2006 season: 9-7
Head Coach: Mike Shanahan
Offensive Coordinator: Rick Dennison
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Slowik
Pro-Bowl: Champ Bailey(CB), Al Wilson(ILB) and John Lynch(S)
The Denver Broncos offense was average yet again this season ranking 21st overall and averaging 19.9 points per game. The Broncos running game was great much like it has been for the last decade, ranking 8th overall and gaining 134.5 per game. Now the passing game on the other hand was in the bottom third in the league, the Broncos averaged just 174.9 passing yards per game. Part of that was the quarterback switch a little over midway through the season. Denver hasn't been satisfied with veteran Jake Plummer for a few years now and after throwing for 1,994 yards, 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions they finally pulled the plug and handed the job over to rookie quarterback Jay Cutler. In the five games Cutler started last season he threw for 1,001 yards, 9 touchdowns and 5 touchdowns. And his quarterback rating was 88.5 oppose to the 68.8 Plummer put up. Mike Shanahan proved yet again that they can put any runningback in their system and have him rush for 1,000 yards. Tatum Bell rushed for 1,025 yards and 2 touchdowns. His backup, Mike Bell, rushed for 677 and an impressive 8 rushing touchdowns. One of the biggest problems on the Broncos offense was the depth at wide receiver, or lack there of. Besides Javon Walker there wasn't much left. Rod Smith is great but his career is winding down so he's just not the player he used to be. They have Brandon Marshall who has a lot of talent and the Broncos love him, they feel he can be very good soon. Walker caught 69 balls for 1,084 yards and 8 touchdowns. Like I said Smith is in the decline and it's proven by his numbers, just 52 receptions, 512 yards and 3 touchdowns. It really seemed like rookie tight end, Tony Scheffler, didn't start playing well till Cutler took over. Scheffler quickly became Cutler's number one target and he caught 18 balls for 286 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Denver Broncos had to deal with major tragedies on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. On offense, runningback Damien Nash suddenly collapsed at a benefit for his brother during the offseason and he sadly died. He was just 24 years old.
The Denver Broncos defense at the beginning of the season was one of the best we've seen in sometime. The way they completely dominated teams including the Ravens and Patriots to name a couple was amazing. They gave up just 44 points in the first 6 games including 7 or less in 5 of the 6 games(St.Louis scored 18 points in the first game of the season, all field goals). They did falter towards the end of the season, but they were still able to rank 14th overall. Against the run they ranked 12th, they gave up 113.3 yards and against the pass they ranked 21st allowing 212.9 per game. Now it should be mentioned about 190 of those passing yards were deliberately thrown to the opposite side of the field of Champ Bailey. The biggest reason why the Broncos missed out of the playoffs was a combination of injuries and inconsistency on both offense and defense. Al Wilson led the team in tackles last season with 101. He also added 1 sack and 4 passes defended. The Broncos are in a hurry to get rid of the star linebacker whether by trade or releasing. According to league sources a deal was in place to ship him to the Giants but it fell through. There are a lot of teams in the sweepstakes for him and he is likely to command at least a 3rd round draft choice. Champ Bailey came in second in voting in the defensive player of the year and he had one of the best seasons of his career getting career highs in tackles and interceptions. Bailey had 85 tackles, 10 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 11 passes defended and recovered 1 fumble. Despite playing in only 13 games, rookie defensive end, Elvis Dumervil led the team in sacks with 8.5. He had 17 tackles and 3 fumble recoveries. Like I had mentioned earlier the Broncos took a significant hit on their defense as a result to another tragedy. While in a car with teammate Javon Walker, Darrent Williams was shot and killed. Williams was a rising star in the NFL and having the best season of his career when he was murdered. He had 86 tackles, 4 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries and 5 passes defended.
The Broncos special teams were decent overall. Their place kicking was very good. Long time Bronco, Jason Elam had the best season of his career hitting an outstanding 93.1% of his field goals including 27-29. Paul Ernster wasn't good in his first season as Denver's starting punter. He had an average of 41.7 per punt, 7 touchbacks and 23 punts inside the the 20 yard line. He ranked 29th out of a total of 32 punters. Denver's return game wasn't much better, they couldn't settle on a kick return and had 2 different players gain over 400 yards. Brian Clark had 512 yards and Quincy Morgan had 423 yards. Slain corner back, Darrent Williams served as the team's punt returner and gained 206 yards and an average of 8.2 per return.
The Denver Broncos hold the 21st overall selection in this year's draft and it looks like they will use that pick to fill their need for an impact pass rusher. Their biggest need is adding depth at a number of positions. Such as defensive end, defensive tackle, corner back, wide receiver, runningback and linebacker. After trading for corner back, Dre' Bly, they filled a big whole after the tragic death of Darrent Williams but they still might look to add some youth in the later rounds. With the apparent trade of Al Wilson it might leave a gaping hole on their defense that must be filled. Even though the Broncos do have a good nucleus of solid defensive ends they don't really have an impact pass rusher, Dumervil may be that guy but he has yet to prove he can be an every down type player. And depth at defensive tackle and wide receiver is non-existent right now.
Positions that must be filled during this year's draft.
1. Wide Receiver
2. Defensive End
4. Defensive Tackle
5. Corner Back
Although the Denver Broncos will likely use their first round pick on a defensive end, I really feel their number one need is at wide receiver. They have Javon Walker who is great but besides him their is nothing in terms of depth. Rod Smith is getting older and his production was in a steady decline this season and Brandon Marshall has talent but he has yet to prove that he can be a starter in the NFL. But with that said, the Broncos will probably wait till the third round to fill this need. There is a lot of great talent this year at WR so the production from the 1st to the 3rd isn't that drastic. Look for Jason Hill out of Washington State, Paul Williams out of Fresno State and Jacoby Jones out of Lane College to still be available. All three guys are rising quickly up draft boards and all three are NFL ready players with great speed and hands.
The Broncos have good depth at defensive end, they have a lot of "good" players but they don't have a "great" defensive end. And by great I mean someone that can play every down and an impact pass rusher. In a lot of Mock Drafts the Broncos choice is Charles Johnson out of Georgia. He had a great junior season last year and is very similar to pro-bowl Charles Grant. he is a bit undersized but is a very good all-around defensive end that is effective against both the run and pass. But higher prospects such as Jarvis Moss out of Florida and Victor Abiamiri out of Notre Dame could easily slip into that number 21st pick.
They don't really have someone that can succeed along side Pro-Bowler, John Lynch. Domonique Foxworth could be that guy but he is more of a corner back than a safety so the Broncos will probably look at getting one this year. Now who they choose depends on how big of a need they feel this is. The could take one in any round from the 2nd to the 7th. The could look at getting someone like Aaron Rouse out of Virginia Tech in the the 3rd round or even Michael Johnson out of Arizona in say the 4th or 5th round. Another guy to look at is Josh Gattis out of Wake Forrest, he is a 4 year starter that had his best year last year and he has the potential to be very good.
The Broncos don't have any depth at defensive tackle. Gerard Warren is a good starter but besides him there is no one. The obvious round to address this need would be in the 2nd or 3rd. Someone that has his stock rising is Brandon Mebane out of California, although he doesn't have the great potential to be an impact starter he is a solid athlete with good quickness and agility, he also a sure tackler with a lot of starting experience. If the Broncos are looking for someone with tremendous upside then look no further than Antonio Johnson out of Mississippi State. He only has 2 years under his belt of top tier opponents but he has the potential to be a steal this year.
The trade for Dre' Bly helps soften the blow at least on the field of the loss of Darrent Williams but they still could use some youth at corner and someone that could take over return duties. A couple of guys to look at are Eric Wright out of UNLV in the 2nd round, Josh Wilson out of Maryland in the third round or A.J. Davis out of NC State in the 4th to 6th round.
The Denver Broncos have a very good team and if they play up to their potential they could be an 11 to 12 win type of team. They have a lot of holes to fill and if they can have a good draft then look out for the Broncos in 2007.
R.I.P. Damien Nash and Darrent Williams
Thursday, March 29, 2007
2006 season: 9-7