They were learning a new defensive scheme, and the starting defense struggled in all three games it played. They were beat up by injuries as well, the worst being a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury to defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban. Starting running back Travis Henry suffered a knee injury in the second preseason game.
The Broncos have high hopes for the 2007 season. A bad preseason doesn't change that, but the team has to turn some things around quickly or risk a poor start.
The foremost concern is probably the defense. Denver's starting defense didn't force a punt in its first two games. In the third game, Cleveland's quarterback trio of Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn all had big games. Through three preseason games the Broncos ranked 27th in the NFL in yards allowed.
The Broncos admitted to having some issues in fully grasping new assistant head coach/defense Jim Bates' scheme.
"I think we all believe this is going to be a good unit," safety John Lynch said. "We haven't shown it yet so there is some concern, obviously."
Bates said he thought the Broncos weren't sound yet on their fundamentals. That was compounded in the preseason, when Denver ran a very basic defensive scheme. Denver also has many changes in the defensive lineup. There will be six new starters. In addition, D.J. Williams moved from outside linebacker to middle linebacker, a position he hasn't played before.
Despite some problems, the Broncos were optimistic they'd be ready for the regular-season opener at Buffalo.
"It wasn't about guys getting beat man-to-man, it's just mental errors," Williams said. "Those are easily fixed."
There were a few bright spots in the preseason. The team was pleased with how quarterback Jay Cutler handled himself. Henry looked good in the preseason opener. Denver showed off its multiple weapons on offense, which they didn't have last year.
The Broncos, who were one of the most active teams in the NFL this offseason, still thinks it will be ready to challenge San Diego in the AFC West.
"We're not that far off," Cutler said. "I don't think we need to get all worried and flustered."
COACHING: Mike Shanahan, 15th year, 13th with Broncos (131-81, 123-69 with Broncos).
REMEMBERING: 2006 record: 9-7; missed playoffs.
PREDICTING: 2007 regular season record 10-6 (2nd in AFC West); lose in AFC wild-card playoff.
--Defensive end Elvis Dumervil had 8.5 sacks last year, and the Broncos know he will be an effective pass rusher. They are apparently going to let Dumervil prove he can be an every-down player. Although Dumervil is short and stocky -- one of the reasons he slipped in the draft -- the Broncos have seen progress from him this preseason.
"Elvis can do some things and help us on first and second down," defensive line coach Bill Johnson said. "He doesn't have to be a specialist. He's a good football player that can do some things."
--Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he cut defensive end Kenard Lang, a starter last year, to give him time to catch on with another team. Shanahan said the Broncos wanted to get younger at end, with rookies Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder, but letting Lang go was difficult.
"A true pro, the way he practiced, the way he played, tried to help the young guys," Shanahan said.
--The Broncos played only one preseason game with their preferred top three receivers -- Javon Walker, Brandon Marshall and Brandon Stokley. Marshall and Stokley each had injuries that caused them to miss time in training camp and preseason. Quarterback Jay Cutler said he wasn't too worried about the lack of time with those three.
"A lot of them have been in and out," Cutler said. "We did a lot of stuff this summer though. So I have a good feel for them."
BY THE NUMBERS: 52-20 -- The composite score of Denver's last two regular-season openers. They lost to Miami in 2005 and St. Louis in 2006.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm pleased with the way he has handled himself, they way he has played." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, on QB Jay Cutler.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL The Broncos released a few more veterans than most teams in its first round of cuts. Defensive linemen Kenard Lang and Demetrin Veal, receiver David Kircus and punter Paul Ernster -- all contributors last year -- were in the first round of cuts. In each case, the Broncos added at a position this offseason and squeezed a veteran out of the mix for a roster spot.
PLAYER TO WATCH: DT Amon Gordon -- Gordon was waived by Cleveland after the 2005 season, then spent last year on the Broncos practice squad and had knee problems. Basically forgotten, he earned a starting job during the preseason. The Broncos promoted him when they decided to trade tackle Gerard Warren, and Gordon played very well with the first-team defense.
DRAFT PICKS TO STICK
Round 1/17, DE Jarvis Moss, Florida -- Moss will play right away on passing downs. Because of a season-ending injury to Ebenezer Ekuban, Moss might have to play some on first and second down as well.
Rd. 2/56, DE Tim Crowder, Texas -- Crowder was impressive in the first few weeks of camp. He picked up the defense quickly and played like a veteran. An ankle injury slowed his progress some, but he will still be heavily involved in the defensive line rotation this year.
Rd. 3/70, OT Ryan Harris, Notre Dame -- Harris had back surgery and will miss the first few weeks of the season. The Broncos weren't heavily relying on Harris as a rookie, but he could provide depth late in the season.
Rd. 4/121, DT Marcus Thomas, Florida -- Thomas looked rusty at times
but made some plays. He didn't play much last year after being kicked
off Florida's team. He could be a part of the defensive line rotation
as a rookie.
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