The season is kicking off this Sunday -- whether you're allowed to see it or not, it doesn't make a difference. It's going to happen. The last time the Broncos opened the season in Cincinnati was 2003 -- Marvin Lewis' first regular season game. Even though Jake Plummer threw three interceptions in the game, the Broncos had a 20-3 Half Time lead, no thanks to two first-half touchdowns by running back Clinton Portis. Let's just hope history doesn't repeat itself. This time around, both teams have a new cast and crew. John Bena, who spearheads an excellent community at Mile High Report sat down with us for a few minutes. You can read my responses to his questions here (I'm jealous at his awesome graphic).
Question: The Denver Broncos haven’t necessarily been out of the news this offseason, most notably regarding Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall. Where is this coming from? Does this have anything to do with your new head coach Josh McDaniels?
John: It has certainly been a crazy off-season, especially for a team that has had so much stability over the past 15 years or so. While the media has done its' best to combine the Cutler and Marshall situations, they really are separate.
With Cutler, I think it became a situation where Jay preferred to play a style he was comfortable with. The Broncos offense was predicated on the big play under Cutler and there was very little accountability. I won't blame Cutler for that, necessarily, because Mike Shanahan never had a negative thing to say about Cutler. It created a culture where Cutler felt he was in no way part of why the Broncos were 24-24 the past 3 seasons.
Josh McDaniels comes from a system where Tom Brady gets as much, if not more criticism in order to show that every player, regardless of stature, will be held accountable and, at time, even more so. I don't think that sat well with Cutler who likes to hear how good he is. It just wasn't going to work between the two which is unfortunate because I think Cutler could have become a SuperStar under McDaniels.
Brandon Marshall's situation really has little-to-nothing to do with Josh McDaniels. This is all about money. Marshall deserves to get paid, no doubt, but the Broncos are wise to take the risk factors into account. On the field, Marshall hasn't played a meaningful football game since December. He underwent hip surgery and didn;t play a down in the Pre-Season. Marshall needs to be on the field to prove he is healthy first.
Of course, Marshall is also a risk off the field, essentially a j-walking conviction away from a long suspension. Those are two HUGE risks the Broncos, or any team, need to keep in mind regarding a new deal for Marshall.
Question: If you were with the Broncos front office, what would your final decision be? Keep Marshall or trade him?
John: The best thing the Broncos can do right now is find out exactly what they have NOW, not last year or the year before. Forget what the guy has done and determine what he can do going forward. Can he stay healthy? Is the hip fully healed? Can he keep his nose clean and stay out of the police blotter? If the answer is yes, then I think the Broncos will make Marshall a very rich man. If he struggles with injuries or off the field matters I think he'll be wearing another uniform in 2010. The best thing to do right now, however, is to wait.
Question: I thought it was somewhat surprising that Brian Dawkins left Philadelphia. It’s just hard to see older NFL players with the same team don new team colors. How has Dawkins worked out for the Broncos defense?
John: Dawkins is a huge addition, perhaps more off the field - on the sideline and in the locker room - than on the field. The Broncos are a young football team and bringing in a guy like Brian Dawkins pays dividends everywhere. The Broncos followed up the Dawkins signing by drafting three DB's in the Draft. That makes Dawkins a coach on the field, something I saw a lot when I was in Denver at Training Camp.
It was the right move for both teams. Philly could not afford to sign him to a deal close to what the Broncos paid, and Denver couldn't afford NOT to bring a guy like Dawkins in.
Question: The situation is that the Broncos have the ball, fourth and goal at the three-yard line, down by four with one second left in the game. Who do you trust with the football to score the winning touchdown?
John: That is a great question. Personally I would put the ball in Kyle Orton's hands and put all the playmakers around him. With Marshall, Eddie Royal, Peyton Hillis, Knowshon Moreno, et al, the Broncos have weapons on offense to create a mismatch. If the Broncos want to go smash-mouth, Hillis would be the guy to get the football.
Speaking of Knowshon Moreno, your rookie running back said this week, "I wouldn't say 100 percent but I feel real good. Each day I'm getting better and we have a couple more days before the game so we'll see how things go." Is there a thought of sitting him against the Bengals?
John: I think the Broncos will ease Knowshon back into it. I think he'll play, but it will be mainly on 1st and 2nd down to keep him out of having to pass protect. That is usually the hardest thing for a young running back to learn and Moreno has missed alot of time this training camp. He practiced yesterday without limitation so I expect him to be ready to go on Sunday.
Question: How would you compare the Broncos defense to last year, which finished the season 29th in the NFL?
John: The Broncos defense was HISTORICALLY BAD last season. This year? The defense is going to be A LOT better. I have been really impressed with Mike Nolan as a coordinator. He is a great teacher and has his defense fired up to play. I am looking for a defense that is aggressive and really attacks the opposition. It will be a high-risk / high-reward system that will not allow quarterbacks to sit back and make decisions. I like it!
Question: Final question. Are you ready for some football?
John: No matter what happens this season, just having real football is a HUGE RELIEF. This has been a tough off-season for Broncos fan and we are READY to have the focus on the field instead of off!