The deadline for trimming the Broncos' roster to 65 players (Aug. 31st ) seemed to suddenly jump a few days closer, following a Houston touchdown five minutes into the first quarter. The 76-yard drive in front of a half-empty Invesco Field, had the press making early bets as to the final outcome of the game and it didn't sound good.
The increasing pressure by media and coaches for the Broncos' first offensive unit to produce a touchdown, though important seems to miss a crucial point; Shanahan's off-season recruiting and draft picks reflect a new emphasis on strengthening the Bronco defense.
Defensive prowess during the pre-season thus far has been good, at times outstanding as evidenced last week against Seattle in the 19 to 3 win. The beauty of this defensive strategy is that as long as Bronco opponents are held to few if any points, the offense can continue to improve, albeit slowly, without costing the team their season. The hope is Jake and company will eventually gel as a powerful offensive unit, scoring the points necessary to secure a winning season and play-off birth.
The performance of defensive tackle Monsanto Pope against Seattle, previously listed behind Darious Holland and Nick Eason on the depth chart during training camp had Coach Shanahan singing his praises. Credited with four solo tackles and an assist during the pre-season prior to tonight's game, added another outstanding piece to the Bronco's defensive unit.
Trevor Pryce with 3 tackles against Houston tonight continues to be a disruptive force along the Broncos' defensive line and looks to continue to ascend up the teams' all-time sack list in 2004. Pryce has been a constant pass-rushing threat for opponents during his seven years in the NFL.
Defensive Coordinator Larry Coyer leads a defense that ranked fourth over-all in the NFL last season and with the addition of Pro Bowlers Champ Bailey and John Lynch a cornerback and safety respectively, Denver's' secondary instantly becomes one of the most talented and deepest in the league. Additionally, the Broncos' retained Pro Bowl linebacker Al Wilson, who with 128 tackles, (99 solo) led the team for the second consecutive year on the field and provides leadership in the locker room.
The defense tonight showed the need for some final "tweaking", especially during
Houston's initial drive the first quarter, but over-all looks strong. Running back Quentin Griffin continues to impress and rookie wide receiver Darious Watts with 2 carries for 76 yards against Houston, provides hope for the future of the Bronco offense.
Tonight's game was a dress rehearsal for starters, a last chance to play a majority of time in the game, testing their "game legs" for endurance. Starters typically sit-out much of the last pre-season game, scheduled next week against Arizona, in preparation for the season opener, this year against Kansas City September 12th. A one yard carry by Jake Plummer which resulted in a touchdown and a short run touchdown by Quentin Griffin during the first half coupled with field goals by Jason Elam and a second half touchdown by Denver's 2nd and 3rd string offensive units against Houston back-ups, doesn't produce the kind of confidence we'd hoped would be the outcome of tonight's effort despite the 31 to 17 final score.
It may be unusual, but starters' may yet see some time next week as Shanahan continues a shakedown of Bronco offensive players who've yet to demonstrate much of a commanding presence.
Too soon to get excited
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