The Denver Broncos finally have some blueprints down pat after four years of bludging, frustration and constant shoulder turning. Still spinning in circles from a 4-12 season in 2010, the march back to .500 now becomes one giant D.I.Y fix-up job for John Elway, John Fox and Brian Xanders.
It was almost painful to watch the Broncos being ranked seventh in passing yards last season, but accomplish nothing. To say that Denver’s offense was embarrassing would be unjust, but to feature a variety of both young and old as the Broncos do, the end result was certainly a little lackluster.
Much of the Broncos problems in 2010 came from a lack of effort—or for the loss of a better word—commitment. As a head coach, when half of your offense is legless and unmotivated, it’s hard to progress. Yet, correcting that issue when the team is already flailing below .500 is asking for a monumental adjustment.
That’s exactly what the Broncos look to do this offseason, though—adjust. It’s been noticeable in just about every area of Denver’s roster moves lately, the draft being the first easy example. John Elway hopes to answer the team’s defensive end needs by transforming Von Miller into the second coming of D.J Williams. Although, that may be an ambitious plan for a rookie linebacker trying to fit in with a newly formed 4-3 system.
You see, a trend is clearly starting to form an orderly line. Everything in Denver is ambitious right now. The coaching staff hopes Tim Tebow can save the day if all else crashes. John Fox is hoping Knowshon Moreno finally shows Mile High why they bothered to draft him in the first place. And Denver as a whole is dearly hoping that their 32nd ranked defense soars to unimaginable new heights thanks to a few precise draft picks.
Yes, I know I’ve just listed the dreams of every struggling team.
But before all of that hope can become a reality, some serious change needs to happen in the point-scoring department of the Broncos. It’s not the kind of transformation Broncomaniacs will golf clap and hold hands over. However, the jury is still out on several players, including wide receiver Jabar Gaffney.
If the free-agent market is as dead as everyone says it is, then the Broncos had better stop sitting on their hands. Players like Terrell Owens will be dealt or left to swim in the free-agent pool sooner or later. And younger players, say, James Jones, are likely to be resigned or released depending on when the market actually changes the closed sign to open.
To me, the biggest problem with Gaffney right now is his place in Denver. It’s almost like he doesn’t fit in, or that he is simply content with being the No. 2, or possibly even the No. 3 receiver behind the newly awakened Brandon Lloyd. Of course, there is no problem with having this attitude at all. For the most part, Jeremy Maclin is happy being the No. 2 guy behind DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia. As is Steve Breaston in Arizona, and so on and so forth.
Fortunately for those teams, that system works—and quite functionally might I add.
Denver, well the Broncos seem to be a few sheep short of a herd. Or so it would seem.
If there is an option the Broncos can resort to if everything else falls to shreds, it’s young receiver Eric Decker. Lately, we’ve been seeing a lot of young rookie wide receivers making a name for themselves early, and Decker, fresh from Minnesota falls into that important category.
The biggest threat, if you’re a Gaffney fan that is, is the pure fact that Decker nearly outplayed Gaffney on the scoreboard last season. Gaffney’s lack of touchdowns lands him in hot water with 10 years of experience under his belt—a contributing factor to the Broncos scoring issues—and the main reason why Denver drafted two young tight ends in April.
There’s still no guarantee that Decker is the second coming of Brandon Marshall, though. He will have to learn the playbook, and judging by the Broncos hot and cold quarterback situation, adapting to quarterback change looks to be a part of the job description for any receiver in Denver.
Head coach John Fox will likely leave this topic untouched until the doors of the Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Centre open for Broncos practice sometime in the next several months; that’s where this story will really become worth your time. The team is comfortable allowing the quarterbacks to trade blows, so it’s reasonable to assume the same treatment will be applied to all positions of competitive interest.
That said, Gaffney has hidden value to his name that goes by the wayside. There’s no doubt that Fox recognizes Gaffney’s value in the air—at least in terms of yards anyway—and his 65 receptions last season helped to offer Kyle Orton an extra target on short routes that Decker is yet to fully learn.
Then again, that same statement has been used to describe Gaffney for the past three years. It’s become tiresome and boring. And by far, the biggest thorn in his side is his lack of touchdowns. Put simply, six scores since the beginning of 2008 honestly doesn’t cut it in the AFC West.
Perhaps Gaffney is safe thanks to what he may be able to produce, given the right quarterback mind you. In Week 16 against the Houston Texans he recorded a 90-yard game under rookie Tim Tebow, his second highest total since Week 3 against Indianapolis in a 27-13 loss.
That aside, if his 11th year in the NFL spells another below 1,000 yard season—a milestone Gaffney has never broken in his career—then Fox may have no other choice but to place Decker in the starting role permanently. Meaning, depending on how you interpret it, a fourth change of teams could be on the horizon sometime in the next two-three years.
It’s all fun and games during the lockout. Most of the roster is on vacation.
When training camp starts, this Broncos team must put their serious face on.
And so must Jabar Gaffney.