Yes Addict Nation, this tried and true Chief fan lives in beautiful Denver, CO.
I wouldn’t change my home address for lots of reasons; namely the unbelievable weather year round, the mountains as my playground and people who generally are happy day in and day out. What I would change however is the local professional football team. Being a raving Chiefs fan in Denver isn’t quite as bad as living in Oakland, but there are days where it has its challenges. Namely with my lovely wife and her side of the family. But mostly it’s listening to the local sports radio personalities and their belief that the Denver Broncos, year in and year out, shouldn’t have anything to worry about when it comes time to play Kansas City. For a division rivalry that has seen these teams split virtually every year for over a decade it begins to piss me off to hear them talk sweep of the Chiefs in their preseason breakdown. But I can say this: I have keep quiet this offseason and been smiling underneath with every coy word that comes from Bronco fans mouth, because regardless of their shiny new stallion at QB this team has holes. I attend a Broncos training camp or two every year to personally scout the depth of this team. So allow me share what I believe to be the strengths and weaknesses of what will be the only team in AFC West standing in our way of a division crown.
QB: I was at last Sunday’s Bronco practice with about four thousand other Coloradans, and from a pure football fans perspective, I’m glad I got to watch the great Peyton orchestrate a practice up close and personal. You can’t argue that Peyton is a top five all-time QB, and his demeanor on the field commands respect from his new teammates. He looked sharp people, there is no way around it. Yes he misfired on a couple of end zone corner fade routes, but I would put that more so on his receivers than him. While they were in a red zone drill, Manning had to throw two straight passes away because his wideouts weren’t doing their job. He clapped his hands with aggressive frustration, proceeded to yell, “Come on guys, let’s get OPEN”, and then fired a bullet on a skinny post to Caldwell for a score. If Peyton plays 16 games this regular season he’s worth four more wins over Tebow right there. However, the backup QB situation in Denver is grim to say the least. Brock Osweiler looks like the Jolly Green Giant, tall and lanky, and his passes were off target consistently all afternoon. Caleb Hanie, the backup from Chicago signed in the offseason and Colorado State product looked ok but you can firmly tell he is in a new offense and has a lot of studying to do. Adam Weber, second year QB from Minnesota got the majority of the reps with the second unit and appears to be the leader in the clubhouse to backup #18, but he is nothing special either. The bottom line is this; if Peyton does go down as I have predicted numerous times, the Broncos will look very similar to the 2011 Colts.
WR: They have a few weapons here; Demaryius Thomas and Peyton looked to be in sync most of the day, but outside of Thomas and Decker who should be #1 and #2 on the depth chart they don’t have anyone who scares you. Brandon Stokley was signed and he will provide a familiar face to Manning out of the slot and should be a shoe in to make the team. Stokley still has some quicks and good hands, but he’s not getting any younger and should be injured periodically throughout the season. Caldwell was a nice addition for some depth, and then it’s a bunch of no-names who didn’t look sharp at all.
TE: Jacob Tamme, I hate to say, was more impressive to me in person than I thought he would be. My perception of this guy in Indy was just a tall, average TE that Peyton made better because, well, he’s Peyton. Tamme can run routes and he made a couple spectacular catches where Manning placed the ball where only his big target could snatch it. Virgil Green should also make this squad and is a good blocker. I didn’t see Joel Dreessen on the field at all, not sure what his story is. They have a few weapons here, but no top 15 TE on this roster and certainly no one our Chief linebackers and secondary will have a tough time with.
RB: I didn’t get to see enough of the running backs to speak a lot on them. McGahee was in good form and looked pretty good. Know-Show Moreno was sporting a knee brace and looked rusty, it’s going to be interesting to see what Denver does with it’s former 1st round draft pick this year. Ronnie Hillman, Denver’s draft acquisition this year out of San Diego State, should provide them some flash, but I didn’t see much of him on this day.
Defense: Here is where Denver is going to lose games this year. On the front line we know Dumervil will make plays but the jury is still out on how many games he will be suspended for his incident with his “piece” in South Beach a few weeks ago. Regardless of the evidence that will or won’t surface, I bet Roger sits him for at least two to three games. But it could be as many as six. They have role players everywhere else on this defensive line. Their linebackers are lead of course by Von Miller, and this guy is truly a special talent. He was roaming all over the field, and sporting #58 (which mind you he has said is because his child hood idol on the football field was the late, GREAT Derrick Thomas) makes you think back to the Falcon position days in Arrowhead of the greatest linebacker to every play the game. Denver’s linebacking core aside from Miller is average at best. DJ Williams is suspended for the first six games of the regular season, so Woodyard and Mays will see significant time early on. Advantage is any TE playing against Denver, and any running back once they get to the second level. The secondary is lead by Champ, who can still play corner as good if not better than most. Champ shut down Demaryius Thomas on numerous passing drills which was impressive. On the other side Denver’s signing of Terry Porter was an upgrade to Andre Goodman, but their nickel and dime corners are young and inexperienced. Safety is the big hole here. Rahim Moore in his third year out of UCLA is their best talent at this spot, and that isn’t saying much. Bailey and Porter will allow the Broncos to play man coverage in a lot of defensive sets, but they will have to be special because once Baldwin and Co. get separation their help over the top doesn’t hold a candle to what we will enjoy from the safety position in Kansas City all season long.
All in all, I don’t feel nearly as threatened by this Denver team at this point as I thought I might. Yes, this is only the 3rd practice and we have yet to see any live game action, but Denver will not march to a 12 win record as many seem to be predicting. I say many, perhaps that’s just the locals. Denver also has the 2nd toughest league schedule by wins from last year mind you.
So what do you think Addicts? Does Denver scare you this year, or by Week 12 when the Ponies waddle into Arrowhead will we have already established a cushion in the West?