This year, it’s Reggie Hayward, who signed as a free agent with Jacksonville after pulling down 10.5 sacks last year. Nobody else on the team had more than three. That remains a very big problem for Shanahan.

LB Ian Gold has returned after a year in Tampa Bay and should step in with last year’s rookie D. J. Williams and veteran stalwart Al Wilson; Denver always seems to have good linebackers. In the secondary, safety Kenoy Kennedy is gone to Detroit in free agency and CB Kelly Herndon left for Seattle. That leaves Bailey and John Lynch, along with Nick Ferguson and a hole on the other corner. Shanahan grabbed three cornerbacks in the draft: Darrent Williams, Karl Paymah and Domonique Foxworth; one of them has to pay off for him this season.

SPECIAL TEAMS – There’s a chance that bad boy punter Todd Sauerbrun may set NFL records this year. He was a Pro Bowler for Carolina and with his strong leg in the light air of the mile high city and Sauerbrun may be able to hit for close to 50 yards a punt. He averaged 44.1 yards a kick last season. Of course, the only way that happens is if he stays out of trouble, isn’t suspended or does not wear out his welcome. With Sauerbrun, all three of those things could happen in the first week of the season.

Jason Elam remains a solid kicker, but the Broncos got nothing last year from their return game. They are hoping the rookie cornerback Darrent Williams comes in and gives them a threat; he was a top-notch punt returner at Oklahoma State.

CONCLUSION: There’s almost an air of desperation in some of Shanahan’s moves in this off-season. He’s taking chances on quite a few players that have failed in earlier opportunities or have shown they are lacking in character or work ethic. If production doesn’t come from those four Cleveland linemen, then the Broncos are going to find their other cornerback exposed on a regular basis.

All that won’t look so bad, if Plummer improves. In a division where you had better be able to score touchdowns, the Broncos’ 40 offensive TDs last year were well behind the Chiefs (58) and Chargers (53.)

Right now, Jake Plummer holds the 2005 future of the Broncos in his hands.

Phobia
07-05-2005, 07:12 PM
But the guy who hasn’t won a game in the post-season since John Elway’s retirement has one major problem: Elway’s still retired.

Kinda ironic from a guy whose paycheck originates from the team who hasn't won a postseason game since Montana's retirement.

On one hand, it's okay for Gretz to poke clever jabs at the Broncos, but if anybody has the audacity to say something clever about the Chiefs organization,.... blah. Do they teach journalists the correct spelling of "hypocrite" in college?

stevieray
07-05-2005, 07:22 PM
Kinda ironic from a guy whose paycheck originates from the team who hasn't won a postseason game since Montana's retirement.

On one hand, it's okay for Gretz to poke clever jabs at the Broncos, but if anybody has the audacity to say something clever about the Chiefs organization,.... blah. Do they teach journalists the correct spelling of "hypocrite" in college?

True, he also gave them credit on their strengths.

He does sound worried though, like wishful thinking. In the end, maybe it does rely on Plummint's play.

go bowe
07-05-2005, 07:23 PM
Kinda ironic from a guy whose paycheck originates from the team who hasn't won a postseason game since Montana's retirement.

On one hand, it's okay for Gretz to poke clever jabs at the Broncos, but if anybody has the audacity to say something clever about the Chiefs organization,.... blah. Do they teach journalists the correct spelling of "hypocrite" in college? no...

ROYC75
07-05-2005, 08:02 PM
Right now, Jake Plummer holds the 2005 future of the Broncos in his hands


We're in good hands with Fake Jake........... :)

Hercules Rockefell
07-05-2005, 08:33 PM
Ehhh. . . he should do a little research.

Bell had 1 fumble last year in 80 touches. Go back to his time at OSU if you want to bring up the fumbles, because it didn't happen last year.

To not mention Walls, who would have started over Herndon last season if he hadn't got hurt, is just pitiful. Middlebrooks is missing from that discussion too. It's not all rookies like Gretz implies.

The "Shanahan is desperate" schtick has almost become cliche this offseason. Desperate coaches do not trade out of the 1st for future picks, they're going to try for all the help they can get.

milkman
07-05-2005, 08:46 PM
Ehhh. . . he should do a little research.

Bell had 1 fumble last year in 80 touches. Go back to his time at OSU if you want to bring up the fumbles, because it didn't happen last year.

To not mention Walls, who would have started over Herndon last season if he hadn't got hurt, is just pitiful. Middlebrooks is missing from that discussion too. It's not all rookies like Gretz implies.

The "Shanahan is desperate" schtick has almost become cliche this offseason. Desperate coaches do not trade out of the 1st for future picks, they're going to try for all the help they can get.

He may not be desperate, a point I do agree with, but his offseason moves does make one say "HUH?".

Terribilis
07-05-2005, 08:47 PM
The "Shanahan is desperate" schtick has almost become cliche this offseason. Desperate coaches do not trade out of the 1st for future picks, they're going to try for all the help they can get.

sadly I agree with this... :banghead:
in fact the only weird things i see the rat doing this offseason were the cleveland browns d-line aquisitions...
considering they are all originally high draft picks- its entirely reasonable to think their struggles could have been more coaching related...

milkman
07-05-2005, 08:59 PM
sadly I agree with this... :banghead:
in fact the only weird things i see the rat doing this offseason were the cleveland browns d-line aquisitions...
considering they are all originally high draft picks- its entirely reasonable to think their struggles could have been more coaching related...

In that case, nothing will change, since the Browncos brought in Cleveland's D-Line coach.

Hercules Rockefell
07-05-2005, 09:01 PM
He may not be desperate, a point I do agree with, but his offseason moves does make one say "HUH?".

The Clarett one still blows me away. The Browns DL I actually like. Talent's never been the issue with Brown and Warren, none are taking up a large amount of cap room, and Denver's still going to have virtually their entire DL from last season in camp. If any former Brown starts, they will have beaten out a starter from last season.

I wish they wouldn't have let Kennedy walk, even though I think Ferguson is better in coverage.

StcChief
07-05-2005, 10:01 PM
Questions about the Cap numbers should make the NFL want to look at their books to see if they are cooked.

Like this hasn't happened before there.....

Mr. Kotter
07-05-2005, 10:05 PM
Questions about the Cap numbers should make the NFL want to look at their books to see if they are cooked.

Like this hasn't happened before there.....

BTW, Happy BD dude. :)

Hercules Rockefell
07-05-2005, 10:16 PM
Questions about the Cap numbers should make the NFL want to look at their books to see if they are cooked.

Like this hasn't happened before there.....

Actually it hasn't. The cap numbers were always correct, the issues were with prompt payments of what was owed. Something that isn't an issue anymore since Bowlen got Invesco.

beer bacon
07-05-2005, 10:43 PM
sadly I agree with this... :banghead:
in fact the only weird things i see the rat doing this offseason were the cleveland browns d-line aquisitions...
considering they are all originally high draft picks- its entirely reasonable to think their struggles could have been more coaching related...

Basically all the moves Denver made this offseason were odd.

He drafted three corners, none who look to be of starting quality, and capped off the first day of the drafting by picking Clarett.

He also signed Ron Dayne.

Another bizarre move was signing Ian Gold to a pretty big contract instead of going after some more pass rush. Don't get me wrong, I think Ian is pretty good, but signing him really didn't fill a need. They already had a really good LB core. Now they have to move DJ Williams from WSLB to SSLB. On the other hand, they lost their best past rusher in free agency, and the money spent on Gold could have been used trying to keep him or signing another quality DE. Instead they had to settle for the for the crown jewel of the Rat's offseason campaign: The refuse of the Brown's defensive line.

Denver is still going to be bad in the redzone, will still not get many turnovers, and will still have a mediocre pass rush. I really don't see what they were trying to do this offseason.

Ralphy Boy
07-06-2005, 07:07 AM
Ehhh. . . he should do a little research.

Bell had 1 fumble last year in 80 touches. Go back to his time at OSU if you want to bring up the fumbles, because it didn't happen last year.

To not mention Walls, who would have started over Herndon last season if he hadn't got hurt, is just pitiful. Middlebrooks is missing from that discussion too. It's not all rookies like Gretz implies.

The "Shanahan is desperate" schtick has almost become cliche this offseason. Desperate coaches do not trade out of the 1st for future picks, they're going to try for all the help they can get.

I hate to say it, but I agree with everything you said. Every coach takes a chance on a guy or couple of guys who've not lived up to the first round draft pick expectations of their previous team. Case in point, Eddie Kennison & Freddie Mitchell.

I never heard exactly what happened to Walls until you said it, but I'd assumed Herndon had just outplayed him and was surprised he went unmentioned.

As Phobia mentioned, I've never cared to poke fun at the "since Elway" thing because it is too painful a reminder of the "since Montana" thing.

Fat Elvis
07-06-2005, 07:21 AM
I hate to say it, but I agree with everything you said. Every coach takes a chance on a guy or couple of guys who've not lived up to the first round draft pick expectations of their previous team. Case in point, Eddie Kennison & Freddie Mitchell.

I never heard exactly what happened to Walls until you said it, but I'd assumed Herndon had just outplayed him and was surprised he went unmentioned.

As Phobia mentioned, I've never cared to poke fun at the "since Elway" thing because it is too painful a reminder of the "since Montana" thing.


Even worse, try the "since Len Dawson" thing.....

whoman69
07-06-2005, 12:10 PM
Kinda ironic from a guy whose paycheck originates from the team who hasn't won a postseason game since Montana's retirement.

On one hand, it's okay for Gretz to poke clever jabs at the Broncos, but if anybody has the audacity to say something clever about the Chiefs organization,.... blah. Do they teach journalists the correct spelling of "hypocrite" in college?
I suspect he did the get your degree by mail thing.