MJS: When you look at everything that's happened this offseason, the hiring of McDaniels, Cutler's trade, the Draft, the schedule and all the battles with Brandon Marshall, you pretty much wrote the Broncos off in 2009, and very little has been done to erase those doubts. On the flip side, the Broncos new head coach did bring a sense of energy and excitement to Dove Valley, I just have a hard time buying into the "look what he did with Matt Cassel" philosophy. They've got a mediocre quarterback, a disgruntled wide receiver and behind it all Owner Pat Bowlen's publicly stated that he expects nothing less than 8-8. Truth be told, the Broncos would be luck to hit 8-8…. Reality tells me we're a lot closer to 6-10 on the high end.
DF: The switch from Cutler to Kyle Orton couldn't have gone much worse in the preseason opener against the 49ers. Orton was telegraphing his reads, throwing goatballs, hurrying throws that didn't need to be hurried … it was a mess. The party line is that he's just adjusting to his new circumstances, but does the organization really believe in Orton as a franchise quarterback, or are they just on the hook because of the trade? And at what point would Chris Simms get more than mop-up duty?
MJS: McDaniels made the call before camp opened up to go with Orton and he doesn't seem to be backing down now. His performance on Saturday will be huge – there's an entire town ready for mutiny if we get another repeat performance. Orton's the first quarterback I've ever heard booed in Training Camp, and there's obviously not much room for error when it comes to the Broncos faithful. At best – Orton's a stop gap – Denver's franchise quarterback has officially made the roster yet.
DF: We know we won't see Knowshown Moreno in this game, but I'm less concerned about Moreno and more about Denver's blocking schemes. I've heard that McDaniels wants to employ some of the New England blocking schemes – pulling guards and so forth – in a hybrid with the famed Denver zone blocking. Is that the case, and if so, how is it working out? Who else patrols Denver's backfield?
MJS: At this stage of the game I'm not even sure McDaniels knows what he's going to do with Denver's offensive scheme but rest assured it will certainly be a spin off of the Belichick game plan. Throughout camp he's tried a number of options, that at times have worked great and at other times have absolutely fell flat. Again, it's a case of adjusting the system to fit what's on the field and I wouldn't be surprised to see several more changes before opening day. As far as the Broncos backfield – expect a heavy dose of Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan to start off, with a little Peyton Hillis tossed in for good measure. It's one of the few positions I actually have some confidence in.
DF: What was behind the switch to the 3-4 defense? It seems that the team doesn't really have the personnel to make it go at this point. Is Mike Nolan going to run a real 3-4, or more of a hybrid like the Patriots and Cardinals run?
MJS: The Broncos had planned to go with the 3-4 defense even before Mike Shanahan was let go, so the natural assumption was that McDaniels would tailor this year's draft to accommodate the fact that Denver didn't really have the personnel to move to a 3-4. Surprisingly McD did absolutely nothing to address the defensive needs in the draft, which just added to the whole "we're pretty much screwed" mindset most everybody's feeling. Nolan may have some tricks up his sleeve but my guess is he'll have to alter original plans to accommodate what he's got on the field.
DF: Who are some of the under-the-radar guys who may surprise in the preseason game against Seattle?
MJS: You gotta watch out for second-year RB / FB Peyton Hillis – the guy's a stud coming out of the backfield and certainly doesn't mind delivering or getting a hit. WR Eddie Royal, although I'm not sure how under the radar he is, is a huge threat as long as Orton can get the ball to him. Don't be surprised to see him break out as Denver's number one receiver this year. Defensively I've been really impressed with rookie OLB Robert Ayers and ILB DJ Williams. I guess the real test will be to see how they fare against the Hasselbeck attack… this should be interesting.