Jussel: Set at QB, Broncos need to upgrade elsewhere

John Elway and John Fox wanted a measuring stick for the Denver Broncos — and had that delivered Sunday, courtesy of a Nor’easter that blew into Denver to apply a butt-whipping.

What those who live in Broncoland learned the hard way was simple: They aren’t ready to reside in the NFL land of giants like the Patriots.

But let’s not blame the quarterback — and let’s forget about going out and finding a different one.

The quarterback issue has been cleared up. Tim Tebow can play and the Broncos can win (yes, even a Super Bowl or two) with him at the controls.

Let’s ask a simple question: Would the Broncos be a better team by trading Tebow, now in his second year in the league, for any other young quarterback in the league?

Andy Dalton? Ryan Fitzpatrick? Josh Freeman? Mark Sanchez? Colt McCoy? Blaine Gabbert? Sam Bradford? Christian Ponder?

No way would any of those young quarterbacks make the Broncos better now or in the foreseeable future.

There are three that you might consider: Cam Newton (rookie), Matt Stafford (third year) and Matt Ryan (third year), and there is certainly no guarantee that Denver would be a better team with any of that threesome at the helm.

I also submit the Broncos, in having to give up high draft choices and possibly other talent already on the team, would take a massive dive for several years if they maneuver to draft Andrew Luck, the surefire No. 1 pick in the next draft.

No, it’s Tebow Time, and time to grab an unexpected AFC West title and possibly a home field playoff win, then improve from there.

Denver has shown growth on the offensive side. They were dominating offensively against the Patriots and even on the winning side of the shootout until they decided to give away two fumbles and a muffed punt.

Defensively, however, they still have far to go to compete against the likes of the Patriots, Lions or the Packers.

In each of the three games the Broncos have been soundly whipped (against the Patriots, Lions and Packers), opposing quarterbacks have had the time to pick receivers at will. Denver does have outside pass pressure from Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, but although the middle of the defense, mainly Brodrick Bunkley and Marcus Thomas, has been relatively effective against the run, the pass rush from the middle has been nonexistent.

What would Denver’s defense be like if Ndamukong Suh was a member of the team? Scary thought, isn’t it: Suh, Miller and Dumervil raising havoc?

Tough task, but the Broncos need to find someone resembling the Detroit disrupter. It won’t happen in free agency, where the best are tied up for years to come. It will have to come via the draft, where Devon Still of Penn State is the top prospect, with Brandon Thompson of Clemson and Jerel Worthy of Michigan State possibilities.

They may not be exact Suh-a-likes, but would certainly help upgrade the pass defense.

Speaking of which, Task 2 will be to add one more cornerback. The Broncos found a diamond in the rough in undrafted rookie Chris Harris, who makes big plays consistently. He’ll be around for a long time to help the aging Champ Bailey. But Andre Goodman gets burned repeatedly.

There are two corners, Morris Claiborne from Louisiana State and Dre Kirkpatrick from Alabama, who would help immediately, but both will be gone unless Denver opts to trade up in the draft.

There are a number of quality free agents who could be available, possibly the best being Cortland Finnegan of Tennessee, the guy who got into a huge spat last year with then-Denver QB Kyle Orton. He is reputedly dirty and obnoxious, but can cover and would be a perfect fit in Denver. Oh yes, he also has been battling with the Titans’ brass about a new contract and unhappy they haven’t been more cooperative.

Other corners available through free agency could include Marcus Trufant of Seattle, Brandon Carr of Kansas City and Eric Wright of Detroit (he was awesome against Denver earlier this season).

The Broncos also need another year out of the ageless Brian Dawkins at strong safety before turning everything over to this year’s two rookies, Quinton Carter and Rahim Moore or third-year man David Bruton.

Although another bruising running back wouldn’t hurt, especially with Denver’s desire to run the football, there’s something that will not subside — the Broncos are young and on the way up offensively. They will take a giant step toward the AFC West title today in chilly Buffalo.

I take my 8-6 record picking with or against Denver and say the Broncos have what it takes to beat the Bills 24-17. That could set up the title clincher New Year’s Day in Denver against Orton and the Chiefs.


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