Mid-term report card

Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels couldn't be better at this point, with a 6-0 start. Check out his grade and themarks for the rest of the Broncos team in this bye week report card.

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Kyle Orton has played mistake-free football all year. His lone interception in 194 attempts was on a Hail Mary at the end of a half. And Orton played the first few games of the season while recovering from a painful dislocation in his right index finger. There's no reason to believe Orton can't continue to play effective football and put up very good numbers in Josh McDaniels' offense. The ball is being spread out among many receivers, which is one reason for the team's success. The Broncos have plenty of weapons in the passing game.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Denver ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing offense, with the effective combination of Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter leading the way. Buckhalter has been surprisingly explosive. Moreno is learning as he goes but is on a 1,000-yard pace as a rookie and should continue to improve. If there has been one recurring issue with the team, it's been trouble in short-yardage situations.

PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- The Broncos rank in the top 10 in passing defense because they don't allow many long passes to be completed. The veteran secondary doesn't get out of position often. Denver's pass rush also helps. The team has 21 sacks, which is tied for second most in the NFL, led by Elvis Dumervil's league-leading 10.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The last couple of years, Denver's run defense has been horrendous. A change in scheme to the 3-4, a new coordinator in Mike Nolan and adding some sure-tackling free agents have been boons for the Broncos. Denver is third in the NFL in rushing defense and is allowing just 3.3 yards per carry. The Broncos have been tough up the middle and are doing a great job swarming to the ball, but not over-pursuing and creating cutback lanes.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- There have been good signs. K Matt Prater is off to a good start. He was named AFC special teams player of the month in September. Eddie Royal returned a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the same game, which led to a big win against San Diego. But it hasn't been entirely great. There were some bad special teams penalties against New England that almost cost the Broncos dearly. And after a 77-yard punt return by San Diego's Darren Sproles, inconsistent P Brett Kern was released. Overall, however, the Broncos are much improved from last year's poor special teams.

COACHING: A -- McDaniels couldn't be better at this point, with a 6-0 start. That ties the best start for a rookie head coach in the Super Bowl era. He has his teams well prepared for all situations, and his game plans have been very effective. He'll have to be as good in the second half, when teams catch up on Denver's tendencies, but so far the young coach has thrived.



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