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The Broncos Outlook, Article by Chris Hart

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 7:38 pm    Post subject: The Broncos Outlook, Article by Chris Hart Reply with quote

This is an article I did on another site, just to give some Broncos fans some of my perspective going into the off-season. It's really long, hope you guys enjoy.

Denver Broncos Outlook -- The Big Picture
By: Chris Hart

The Denver Broncos are 11-3 and they're one win away or a San Diego loss from clinching the AFC West Division. The effort this team has put out this year has surprised the fans and a lot of people around the NFL. Most of all, this team has impressed me. However, there are still a lot of questions we can ask about in regards to the future of this team. I'll start off with some burning questions that deal with the remainder of the season, then I'll move into questions concerning players, the draft and free agency. It'll be a long read, but I hope you guys will enjoy it.

Can the Denver Broncos clinch a first-round bye in the AFC?

Absolutely. The Broncos may have lost a heart-breaker to Oakland last year at Mile High, however I do not believe it will happen again this year. Shanahan knows how serious this game is. If we win this game, we win the division and we're one step closer to getting that first-round bye for the playoffs. It's been a long time since the Broncos have won the division and I think it'd be a big boost to us going into the playoffs.

I think it's pertinent that we get this first-round bye. I'm fearful that our great season could come to a screeching hault right away if we have to play in the first-round. I'm worried about the matchups, and personally I wouldn't want to play the Steelers, Chargers or Chiefs with our #3 seed (assuming we don't get the bye). Just having our team rested, hopefully having D-Weezy back healthy, and the fact we'll get to play a worn out team would make all of us a little more comfortable as we head into the playoffs.

Can the Broncos make it to the Super Bowl, and most of all, win it?

Yeah. Dream scenario would be for the Chargers to get the #6 seed, knock off Cincinatti and stick it to Peyton and the Colts yet again. I'd like our chances at home against the Chargers with them playing that many games straight. There aren't many teams I'd be worried about in the NFC, in my honest opinion, we could beat all of them. I know we lost to the Giants, but if anyone watch that game, you know darn well that we had that game dominated until the final seven minutes. I personally like our chances this year moreso than next year, but certainly the next two years would be our best shot to get it done.

How much longer will the "Old Man" Play?

Rod "Old Man" Smith has the ability to play out the end of his contract. According to the NFLPA, Smith's contract is void in 2008, however it is unlikely he'll play that long. I have faith that Rod Smith has atleast another year or so left in him, and with us lacking a true #1 wide receiver, I hope we'll be able to find one before he hangs them up. In my personal opinion, the implications of Smith hanging them up will be just as bad as the implications when Elway retired. Period.

The Future of Ashley Lelie in Denver.

Ashley Lelie is under contract with the Broncos until 2007 and I believe the Broncos will indeed keep him here until that time is done. His cap number is very small, (600,000 and 725,000) the next few years. I recently found an article in the Yahoo that had this to say about Lelie:

Despite his 18-yards-per-catch average, word is circulating that the Denver Broncos have lost faith in the idea that Ashley Lelie can eventually shoulder the load as a No. 1 wide receiver.

The hope was that Lelie who was still viewed as being unpolished in his route-running when plucked from Hawaii in the first round of the 2002 draft would eventually take over for Rod Smith. But even with last season's 1,084-yard effort, Lelie hasn't come close to Smith's competitive nature, and coaches have been disappointed that Lelie is often bullied by physical cornerbacks. Thus, Denver is expected to look for another marquee receiver in free agency or the draft.

I think this is half true and half false. All I have heard is good things about Ashley, besides the fact that he lacks that competitive nature like Rod Smith. There are no questions in regards to Ashley's size, hands, speed and blocking ability. He's superb in those categories. Where he still needs work is in route-running and he needs to get a little tougher. Those things can be worked on, in time I think it'll get better.

Like I've said many times, it usually takes three years for a receiver to develop, and I think Ashley has done that. It's just too bad that the play-calling and the coaching staff limiting Plummer's abilities have also hurt Ashley as well. You don't see many calls going Ashley's way. We haven't been throwing the ball deep often and we've certainly taken away from Plummer's gunslinger mentality. Also, Plummer has overthrown Ashley atleast ten times this season. Had he actually made those throws, nobody would be complaining about Ashley now and he'd probably have similar statistics to last year. Ashley has improved a lot since the first few games of the season and I see nothing but improvement from him in the future.

Even though I don't think he's in the mold of the typical Bronco receiver, I think Ashley will more than likely be re-signed or given a contract extension sometime before his true contract runs out. When you look at the receivers behind Ashley, we have some good developmental receivers, but I do not believe we have any true #1 project behind him.

Living up to the hype as a #1 receiver is tough. At the worst case scenario Ashley Lelie is a fantastic #2 receiver. He's ability to stretch our passing game has helped our running game substantially. Just look at the cushion receivers are giving Ashley when he's on the field, and look what we'd lose if he were to vacate any time in the near future.

In conclusion, Ashley is a fantastic physical specimen, but he lacks the aggressiveness and all-out mentality ala Rod Smith. That's where his biggest deficiencies are. I do believe he can be a number one receiver on this team, but at worst, he's a great #2 option. If Plummer looked his way more often, I'm sure his statistics would look a lot better.

Just give Ashley more touches and you'd be surprised at what he can do. Right now he's at 35 catches and 700 yards, also add in four key first downs and 77 yards rushing and you're pushing 800 total yards and about 25+ first downs with him as a receiver. He brings a lot of talent to the table, I think our coaches have done a poor job utilizing his talents. Limiting Plummer has affected Ashley, and I don't think he should be downed because of that.


Devoe, Adams and Company are not the solution!

Where Devoe and Adams may be decent #3 and #4 wide receivers, they are not the kind of receivers I would want to see to become two of our top three receivers on our squad once Rod retires. They're still very raw and have a lot to learn. By the looks of Adams numbers, he's doing well as a #3 option, but I think he needs to concentrate more and needs to stop dropping catchable balls. Where Plummer isn't the best passer, (although he's fairly good in my opinion) he has hit Adams in the hands several times, for him to only drop those passes. Some of those passes have been on third downs. I'm not sure whether or not Adams prefers to catch with his body or with his hands, but dropping the ball is unacceptable. Face it, Devoe had one good play that opened us up the win against Philadelphia but has virtually been out of commission since.

Watts has been a huge bust, (can't believe we drafted him that high just because he broke Moss' records at Marshall) and more than likely will not have the opportunity to turn it around. He's went from our #3 to currently being inactive for almost all of our games. That's a huge fall from grace. He's only under contract for two more years. I don't think we'll cut him, but since his cap number is so low, I wouldn't be surprised if we did.

So what's the solution?

Personally, I'm not all that impressed with the wide receiver class this far, especially as far as top end prospects go. Where there are no Calvin Johnson's or Dwayne Jarrett's in this draft, the top guys aren't anyone to frown about. Would I be upset if we took a guy really high? Possibly, depending on who else is on the board but there is no doubt that it's a question in the minds of Broncos fans and personell. I've heard from Scott and other sources that the Broncos are looking to draft a wide receiver early on day one. The need is clearly there, but I've also heard that the Broncos are seriously looking to upgrade the defensive line and the offensive line as well, so if they can get that done, I probably wouldn't have a problem with adding a first day receiver.

I believe I posted a quote from Sundquist expressing interest in the Patriot FA receivers. (I think Branch and Givens both are, and I think both would be awesome pick ups!) So it'll be interesting to see if we end up targeting them (I know Givens is a FA for sure) come free agency. Could we go after a guy like Reggie Wayne? I doubt it, unless we can get in decent salary cap shape.

In conclusion on this topic, wide receiver is a big need. I'd prefer to get a guy in FA, a guy like Wayne or Givens (preferably Givens!) that have shown they are legit targets in the NFL. Where these guys aren't perfect, they'd still be good additions to our squad. If push comes to shove, if we can get a receiver in the draft, (perhaps in a situation where we trade down or trade away a first rounder) I'd be accepting to it. As long as it's not a guy like Demetrius Williams who is an Ashley Lelie clone.

"Browncos" have been solid, but an upgrade(s) needed!

I'll be the first to say I'm pretty pleased with the way these guys have played, however I'm not sure if these guys are the long-term solutions at our defensive line, nor do I believe they're worth the money and incentives that it'd cost to keep them on our squad.

With bonuses and the base salary, Gerrard Warren is going to cost us a lot next year towards the cap. I know his base salary is 6.6 million dollars, but I also believe he's due a bonus that could cost us around ten million. Where I like Warren, I think he's well, but he's certainly not worth that. The same goes for Ekuban, who can be replaced and if cut will save us about three million dollars. Myers will be kept, but an UT replacement for him is needed, for how well he's done and how low his cap number is (even though he's out of contract after 06) he'll be on the team.

Courtney Brown should be kept on the team, his cap number isn't heavy at all next year and is decent for the next several years. (Under contract until 2009, next year he'll be making 1.4 million and it will increase 500,000 each year after that) I've been impressed by his play. To me, he serves better as a rush end, instead of playing the left end which is heavy against the run. If he and Pryce switched spots, I think our line would be more effective. Too bad Coyer has stopped his aggressive schemes for the past what, five games. They were really working before.

Trevor Pryce is the joker of this group. When I say joker, I couldn't care less if he's traded or cut. Personally, I'd like to see him restructure. It's been noted that Denver was trying to trade him during this past off-season, but couldn't get anything decent in return because of his injury. With his salary, I doubt he's traded so I think he will either be cut (don't think he has anything in his contract which would hurt us against the cap) or re-structured. Here's what he's due to make the next few years.

2006 6530000.00
2007 7970000.00
2008 9000000.00

No way is he worth that. With that money, we could signed Wayne, Givens, afford all of our picks and then some. We'd be silly not to do something about this.

I'm all for loading up two to three players on the defensive line in the draft. You guys know how much I like Claude Wroten as a future UT prospect on this team and probably could play end in a 3-4 if we do go that way. Also, Rod Wright is slipping down draft boards and could be a potential pick for us in the second round, if we trade down or something of the sort. There's a lot we could do and there are a lot of solid prospects at DT this year and we'd be fools not to take one.

I'm not too thrilled with the DL FA's, but there are some names that strike me. Most of them would be ideal if we went to the 3-4, but there are also some good 4-3 prospects as well. Personally, I'd rather add youth to our team than bring in a 6-7 year veteran who would demand quite a bit of money. Truth be told, we could probably get two big name DT/DE's in this draft in the first and second rounds, plus a decent FA for the cost of guys like Warren, Ekuban and Pryce on our roster. For the most part, young defensive lineman are dirt cheap, although teams are coveting the position more and more.

Best case scenario for us in my opinion is draft two defensive lineman on day one and look at some of the better DL FA's and add some versatility to our squad.

Offensive Line is a concern, but not that big of a concern.

Lepsis is under contract until 2009, but I believe he has the option to end his contract with the Broncos and test the free agent market this off-season. He's scheduled to make a million next year and in my opinion, he's worth about three more. Although he'd probably get big money if he left Denver in the off-season, I'm almost positive he'll stay here on this squad. In the next several years, his salary does increase and I think it'd be the equivalent to what he'd probably get if he tested the market.

2006 1000000.00
2007 3100000.00
2008 4800000.00
2009 4000000.00

Matt Lepsis is a top five LT in the NFL and he deserves to be payed for one. Hopefully he doesn't bail on us, and if he does, I most certainly know that he'd be on his way to Atlanta.

Tom Nalen right now is probably going to retire. If he did, I think it'd save us a lot of money. He's scheduled to make six, seven and eight million dollars three years in a row after this and although he's one of the best lineman we've ever had and my opinion a future HOF, I do not think he's THAT important to our line. Sure, I'd love to see him play for a few more years, maybe he could re-structure, but I'm doubting that will happen. We'd save a lot of money towards the cap if Nalen re-structured or retired, I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Carlisle has played well lately, but I don't doubt that we could find an upgrade over him. First guy(s) in the draft that comes to mind is Eslinger or Settersom, who would be good picks with our 2nd and 3rd respectively. Carlisle is under contract until 2006 and with us signing him so late, I feel that it was only urgency and that our plans right now are definitely to upgrade the interior of our line this upcoming draft.

If Nalen does retire, Hamilton will probably move to center, and Hamilton is under contract for quite some time. We're set with Foster at RT, who is coming along very well. I questioned the pick at first, but the kid is almost up to pro-bowl caliber material. If he stops making the little mental mistakes now and then, I think he can become one of the best linemen in the league.

Before PJ Alexander was injured and placed on Non-football IR, the coaches were extremely pleased with his progression. Other things I'm hearing are that the Denver coaches love OL Chris Myers and he could possibly be on the pace to have a starting position on the line next year. Taylor Whitley, currently our back-up at both guard positions could be a possibility as well. Personally, adding another guy in there for "safety" would be great. I don't see any of those guys transforming into top prospects on the interior, but with the scheme we have, they'd probably look pretty good.

So if we are looking towards the draft, Eslinger would be a solid pick in round two, Settersom in round three. If we're looking for a LT if Lepsis ops out of his contract, there should be two guys I'm high on, Scott and Colledge at the end of round one. Colledge could probably play any spot on our line if needed and heck, he'd be a Bronco for life!

If I didn't mention it earlier, Scott said that Denver has plans to upgrade the OL in the draft as well. (DL, OL, WR is what he told me) I'm not sure about FA OL, sorry about that. Anyways, I doubt we go that route in the first place.

Miscellaneous Thoughts and Information.

Like I stated above, Denver as of right now is looking to upgrade the DL, OL and WR on the first day of the draft. Scott didn't have much more to say because he stated you rarely hear any aspirations about teams who are in contention in regards to the draft. I'll be sure to keep you guys updated on anything else I hear as the season goes on.

If you didn't pick it up from the earlier reads, or forgot, Sundquist has interest in the Patriot WR's, probably David Givens, who could be a legit #1 guy for us, or atleast a solid addition for next year and the future.

Among the FA's we have, Veal, Brandon and Chucky should be re-signed.

Regardless of how Ferguson has played of late (a little better) and that Lynch was voted into the Pro-Bowl again, we need to upgrade the safety position.

Denver can clinch a first round bye with a win against the Raiders and a Bengals loss this weekend.


Alright guys, that's all I have. Hope you enjoy.

Yeah, awesome cool! Denver Broncos rock the world!

Last edited by Chris on Thu Jan 05, 2006 8:21 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 5:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great post. Good to see something in depth about the Broncos. With the way Rod Smith is playing, I definetly think he should be able to stick aroudn one more year and the Broncos could hopefully hold out to get a top WR prospect next year as this years crop is less then steller.

I would really like to see the Broncos get a safety with one of the first round picks at the draft. There are three solid picks who would look great playing along side Lynch. But DL and OL is a need. Either Warren or Pryce looks to be gone next year or possibly both because of the cap and help could be found in the draft. And who knows who is going to be here next year on the O-line.

Again great post.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2005 7:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great post. Applause

Question: Do you honestly believe that when the pressure is on in a playoff game and Jake Plummer has to make plays where hes not playing from ahead, the Broncos actually have a chance? The Broncos have the defense and the running game to dominate all the way to a SB ring, but Plummer is still the weakest link. If a team like Cincy or Indy (like they have done before) put the game where the Broncos cant be unpredictable with their playcalling, and just limit them to Plummer dropping back and passing, they dont have a chance IMO.

You have the Steelers and Jags who can take away the run. You have the Bengals and Colts who can run up the score and make it hard to run the ball later in the game. You have the Pats who can do it all and more. I dont see the Broncos winning anything with Jake Pummer at QB. ANytime hes not in "managing" duties, the Broncos are in trouble.

Thats just the way I see it, I'm wondering what you think?
Equal Opportunity Hater

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2005 3:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the past several games, Jake Plummer has been a great pocket-passer. He realizes that he can't just rely on the bootleg and has transformed himself into a pretty good pocket passer as of late. As long as our defense keeps working and our running game works, I think that we'll be fine.

We went undefeated at home this season, so I'm willing to bet the bank that we can win atleast one game in the playoffs.

Yeah, awesome cool! Denver Broncos rock the world!
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2006 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Things look great for Denver now. If they can play as well as they did most of the regular season they can beat the remaining teams.
They did not play anywhere near their best vs New England and still won.
I am still not sold on Jake Plummer not falling back into his bad old habits
under the pressure of a crucial game though.
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