Denver Broncos: Mile High OverhaulPosted Feb 25th 2009 11:30 AM by Josh Alper (RSS feed)
It's a brave new world in Denver, where the Broncos will take the field without Mike Shanahan on the sideline for the first time since 1995. Josh McDaniels, their new coach, was 19 back then, and has one of the shortest resumes of any head coach in NFL history. That could be a good thing or a bad thing, but it was clear that Shanahan's system was no longer bearing fruit and the team may benefit just from the change of voice on the sideline.
They'll benefit more from a defense that can actually stop opposing teams, though. The Broncos ranked next-to-last in yards allowed and last in points allowed in the AFC in 2008, and it's been several years since they've been able to shut teams down with regularity. They've already released seven players from last year's unit, and two starters are free agents, so there will be new faces to go with a new look. Mike Nolan is in to run the defense, which is moving to a 3-4 front and will require a slew of new players to implement.
McDaniels did excellent things with the Patriots offense, and he's got a lot of talent to work with in Denver. Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler are all weapons in the passing game, Ryan Clady looks like he'll be heading to many Pro Bowls after a standout rookie year at left tackle and Jay Cutler has every tool in the shed. He's also got a maddening propensity for mistakes. Upping Cutler's efficiency will be McDaniels' biggest task on offense.
1. Defense. Sorry to be so broad, but the Broncos only have three surefire starters on their current roster. That means they need players all across the board. They'll be bidding on cornerbacks come 12:01 on Friday morning, because the regression of Dre' Bly's play finally surpassed his outsized reputation. They also need safeties, linebackers, nose tackles and, well, they need absolutely everything. They have so many needs, in fact, that it is hard to figure out just what direction they'll head once bidding starts. One thought comes to mind, however: Igor Olshansky, a free agent from San Diego, would be a nice pickup at defensive end, especially with former Chargers line coach Wayne Nunnely joining the staff.
2. Running Back. They don't have an every down back, which doesn't figure to be a problem for McDaniels, but after a season which saw them churn through seven different tailbacks they need to be sure they have guys they can count on. Peyton Hillis, Ryan Torain and Selvin Young make for an interesting combo, but they all have such limited track records that the idea of a veteran insurance policy can't be rejected out of hand.
3. Consistency. Over Shanahan's last few seasons, the Broncos churned through players, coaches and systems at a breakneck pace. He drafted poorly, for the most part, and several big free agent signings flopped which exacerbated the scrambling, aimless nature of the team. All of that took its toll on a team that closed seasons terribly and couldn't adapt when the breaks started going against them. The team needs to establish a new identity and stick with it through growing pains, because it probably won't all come together right away.
Source: NFL Fanhouse