Here is the first edition of my Bleacher Report-styled Broncos Mailbag. If you have any questions for me, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or feel free to post them in the comments below.
Question regarding the offense: if the person with the “name-that-can’t-be-mentioned” is heading up the offense versus Mr. Kyle, what would be the differences the coaches would implement to better reflect either quarterback? Or would there be any?
- Christopher Merrill, Tulsa, OK
I’m just happy I got questions. Woohoo! (I know, I know, "Act like you have been there before Rob.")
But seriously, thanks for the question Christopher, and I’m happy to address this.
First off, I think there would be a difference in offensive strategy based on whether it's Orton or Tebow under center, but not for the same reasons that some might argue, meaning that I don’t think the offense needs to be made “vanilla” or “conservative” for Tebow.
In fact, I will argue the opposite.
Tim Tebow gives the team more options, and if this wretched lockout ends with enough time that Tebow can beat out Orton in an abbreviated offseason, or if Orton is traded, then the biggest issue would be getting Tebow first-team snaps heading into the regular season.
But since all teams and all players (including Orton) have to deal with the same lockout, that sort of preparation tilts the schedule in favor of Orton, while making it more problematic for Tebow to come in and run a pass-heavy offense. Naturally.
But the point is that once things are again normal, and once Tim Tebow can start practicing and competing (actual practices with coaches, and not these player-arranged shenanigans), then it seems to me that he would be the best option for the Broncos and their hope for having a more effective offense in 2011.
Sound ridiculous? Consider this.
Since being hired John Fox has signaled that he wants to focus more on the defense, and perhaps keep the status quo on offense. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was retained, but McCoy has coached under Fox before. Adam Gase was moved from wide receivers coach to quarterbacks coach, Eric Studesville was retained as the running backs coach, and so on. There were a few changes to the offensive coaching staff, but mostly things were kept intact.
And in the draft no running backs were selected. The focus was primarily on defense, though the Broncos did draft two tight ends and a (presumed) right tackle. That can be interpreted as the Broncos wanting to have a more dynamic passing game, a safety valve for Tebow or whoever the starter is, a better blocking game and a guy who can cover Tebow’s blind side (Orlando Franklin).
If Orton is the starter, then I expect much of the same offensive style as we saw in 2010. I would also expect some improvement in the red zone (optimism), and while I do expect to see a better run game, I don’t believe that there will be wholesale changes to the Broncos offense.
If Tebow is the starter, and once he is able to establish himself in the offense, I don’t anticipate Fox and McCoy holding back. In fact, I would expect a more exciting arsenal of plays considering that Tebow is a threat to run the ball, and Orton is not (though he deserves credit for improving on his footwork and every-so-slightly avoiding a pass-rusher and making a throw).
While Tebow is working on taking snaps under center this offseason, McCoy won’t exactly forget that the guy can really hurt a defense from spread formations, with “Wild Horses” type gimmickry, etc. None of this would be a base offense but Tebow’s unique talents open things up.
I know that’s not what the anti-Tebow crowd wants to hear, but it’s true. Let’s not forget that the Tebow-led offense averaged 25 points per game, while the Orton-led offense was at just over 20 points per game in 2010. That’s a huge difference.
The Broncos will not just run the ball in 2011. They might be more pass-heavy than initially suspected, and Tebow could very well be a big time producer in 2011.
I am a huge Broncos fan and really am looking forward to what Fox and Allen can do for us. Who do you think the starting safeties will be? Do you think the rookies will get enough time to learn and make an impact right away? I think that Dawkins and Hill aren't serviceable anymore and that Carter and Moore, who many thought were the top 2 safeties, can really make a big difference.
I mean, last year a lot of plays could have gone for 10 yards instead of 20 or more because of a missed tackle or a bad angle by the safeties. Not to say it was only their fault, because the backers and lineman should be stopping the back way before 10 yards down the field, but those types of big plays can kill a team. Let me know what you think.
Another great question.
First, let's look at who the Broncos have at safety. There are of course the veterans Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill; the guys McDaniels drafted: David Bruton and Darcel McBath; and of course the rookies: Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter.
Starting with Brian Dawkins, there are really two camps out there. One says that Dawkins had an off-year and was slowed by injuries. The other one says that Dawkins has lost more than a step and is a major liability in coverage.
As much as I appreciate and admire Dawkins’ game, I am of the latter camp.
Dawkins is going on 38, had a very bad 2010 season and would be owed $6 million if the Broncos plan to keep him.
Renaldo Hill didn't play quite as poorly as Dawkins in 2010—some of his numbers actually improved—though that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is a guy the Broncos want to keep. Hill would be owed his $2.4 million salary and is 32.
Meanwhile, David Bruton is a nice player who can be counted on for special teams duties, but looks more like a fill-in than a starter. He’s also a very good substitute teacher, apparently. Darcel McBath is another nice player, but an unlikely starter unless injuries force him into that position.
Now let’s look at the Broncos' new defensive philosophy.
Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen gave us some hints last month at the "A Night with the Coaches" Event last month. Via The Denver Post: "First and foremost defensively we want to bring an attacking, aggressive style of defense...I think you can see by the players we drafted that speed is going to be very critical to us. We're going to pressure the quarterback in a multitude of ways. We're going to try to do a lot of different alignments, personnel packages, and try to confuse the offense yet be simple for ourselves.”
John Fox said this to The Denver Post: "There was a lot of emphasis on man-to-man a year ago. I'm not going to say there's not going to be man-to-man now, but you create a lot of your turnovers with vision on the ball, the quarterback. That's something that will be emphasized."
Judging by their words, that means that Dawkins and Hill could be out. The Denver Post has suggested that Dawkins might be asked to take a pay cut, and would be used in a limited fashion, while ESPN’s AFC West blogger Bill Williamson reported on April 30 that the Broncos are interested in keeping Dawkins.
But Dawkins no longer has the speed and ability to play "back." Rahim Moore is a ball-hawk who sees himself as a young Darren Sharper, and yes he can definitely play center field for the Broncos in his rookie year. Quinton Carter also has the speed and athleticism to play back, and he should take over for Dawkins at strong safety.
The Broncos drafted these two safeties because they fit their defensive philosophy. It just so happened that they were also the two top-rated safeties in the draft.
Brian Dawkins has been a true professional throughout his brief stint here in Denver, but it’s time to let him go. Other teams might decide to pay him what he believes he's worth, but as much as Elway and Fox might appreciate Dawkins' leadership during this lockout, it’s just not good pragmatism to keep him on in 2011.