The Broncos are playing it right
After two pre-season losses, many Bronco fans are covering their faces and predicting doom for the season. Those fans who get so excited about this time of the year just need to relax. This is the pre-season, a time for assessing talent, and, believe it or not, the Broncos are playing it just right.
Fans know that the pre-season is only an extension of training camp, but they still expect their teams to come out and dominate. That’s not the purpose of either training camp or the pre-season. This time of year is for assessing talent, and building teams. It is one thing for coaches to see talent in controlled situations where certain players are off limits to hitting, and everyone sees the same faces and same tendencies day in and day out, but it is quite another thing to watch players go head-to-head with other players from someone else’s training camp in a real game and under the exact rules that will govern the regular season. Teams can’t keep all the players on their rosters, and these pre-season games just help coaches better decide who should stay, and who should go.
As for the Broncos, anyone following the team has known since the end of last season that they would be answering questions, and trying to fill needs in the off season. One of those questions was at quarterback, and, after two pre-season performances, the jury is pretty much in. With new talent coming in, and some people questioning the ability of the old talent, the Broncos needed to have someone step up and take control. He has. Orton is their man. None of the other talent, (although working with the second team), has demonstrated the mastery of McDaniel’s offense that Orton has. So, that question is pretty much answered. The only other question at quarterback for the Broncos now is, “What to do with Brady Quinn?” Quinn has been in the league for four years, and time is running out for him. He needs to really go all out now, or he will just go. Tim Tebow, on the other hand, will be treated with more patience since, after all, he was a first round pick, and has not had four years in the league. This is something the team just couldn’t find out at training camp, and needed to see in real games before the season started.
Another question needing an answer was, “Where is the offensive line?” Zane Beadles and J.D. Walton have come a long way toward answering that question. It was a serious blow when Ryan Clady went down, but, for now, the patchwork offensive line with two rookies is holding its own. That’s as much as this team could have asked for on Draft Day. Reports from camp were positive, but the line has shown up well so far in the pre-season, and looks only to get better. Watching them in pre-season has boosted the confidence of the coaches, and allowed them to focus on answering other, important questions.
With injuries decimating the talent on this team, the coaches needed the preseason to find out if the team had a running back who could carry the load, if the remodeled defense would perform as expected, and if anyone could fill the roles vacated by injury. These questions, for the most part, remain to be answered, but the answers are starting to take form.
Does the team have a running back who can carry the load? From what the Broncos have shown so far, they have yet to find their answer. Lance Ball has played enough for any fan to see he was chosen to carry the load. Unfortunately, if the backfield were now healthy, chances are good Lance might be polishing his resume. Lance Ball is, however, the best thing that ever happened to Knowshon Moreno. Correll Buckhalter is old by NFL standards, and expectations aren’t too high for him, and LenDale White was just brought in to fill a void because of his NFL experience, but Moreno, on the other hand, held out of training camp his rookie year before being injured, and then was injured on the first official day of training camp this year. He proved last year that he was not up to the level of starter in any NFL backfield, and really needed a good camp this year to hone his skills. It didn’t happen. Now, in his second year, he has never really had even one training camp. It is likely he will not be any better prepared this year than he was last year. After Moreno’s injury, Ball had the perfect opportunity to take Moreno’s spot, but he couldn’t do it. If Ball had performed, people would have become even more impatient with Moreno, but, as it stands, Ball just has fans hoping Moreno will come back soon. The pre-season has, so far, at least answered that question.
Next, how will the remodeled defense perform? Pre-season answer so far: Not too much unlike last year’s defense. The team beefed up the front line, added some experienced players, and drafted some interesting rookies in the off season, but the pass rush is now almost non-existent, and the inconsistent tackling that plagued the Broncos in the past remains a problem. Granted, the defense suffered some critical injuries just as the offense did, but, also just as the offense did, the defense didn’t find players to step up. Robert Ayers, another 2009 draft disappointment, talked the talk during training camp, but, so far, has not walked the walk. He has pretty much been a ghost on defense. The questions surrounding the defense seem to be finding answers, and most of the other teams in the NFL are liking the answers better than the Broncos are. Fortunately, there are still two more games to use to turn things around.
Finally, who’s going to fill the roles vacated by injury? It appears the answer is “nobody.” Either the players the Broncos have don’t really want these jobs, or they just don’t have the talent. No matter what the case, the fill-ins are playing more like surrogates than the talented athletes they are. It’s a good thing for the Broncos their kicking game is still solid. Matt Prater and Britton Colquitt are doing their jobs very well. The two, brightest spots on the team right now will both help save the offense, and take pressure off the defense. That’s a big plus for any team, but especially important for this team.
Now, keep in mind that this assessment comes after just two, pre-season games. There are still two more to go before the games start for real. Unfortunately for the fill-ins, the cutting deadlines are just around the corner, and they are running out of chances to show what they can do. But, even if the second team players aren’t taking full advantage of their opportunities, the Bronco coaches are. The coaches are playing it right. The coaches are using the opportunity of the pre-season to look at players in real, game situations, seeing what those players can do before deciding which ones to cut. For the coaches there is still time to devise regular season schemes that take into account the level of talent they end up with, but, for marginal players on the team, time is growing short.
So, if you are a Bronco fan pulling your hair out because your team isn’t winning, relax. Remember this is just the pre-season, and, come September, a lot of these players will be gone. The Broncos will field their best team when the season starts, and they need these pre-season games to find which players make their team its best. When the games do start for real, we will all get to see what the Broncos really have, and fans might want to save their hair for that eventuality, but, for now, it’s still just time for assessing talent, time for putting together the best team possible, and, most of all, time for fans to relax. In that respect, win or lose, the Broncos are playing their part just right, and the fans should do the same.
The Broncos are playing it right