The Denver Broncos lost 39-23 to the Oakland Raiders. They are now at 3-11 in this disastrous and infamous 2010 season, the worst they’ve been in over 40 years.
In all, the 98 points given up against the Raiders this season amounts to the largest number against one opponent since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970.
The only positive outcome of the second loss to the hated Raiders was the impressive play by Denver’s rookie quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow ran for one TD and threw for another in the rain-drenched field that left much makeup running in the Black Hole, but even Tebow’s magic wasn’t enough to push the Broncos into the win column.
And at this point in the season, the Broncos have the NFL’s worst defense, giving up a league worst 28.9 points per game, a total of 415 in only 14 games. And while the Broncos (hopefully) won’t come close to the 1981 Baltimore Colts' record 533 points against, Denver’s defense has been downright dastardly this year.
It’s clear that the entire team is basically pathetic and there’s a need to scrap a vast majority of the players—and coaches—for Denver to build for the future.
For fans, this is a somewhat spooky notion; the turnover has been a mile high in Denver in recent years. But with the firing of Josh McDaniels, his notions of team building are obsolete and his personnel decisions will almost all need to be erased for the Broncos to move on and rebuild in the quickest manner possible.
So who exactly should the Broncos keep and what players must be either traded or handed pink slips and tickets out of Denver?
By my approximation, there are only a baker’s dozen players that the Broncos should keep, here’s the list.
Decker, the rookie wide receiver, didn’t see much playing time until the second half of this season.
But now as the kickoff returner he does a decent job, and Decker could eventually turn into a solid receiving threat in Denver.
If nothing else, Decker gives Denver diehards a feeling of familiarity because he looks so much like Ed McCaffrey in that No. 87 jersey.
His worst play of the year was a blown coverage on a fake field goal attempt, but learning is a constant fluid continuum in the NFL.
Ayers has been one of the sparks on the defensive side of the ball, especially since the Broncos have missed Elvis Dumervil due to a fluke torn pectoral muscle injury at the beginning of the season.
In eight games this season, Ayers has 29 tackles, a forced fumble and two sacks—serviceable numbers for a defensive end turned outside linebacker.
At one point in the season, he was the only player on Denver’s defense to create any kind of impact putting pressure on the quarterback and he could continue to grow as a professional football player.
Harris was in jeopardy of losing not only his starting job (which he did once) but losing his opportunity of playing football in Denver as well.
Harris dealt with foot injuries both in 2009 and 2010, but the fourth year player is the anchor of the right side of the line, opposite of Ryan Clady.
Harris is still young and he’s a piece the Broncos can build around as they hope to regain some sort of dominance on their offensive line.
Like Ayers, Moreno was a first round pick in 2009 and he’s been more disappointing than encouraging to fans so far in his young career.
In 2009, Moreno was a mere 53 yards away from 1,000 and he hit paydirt seven times.
This year, though Moreno missed four games early due to pulled hamstrings, he’s at 714 yards rushing with five touchdowns and his average is up half a yard per carry to 4.3. Add with that Moreno’s 347 receiving yards and three scores and he’s over 1,000 yards total with eight touchdowns in 2010.
Overall those are solid numbers for a starting running back, especially one that has split time all year with other backs as well.
Plus, he went over the 100 yard mark in a game for the first time this season, giving a glimpse into what he may be able to do when he finally hits his stride.
No matter what, Knowshon Moreno should be retained and given at least another year to try to prove to everyone he can be a dominant force at running back for the Broncos.
Walton (50) opens a hole for Moreno to run through.
Walton was drafted in the third round this season and he’s never looked back.
J.D. Walton has missed only one snap in the 2010 season, he’s one of five rookie NFL lineman to start every game this season.
He hasn’t been perfect this year, but what rookies are? He, along with Harris and Clady, will be the heart of the Broncos offensive front for years to come.
Thomas catching a pass over arguably the best corner in the league in Darrelle Revis.
Bey Bey has been relatively quiet in 2010, especially for a first round wide receiver, but when he’s been in Thomas has been something special to behold for Broncos fans.
Thomas dealt with an injured foot to start the season, a reason many teams weren’t as high on him as Josh McDaniels was in Denver when he took him in the first round.
Still, when Bey Bey got some play play he was electrifying, speedy and explosive—he could be the next big thing and big receiver for the Broncos, if not the next big name in the NFL.
Thomas recorded 283 yards on 22 catches (12.9 avg) including a solid 6.5 YAC and two touchdowns. When he was returning kickoffs, Bey Bey was one of the best in the league at 24.9 yards per return, and his 65 yard return versus Tennessee was a big reason the Broncos won that game early in the year.
Thomas is full of potential and an offseason of working out will have him and his 6’3”, 229 pound body in a more appropriate fitness level for the NFL, one that’s ready to take huge hits and play aggressive football.
Royal’s production in 2010 has been middle of the road (57 rec., three TD), somewhere in between his stellar rookie season (91 rec. 5 TD) and his completely quiet 2009 year (37 rec., zero TD).
What’s weird is the fact that neither McDaniels or Eric Studesville have allowed Royal to return many kicks this season. With only five, he hasn’t had the chance to do much on that aspect of special teams, some 500 yards less than the last two years.
Royal is still a threat returning punts and as a fourth year pro, he still has a ceiling that has yet to be reached.
Williams has once again been one of the consistent forces on the defensive side of the ball for the Broncos and his services should be retained in 2011.
D.J. isn’t the most fundamental tackler, he’s more of a “hit ‘em hard and hope they fall over” hitter rather than wrapping up well, but he’s still a extraordinary defender.
The seventh year linebacker has recorded 104 tackles in 2010, including a career high four sacks with one forced fumble and he should once again be a starter in the middle of the Denver defense in 2011 and beyond.
Lloyd has made spectacular catch after spectacular catch for the Broncos and he has to be part of the receiving corps in the future.
Brandon Lloyd has been by far Denver’s best wide receiver this season, possibly their top player on the offensive side of the ball.
Lloyd’s a complete feel-good story, the journeyman receiver had bounced around three different teams before landing in Denver last year.
And in 2010, Lloyd has enjoyed his career year in the NFL, with 1,185 yards (second in the NFL) on 63 catches including 10 touchdowns.
For many a week, Lloyd was Kyle Orton’s go-to-guy, and he should be in Denver next year as well. If nothing else, the seventh year receiver should be on the Broncos roster due to his highly consistent play and strong work ethic that was put on display this year.
Kyle Orton is a good quarterback that looked like one of the best in the league through the first half of the 2010 season.
Orton led the league in passing yards and was actually on pace to break Dan Marino’s 5,200+ yard mark from 1984. For a quarterback that has widely been considered mediocre at best, this was a career year for Orton, an opportunity to prove to everyone that he’s capable of being a very good starting QB.
And while Orton easily enjoyed his best year statistically (3,653 yards, 20 TDs, nine INTs), it’s not enough to guarantee him the starting job in 2011.
Yes, the Broncos gave Orton an $8.8 million extension for 2011, definitely starting money. But with the recent rise of Tim Tebow, Orton should be no more than a backup in Denver next year.
This will be asking a lot of the fifth year pro. Orton, who made well below the league average for starting QBs in 2009, a team player who’s more concerned with how the team performs rather than padding his personal stats.
It will be a big decision to be sure for Orton, who could probably move onto another team and start in 2011, or he could stay in Denver and be the backup to Tebow.
Tebow will have his growing pains and Orton will be asked to play, maybe even more than occasionally, but that would all be up in the thin air in Denver.
It’s up to Orton if he wants to stay with the Broncos or not, and if he does, Denver must keep him.
This may sound as insane as wearing nothing more than a barrel at Mile High Stadium in snow (thank you Barrel Man for being the best Broncos fan ever) but Tim Tebow should be the starting quarterback for the Broncos in 2011 and beyond.
Yes, I’m only going off one game’s performance, but for his first NFL action, Tebow performed extremely well against the Raiders yesterday.
His first touchdown, the 40 yard run that set the Broncos all time mark for longest run by a QB in franchise history, was actually a broken play that he turned into a score.
Tebow’s second touchdown of the day, a deep pass to the back corner of the end zone, was a miraculous catch by Brandon Lloyd, but the ball was also delivered to exactly where it needed to be.
He had some other solid tosses as well, including a well-timed bullet on a deep out to Lloyd, and Tebow would’ve had his third TD on the day if running back Lance Ball caught the back-shoulder pass in the end zone in the third quarter.
For a first ever start—one that took place in the intimidating Black Hole of Oakland, in the rain, against a good opponent—it was about as much as one can hope from a rookie quarterback.
Yes, Tebow must continue to improve his passing and he’ll have to learn a completely new offense next year, but that’s where Tebow gives fans hope.
Tebow has the absolute best attitude one can hope for from an athlete—he’s humble, ready, willing to learn and when he’s grilled by coaches he says, “Yes, sir.”
On top of that, Tebow’s work ethic is amazing—he threw thousands of footballs a day in the offseason in order to alter his throwing motion to one that will be more successful in the NFL.
Of course, part of Tebow earning the starting spot in 2011 depends on how he finishes 2010—he needs to impress in the final two games of the season to be sure.
And it also depends on who the next Broncos head coach is and in what capacity he decides to use the second year QB.
But what can’t be missed is that Tebow’s jersey was the best-selling in 2010, he brings hope and excitement to a broken Broncos franchise and he’s basically been the only positive storyline in Denver all year.
For a team whose focus must be on the future, their QB is already in place, they just need to keep using him and allow him to learn on the job.
The Champ has easily been the best defender in Denver for years, consistently shutting down opponents' best receivers on any given Sunday.
But Bailey is aging, he’ll be 33 when the 2011 season begins, and he and the Broncos broke off contract talks in the early part of this season.
With the Broncos organization in almost total disarray, it’s unlikely that Champ stays with Denver because he’s searching for that elusive championship ring.
Champ wants to be a champion, which would certainly cement him as a Hall of Fame cornerback when he finally hangs up his speedy cleats, and the Broncos look to be years away from competing for a Super Bowl once again.
Champ should be retained, but he will probably leave for greener fields somewhere else.
Ryan Clady, the third year 6’6”, 325 pound left tackle, is the cornerstone of the Broncos offense.
Despite tearing his ACL while playing a game of pickup basketball in the offseason, Clady has still started all 14 games in 2010, and he’s never missed a start in his three years in Denver.
Clady’s a beast, a wonderful run and pass-blocker—he’s as big as a Rocky Mountain and he’s got a great attitude.
Ryan Clady must be in the Broncos’ future plans, together he, Walton and Harris make for a solid foundation on the offensive line. Now Denver just needs to go out and find two great guards to complement the three.
In 2010, Elvis left the building before he even got a chance to sell any records (or is that set any records?).
Dumervil was the Denver defense in 2009, setting the Broncos’ single-season sack record at 17, and leading the NFL along the way.
In total, “Dr. Doom” has sacked opposing quarterbacks 43 times in four seasons in the NFL, he’s definitely the Broncos best (and only) pass-rushing threat, and he’s athletic enough to cover running backs out of the backfield as well.
If it weren’t for Dumervil’s fluke pectoral tear in training camp, the Broncos season could have been a bit different in 2010.
At least they would have had someone putting pressure on opponents' QBs, changing momentum and possibly even forcing turnovers.
Dumervil looks to be an absolute beast on defense once again in 2011 and beyond, and the Broncos must build the defensive line/linebackers (depending on if they play a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme next year) around him.
In all, those are the 14 players (out of 53) that should be retained in 2011 and beyond for the Broncos.
Let's face it, this franchise is talent-depleted, they need a new head coach, new front office leadership and obviously, many new players.
So what do you think Broncos' fans?
Do you agree or disagree with this list?
Are there more Broncos that should be kept?
Or maybe some of these men don't deserve another chance in Denver.
Let your opinion be known in the comments section!
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being a Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets and NBA Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com, Kurtzman is the CSU Rams Examiner, the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for stadiumjourney.com and a weekly contributor to milehighhoops.com.
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