The buildup of excitement for the 2008 National Football League season finally comes to a head this week with the kickoff of regular season play, including the Denver Broncos’ Monday Night Football matchup at Oakland vs. the AFC West rival Raiders.
This game actually will be the second Monday night game of the opening week, and as such the Broncos draw the “three Mikes” announce team, which includes play-by-play voice Mike Greenberg along with color commentators Mike Golic and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Mike Ditka.
This is an exciting team that the Broncos will be taking into regular season play.
There is no question that Bronco followers have had a lot of new names to become familiar with during this preseason, but the excitement generated by the young players in the four preseason games was palpable.
Excitement is contagious, and there was a real energy level at that final game against the Arizona Cardinals. It was obvious whether one was watching the television broadcast, listening on the radio, or present on the sidelines at University of Phoenix Stadium.
I had gone down from the press box to the field for the last half of the fourth quarter and was standing adjacent to our bench area when rookie cornerback Jack Williams picked off that pass and took it all the way to the end zone to seal the win.
The game and score did not count for anything in the standings, but the entire bench was screaming as Williams took off on his long run, and most of the team ran a few yards toward the end zone with him, including jaded veteran players sharing this moment with a rookie beginning to make his mark.
You could see the sidleine response on the telecast as well.
This is an infectious enthusiasm, and there is real talent to go along with the verve demonstrated by these young players.
It is hard for a rookie to break into an NFL starting lineup, but the Broncos go into their opener at Oakland with two fresh starters on offense, number one draft choice Ryan Clady at left tackle and second round selection Eddie Royal at wide receiver.
Rookie punter Brett Kern led the NFL in punting this summer, the Broncos had the fewest sacks (two) and led all AFC teams in scoring this preseason.
Third-year quarterback Jay Cutler had a great preseason, and place kicker Matt Prater was among the scoring leaders in the entire league.
The future does not always automatically belong to the young, but it absolutely belongs to the young AND the talented, and these are positive signs for future development.
Outstanding drafts over the past three years and the addition of young free agent players have made their mark on the Denver roster this year.
It’s going to be an exciting season, and the Broncos are anxious to jump back into their long-accepted status as contenders in the always tough AFC West.