Rick Jussel Column April 29, 2009

Rebuilding is Broncos’ new refrain

The dust from that nasty draft has settled.

The Denver Broncos, complete with a remade front office and coaching staff, are as whole as they can be at this point — free agents in the fold, collegians being ushered in and out of Dove Valley to sign contracts, and veterans who have survived the Great Purge hard at it in “voluntary” offseason workouts.

So, what do we make of this 500-piece jigsaw puzzle scattered across the kitchen table?

We have already learned much about new head coach Josh McDaniels. He is confident in his abilities, stubborn (see Cutler, Jay), loves the New England Patriot way down to the point of making the hoodie his apparel of choice.

And he certainly is not going to let people like you and I dictate what he does, as the recent NFL draft would suggest. With virtually every piece of good advice from every expert in the country readily available to him, he went his own way consistently.

If we take our Bronco puzzle and complete it on the kitchen table right now, what do we have?

Let’s look.

The draft certainly had to help the situation post-Cutler with the addition of Knowshon
Moreno, the Georgia running back who certainly fits McDaniels’ mold. He is shifty, not really a breakaway guy, and can catch the ball out of the backfield, something that has always been in the Patriot staple much more so than pounding the ball 30 times a game. He is reportedly a superb pass blocker.

Moreno will be on the field as a starter opening day and will be on the field the vast majority of time.

Aside from that, the offense got no immediate help and the Broncos as they are currently constituted will now be in the hands of either Kyle Orton or Chris Simms, either or both a big dropoff from Cutler.

The only way this unit is nearly as effective as it was the past two seasons under Cutler’s direction is if McDaniels is indeed the boy wonder as a game planner and play caller offensively.

We’ll see.

What I just can’t comprehend is the plan on defense. 

One move, the selection of Robert Ayers, the Tennessee defensive end/outside linebacker, will help. Ayers should immediately step in to help as a pass-rushing linebacker, likely replacing Elvis Dumervil, who is moving from defensive end to linebacker.

Ayers, at 275 pounds, also can be used in passing situations on the front three, hoping to get both he and Dumervil on the field at the same time. Something has to help because, according to Scouts, Inc.,  a reliable player assessment service, Denver’s defensive front three is laughable:

Defensive end Kenny Peterson, a 300-pound veteran, “has always been a backup, role player who has had limited production. … he lacks the explosive quickness off the edge and acceleration around the corner to be an effective pass-rusher.”

Defensive end Darrell Reid, a 286-pound backup with Indianapolis the last four years, “doesn’t have ideal size for the defensive tackle position, but he does have some upfield ability, thus making him an okay fit as a backup. … He is light on his feet with good agility and some explosive qualities. He is young and improving his technique as a defensive tackle. ”

As for the middle spot that is so important in the 3-4, Ronald Fields, a free agent signee from the 49ers, “has limited lateral range, but will show good effort to get there. He is not much of a penetrator and makes most of his plays on effort and hustle. He does not redirect or recover very easily. … He is a backup only and would not upgrade any team as anything more than a role player.”

This, folks, is Denver’s first line of defense against the run.

That’s how this Bronco puzzle goes together: an offense that likely won’t move the ball as well as it has in the recent past and one of the league’s worst defenses banking on improvement of mediocre players.

It’s now official: Welcome to rebuilding time.


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