Michael Schon, Syndicated Columnist, BroncosUpdate.com: Mike Shanahan has always maintained a “best player for the position” stance, and after watching Plummer continue to struggle, he really had no other option. Understandably, not all of the teams’ problems were Plummer’s fault, but with a quarterback like Cutler waiting in the wings, a change was inevitable.
From what I’ve seen during the preseason and team practices, I think Cutler should do fine – being a rookie he’ll get plenty of leeway in the beginning and with Javon Walker and Rod Smith as targets, he’s got half the battle won.
DF: Denver’s rushing attack gained only 38 total yards against the Chiefs, and no Bronco running back ranks in the NFL’s top twenty in yardage. We’re used to that because of Shanahan’s preference for running back rotations, but is the team’s ground game now a concern?
MS: Right now it’s a major concern; last week’s thirty-eight yard performance was the lowest total in nearly three years. Having starter Tatum Bell sit out the past few weeks with turf toe on both feet didn’t help matters, but the fact remains that there’s been a significant drop from last season. Rookie Mike Bell’s put up some nice numbers, but he’s still learning the system and hasn’t shown the ability to carry this team on his back.
DF: WR Javon Walker has been a great addition to the offense, despite the quarterback issues. What does he bring to the team, and how do Rod Smith and David Kircus fit in?
MS: Walker brings the explosiveness that Ashley Lelie lacked – with a much better short game. If there’s a play to be made, Walker’s going to make it, and that in turn frees up Smith, Kircus and Brandon Marshall with single coverage.
DF: The tight end position had been a productive one when Jeb Putzier was on the team. However, Tony Scheffler doesn’t seem to have an ability to maintain that production. Is that the fault of the system, the player, or is Scheffler more of a blocking tight end whose numbers don’t matter as much? And how does Steven Alexander fit in?
MS: For the most part, the tight end position has fallen off the map this year, partly due to the fact that they’ve often been kept back as blockers to try and help protect Plummer. Alexander’s looked pretty solid, but it’s still a far cry from what Putzier brought to the table. Currently he ranks fourth on the team with 15 catches for 128-yards.
As for Scheffler, at this stage he’s been a disappointment – six receptions for 67-yards in eight games played, four games he’s been deactivated. Shanahan still claims confidence in the rookie, but his performance during practice sessions has been unimpressive to say the least. The switch to Cutler may help improve those numbers – if he can work his way back on to the field – key word being if….
DF: How has left tackle Matt Lepsis’ season-ending knee injury affected the offensive line, and the offense overall? Who is replacing him for the rest of the season?
MS: You don’t have to look any further than the Broncos dismal rushing numbers to realize that losing Lepsis was a huge blow to the Denver offense. Erik Pears, a second-year vet out of Colorado has done a fairly respectable job, but he doesn’t have the presence Lepsis had, either on the field or in the locker room.