Special Teams, Turnovers Among Denver Broncos’ Stumblingblocks

broncosAfter three preseason games, the Denver Broncos have put forth generally solid performances against the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams, while a loss to the Seattle Seahawks left much to be desired.

With that said, the Broncos have more pros than cons from what I’ve seen headed into Thursday’s preseason finale against the Arizona Cardinals.

For starters, Peyton Manning, who threw 34 passes and ran an incredible pace, looked as good, per CBS commentator Dan Dierdorf who was providing color analysis on the game, as he has in years.

Please note that this was done in only one half of game action while he found a wide array of options underneath the Cover-2 defense St. Louis employed.

If Manning can continue to play with such high alacrity, even by his lofty standards, this creates another issue for defenses who often have to suck air at 5,280 feet as it is.

Additionally, the Broncos got strong performances from defenders such as Nate Irving, Mitch Unrein and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, as already it seems defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is devising a wide array of schemes to offset the loss of star linebacker Von Miller, who will be suspended six games for violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

The defense surrendered only 198 net yards but the final score suggests St. Louis was somewhat productive scoring, as they had 26 points to end the game.

The net result of this were turnovers and shoddy special teams as in the first quarter, Rams rookie returner Tavon Austin had an 81-yard punt return which set up an early touchdown and Denver was in the Christmas spirit, surrendering four turnovers, resulting in 16 points.

While St. Louis rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree has what it takes to be a star defender for years to come and made good plays on the turnovers he forced, the giveaway ratio is something Denver must curb before it becomes a serious epidemic.

Wrath from the fanbase on SB Nation site milehighreport.com, was kindled against tailback Ronnie Hillman who fumbled deep inside Broncos territory, enabling Ogletree to score a touchdown that gave the Rams a 17-7 lead, as well as kick returner Trindon Holliday who remained cavalier in his fielding attempts on special teams.

Additionally, a 34-yard Matt Prater field goal was blocked, stifling a Broncos’ scoring opportunity and setting up St. Louis in propitious field position on the ensuing drive.

Nevertheless, there was more good than bad to take out of this ballgame for the Broncos as undrafted rookie Lerentee McCray, who withstood the first wave of cuts last Sunday, was among the bright spots.

McCray blocked a fourth-quarter punt which allowed the Broncos to score the go-ahead touchdown and from reports by the likes of USA Today reporter Lindsay Jones, has impressed coaches with his work ethic and big play capability.

McCray has reportedly been studying Von Miller during practice sessions, per Jones, and fellow linebacker Shaun Phillips has expressed confidence in his abilities, saying that all 11 players have an opportunity to contribute defensively, Jones stated.

In short, of all teams that could have beset with this adversity, it seems the Broncos are among those who could still manage to have a successful season.

After one more preseason game, the picture should become  more clear as to what the Broncos can accomplish this season.

Post By Brad James (38 Posts)