Who needs a defense?
When Broncos owner Pat Bowlen expressed some disappointment last week that new head coach Josh McDaniels didn't do enough in the NFL draft to bolster a sagging Broncos defense, perhaps just maybe he was thinking about his new quarterback, Kyle Orton.
Because while much has been made about Orton bringing to the Broncos a 21-12 record while playing for the Chicago Bears, not much has been said about Orton riding good to excellent Bears' defenses to that record.
That’s what they call in the NFL “balance.” A good offense and a good defense equal wins.
And “balance” is something that the Broncos didn’t have a lot of in 2008. Or perhaps in 2007 or 2006.
Surely the Broncos will need an improved defense in 2009 if they’re going to do better than the 8-8 record they posted in the ’08 campaign.
Because if you look at Orton's record in games where opponents scored 20 or more points as a starter with the Bears, his record is a more pedestrian 6-11 than the much ballyhooed 21-12.
Those 11 losses include six of the seven losses that the Bears suffered last year—one more win would have bumped the Bears into playoffs.
Thus far in Orton's career it's clear that he's been a game manager for a team that relies first upon its defense to win games. And he may not have that luxury in Denver.
The Bears had the 17th ranked defense in total points allowed in 2008, while the Broncos came in 30th in 2008.
That’s why Pat Bowlen seemed so unbalanced this offseason.
The good news for Broncos fans is that Orton shows signs of progress in being able to win games outright, rather than just manage them.
In 2005, as rookie thrust into the starter role because of injuries to Rex Grossman, Orton won no games as a starter where opponents scored more than 20 points.
In 2007 in spot action he won two games versus a loss under the same conditions.
In 2008 he reclaimed the starter's role and won four games out of ten where opponents scored more than 20 points.
While it’s comforting to project that Orton is growing into the starter role, the comfort would be so much warmer for all Broncos fans and players if Orton had a few large and nasty defensive lineman to help him protect a lead.
Because forget about the quick strike, big play with Orton. He’s strictly a 15-20 yard out guy. Orton averaged only about 6.4 yards per attempt in 2008. That was good enough to rank 25th amongst players with 10 or more starts. And last year was a career year for Orton in yards per attempt.
And I mean that in a good way.
Orton’s just a worse quarterback when playing from behind. When ahead in 2008, Orton racked up a quarterback rating of 81.2. When behind, he racked up a quarterback rating of 65.3.
But who needs a defense?