Broncos papering over the cracks
On 20 March the game, apparently, changed in Denver. Overnight, with a single signing, the Broncos went from a weak team carried to the playoffs on the back of their quarterback to… a weak team that many pundits expect to be a Super Bowl challenger on the back of their quarterback. What a difference a future Hall of Fame signal-caller makes, eh? And yes, I mean Peyton Manning, not Tim Tebow.
Throughout Tebow’s seemingly miraculous winning run in 2011 the question on everyone’s lips was, “How can a team that was so awful in the first few weeks suddenly seem unbeatable?” The answer that the world came to was that Tebow was a winner, period, and his own personal drive was enough to overcome his colleagues’ shortcomings.
Whilst most people can probably agree that is an over simplistic answer – in reality the Denver pass rush led by Von Miller, and Matt Prater’s epic boot kept the Broncos in games long enough for Tebow time to take effect – there’s no hiding the fact that the QB’s fourth quarter heroics were papering over the cracks, and there’s very little to suggest that will change in 2012.
Which brings us to Peyton Manning. Denver’s free agency work so far has been all about supporting #18 (Tracy Porter notwithstanding), and John Elway’s assertion that the Broncos “don’t have a Plan B” is concerning when Plan A is a quarterback with a questionable neck. Let’s face it, Colts fans can tell you what happens when you put all your eggs in the Manning basket with painful consequences.
A quick glance at the Broncos depth chart is worrying reading. Most positions are only one-deep, and the rest are filled by players that weren’t good enough six months ago on both sides of the ball, and with James Harrison and the Steelers coming to town in Week 1 you have to wonder whether a little more effort should have been spent in improving the team as a whole.
Elway and Fox have done an ok job so far in giving Manning some more targets to throw to, adding a couple of tight ends and Brandon Stokley, but Willis McGahee isn’t getting any younger, and at least two elements of the O-line need flat out replacing.
On the other side of the ball, sure the pass rush (Ayers, Dumervil, Miller and Williams) is solid, but the run defense was abysmal and the Broncos need at least three players to shore it up from Week 1, and the secondary is either aged (at the corners) or incompetent (over the middle).
Who the Broncos take in the coming draft will be telling. Come Sunday we will know whether Elway and Fox’s plan is “improve the team in general” or “let the quarterback win the game on his own”. Somehow, I fear it will be the latter.