The Sports Guru from Mile High Report has been good enough to answer a few questions on the upcoming game. He has a depth of knowledge on the Broncos that is downright scary, here is what he has to say:
What is your take on the state of Denver's run defense. Is it significantly improved from last year?
It’s hard to tell. I think it will be because the system Bob Slowik uses fits the Broncos personnel better than what Jim Bates tried to do last season. Many in the media are pointing to the fact that the Raiders rushed for 150 yards on Monday Night, but those numbers are skewed. The Broncos, while the game was still in question, held the Raiders to 95 total yards in the first half, and 199 total through 3 quarters. While it was apparent they let up a bit once the game became 27-0, I think the first three quarters show a defense that is going to be better than that of 2007. That said, the Broncos best defense will be the offense. The first team offense scored on 6/10 offensive possessions during the pre-season and 7/9 on Monday night. That’s 13/19, with 10 of those going for Touchdowns. If the Broncos offense can keep up that kind of pressure on the opposition, the defense won’t need to be dominant.
There are a lot of new faces in Denver's linebackers and Safeties. Do you expect any of them to have break out years, and are there any you are particularly concerned about as weak spots?
I think the Broncos moves in the off-season to improve the Linebackers and Safeties have made this team better across the board. I really like former Charger Marlon McCree, and while Marquand Manuel is nothing special he does seem to play fundamental football and appears to be a solid tackler. Boss Bailey was brought in to play on the strongside Linebacker and injured an ankle early on. He should be ready to go on Sunday and had some success dealing with Antonio Gates last year(even though the Chargers crushed the Lions). D.J. Williams is back at his natural position at WLB, and I think he is primed for a Pro Bowl Season. MLB is still a concern, but Nate Webster has played with a lot of energy. The question will be whether or not he can stay healthy.
This looks like an offense that throws to set up the run now, that is a big change from the run centric offense. Are there any concerns about passblocking and your offensive line?
Honestly, the Offensive Line had to be considered a question mark heading into the season. A rookie(Ryan Clady) at Left Tackle and a 2nd year player(Ryan Harris) at Right Tackle to go along with 3rd Year player Chris Kuper at Right Guard. The smartest move the Broncos made this off-season was bringing in C Casey Weigmann. Wiegmann was brought in as an insurance policy for Tom Nalen, and to add experience to a very young O-Line. It has paid off in spades with Nalen struggling to get on the field because of a bum knee. The return of Ben Hamilton, who didn’t play a down last year due to a concussion is huge as well. The results don’t lie – Jay Cutler has yet to get sacked in 19 possessions through 3 pre-season and 1 regular season games. In there are some pretty good defenses in Dallas, Green Bay and even Oakland has some guys that can rush the passer in Derrick Burgess and Thomas Howard.
Can you go over your two primary running backs strengths and weaknesses and whether you expect one to be the main back or if they will share the carries?
I’ll start with the second question first. Mike Shanahan will go with the hot hand. If Selvin Young or Andre Hall get off to a hot start, they will get the majority of the carries. On paper, however, Selvin Young is more of the flash runner. Very fast, great in space. Where Young struggles is in short yardage and goal line. Andre Hall, despite his size, is a very good short yardage runner and finds a way to get the job done in those situations. If the Broncos need a yard, he’ll get 2. If the Broncos need 5, he’ll get 6. Michael Pittman will also be a factor, and was the back getting most of the goal line carries, evidenced by the 2 TD he scored against Oakland. Look for all three backs, along with FB Peyton Hillis, to get carries on Sunday.
Elvis Dumervil broke his pinkie in the last preseason game, did it appear to affect him against Oakland?
It was a question mark early last week if Dumervil would even play. He did, and he was his disruptive self. The Broncos went with more of a run-stuffing D-Line rotation, leaving Jarvis Moss inactive for the game. That left Dumervil as the only pure pass rusher and he was still able to collapse the pocket. While not getting credited for a sack, his bull rush in the 1st quarter led to JaMarcus Russell’s fumble that really changed the dynamic of the football game. Dumervil is the real deal and I’m sure the Chargers and Philip Rivers will know where he is at all times.
Who is your favorite player picked up this offseason?
I mentioned Weigmann, so I’ll go another direction. I was very excited that the Broncos drafted Eddie Royal. That may sound like lip-service after Monday night, but I was very high on him coming out of VT and predicted prior to the season that he would be the OROY. The Broncos were not only an old team the past few seasons, but they were slow. With the addition of guys like Eddie Royal and DB Jack Williams, the Broncos have gotten a lot younger while getting much faster and more athletic at the same time. I think the Raiders were surprised by the speed Monday night and the Chargers may be on Sunday as well.
Thanks for the questions and here’s hoping both teams coming out of the game healthy!
Now there is something we can agree on! For readers that are gluttons for punishment, my answers to Guru's questions are here.