Quarter season Review: weeks 1 to 4 part 1: Offense


Denver Broncos Record: 2-2, 2nd in AFC West

One quarter of the season is on the books and this is the moment I chose to review how this Broncos team is doing, its strength and weak areas.

To be honest, before the start of the season I was hoping the Broncos to be 3-1 more than 2-2, but I have to say that all in all a 2-2 record is ok, at the moment.

The strength of the schedule has been an important barometer for evaluating what Denver has done and what is trying to do because these up and coming teams such Atlanta and Houston confirmed the preseason talk of being elite teams. I’m saying this not for the record both team hold (4-0) but because the weapons they feature on offense and the solidity of their defenses.

There are several thoughts I have about Denver performances up to now but the ultimate resume on the team is the following, IMO: the Broncos are a good team, not elite, and they are, understandably, inconsistent still.

In this post I will share my thoughts about Denver Offense.

Off course Manning is an incredible upgrade at Qb. For as much as Tebow propelled miracle happenings last year in the crunch time, and all the fun and enthusiasm that those games generated and the play off win against Pittsburg, this Broncos offense is a real NFL offense and Manning is still one of the best Qb playing the game.

His arm strength is not in doubt, IMO, and his capability to direct the other 10 players on the field is unbelievable. Is just fun to watch the offense playing, whatever the result is (TD, field goal, punt or turnover) and that has to be pretty much appreciated by all Broncos fans. It was years that the offense was not so well directed and IMO, it is all a Manning thing. And now I will explain this thought.

Fox really likes to run the ball, but for one reason or another, only in yesterday game against Oakland the run game was the kind off Fox wants it to be. The Broncos run the ball fairly well also against Pittsburg and Atlanta, to be fair, but the game plan, on offense, especially in the Atlanta game, was much more dictated by the scoreboard than by Fox.

About the Offensive Line, I was all in to maintain the 5 Oline starters in the offseason and I’m glad that I understood what Broncos coaches where thinking. A part from Kuper, the rest of the Oline was, and is, composed by players drafted by the Broncos in the last 4 drafts. Walton, Beadles were drafted by McDaniels and were thrown under fire a lot by professional press, maybe IMO, because of that. Franklin was a pleasant finding by Elway & Co. during the 2011 draft because he played a really good rookie season at RT, but still a lot of professional analysts close to the Broncos were pushing him to be moved to Guard, because his “suspicious” pass protection. The three players developed and are playing fairly well now and, IMO, will continue to develop together with Clady and Kuper in one of the best or the best Oline in the business by the end of the year when also they’ll have more playing time under Manning. Still the problem of Denver Oline looks to be the depth. Manny Ramirez showed some good stuff in the home opener against Pittsburg but went on struggling against Atlanta and Houston, especially in pass protection. The rest of the backup unit is even more suspicious, maybe only because they didn’t have the chance to prove themselves in real game environment, but in the pre-season they didn’t shine at all. Rookie Blake is suspiciously on the IR list and Kopper has been brought in probably only for his winning experience and attitude that will be really helpful down the line for this young OLine.

All in all my grade to the Oline is a B+ and getting close to the A- and, barring injuries, I expect them to get the A note in the 4th quarter of the season.

The running game: as I mentioned before, my guess is that only in the Oakland game Fox could use it in the way he likes, setting the tone of the game. One important note is that the only game where Denver struggled a bit running the ball has been against Houston and it happened for three reasons:

a)      Houston built a more than solid lead through the 2nd and the 3rd quarter, eliminating much of Denver running plan of offense.

b)      Houston defense is probably the best in the NFL at this point and is really outstanding against the run.

c)      Willis McGahee was sidelined because of an injury.

The third reason is the scariest IMO, because Fox likes to use a tandem at RB, that is particularly wise given that McGahee received a lot of big hits during his 10 years career in the NFL. Somehow Denver doesn’t look to have a reliable 2nd RB yet, Hillman just came back from his injury that prevented him to have a full training camp and limited his playing time until now. He is the player that hopefully will develop into this reliable runner and homerun threat that Denver needs. Ball isn’t the answer and Moreno is hurt every two games. The Broncos has not being performing well in the running game without McGahee this year and to become an elite team a second dangerous RB is needed.

Tight Ends and Receivers: inconsistent.

Drop balls and mental errors by the receiving corp have been the reason of the lost against Houston. This is both good news because I consider the Texans the main Superbowl contender in the AFC, but, off course, also a bad news because there have been too many error by Thomas and Decker during that game. They’re young and showing incredible potential, They also combine themselves really well, being Thomas the deep threat that could scare any defense and Decker an all-around receiver fearless in traffic and with great speed that could be used, confusing opposing defenses, as deep receiver too. But they had too many dropped ball, mental mistakes (this mainly Thomas).

Tight ends were not used as much I was thinking up to now. Tamme is really a good addition and Dreessen is doing more of a dirty work on the OLine. They are really good addition that could be used more, IMO. Green was suspended in this first quarter of the season but the big question still is Julius Thomas….how in the hell he could still has 0 receptions playing with Manning. The reason is that he never steps onto the field for the offense. Why? Is he still injured? What the hell is going on with him. In the offseason I was really up on him, because I thought he could be one of the players that could benefit more by the Manning signing. But still there is no sign of him and this is the other bad news in the offense.

All in all, I think that the inconsistency (including the three Manning interceptions in Atlanta) is really understandable for a team that radically changed his approach on offense from the second half of last season. Manning also is coming back from one year without football and off course his injury, so some rust is still there at times for him too. Receivers have to do a better mental job and learn what Manning wants them to do. I guess that this unit, again barring injuries to key players, will be really good down the stretch especially on QB and offensive line.

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