On the Clock: Denver Broncos
By Jeremy Green
After missing the playoffs in 2006, the Broncos made plenty of coaching and personnel changes this offseason. Denver has a good mix of youngsters and veterans. Coach Mike Shanahan opted to go with rookie Jay Cutler as his QB for the second half of the '06 season, and that will pay dividends this season. Denver's defense underachieved in '06. Defensive coordinator Larry Coyer has been replaced by Bill Bates. Coyer was a solid teacher, but his schemes became outdated and his inability to adjust his system from week to week really hurt the Denver defense. Bates will bring a much more aggressive style, which bodes well for this athletic unit.
The Broncos have been extremely active this offseason. They have been aggressive on offense, adding two playmakers to help Cutler -- RB Travis Henry and TE Daniel Graham. Henry finally gives the Broncos a No. 1 RB. Last season, the tandem of Tatum Bell and Mike Bell was a relative flop. Shanahan hoped Tatum Bell would step up and carry the load, but he never did, and the team grew weary of his inability to consistently run hard between the tackles. He also put the ball on the ground too often. Mike Bell will still get touches, but this is Henry's job.
Graham gives Denver a versatile TE. Last season, the Broncos used a combination of Stephen Alexander, who is a better blocker, and rookie Tony Scheffler, a better receiver. Graham excels in both areas and won't need to come off the field.
Defensively, the team got aggressive in trading for former Detroit CB Dre' Bly. The team had to trade Tatum Bell, RT George Foster and a 2007 mid-round pick, but Bly is strong in man-to-man coverage and will help a defense that will be more aggressive in 2007.
The biggest loss for Denver this offseason came in the tragic death of CB Darrent Williams. Bly's addition eases his loss on the field, but his great attitude and infectious smile will be missed in the locker room. DE Courtney Brown, who was unable to stay healthy, has been released. DT Michael Myers will not be brought back, as the team added Alvin McKinley from the Browns and traded with Miami for DT Dan Wilkinson.
RG Cooper Carlisle is an unrestricted free agent, but the team has been itching to get youngster Chris Kuper on the field. The only other potential loss is MLB Al Wilson . The team attempted to trade him last week, but the deal fell through because he failed his physical. The five-time Pro Bowler is still an excellent player, but the team has some concerns about his durability.
The wide receiver position is still an area of concern. Veteran Rod Smith can no longer consistently get open. Denver added veteran Brandon Stokley, but he is coming off an injury-plagued 2006 season. The Broncos still need a consistent receiver to take pressure off Javon Walker. The safety position must also be addressed. John Lynch is not getting any younger, and Nick Ferguson and Sam Brandon are coming off season-ending injuries.
Denver is still trying to find a pass-rushing defensive end and lost out on Patrick Kerney (Seattle). Bates will blitz more often, and the addition of Bly at corner will help cover up some pass-rushing deficiencies. Overall, this team had an excellent offseason and is poised to compete with San Diego for the AFC West division title.
Mock draft: Broncos
The Pick (No. 21 overall):
DE Anthony Spencer, Pittsburgh
Todd McShay: The Broncos will look to exploit this year's deep crop of defensive ends by taking Spencer at No. 21 overall. Spencer exploded onto the scene with 26.5 tackles for loss as a senior.