It is time to stop talking and start playing. Thank goodness.
The Broncos open the 2009 regular season Sunday in Cincinnati. We will get an idea of where the Broncos stand after an off-season of change.
Deep down, I believe the Broncos will be better than many people, especially national “experts,” think they will. I know I hope they will be but ultimately, I don’t know.
“I think we have a better idea than most people outside of this building of what we think we’re going to put out there,” Head Coach Josh McDaniels said on Friday. “But there’s always a little but of uncertainty before opening day. You want to get out there, get the butterflies out of the way and start playing football and start trying to execute the way you need to.”
At this point, I simply cannot buy into the notion that the Broncos will only win four or five games. I’ve spoken with some people who find those numbers to be high. Please. Come let us reason together. Is it possible the Broncos could struggle that much? Of course it’s possible. Barring a rash of injuries, it is highly unlikely, in my opinion, given the talent on this team.
Disagree? Let’s take a look at some of the evidence, first on offense.
Kyle Orton has been a reliable, if not spectacular, starting quarterback in a conservative offensive system in Chicago. At Purdue, he showed he could be the trigger man for a high-powered offense. Granted, it’s not completely an apples-to-apples comparison but it does show that he has been able to throw the ball effectively in the past.
Orton will be operating behind an offensive line that has already shown itself to be really, really good. Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris are terrific young tackles who should only get better. Chris Kuper and Ben Hamilton are really good guards. And center Casey Wiegmann is the iron man in the middle who seemingly gets better with age.
Tight end? Daniel Graham is another o-lineman in the run game and has much more to give as a receiver. Tony Scheffler is a big-time target and the Broncos are well aware of his ability.
At running back, there is a great mix of proven veterans and young talent with guys like Correll Buckhalter and Lamont Jordan, Peyton Hillis and Knowshon Moreno. While the backs are different from past years, the line is back. I have no doubt the Broncos will be able to run the ball well.
On defense, there are questions to be sure. But the overriding question I keep asking myself is, “Can the Broncos defense struggle any more than it has the past few years?” This is a unit that has surrendered over 400 points in each of the last two seasons.
With all of the changes, including a new defensive coordinator with a new scheme, I find it impossible to believe the Broncos won’t at least be just a little better on defense. The have upgraded their talent, they seem to be committed to a more attacking style and they seem to be adapting to the 3-4.
In his 11 years as an NFL defensive coordinator, Mike Nolan’s units have forced an average of 32 turnovers per season. That tells me he has a philosophy and a system that has, more often that not, produced results on the field.
While I’m on the topic of the coaching staff, let me add that there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Josh McDaniels will be a great NFL head coach. There are times in all of our lives when we get the opportunity to do something at a higher level for the first time. He is ready for this and he will be successful.
I know on the verge of the first game, the schedule looks tough. Heck, I think the opener in Cincinnati is hardly a gimme win. But let’s not forget that the Arizona Cardinals went to the Super Bowl last year. All I’m saying is that one never knows what will happen during the course of a season.
On the other end of the spectrum, I can’t sit here in mid-September and honestly say I believe the Broncos will win 11 or 12 games. I definitely think it is possible. But there are too many unanswered questions right now and there have simply been more changes than there have been opportunities for this team to show how good it can be.
So what do I expect out of the Broncos’ 2009 season?
1 – I expect the Broncos will continue to improve throughout the season. I believe, again barring key injuries, the Broncos will be better at the end of the season than they are at the beginning. Everything is new right now. As these players get used to the new systems at regular season game speed, I think they’ll show steady improvement.
2 – I expect to have fun following them. I don’t mind it at all when uncertainty is the primary feeling I have about a team. I don’t mind not having any kind of true feel for what I think will happen Sunday against the Bengals. I’m embracing the unknown.
3 – I expect it to be an interesting season. I can’t see this team having a miserable year. And I’m not at all ruling out the possibility of a great year. I’m sure it will be an interesting year as this team establishes an identity and goes out each week to try to win a game.
“I think our entire team, all our staff, is excited for Sunday,” McDaniels said on Friday.
So am I. Let the games begin.
What are your expectations for the season? I’d love to get your thoughts.
Thanks for reading,