Sports: Rick Jussel Column :October 05, 2008

Broncos must address defensive shortcomings to be a contender

Er, hello Houston. We’ve got a problem.

Actually, it’s not Houston. It’s not NASA, and it’s not rocket science.

It’s good old-fashioned tackle football, rather the lack thereof.

The Denver Broncos were trounced by the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday 33-19. Yes, the same Chiefs team that had not threatened to compete in any of its first three games, let alone win.

True, it was the first loss of the season for Denver.

True, the Broncos are still in first place in the AFC West.

And also true, the AFC is not what it once was, not with perennial powers New England and Indianapolis looking like they are indeed vulnerable, not just in the occasional off game, but every week.

The Broncos are a playoff contender. They are a contender this week and should be the rest of the season.

But Houston, we’ve got a problem … a big problem, one that needs to be addressed soon.

We’re going to throw out the 41-14 win over Oakland in the opener. The Raiders offense was pathetic all night. But let’s go to the next three games:

Against San Diego, quarterback Phillip Rivers was 21 of 33 and the Chargers gained 456 yards.

Denver won 39-38.

The next week against New Orleans, it was Drew Brees going 39 of 48 for the Saints and Denver giving up 502 total yards, albeit in another narrow 34-32 win.

Last week in the loss to KC, it was Larry Johnson rushing for 198 yards and two TDs and, maybe more importantly, quarterback Damon Huard going 21 of 28 in the air as the Chiefs, previously a terrible offensive unit, rang up 373 yards.

Yes indeed Houston, we’ve got ourselves a monkey on our back, one that is starting to look and act more like the proverbial 500-pound gorilla.

So what does Denver do?

It’s been bandied about that the Broncos need to make a trade for more quality beef up front. I certainly don’t disagree with that logic. The Broncos have a plethora of draft picks next season and have so much young blood on the roster that adding another seven to 10 draft picks to the roster next season borders on insanity.

The Broncos can — and should if at all possible — add help on the D-line. Come hell or high water, the Broncos have to rush the quarterback.

Damon Huard cannot and should not go 21 of 28 against anyone.

Drew Brees should not be allowed to complete 80 percent of his passes in a game, any game.

And Phillip Rivers, well let’s just say he needs to be brought down a notch or two via contact, much like the New York Giants applied to New England’s Tom Brady in the last Super Bowl.

Can Denver apply pressure to the passer with what they have on the field now?

I don’t see it, not with the 4-3, not with the recently added 3-4.

If I’m looking for help right now, I go to the teams that are already toast, teams looking to re build as soon as possible. I go to Detroit and St. Louis with draft picks in hand.

I pick up La’Roi Glover, a 300-pounder for the inside, or Leonard Little, a 265-pound defensive end.

Glover is said to be on the way out of a starting spot, and Little is just coming back from injury, although he had two sacks last week against Buffalo. Both are veterans. Either or both could be had and upgrade what Denver has.

Detroit has a new president/general manager and will certainly be looking for change.

Dewayne White is a 275-pound defensive end and Cory Redding a 300-pound interior force. Detroit has been a previous trade partner several times recently and certainly could be again.

While the Broncos won’t be rebuilt in the defensive trenches today, they do have a seemingly nice assignment today: Tampa Bay at New Mile High.

But beware. The Bucs are one of those teams that sneak up on you.  They play outstanding defense and play it close to the vest offensively. They are 3-1 on the season and have won three in a row since going to a quarterback who may be a bit familiar to you: Brian Griese.

Don’t laugh.  He’ll throw for 150-plus yards, try not to make the big mistake, hand it off to tough guy Earnest Graham and pitch or screen to the quicker Warrick Dunn.

Last Sunday, the Bucs held highly regarded Green Bay to 21 points and put a big pass rush on the Pack’s Aaron Rogers, taking him out of the game late.

The Bucs, with another familiar face in the form of coach Jon Gruden at the helm are nothing to sneeze at.  Still …

I’ll take my 2-2 record picking with or against Denver (also 2-2 against the spread) and say the Broncos, a 3-point pick, win this one because they’ll score 27 points. Tampa Bay won’t. Denver will slow the Bucs’ rushing attack and Griese simply won’t be as effective as Jay Cutler. The Bucs will score 21.

And that will put Denver at 4-1 and, briefly at least, we won’t have to worry about the gorilla.


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