By Thom Casdorph 9/20/17
After last Sunday night’s, late late victory that saw the Broncos hold off their 3rd best division rival Chargers, the excitement was palatable. After a week of hearing the media fawn over America’s team, while Vegas and TV pundits picked the Cowboys to knock off the Broncos in the Mile High City, and watch the Broncos dispatch of Boys with a star, the excitement is now at frenzy. Most fans were expecting the defense to do well, as the team has a had a top defense for the last 2 years with mostly the same personnel. However most fans assumed the defensive rushing deficiencies to be limiting and most fans expected the offense to still limp around the field without a pulse while shooting itself in the foot.
So far the offense has shown a remarkable ability to move the football through both the air and the ground, while the offensive line has actually pushed foes around. More so, Trevor Siemian has looked like a real quarterback, not just a placeholder till the Broncos find the “one”. The offensive play calling has looked imaginative and the defense has looked impenetrable in the run game while still maintaining defensive pass dominance. So who exactly are these Broncos?
Are they better than the Super Bowl team that crushed the Panthers 2 years ago or will another great start fan out into mediocrity and crash and burn out of the playoffs like last year? Well, let’s start with what we know. The best cornerback tandem is still there and they are still the best. If Chris Harris, Aquib Talib and Bradly Roby let you catch a pass, they will take you down right after and before the sticks. Simmons is not Ward but that might be a good thing, he can cover and the name of the game in the NFL is passing.
Another guy that can cover means that the Broncos can play alignments like they did yesterday. To stop Ezekiel Elliot, the Broncos deployed more of a cover 1 with Stewart in the box while Simmons played centerfield, an alignment they may not have played if Stewart was the centerfielder. The pass rush has looked good, though not yet great. According to Pro Football Focus no other edge tandems besides Miller and Barrett have had more pressures through two games.
The Broncos have seemingly traded out some interior pass rush, for interior brawn that can close out gaps, so they will have to rely on more stunts, blitzes and the return of Shane Ray to try and beef up the pass rush through the middle, though Shelby Harris has shown Malik Jackson like promise. The inside linebackers look solid if not spectacular and the coaching seems smart, fresh and more apt to confuse opponents then the simple scheme run by Wade Phillips.
The addition of Peko and the coming of age of Adam Gostis appear to have bolstered the defensive line, while Derrick Wolfe is just a beastly man. Add in Kerr, who is not yet played, the upstart Shelby Harris and the newly acquired Ahbta Rubin and the run defense looks a lot better, especially when you can rely on your corners to cover and bring another guy to the line of scrimmage to stop the run. On offense, the results so far have been surprisingly…good.
Let’s start with the quarterback. Trevor Siemian has been able to make the key 3rd down conversions to keep the chains moving and has been able to throw actual touchdown passes. When not pressured against Dallas, Siemian delivered a 143.9 rating according to Pro Football Focus as he has made quick decisions with accurate passes. Now, he still needs to improve his pocket presence, as too many times he allows himself to be swallowed up, and he still needs to improve his overall vision as he misses too many open receivers.
However no one is asking him to be a top echelon quarterback. An above average one will do and so far Siemian has been well above average. Above average is not something that can be said for Menelik Watson at right tackle, as he has been nothing short of a turnstile and helped gift wrap 7 points from a sack -fumble allowed against Dallas. That combined with Trevor’s lack of pocket savvy and we have a recipe for trouble. Garret Bolles was playing well for a rookie before going down with a bone bruise. He is set to back soon, but will struggle due to his lack of experience when he returns as could his replacement, Allen Barbre, who is actually more o f a guard.
Regardless, the line has opened up plenty of holes for CJ Anderson, who has done his job in breaking tackles and wearing down the defense. According to Pro Football Focus, CJ, gained more than half of his yards after contact. Before contact, Leary, Paradis and even Garcia have done a good job springing CJ open with holes as a result of good push. Jamaal Charles has even shown a different dimension as his outside runs and quickness have kept the defense off balance.
The tight ends have blocked well in the running game as Mike Mccoy has gone heavy often and have even found themselves open and targeted on many seam routes. These routes have come alive now that the running game has improved and a safety has had to come and help, which plays right into star receivers, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders hands’. The talented dynamic duo is usually doubled but when the running game is on, they are now easy targets. The offense looks fresh and new and offensive coordinator Mike Mccoy has shown his medal, by scripting plays at the beginning of the game that actually work from great film study and talent utilization. Now instead of choosing to kick the ball off to start the game, the Broncos want the ball. They understand the importance of scoring first and now actually believe that they can.
So what to make of it all? Should the Fan base be excited in their thinking that this is a real Super Bowl contender? Excitement is always good; it is a sport, so let’s have fun, be excited. As for the Super Bowl contender part, well, why not? The Broncos know from past successes that they have the kind of defense that doesn’t require excellence on offense. It does require however, a quarterback to get them into the right play, not make mistakes and execute the offense while keeping the defense honest. T-Sim has shown signs of this up this point, but the big difference is the offensive line. If the new power blocking offensive line led by Ron Leary keeps blasting people off the line of scrimmage and the running backs, led by CJ Anderson, keep breaking tackles, Trevor could shine.
Now for the sober warning. The first two games have been at home and the Cowboys defense is less than stellar, especially after injuries in the secondary. The Broncos have rolled out a new offensive scheme with new personnel up front that may have caught some teams off guard. Let’s hold off on the “Broncos have found their Quarterback” headline until we get on the road and play some teams that will design their defense around stopping our running game and see if Trevor can still show up. If he does, I may even lead a parade. Nonetheless, with an improved running attack on offensive and a better run defense, the Broncos are answering in the affirmative to a lot of the off-season questions. Perhaps what we have seen is the road to another glorious ending and not a disappointing mirage. Color me hopeful.