The Denver Broncos have a lot of talent, but it is impossible to watch them and say they don’t have holes. They have many holes — and at multiple positions.
They need to find starters and some depth at these spots. Obviously, injuries have a huge effect and could change the strength of a position, in a bad way.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1719434-get-si-subscription-with-... The most obvious case of that for the Broncos is at defensive end. Heading into the season it was a strength, though not as strong as it was a year ago. Losing Malik Jackson hurt the position, because in this scheme, he was excellent. He brought pass rush and run defense ability that helped out the unit tremendously.
The Broncos had Vance Walker, signed Jared Crick, and drafted Adam Gotsis. It was going to be a platoon of guys replacing Jackson. Plus, last year when Derek Wolfe was suspended, Walker played well in his place.
Then Walker got hurt, and the Broncos lost a strong starter and their depth. They ended up bringing in journeyman Billy Winn, who started in Week 10, due to an injury to Wolfe
Injuries hurt and make team needs harder to gauge, especially from an outside eye. It hurts player progression as well, and there will be an example of that later on. So, let us jump into the Broncos mid-season draft needs, though it is a little past the halfway point.
First up is, well, defensive end. To put it simply, the Broncos need to find a quality starter to play opposite Wolfe. Before I get to Adam Gotsis, let’s take a look at the others first.
Jared Crick has become an average starter, but he is part of a glaring weakness. Crick is a liability in the run game, and a big reason the Broncos are No. 28 in run defense, allowing 123.7 rushing yards per game.
The Oakland Raiders manhandled Crick and just kept running his way. He couldn’t do anything to stop them, or even anything to demand a second blocker to try and help the linebackers.
Crick adds some pass rushing help, and he gets his hands up to bat passes down. However, he is limited and is best suited subbing in and getting 15-20 snaps per game to best utilize his skill-set.
As for Gotsis, betting that he'll progress into a starter after one year isn’t a good idea, especially with how raw he is. He could jump into a sub role, but they would still need someone to start.
With depth also an issue and Walker set to be a free agent, adding a good caliber player to be a starter boosts the Broncos defensive end position from top to bottom. Starter and depth need improvement and can be fixed with one player.
If asked before the last two games, offensive guard would be here. Now? The tackle spot takes the second biggest need.
Russell Okung has been solid, but has had many issues. With left tackles so hard to find, it's hard to imagine him not being back next year, even at the cost. The play from Okung before his injury was so much better than afterwards, raising concerns that his back is worse than is being let on.
The real issue is at right tackle. Ty Sambrailo and Donald Stephenson are simply not doing the job, and both have battled injuries. Depth is a serious issue for both tackle spots, and the Broncos really do need to find a long term answer for right tackle. Desperation is right around the corner.
Next up is offensive guard. Now, I know many readers will perceive this need as hating on Michael Schofield, but the fact is, he has allowed the fewest sacks, with two, the second fewest tackles for a loss, and the second fewest hits and hurries.
So what is left to cover to debunk Schofield “being bad?” Penalties? He's had four flags thrown on him — second fewest — and three of them were on scoring drives. Running game? Running behind Schofield yields the most yards per carry, and has led to the most touchdowns. So get off of Schofield and look to the real problem at guard — Max Garcia.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1728893-playoff-picture-where-doe... There are many issues with Garcia’s play, in both run game and pass protection. His technique is flawed, which often sees him lunging for blocks.
Garcia lacks the mobility to really excel in the zone system, and truly do what makes the scheme strong. The Broncos drafted Connor McGovern, but if he hasn’t been able to crack the lineup over the struggling Garcia, then it doesn’t inspire confidence.
Could McGovern progress into a starting caliber player? Of course. Does that mean the Broncos should avoid bringing help at guard? No.
Maybe the previously mentioned Sambrailo, or Stephenson would be better at guard, like Schofield's case.
Another glaring need is middle linebacker. Todd Davis is a solid player when defending the run, but he has been exploited time and time again in coverage.
Next to him, Brandon Marshall hasn’t been the player he was when Danny Trevathan was next to him. Trevathan’s loss was underestimated by many fans. He had his issues, but Trevathan was better at every aspect of the game than Davis is.
Do they need someone who is excellent in both areas? No, they just need someone who can defend the run and not get beaten over and over again in coverage like Davis has been.
This position has quietly been a mess for the Broncos this season. Virgil Green, when given chances, has done well, but he hasn’t emerged like many Broncos fans hoped.
It's safe to say that he is what he is and may not ever emerge in the way fans imagined. Jeff Heuerman is climbing that ladder to the “bust” label. Between major health concerns, and being unable to crack 10 snaps when healthy, he is becoming the Broncos greatest disappearing act.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1729822-broncos-have-yet-to-play-... Heuerman was supposed to add a major receiving element to the Broncos offense, but it just hasn't materialized. Maybe he can turn it up in year three and stay healthy, but Denver can’t bet on that.
They also traded for A.J. Derby, who may develop into the player Broncos hoped Heuerman would be. The simple fact is, the Broncos need someone reliable as a receiver and a blocker at tight end, and they don’t have that.
Yes, that includes Green’s blocking, which has been far below par for what he has shown he is capable of.
The last position to take a look at, is one that many fans may not see as a need. However, it is there. No. 3 wide receiver.
The Broncos have one of the best receiver duos in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but they are missing that true No. 3 guy. Players like Bennie Fowler and Jordan Taylor have flashed potential and ability, but they lack any kind of consistency. More on them in a bit.
Former second round pick Cody Latimer has hit the top rung on that previously mentioned “bust” ladder. He hasn’t shown anything as a receiver, and outside of gunning on special teams, hasn’t shown anything that would lead Denver to keep him around. The odds of him finally stepping up into that role in year four are slim.
Back to Taylor and Fowler, both of them have flashed potential. Both of them are better suited outside than in the slot. I'm not saying they can't play the slot, just that playing there doesn’t put them in their best position to succeed. They could always move Sanders to the slot, but it is well known they prefer him on the outside.
One thing is certain, Jordan Norwood isn’t the answer. Denver needs to find someone who can step into the role of being that true No. 3 receiver, as well as being a returner. Both are missing and it is very obviously hurting the team.
There are a few other areas of need, but the above mentioned are the top-5 biggest holes. Nose tackle is one. Sylvester Williams is a solid player, but has struggled a lot and is set to be a free agent following the season.
Williams' backup, Darius Kilgo, has done little to inspire confidence. Nose tackle is right there with that third receiver in terms of need. Potentially a No. 4 cornerback with Kayvon Webster set to hit the open market and Lorenzo Doss having not shown enough yet.
Depth on the offensive line is an obvious one, but health and player progression make that assessment faulty. Three of the five starters have only been in the NFL for 2-3 years, with two of them in their second year starting.
There is still a lot of season left, and in the next few games we could see some drastic changes on the field of play.
Erick Trickel is a Draft Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ErickTrickel.
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