The Broncos lost in the AFC Championship Game two seasons ago and were confident they could make the Super Bowl. They didn't even make the playoffs after a 7-2 start, one of the most disappointing failures of Mike Shanahan's 12 seasons as Broncos head coach.
The Broncos' offense failed badly for the first half of the season, with quarterback Jake Plummer playing poorly. By the time the offense got a jump start from rookie quarterback Jay Cutler in the final few games, the defense was worn out from carrying so much of the load.
The Broncos could add a piece or two to a veteran roster that was infused with some young talent last season. The first step they took, however, was shaking up the coaching staff.
The Broncos fired defensive coordinator Larry Coyer on Jan. 9, and jumped at the chance to hire Jim Bates as his replacement.
Bates, who was the coordinator in Miami and Green Bay before sitting out the 2006 season, would have been a coveted assistant this offseason so the Broncos didn't waste any time hiring him. He was hired two days after Coyer was fired.
With Bates and Bob Slowik, who was promoted to the role of defensive coordinator with Bates being named as the assistant head coach/defense, the Broncos should have some fresh looks on defense.
There is some talent on defense, assuming the players can stay healthy. Offensively, the Broncos need to beef up their running game to their previous standards, and they feel Cutler will be an elite quarterback very quickly. He didn't seem fazed at all by becoming the starter in the middle of a playoff race.
The top priority in the offseason might be adding to the defensive line. Sadly, cornerback also became an issue after the tragic death of starter Darrent Williams.
How the Broncos react emotionally to Williams' death will be a big story in 2007. He was well liked by teammates, and the Broncos will surely dedicate the 2007 season to him. But there is a lot of healing that must be done in the organization. There will be plenty of reminders of Williams and emotional moments during the season.
--Tight ends coach Tim Brewster became the University of Minnesota's head coach on Jan. 16. Brewster was on Denver's staff for two seasons after coming from San Diego.
That coaching position is an important one because the Broncos need to continue to develop Tony Scheffler, a second-round pick last season. Scheffler made a lot of progress late in the season and could be a valuable player to Denver's offense.
--The NFLPA created the "Darrent Williams Trust Fund," which will benefit Williams' two children, Darius and Jaelyn. Williams was killed in a shooting on Jan. 1.
NFL players will be asked to contribute to the fund during the 2007 season, and the union will also make a donation.
Gordon was in Denver's plans at tackle last season but didn't perform that well in camp and spent the season on the practice squad. Moore could compete for a roster spot because the Broncos could use some more depth at linebacker. Moore spent three seasons with Miami.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If we bring everyone back, we're going to have a good chance next year." -- QB Jay Cutler.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Broncos' defensive scheme will be different under Jim Bates, who has the title of assistant head coach/defense but will be in charge of that unit. Bates likes big tackles, which the Broncos have with Gerard Warren and Michael Myers, and fast linebackers who make tackles. That won't be a problem because the Broncos' trio has plenty of speed.
Denver will have to find some defensive ends who can line up wide
and get after the quarterback. Ends like Trace Armstrong and Jason Taylor
have had huge years playing for Bates.
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