Denver Broncos: Five Areas to Fix
Denver Broncos: Five Areas to Fix as they Progress
Since the Denver Broncos loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday, there has been a lot of discussion and debate about what’s wrong with the Broncos. There are certainly areas that need to get better in the coming weeks but before we get to those areas, it’s time to offer some perspective. The unexpected success of last season and the signing of Peyton Manning last spring, while great, have covered up some other facts..
Two years ago, the Broncos were the worst team in the NFL and most thought it would take years for them to recover. Now, fans are upset when they lose to the Patriots in New England. Whether people want to admit it or not, that’s progress. There’s still a long way to go as the Broncos have proven in losses to the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and Patriots.
The second thing to remember is something Manning has been saying from day one, it’s a process. I’m as guilty as anyone in thinking that everything was going to click from day one, and I was wrong. In some respects and I wish I would have written this earlier, the season that fans should be pointing to is next season. The Broncos are never going to say that and they shouldn’t, but maybe fans should. When a team makes the number of changes that the Broncos have made this season, including Manning, it might take a full season and another off-season for everyone to feel comfortable with one another.
That doesn’t mean anyone should give up on the 2012 season, there is still plenty to play for starting with a huge game versus the San Diego Chargers next Monday night. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s happening right now but just take a minute and remember where the Denver Broncos were two years ago and where they are now. It’s pretty remarkable when you think about it.
With that as perspective, here’s a look at the areas that need to improve if the Broncos are going to make a run in the second half of the season.
Denver Broncos Must Improve Run Defense
The defense has a few issues but the primary one to get fixed is the run defense. However it would be a mistake to overreact to the performance versus the Patriots. Up until Sunday, the run defense has been much improved over 2011.
That being said, if the Broncos are going to be the defense they need to be over the last eleven games then they are going to have to improve versus the run. Stopping the run sets up the rest of the defense including the pass rush, pass coverage and third down defense. Every area has to be better in stopping the run but it is the linebackers as a whole that must play better.
Have to Get Off the Field on Third Downs
The Broncos are playing decent defense on first and second down, but it’s their third down defense that is killing them. There were many examples of this on Sunday but two jump to mind. The Patriots had third and long from deep in their own territory and the Broncos got pressure on Brady, but Joe Mays lost his man and the Patriots got the first down.
The second example is even more inexcusable, it was third and eighteen and the Patriots ran a draw to Danny Woodhead. It was a give up play from the Patriots and they got the first down. That cannot happen, ever. The Broncos probably do not win the game but if they make those two stops, their chances would have been better.
Still Waiting for the Pass Rush
This is going to sound like a broken record, but where’s the pass rush? It was better in the second half versus the Patriots but it has been absent for too long this season. The Broncos are going up against some of the best quarterbacks in the league and the only way to slow guys like that down is to get pressure on them.
Too Many Mistakes on Offense
Not all the problems lie on the defense; the offense shares some of the responsibility too. They are moving the ball better and more consistently than they were earlier in the season, but they are not finishing enough drives. In Sunday’s game versus the Patriots, the Broncos turned the ball over three times and two of them happened just as it looked like they were going into score. The third turnover happened deep in their own territory that led directly to seven more points for the Patriots. Throw in a drop on fourth and one combined with other mistakes, and you have too many drive killers.
Again the Broncos probably still lose the game but when you are leaving points on the field, and handing your opponents’ points then you are probably going to lose. The offense is looking better and better every week as they get comfortable with one another, but they have to finish more drives.
Give it Time
The last thing is something we’ve touched on all the way through and that’s just playing together. It’s going to be hard to watch sometimes but all of the mini-camps, training camp practices and preseason games are no match for playing together when the games count.
The record is not reflective of it but the offense is much better now than it was on opening night and it will continue to get better. The defense is on its seventh defensive coordinator in seven seasons. They, like the offense, should get better the more they play together. There’s no substitute for time and playing together.
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