Broncos Update Insider - 12/24

Kyle Orton finds himself between a rock star and a hard place.

He believes he'll be healthy enough to finish the last two games of the regular season. But he's already been apprised that rookie/folk hero Tim Tebow will be taking his starting quarterback job for the duration.

Orton admittedly wasn't ready to play last Sunday in Oakland. He returned to practice Wednesday, and is preparing as if he'll be Tebow's backup vs. the Houston Texans.

"I understand as an organization you have a lot invested in first-round draft picks and you want to see them play, so that's how it goes," he said.

It was clear with Tebow Fever pushing up the mercury that Orton was doing everything possible to avert the insertion into the lineup of the 25th overall pick last April. He knew it would open a can of worms.

And, with Denver looking for a new head coach and likely revamping the front office, consider the worms set free.

"You never want to give up your job," Orton said. "We've worked hard as a unit for a number of months and you'd certainly like to finish it out with your guys."

Yet this wasn't just a coaching decision, but a move endorsed by upper management made to placate fans with two home games left, the Broncos at 3-11 and the specter of empty seats looming.

"I wanted to play it out," Orton said. "It was not my decision. What am I going to do?"

There figure to be plenty of similar questions over the next few months. Denver signed Orton to a one-year contract extension through 2011, and it appeared to be a wise move when the veteran QB was on pace for a potential 5,000-yard passing season.

But defenses began to flood the secondary and force Denver to run. Blitz pressure got to Orton, and finally beat him up to the point where he couldn't play.

"I don't know what's going on next year. I don't know if I'll be here next year, so we'll have to wait and see what shakes out with the organization," he said.

Still, Orton made it clear if he returns, he's played himself back into the starting role, regardless of Tebow's finish.

If Orton doesn't play another down, he'll still finish with six 300-yard games helping add up to 3,653 yards, with 20 TDs vs. nine interceptions.

"I'm not going to let how this season closes out paint a picture of how the season was (individually)," Orton said, adding the team's record was the most disappointing aspect.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The work ethic of Tim Tebow was made evident immediately in OTAs, when he led all the post-practice sprints (and has continued that trend).

But fellow rookie Eric Decker had a unique, insider's view, when he was assigned to be Tebow's camp roommate. Decker had heard about Tebow's reputation but wanted to see firsthand whether it lived up to the hype -- and maybe even find some dirt.

"He's not a neat guy, I'll put it that way," Decker said with a smile. "Jockey stuff lying around the damn hotel room. But he had his own hyperbaric chamber. And that thing would be humming. Good thing we had a living room and separate bedrooms so I didn't have to hear it.

"But in training camp, he'd jump in that thing right away and whether he was on his cell phone talking to people or studying, that's where he was. He'd bring his playbook in there with him."

That work ethic continued right into the season, long before Tebow was named the starting quarterback over the last two weeks.

"He's always in the weight room, always doing something after practice, before meetings and what not. He's always doing extra stuff," Decker said, adding that Tebow would arrive at the last moment for meetings huffing and puffing from speed work and fundamentals drills.

"That drive he has is pretty remarkable because it's a long season, days get long, but he comes to work every day with energy every day. That's something that's really stood out to me."

--As NFL reunions go, this one is slightly off the charts.

Houston on Sunday will send out 42-year-old punter Matt Turk to face a Denver team coached by interim head coach Eric Studesville.

The two were former teammates at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Turk averaged 36.3 yards as those teams won three straight Wisconsin State University championships. Studesville was a defensive back, whose playing career ended with his first coaching gig in 1991.

"I've been in games with Matt Turk over the years. He's had a long and extremely successful career in the NFL and as a former teammate, I'm extremely happy for him," Studesville said. "He knows how competitive I am. I know how competitive he is. It'll be good to see him before the game. I always love seeing him. Then he knows he'll get my best and we'll get his."

BY THE NUMBERS: 1967 -- The last time the Broncos lost 10 out of 11 games in a single season, which will happen Sunday by falling to visiting Houston. That same year also marks the last time Denver won just three overall games, a season total the Broncos can only change with a victory over the final two weeks. San Diego closes the docket Jan. 2.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If I'm here, I expect to be the starter." -- QB Kyle Orton, on his outlook for 2011.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Texans have demonstrated offensive balance for much of the season. But if they've studied recent Broncos tape, there's no reason to do anything but run Arian Foster time after time and challenge Denver to stop it.

The Broncos didn't tweak their scheme and go to a four-and front to face Darren McFadden last week. He finished with his second 100-yard game as the Raiders capped a two-game stretch vs. the Broncos in which they ran for 592 yards.

Denver continues to have gap-control issue and their open-field tackling at times has been horrendous. And in recent games, they've been employing a lot of six-DB formations to take away the big play.

Foster has a rushing title in sight. He can go a long way towards reaching that goal with a run-game commitment vs. Denver if they trade linebackers for safeties and cornerbacks as a defensive cornerstone.

PLAYER NOTES

--Punter Britton Colquitt has five games this season with at least a 50.0-yard gross average. Only Mike Scifres of San Diego has more (six). Colquitt still needs work on some situational punting aspects but as a first-year NFL player has demonstrated the leg to be a building block into the future.

--ILB D.J. Williams leads the Broncos, by far, with 112 tackles, including 87 solo. He's also among the league leaders. But Williams, while a solid player, still continues to accumulate statistics without many memorable, game-changing type plays. Following a DUI arrest, stripped captaincy and decision to stay away from workouts with Broncos teammates last spring, it will be interesting to see how the Broncos approach Williams this offseason.

--OLB Mario Haggan has started all 14 games, eight at ILB and six at OLB. But beyond that Haggan has emerged as one of the most outspoken and available players when it comes to dissecting the mess that is the 2010 season. Haggan is also producing on the field as one of just five players in the league with at least 70 tackles and five sacks.

--RT Ryan Harris was reinserted into the starting lineup six games ago and while it isn't exactly cause and effect -- teams have made an extra effort to drop men into coverage to slow down Denver's passing game -- his inclusion has coincided with a leap in Denver's rushing totals. From weeks 1-9 Denver averaged 67.3 rushing yards; since, 122.3. The 55.1-yard improvement in that span is the third-best leap in the NFL. Harris is a pending free agent, and if Denver's new coach wants a motion-based offensive line, retaining Harris is vital. But if it's a blow-them-off-the-ball scheme, at 300 pounds he may not fit the physical parameters.

--FB Spencer Larsen (ankle) was placed on injured reserve and G Stanley Daniels was activated off the practice squad to take his roster spot. TE Richard Quinn and G Russ Hochstein have filled in as lead blocker in various formations in Larsen's absence.





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