Training Camp 2009 is upon us and the first thought that comes to my mind is... WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES! New coach, new quarterback, new defense... The list goes on. So what are we to expect from the 2009 Broncos? Who knows! Here is how I evaluate the team:
QUARTERBACKS - Count me as a believer in Kyle Orton. Is he as talented as Jay Cutler? Heck no! But I think he's better suited to run the new offense. Mediocre, conservative quarterbacks win games in the NFL. Just ask Trent Dilfer, Kerry Collins and Joe Flacco. All guys who will never deliver a speech in Canton, OH, but guys who have lead teams deep into the playoffs. Orton is a winner. I'll take that any day over a whiner! However, am concerned about the back-ups. Chris Simms ain't' his daddy and he hasn't played in two years. POSITION GRADE : B-
RUNNING BACKS - Knowshon Moreno was drafted to be the guy in Broncos country. I think he'll be great. An average size back, but plays much bigger than 5' 11", 210 pounds. That combined with his speed presents a lethal combination. Over the last 20 years, the first running back taken in the NFL draft has enjoyed great success (six times that player has won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year). The Broncos have some depth at the position with the additions of Correll Buckhalter, Lamont Jordan and Peyton Hillis. All three have been a starter in the NFL during their careers. POSITION GRADE: B-
WIDE RECEIVERS - Brandon Marshall or no Brandon Marshall. That is the question! He is a difference maker. The Broncos could use his talents. Especially in this new ball-control offense. Marshall is NOT deep threat but could catch 100 balls for a third straight season if he'd swallow some pride and suit up. Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Stokely all add some weapons to the passing game but the success of this unit is placed squarely on Brandon Marshall's shoulders. POSITION GRADE: C+
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN - May be the backbone of the team. Ben Hamilton has been with the team for nearly a decade. Casey Wiegmann is coming off a Pro Bowl season and Ryan Clady, Ryan Harris and Chris Kuper add some young, agile athleticism to the group. I think this could be one of the top offensive lines in the NFL. Kyle Orton should be a happy and healthy man in 2009. POSITION GRADE: A
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN - This is a big reason to doubt the 2009 Denver Broncos. The defense is transitioning to a 3-4 defense which means only three "down"-lineman. The success of a 3-4 defense starts with a nose tackle. Ronald Fields was brought in from San Francisco to help fill that role. If he can't be a major factor, it could be long season for the Defense. POSITION GRADE: D
LINEBACKERS - Another major question mark looms over the linebackers. The transition to the 3-4 defense is forcing many players to change positions. Elvis Dumervil, who's biggest strength was his quickness off the ball, is moving to outside linebacker. I think this could hinder his effectiveness as a pass rusher. D.J. Williams and Andra Davis will provide some veteran stability. Rookie Robert Ayers will be given every chance to crack the starting lineup as a rookie. POSITION GRADE: C
SECONDARY - This could be the major strength of the team.... IF, they stay healthy. Champ Bailey, Renaldo Hill, Brian Dawkins and Andre' Goodman are all big-time play makers and bring a ton of experience to the table. All are capable of Pro-Bowl caliber seasons. However, all four are all over 30-years-old. Their backups are rookies (Alphonso Smith and Darcel McBath) which can be a disaster. If the big four stay healthy, I like the Broncos chances of preventing the big play. POSITION GRADE: B+
COACH - Josh McDaniels seems to be a very smart cookie. He was the architect of arguably the best offense in NFL history. His hands-on approach seems to be popular with the players and his willingness to deviate from the "Old Broncos Way" shows some guts. I like his moxy and ability to take control of his team. However, he has made some questionable decisions by trading a franchise quarterback and not addressing the defensive line in the draft. I am willing to give him a chance because I think young head coaches are the way to go in the NFL. POSITION GRADE: C
These grades add up to a 7-9 season in my book and an overall TEAM GRADE OF: C.
What do you think? Leave a comment with your thoughts.
Until next time, keep living the dream... Jesse Kurtz, KKTV Sports