With the NFL draft behind us and a lockout raging on, the opportunities to talk about real football are becoming fewer and fewer. That being the case, I have sought out bloggers that cover teams that the Lions will play in the 2011 season to get a glimpse into what is going on with those teams.
Granted, this exercise presumes that no games will be lost due to the lockout (a safer presumption now than when I began the series). These Q&As aren’t meant to be any sort of game preview, it is obviously way too early for that. The subject teams may end up looking much different when the Lions play them compared to how they look now, but I anticipate this being a good introduction to each teams’ hopes, fears, needs, expectations, etc.
The Lions will play their second AFC West opponent of the season when the Denver Broncos host the Lions in week eight. I was able to send some questions to Chris Krier, staff writer at Predominantly Orange, and he was kind enough to provide responses. Here we go…
Zac Snyder: What is your take on the Broncos draft and how has the general fan base reacted to it?
Chris Krier: Coming off the worst season in franchise history, the Broncos needed to draft several impact players in 2011. Specifically, they needed to reinvigorate the defensive side of the ball which was one of the worst units in the league last season. The Broncos were also looking to draft a handful of players that could start immediately, and for the most part I believe they accomplished those goals.
2nd overall pick Von Miller out of Texas A&M was one of the most hyped players in the draft by the national media and the draft gurus. If he fulfills his potential he could be a perennial pro bowler and the next great Bronco linebacker. The Broncos fans have already welcomed him in as part of the family, and everyone knows that he needs to be the player we expect if our rebuilding process is going to take flight. We are hoping he follows in the footsteps of last season’s overall #2 pick, your very own Ndomukong Suh, and brings home the Defensive Rookie of the Year hardware.
The Broncos also managed to get the top Safety on most draft boards in Rahim Moore out of UCLA. He is one of the players expected to start immediately and should help our aging secondary. OT Orlando Franklin out of Miami is a beast and will also be in the mix to start in 2011 since it is expected that current right tackle Ryan Harris will not be back next year.
Most of the fans would probably give the Broncos a draft grade of C+ to a solid B. The biggest concern amongst fans was the lack of attention paid to the defensive line which has been a liability for years. The Broncos desperately needed a defensive tackle and never addressed the position. But I have to commend the front office for sticking with their draft strategy. They were not going to reach for guys at a position of need if there were better players out there. And let’s face it, this team had more holes than is possible to fill in a single draft. The Broncos need this draft to be a solid one, but it needs to be the first of several good drafts if the Broncos hope to get back to their Super Bowl-winning ways.
ZS: How did the players and fans respond when John Fox was hired?
CK: Like every decision an NFL team makes, there are fans who love it and fans who dislike it. But after the Josh McDaniels disaster, pretty much everyone in Broncos Country is happy to land a coach who has some experience and is widely respected around the league. If nothing else, the Broncos will have some stability at the head coaching position, and they already trust Coach Fox more than the previous regime. Add in the fact that John Elway is back in the fold and has been operating the team with transparency up to this point, and the fans are feeling a lot better about a team that has been surrounded by negativity over the past few seasons. The re-signing of fan favorite Champ Bailey was one of the first big moves of the Elway/Fox era, and it has already generated a lot of good feelings amongst a fan based who desperately needed it.
Also of note, Fox has experience with the rebuilding process, taking the Carolina Panthers from a 1-15 record to a Super Bowl appearance in just 2 seasons. No one in Denver is expecting that kind of immediate result, but he knows what it takes to turn it around, so many of the fans feel he may be just the guy we need at this turning point for our franchise.
As far as the players go, they have not yet had a chance to work with Fox very much. But publically, several players were supportive of his hiring. Prior to his re-signing with the Broncos, Champ Bailey gave this quote to Mike Klis of the Denver Post.
“I don’t think him being let go in Carolina reflects on what he did there,” Bailey said. “I like it. I like what he’s done. He’s been to a Super Bowl, so the guy knows how to win football games. He knows how to take a team from nothing to something. I don’t know how I’m going to fit into the picture, but as far as making him the head coach, I like it.”
In a Denverpost.com article by Lindsay Jones, former Panther and current Chicago Bear Chris Harris lauded John Fox.
“He’s a high energy guy, expect to be challenged mentally. He wants mentally tough player, guys who are going to go out there and grind it out,” Harris said. “But his attitude is a fun attitude; he’s very out-going. I have never met a guy who didn’t like Coach Fox.”
ZS: Is there concern about switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense, especially since there could be an abbreviated training camp?
CK: I have heard some concerns about this from some fans, but I think those fans are probably in the minority. When you have one of the worst defenses in the league, some schematic adjustments are probably warranted. But really all that matters to me is that the coaching staff chooses a scheme that is right for this team and the players on it. The Broncos are trying to build for the long term. If there are some early struggles out of the gate because of the switch, Broncos fans will be able to handle it as long as it leads to success in the long term.
Mike Klis wrote the following Champ Bailey quote about the defensive switch in early 2011.
Not surprisingly, Bailey as a cornerback doesn’t much care whether the Broncos stay with their current 3-4 scheme or switch to the 4-3 that has been Fox’s preference. Bailey made a good point about how it’s always more difficult transitioning to the 3-4, especially the first time, than it is switching to a 4-3. “I think everybody on defense has played in the 4-3 at some point,” Bailey said. “It’s not like you grow up playing a 3-4 defense.”
ZS: What do you think will happen with the Broncos quarterback situation?
CK: I for one fully expect Tim Tebow to start for most of the 2011 season. Kyle Orton is respected in Denver, but most have been convinced that the Kyle Orton road will not lead to the Super Bowl. Tim Tebow may or may not be the answer for the Denver Broncos, only time will tell. But Kyle Orton is definitely not the answer. It’s time to let the next guy in line have a shot. And if nothing else, Tim Tebow raises the profile of the organization. People all around the country want to see him play.
I posted a piece on this very topic a few weeks ago: http://predominantlyorange.com/2011/05/20/the-denver-broncos-and-kyle-orton-where-do-we-go-from-here/
ZS: What are your expectations for the Broncos in 2011?
CK: I think the Broncos fans are realistically just looking for some signs of improvement. Pretty much no one is expecting the playoffs quite yet, but everyone wants to see signs that we are heading in the right direction. I expect the Broncos to finish better than the 4-12 mark we saw in 2010, and I would look at 8-8 as a great season considering all the movement over the last year.