The bye week is the longest two weeks of the year for any football fan. Fortunately for Broncos fans, Denver gets their bye week out of the way early. With the Broncos set to face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon, the wait for orange and blue football is almost over.
The Broncos currently stand at 2-1, second in the AFC West behind the 3-1 San Diego Chargers.
From a record standpoint, this is pretty much where most people expected them to be. On the field, they’re still working out some kinks since coming off a Super Bowl appearance and adding some Pro Bowl talent on both sides of the ball.
Coming out of the bye week, there are certain things that I (and I’m sure other fans) am looking for out of the Broncos.
Better Run Blocking
Sep 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) prepares to take a snap from center Manny Ramirez (66) in the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Sports Authority Field at Mile High . Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The Broncos are 29th and 27th in yards per rush (3.2) and rushing yards per game (75.3), respectively. Something has to change coming out of the bye.
Some may look at those numbers and put a heavy amount of blame on the play of Montee Ball or even C.J. Anderson. To those people I say Ball does have his deficiencies – I’m talking mostly about his hesitancy behind the line at times. As for Anderson, I think he’s done a fine job with his 11 carries, running for 55 yards.
After watching the first three games, I point my finger at the offensive line. It’s a bit of an understatement to say they’re underachieving. They have players on their line that should be able to open good enough holes for these specific running backs to run through.
With Ball, a tackle-breaking machine, and Anderson, who has supreme ball carrying vision, the backs as a group should be averaging more than 3.2 yards per carry.
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It’s clear that right tackle Chris Clark and center Manny Ramirez have been the weak links of this run blocking group. But the line as a whole needs to be in lock-stop with each other when running plays are called. This includes Orlando Franklin (who has been good in this regard) and Pro Bowlers Ryan Clady and Louis Vasquez. There are some plays that I just cannot tell where the intended lane for the back is supposed to be because the play is blown up so quickly.
My Predominantly Orange colleague Ian St. Clair brought up the idea of inquiring about Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller. As a Clemson football fan, I’d be all for this idea. I think Spiller would help out a lot and be a good fit. He’s a three-down back and can bounce runs to the outside – something that he’d frequently have to do if these offensive line issues aren’t resolved.
But make no mistake; these problems do have to be cleared up. I’ve been harking on getting a slightly more balanced offense so the passing attack isn’t too heavily relied upon throughout the entire game. The offensive line has to do their part and step it up.
Overall Team Consistency
Sep 21, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette (83) catches the ball for a touchdown over Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib (21) during the game at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Denver 26-20. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
The inconsistencies of the offense are partly due to the struggles in the run game. The offense has struggled to stay consistent from game-to-game as well as quarter-to-quarter.
This offense has the firepower to be a consistent scoring threat on every drive. However, it seems as though the pace slows down after they get a big lead, which leads to letting opponents back into games. We saw this to be the case in the first two weeks of the season against the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs.
The Seattle Seahawks game in Week 3 was a whole other story, as the Broncos offense couldn’t seem to find a rhythm throughout the entirety of the game. Much like the Super Bowl, a turnover on the first play of the game could have contributed to this. However, the biggest problem to me in this game, and throughout this short season, has been the Broncos being prone to pulling punches. This was especially evident against Seattle, as any time the Broncos would get to 3rd and long, the Broncos called an ineffective run play and put the pressure on their defense.
Speaking of the defense, I saw awesome improvement and potential against the Seahawks, save for a long touchdown from Russell Wilson to Ricardo Lockette and a game ending drive in overtime.
In the first couple of weeks, the Broncos defense had trouble defending the pass in regards to the opponents’ tight ends and running backs, allowing 14 catches for 205 yards plus a touchdown and 15 catches for 135 yards, respectively.
Throughout the first three weeks, the Broncos also allowed 98 yards rushing from the oppositions’ quarterbacks. To be fair, the Broncos have faced three of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league to start the season, but we saw most notably in the last drive against the Seahawks how much mobile quarterbacks can hurt this defense.
These latter two problems are something that can be significantly helped with the return of linebacker Danny Trevathan, who is expected to come back to play against the Cardinals this Sunday.
Jan 12, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan (59) during the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Trevathan will be coming off a fractured knee that he suffered during an August 12 practice. As mentioned above, and many times before in previous posts, Trevathan will be a huge help to this ascending defense.
Injuries haven’t been a huge issue this year (knock on wood), but the injury bug bit the Broncos so badly last year, it’s worth bringing up here.
Last year’s injuries are why I am personally worried about having the bye week so early in the season. Had it been in Week 10, for instance, that would have given players time later in the season to rest up and heal injuries before the final stretch of the season. Now, the Broncos will have to play every week until (hopefully) they clinch a first round bye in the playoffs. The AFC Divisional games are scheduled for January 10th or 11th, meaning the Broncos will be playing every week for the next 13 weeks – that is, unless you want to count their game against the Chargers on Thursday, October 23 as their second that week. Nonetheless, that’s a long stretch of nonstop football.
As for the elephant in the room when it comes to injuries, Wes Welker, he’s obviously someone I think we all would like to see stay healthy. After getting multiple concussions in two years with the Broncos, it almost seems at this point like his head is a magnet for big hits. He’s an important part of this offense; a security blanket for Manning when he gets in tough spots, especially on third down. Welker staying healthy also helps this offense stay consistent from drive-to-drive.
Sticking with the wide receivers, I also hope Demaryius Thomas was able to work through whatever was going on with him to start the season. Thomas has surprisingly been struggling over the past few weeks, suffering numerous drops and catching only 13 of 27 passes thrown his way (for 141 yards and one [awesome] touchdown).
It was noted during the Seattle game that Thomas was dealing with a foot issue. Thomas’s name hasn’t been on the injury report once this season, though that still doesn’t always give the full story to what a player is dealing with. When it comes to DT, he’s willing to play through injuries, just as he did with his shoulder at Kansas City last year.
One thing I know about DT is that he’s been the one Bronco since 2010 that I can count on every game – injured or not – to put forth his full effort. Heck, just look at the Super Bowl last February. As far as Demaryius Thomas goes, he’s one guy I don’t worry about, as long as he doesn’t sustain a big injury.
Peyton Manning Gets Touchdown Number 509
Dec 22, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) congratulates wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) after Thomas scores a touchdown during the second quarter against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
What’s the post-bye season without breaking some records? Manning and the Broncos offense did that often last year. This year, he’ll be after the ultimate individual record for quarterbacks; Brett Favre’s career touchdown passes of 508.
As it stands right now, Manning needs 10 more passing touchdowns to break the record and stand alone as the all-time leader in that category.
Barring serious injury or the Monstars from Moron Mountain stealing his talent, Manning is currently on pace to break the record (…pause for suspense…) on Thursday Night Football in Denver against the San Diego Chargers. Oh the potential storylines for that game!
But who will catch Manning’s record-breaker? One of the Thomas’s? Wes Welker? Terrence Knighton??
My brain says Julius Thomas, but my heart says Demaryius Thomas, and I’m one to ignore my brain on many an occasion. I’ll go with DT to help Manning break Favre’s all-time passing touchdown record.