2006 NFL Preview: The Denver Broncos

Quarterback- Jake Plummer is running out of chances with the Denver Broncos, especially after getting so close in the AFC playoffs in 2005. Plummer is a playmaker and talented, but he is getting to a point in his career that he needs to put up or shut up. The odds are on the latter, as last year seemed his best opportunity for a Super Bowl. Rookie Jay Cutler is the future for the Broncos and by 2007 he may get a realistic chance at starting for the Broncos, unless there is a Super Bowl involved in 2006. Cutler is incredibly talented and heady, which reminds a lot of people of a young Jake Plummer. Third string quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt is an adequate fall back option but if the world comes crashing down on Plummer and Cutler, the Broncos need to just shut it down in 2006.
2006 NFL Grade: B-

Running Back/ Full Back- The Broncos have settled on running back Tatum Bell to carry the load in 2006, with backup Ron Dayne providing some meat in short yard and third down situations. Bell benefits from the Alex Gibbs system of zone blocking on offense but he is athletic enough to carry a majority of the load for the Broncos in 2006. However, if Bell gets hurt, Dayne will not be able to carry the load and the group of rookies and no-names behind him will struggle even with a strong offensive line scheme in the 2006 NFL season. Fullback Kyle Johnson will continue to develop as a solid blocking fullback for Bell and company.
2006 NFL Grade: B-

Wide Receiver/ Tight End- Rod Smith and Javon Walker should make for a good combination for the Broncos in 2006, though Walker’s propensity for complaining over the last two years has to be disconcerting to Coach Mike Shanahan. Walker, in his one stellar season, showed his ability to make plays. But the big question is whether or not he is ready to come back and make the same big plays for Jake Plummer as he did for Brett Favre. However, the receiving corps in Denver is much more talented overall than in Green Bay, so the pressure should not be entirely on Walker this season. Smith may slow down, but he will be a good possession receiver. Ashley Lelie, even as an underachieving receiver, provides enough help to give Plummer another option in the field. Tight end Stephen Alexander is also a nice target and he will provide solid run blocking for Tatum Bell.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

Defensive Line- The Broncos defensive line is pretty solid in 2006, with defensive tackle Gerard Warren and defensive ends Ebenezer Ekuban, Courtney Brown, and Kenard Lang providing great play on the first level of the Broncos defense. Rookie draft pick Elvis Dumervil should crack the lineup early in the season, with his great pass rush ability proving invaluable to the Broncos defensive staff in 2006. Though his size kept him out of the first day of the 2006 NFL Draft, Dumervil is incredibly talented and the defensive staff will do well in not overusing him and developing him slowly.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

Linebacker- Linebackers Al Wilson, Nate Webster, Ian Gold, and D.J. Williams should provide solid second level run and pass defense for the Broncos in 2006. Al Wilson is an outstanding linebacker and will elevate the play of both the defensive line and defensive backfield with his play. Webster, Gold, and Williams need to step up their play and look for Gold to provide solid tackling in support of the defensive line.
2006 NFL Grade: B

Defensive Back- Champ Bailey is coming off an injury plagued 2005 NFL season and needs to step back into the shutdown corner role. However, if Bailey does not come back to full strength, the Broncos have a plethora of young corners and defensive backs like Domonique Foxworth and Willie Middlebrooks that have stepped up before to fill the talented shoes of Bailey. Veteran safety John Lynch and youngster Nick Ferguson should provide some playmaking deep in pass patterns, but Lynch is aging and Ferguson isn’t ready yet to take on the playmaking role from Lynch. However, the corners will do enough to cover up any lapses in the safety corps.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

Kicker/ Punter- The Broncos have two prolific specialists heading into the 2006 NFL season, especially veteran kicker Jason Elam. Elam is a deadly kicker for the Broncos and in a season where they will get into a bunch of close games, his leg will be the ultimate weapon for the Broncos. Punter Todd Sauerbrun has tremendous talent and has done well in the NFL, though his temperament is unusual for the typically isolated position of punter. Elam will have a Pro Bowl season in 2006, Sauerbrun will be accurate, and the special teams need to step it up to give the Broncos a chance in the improving AFC West.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

2006 NFL Projection- Denver is going to be in a horse race in the AFC West in the 2006 NFL season, pushing both San Diego and Oakland towards the top of the division and for one of the AFC wild card seeds. Look for a 9-7 or 10-6 season if everything holds together for Coach Shanahan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


seven − = 3