View Full Version : AFC West Preview--Denver

Fire Me Boy!
08-27-2005, 01:03 AM

Denver Broncos 2005 Season Preview
By Tony Moss, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Someone needs to direct Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan, general manager Ted Sundquist, and owner Pat Bowlen to a craps table.

Apparently, these guys like to gamble.

The Broncos' offseason was littered with risky personnel moves that had longtime fans of the franchise and NFL pundits alike scratching their heads.

Offensively, the team traded Reuben Droughns, the second time in as many years they had dealt a rusher coming off a 1,000-yard season. Mike Shanahan left his running game in the hands of the following players: Mike Anderson and Quentin Griffin, both of whom come off injuries that derailed them in 2004; second- year man Tatum Bell, who has 75 career attempts; former Giants failure Ron Dayne, who has averaged 3.5 yards per rush over his five-year career; and former Ohio State problem child Maurice Clarett, whose 40-time had to be clocked on a calendar at the NFL combine and who last carried a football in a meaningful situation during the 2002 season as a Buckeye.

Elsewhere on offense, Denver failed to grab the game-breaking wideout that most felt it needed via either the draft or free agency, but did welcome in 42-year-old Jerry Rice, who will be playing for his third team in two years.

On the other side of the ball, things got really weird.

The Broncos hired former Browns defensive line coach Andre Patterson, then decided to bring in all of his former students to ease the coach's transition to the Mile High City. Denver obtained ends Courtney Brown, Ebenezer Ekuban and tackles Michael Myers and Gerard Warren from a Cleveland team that went 4-12 a year ago.

In the secondary, Denver let starting cornerback Kelly Herndon and safety Kenoy Kennedy slip away, but used its first three picks of the 2005 draft on three less-than-elite college cornerbacks - Darrent Williams, Karl Paymah, Domonique Foxworth - and in training camp plucked Raiders castoff Marques Anderson to get into the safety mix.

If a majority of the moves pay off and the Broncos win their first playoff game since the retirement of John Elway, the joke will be on those of us who dare question the seemingly strange assembly of the 2005 roster. But if the naysayers are right, and things go poorly, a sea of orange-and-blue clad patrons at Invesco Field will have their fingers pointed directly at Shanahan, Sundquist, and Bowlen.

Below we take a capsule look at the 2005 edition of the Denver Broncos, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

2004 RECORD: 10-6 (2nd, AFC West)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2004, lost to Indianapolis, 49-24, in AFC Wild Card Game

COACH (RECORD): Mike Shanahan (101-59 in 10 seasons with Broncos, 109-71 overall)



OFFENSIVE STAR: Jake Plummer, QB (4089 passing yards, 27 TD, 20 INT)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Champ Bailey, CB (81 tackles, 3 INT)

OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 4th rushing, 6th passing, 9th scoring

DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 4th rushing, 6th passing, t9th scoring

FIVE KEY GAMES: San Diego (9/18), Kansas City (9/26), New England (10/16), at Oakland (11/13), Baltimore (12/11)

KEY ADDITIONS: RB Ron Dayne (from Giants), RB Maurice Clarett (3rd Round, Ohio State), WR Jerry Rice (Seahawks), TE Stephen Alexander (Lions), G Cameron Spikes (Cardinals), T Anthony Clement (Cardinals), DE John Engelberger (49ers), DE Ebenezer Ekuban (Browns), DE Courtney Brown (Browns), DT Michael Myers (Browns), DT Gerard Warren (Browns), LB Keith Burns (Buccaneers), LB Ian Gold (Buccaneers), CB Darrent Williams (2nd Round, Oklahoma State), CB Karl Paymah (3rd Round, Washington State), CB Domonique Foxworth (3rd Round, Maryland), P Todd Sauerbrun (Panthers)

KEY DEPARTURES: RB Reuben Droughns (to Browns), RB Garrison Hearst (not tendered), G Dan Neil (released), DE Reggie Hayward (to Jaguars), NT Ellis Johnson (not tendered), LB Donnie Spragan (to Dolphins), S Kenoy Kennedy (to Lions), CB Kelly Herndon (to Seahawks), CB Willie Middlebrooks (to 49ers), P Jason Baker (to Panthers)

QB: Jake Plummer (4089 passing yards, 27 TD, 20 INT) posted career highs in yards and touchdowns a year ago, but his 20 interceptions were tied for the NFL lead and he antagonized Broncos fans with an obscene gesture in a late- season win over the Dolphins. In the interests of his own self-preservation, Plummer needs to cut down on the mistakes this year. The team appears set to cut ties with Danny Kanell, who has been the backup for the past two seasons but has a 49.1 passer rating as a Bronco. Either Bradlee Van Pelt, a Colorado State alumnus, or Matt Mauck, who spent time with Van Pelt on the practice squad last year, will have to step up and win the job from Kanell.

RB: The Broncos allowed 2004 surprise Reuben Droughns (1240 rushing yards, 32 receptions, 8 TD) to go the way of Clinton Portis before him, trading Droughns to the Browns for defensive linemen Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers in late March. It stood to reason that the team would promote second-year man Tatum Bell (396 rushing yards, 3 TD) into Droughns' former spot following a solid rookie year, but instead Denver handed the job back to former 1,000-yard rusher Mike Anderson. The 31-year-old Anderson missed all of last season with a groin injury, and hasn't posted a 100-yard rushing game since 2001. Quentin Griffin (311 rushing yards, 10 receptions, 3 TD) struggled after being ordained the starter in the 2004 preseason, and missed the final 10 games with a knee injury. Griffin also missed the first half of the 2005 preseason while recovering from the injury. The Broncos took a chance on 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne (179 rushing yards, 1 TD with the Giants), who has never developed into a productive NFL running back but looked good early in the preseason. Third-round draft choice Maurice Clarett (Ohio State) battled injuries early in training camp and projects as a special-teamer until he gets back into proper game condition. With the glut of running backs, Denver probably only has room for one running back, and Kyle Johnson (9 receptions, 2 TD) will be the No. 1 guy there.

WR/TE: Though the Broncos' receiving corps has been criticized for lacking a big-play threat, Rod Smith (79 receptions, 7 TD) and Ashley Lelie (54 receptions, 7 TD) were both consistent enough to post 1,000-yard seasons in 2004. The emergence of Lelie, who led the league with a 20.1 average per reception, was particularly heartening to a team that had watched him underachieve in his first two years in the league. Jerry Rice (30 receptions, 429 yards, 3 TD with the Raiders and Seahawks) is determined to prove he has something left in the tank, but will turn 43 just prior to Week 6. Holdovers Darius Watts (31 receptions, 1 TD) and Charlie Adams should make the roster, meaning Triandos Luke (6 receptions) could be on his way out. At tight end, the club brought in Stephen Alexander (41 receptions, 1 TD with Detroit) to start, and holdovers Jeb Putzier (36 receptions, 2 TD) and Nate Jackson (8 receptions) should play prominent roles as backups.

OL: The Denver line has long been considered a team strength, and most of last year's unit returns in 2005. Left tackle Matt Lepsis, left guard Ben Hamilton, center Tim Nalen, and right tackle George Foster are all back after starting 16 games together a year ago. The biggest change is at right guard, where Cooper Carlisle, who started the final four games of 2004, takes over full- time for the departed Dan Neil. Tackle Anthony Clement and guard Cameron Spikes, both of whom started games for the Cardinals last year, are looking to catch on as backups. Dwayne Carswell, who has caught 190 passes in 11 seasons as a tight end at Denver, has been moved full-time to guard, and should make the roster. Sixth-round draft choice and guard Chris Myers (Miami (FL)) appears headed to the practice squad.

DL: There will be a great deal of focus on the situation here, as 75 percent of the Browns' 2004 opening day d-line will make the transition to Denver. End Courtney Brown (2 tackles with Cleveland), who missed the final 14 games of '04 with a foot injury, will start at left end opposite holdover Trevor Pryce (2 tackles). Pryce missed 14 games with a herniated disc in his lower back last season. The other two former Cleveland players in the starting lineup will be interior linemen Gerard Warren (19 tackles, 4 sacks with Cleveland) and Michael Myers (34 tackles, 1 sack). The fourth Brown, Ebenezer Ekuban (39 tackles, 8 sacks with Cleveland) is projected as a backup to Courtney Brown at left end. Former 49er John Engelberger (45 tackles, 6 sacks with San Francisco), obtained in a trade in mid-July, will be an insurance policy should Pryce go down again on the right side. Monsanto Pope (24 tackles, 1 sack) and Mario Fatafehi (20 tackles, 2.5 sacks), both of whom were starters last season, will now serve as backups at tackle. Holdovers Dorsett Davis, Anton Palepoi (19 tackles, 3 sacks), Luther Elliss (7 tackles) and Raylee Johnson (12 tackles, 1 sack) will struggle to make the roster.

LB: The lone defector on last year's starting linebacker unit is strong side man Donnie Spragan (67 tackles, 1 sack), who signed a free agent deal with the Dolphins. Back to assume his former weak side spot after a one-year stint in Tampa Bay is Ian Gold (71 tackles, 1 INT with the Buccaneers), who was released by the Bucs in March. Shifting from the weak side to the strong side is second-year man D.J. Williams (114 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT), who was impressive as a rookie. Back to patrol the middle is Al Wilson (104 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 INT), who will start for a seventh straight year in Denver. The primary backups will be youngsters Patrick Chukwurah (9 tackles, 1 sack) and Terry Pierce (5 tackles), with veteran Keith Burns returning after one season with Tampa Bay to anchor the special teams unit. Former starter Jashon Sykes will stick around if the team keeps seven linebackers.

DB: The Broncos made noise in the 2004 offseason by acquiring cornerback Champ Bailey (81 tackles, 3 INT) and free safety John Lynch (64 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT), and those two players are the only ones left from last year's starting unit. Strong safety Kenoy Kennedy (87 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) is now a Lion, which moves Nick Ferguson (34 tackles) back into the starting lineup he was a part of during most of 2003. Kelly Herndon (87 tackles, 2 INT) defected to the Seahawks, prompting the club to move second-year man Lenny Walls (22 tackles) into the starting slot there. The three rookies - Darrent Williams (2nd Round, Oklahoma State), Karl Paymah (3rd Round, Washington State), and Domonique Foxworth (3rd Round, Maryland) - will lie in wait in the event of an injury to or inconsistency from one of the starters. Jeremy LeSueur, a third-round draft choice in 2004 who missed all of last season with a hernia, will be a backup at safety. Sam Brandon (10 tackles) and training camp acquisition Marques Anderson (72 tackles, 1 INT with Oakland) will push for time there as well. Roc Alexander (18 tackles), who started one game as a rookie last season, could be a victim of the final cut.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Jason Elam (29-34 FG, 42-42 XP) shows no signs of slowing down at the age of 35, but hasn't kicked off since 2002. Rookie Paul Ernster (7th Round, Northern Arizona) has been brought in to fill that role this season. The team has a new punter in Todd Sauerbrun (44.1 avg. with the Panthers), a three-time Pro Bowler with a big leg who has been troubled off the field throughout his career. Rookie Darrent Williams had three punt returns for touchdowns while at Oklahoma State, and will be given an opportunity to win that job. Williams and Triandos Luke (20.4 kickoff return avg.) are probably the top candidates to bring back kickoffs, provided Luke makes the team.

PROGNOSIS: Denver has made a host of changes to its roster, which doesn't mean the club has upgraded its talent level. In fact, the Broncos look a tad weaker in the backfield, on the defensive line, and in the secondary, which doesn't bode well in a division that looks vastly improved across the board. Why the organization brass thinks it can squeeze production out of disappointments like Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, Ron Dayne, and Maurice Clarett is apparent only to them. The Broncos have enough talent to ensure that they won't be a train wreck, but expecting this club to reach the playoffs after its rolleroaster of offseason personnel activity seems a stretch. In fact, Denver's first losing record since 1999 could well be imminent.

Fire Me Boy!
08-27-2005, 01:18 AM
Maurice Clarett, whose 40-time had to be clocked on a calendar


Mile High Mania
08-27-2005, 06:24 AM
Was this written in June?

08-27-2005, 07:20 AM
Maurice Clarett, whose 40-time had to be clocked on a calendar

Some of the photo shop's someone did of Clarett,had me crying laughing. ROFL

Mile High Mania
08-27-2005, 07:46 AM
Well, Clarett will soon be on the market...

08-27-2005, 08:50 AM
Dang.. Donks are starting the season with a broken leg and a kinked tail.

Good time to kick 'em while they're down. :evil:

08-27-2005, 08:59 AM
Was this written in June?

Yeah, I didn't find it to be very accurate. I'm assuming a college student without access to a newspaper or the internet wrote it.

08-27-2005, 09:05 AM
Yeah, I didn't find it to be very accurate. I'm assuming a college student without access to a newspaper or the internet wrote it.

And BOOM goes the dynamite....