Jussel: Even a 4th-grader can see Broncos are better across the board
This week’s essay question for our fourth-graders: Will the Denver Broncos be a better football team than they were last season?
Billy’s writing sample follows.
Dear Mr. Teacher:
The Denver Broncos will indeed be a better football team this season than last. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating — metaphorically speaking when the Orange and Blue-clad warriors take to the field in Super Bowl XLVIII in New York.
Offensively, will the Broncos be better at the quarterback position? Lord, yes. Peyton Manning will be better because he is recovered from neck surgeries and a year into the Bronco way of doing things. Brock Osweiler will be better qualified as a backup.
At running back? Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno will be a better unit than a banged-up Willis McGahee, a lighter Hillman and an injured Moreno. Yes, better.
Let’s check out the receiver spots. We have Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker out wide. Are you kidding me? Add the rapidly improving Julius Thomas to Joel Dreessen, Jacob Tamme and Virgil Green at tight end. With apologies to Brandon Stokley, better by far.
The offensive line? There has been much ado about nothing here. When the smoke clears, Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, Ryan Lilja, Louis Vasquez and Orlando Franklin will rank with the best, certainly better than last season’s unit was at any time. And if any of those large fellas goes down, there is help not far away, lots of it.
That’s looking at things offensively.
Now, we’ll get defensive and start up front.
Elvis has left the building, and we all know the reasons why. We also know the team’s brain trust didn’t think he was worth the money he was due to receive. Think the execs are shedding buckets of tears? Get real. Elvis will be replaced effectively and inexpensively.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will use an infinite number of combinations pending down and distance. Mix and match Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson, Robert Ayers, Kevin Vickerson, Terrance Knighton, Mitch Unrein and Sylvester Williams, the team’s top draft pick, and you’ve got two tons of nasty attitude. Better up front than last season? No question.
Let’s skip back to the secondary.
Welcome Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Upon your arrival, the defensive backfield improved because Chris Harris moves into the nickel where he matches up against slot receivers. And, yes, Champ Bailey is still Champ Bailey, still comfortable out there on his little island.
The corners have improved, as have the safeties, where Rahim Moore will be better than in his second season — and no, he won’t allow Jacoby Jones of “Dancing With the Stars” fame to get deep on him again. The big improvement, however, will come from an unexpected source, Duke Ihenacho, a practice-squad player last season who is starting to look like the second coming of Troy Polamalu. Deeper and better, the secondary.
Now, we come to the one unit that may raise a few questions, the linebacking corps.
We do have the possible suspension of the best in the business, Von Miller, looming, maybe for a quarter of the season if form holds.
There is also the question of who mans the middle, Nate Irving or Stewart Bradley, neither of whom saw much action last season, Irving being a reserve in Denver while Bradley was riding the pine in Arizona.
Free agent Shaun Phillips was brought in after being a sack master for nearly a decade with the Chargers to back up Miller and perhaps apply pressure from the other side on passing downs. He may end up trying to emulate Miller for the first month.
The linebacking unit does have Wesley Woodyard, the team’s leading tackler last season who should have been a Pro Bowl selection but wasn’t.
This is the one unit questionable in terms of being better than last season, but that is only valid until Miller is on the field full-time. When he is in there, he will be the most disruptive force in the game, and the linebacking corps will be just fine, thank you.
In summary, the Broncos will be better than they were last season, better offensively and eventually pending the Miller situation, better defensively.
And we haven’t even brought Trindon Holliday, Matt Prater and Britton Colquitt into the equation, or mentioned the fact nondrafted free agent Quincy McDuffie was the leading kick returner in college last season. But if we mentioned them, it wouldn’t be a true dichotomy, and I wouldn’t be following my premise — and I would not be scored as proficient in this writing sample.
Your student and pal, Billy
Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.