It’s official. Football is here again. The lockout (a.k.a.- off-season) has ended and the owners, coaches and players have returned to their respective jobs. Should be an interesting season at the very least with all the musical chairs that have taken place in the last month or so in the NFL. Just like they do in TV shows on what happened in the “last episode”, lets recap what happened last season-
Last Season in the NFL-
Green Bay won the Super Bowl beating the “Black & Yellow, Black & Yellow”-- (some people are saying, oh yeah, that’s right... thought it was the Saints & Colts...)
The Broncos; how could we forget? They sure had a “regretfully unforgettable” season at 4-12; an absolute Mc-Disaster of a project with the season they had. The guy with the keys traded an M-1 tank for a Motorcycle, than drafted a Harley... meaning we gave away a Hillis for Quinn-who isn’t even in the conversation for our own Mile-High version of a QB Controversy.
More on that in a sec. I could go on and on, but I won’t. Sure, Orton posted impressive numbers in-between the 20’s, but that’s just like a store letting customers walk in, clear the shelves, and simply walk out without paying. Winning at anything is about cashing in at the right moment. When you’re constantly down by 2 TD’s & more, what else can you do? I’ll admit, Last season Orton was a Great “Garbage Time” QB. It’s like watering your lawn when it’s raining, Does it really matter?
Now that “THAT” is out of the way, lets look forward to this season's 2011 Broncos schedule.
Here are my Top 5 Reasons the Broncos will finish over .500.
1. Post-Project McDaniels officially began last year:
Was it just me, or did it seem like an entirely different Denver Broncos team took the field those last several weeks. Shoot, I remember hoping we knocked the “winning hail-marry attempt” DOWN in that last game against San Diego, just so we didn’t slide from #2 to #10 in the Draft.
We came close... but it was one of those situations where: Sometimes.. When you Win, You really Lose... And sometimes when you lose... you really win. –Bonus points for correct guesses on where I stole that line from--
The biggest improvement I believe is in the “D”. There seems to be ONLY room for improvement from last season right? Now I know that we didn’t land a highly coveted interior defensive lineman, but with the return of a healthy Dumerville and our #1 pick Von Miller on the other side wreaking havoc; the return of the “Champ”, Dawkins, new addition Rahim Moore, and either Goodman, Cassius Vaughn or Cox; I think our secondary should be pretty solid. Let just hope Fox has re-visited some fundamental tackling skills lacking last season. I did notice much of the non-tackling “issues” disappeared around the same time McD---- did. Wonder Why? Read first and second sentences in #1 again for clarification. We’re going to be coming in the season highly under-rated on D. Good for us. The D really didn’t play that bad those last three games last year. Orange Crush maybe? We will have to wait and see.
3. The Running Game:
That can only IMPROVE as well too right? Dead last? Broncos Football= No Running game? Yep that was the year of the lock-out. In Fact, the lock-out happened because Denver had no running game. Something WAS wrong in the NFL and the Denver Broncos ranking last in rushing is what caused the owners, players and coaches to say something’s not right. That’s it, Lock the doors, lets have a bunch of meetings with fancy lawyers to try to figure out what’s really going on here. Someone look that up for me, I’m pretty sure that’s what caused the lock-out. Elway knows how vital a rushing attack is in this league and so does Fox. Blocking should improve and we got a “Beast-of-a-Back” in McGahee. I think Willis is going to like playing in Denver. Keep your eyes peeled for the Mile-High version of Thunder & Lightning. Fox knows a thing or two about that tandem.
4. Impressive Group of Young Receivers:
Brandon Lloyd had a great season last year, look for more of the same from him. Also, look at Eddie Royal returning to the spotlight now that Gaffney is gone. I’m liking what I see from Eric Decker as well. We’ll have to see how the rest of pre-season shakes out, but we will have some battles for roster spots & slots going on here. Demaryius Thomas should also be ready to play in around 6 to 8 weeks. He’s currently on the PUP list.
5. The Quarterback Situation...
It seems the Denver Fan Base is split on who should be our guy. Tebow fanatics want to justify why Tebow should be “given” the chance. Tebow haters have all the reasons in the world why Tebow will never be a quality NFL QB. It really has nothing to do with Orton. In our little “cow-town” of over a million, you either LOVE Tebow (even if you have never watched football... ladies), or you’re drinking the same kool-aid Merril Hoge is drinking. Truth is, only time will tell. We’re all going have to wait and see. For me, Tebow has that intangible “IT” factor going for him. He’s had plenty of doubters and all he has done so far is Win. Those games he started last year were exciting.
Last year, he provided a spark to the rest of the team that was indisputable. What I do think is that the lock-out affected Tim Tebow more than anyone else in the league. He lost precious time to digest the complex playbook, lost time on letting the NFL game “slow down”, allowing him to read defenses quickly and efficiently. I’m not talking about physically having the playbook in his hands, he probably had that, what I’m talking about is having the repetitions on the field against complex NFL defenses. I saw a few grounders at practice the other day to open receivers in the flat, but than again, we all know Orton is better at “touch” football. Something different happens in the mind of Tebow when the Game Lights come on.
These few preseason games for Denver are going to mean more this season than in other seasons past.
As for Orton, I think he has a chance to have a breakout year. He knows he’s not the “Golden Child of the 303”, he acknowledges it, and even has a chip on his shoulder about it. It may be just the “spark” he needs to make some things happen. With an improved running game, sure-handed tightends, great receivers and a much improved defense; maybe this is the year he takes advantage of it. Orton wants to prove the Denver fans wrong. Two things need to happen: 1- Win over his own team-mates and 2. Win Games on the field. If Orton isn't getting the job done, than expect to see Tebow, but if he is able to win games, than it might benefit everyone- Broncos, Tebow and us Fans for Tebow to play apprentice for just a bit longer.
Either way, I think the right thing to do is to let the QBs battle it out during pre-season. May the Best man win, as it should be... and if it's going to be Tebow, it's going to take a near miracle. Optimistic view for this season and I think Denver is going to do better than people expect.
Justin Kirscht is a contributor and graphic designer for Broncos Zone, you can find more of his work at http://www.justincredibledesign.com/.