Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers - A Few Good Questions with John Bena from MileHighReport

As some of you might recall from past seasons, we like to do some cross-blogging with our opponents each week.  My man The Sports Guru over at Mile High Report is always up for this kind of thing and was already kind enough to answer a lot of your questions via a FanPost.  I had a few specific questions of my own that I wanted to pull out and have John answer.  Once the season gets here we'll be asking more specific matchup questions, but for now we can ask broader questions we've always wanted answers to (like what's up with Josh McDaniels???).  So, thanks to John for taking the time to answer these questions.  Also, I answered a few of his questions over at MHR.  If you feel like adding in your own two cents head on over.

Fooch:I won't make you rehash the Jay Cutler fiasco.  However, I would like to know what you as a knowledgeable Broncos fan, as well as the less intelligent ones (sports talk radio maybe), think about Josh McDaniels in his short but interesting tenure so far as Broncos head coach?

JB: I think there was a knee-jerk reaction to everything that has happened.  On the surface, that would make sense, a 33-year old, first time Head Coach, not bowing down to his 25 year old "star" quarterback.  I think Cutler/Bus Cook took advantage of McDaniels and the Broncos a bit knowing that fans would react that way.  Plan and simple, the guy was coddled by Mike Shanahan.  He was made to be the reason everything good happened in Denver and everything negative was the fault of everyone else.  When Shanny got fired, Cutler wanted out.  There was going to be accountability.  I think as time has gone on, especially now that people get to see and hear McDaniels on a daily basis they are beginning to realize what he is about -  and that’s winning.

Fooch: Along the same lines, what are your thoughts on Mike Nolan at this point?  Even with the whole Nolan v. Alex Smith storyline, it really doesn't mean much the first game of the preseason.  Rather, I'm curious what kind of defensive scheme Nolan is instituting and how he has come off to the public?

JB: I have been thoroughly impressed with Nolan as a coach and teacher.  The Broncos defense was historically bad, so moving to the 3-4 should be that big of a transition(they can’t get any worse).  Watching Nolan work with the defense, especially the linebackers, has been a joy.  He is enthusiastic and you get the sense that players really enjoy playing for him.  I think his defense is going to be aggressive and tough, something that Broncos haven’t been in recent years.  The guy has had success everywhere he has been a coordinator, so I am excited about what he can bring.


Fooch: With a new coach, will we still see something like Mike Shanahan's fantasy killing RBBC, or will the Broncos settle on one guy (such as Knowshon Moreno) going forward?

JB: Perhaps the biggest fault Shanahan had was believing the hype surrounding the Broncos running game.  "Anyone can run for 1000 yards in Denver".  While the Broncos running game has been dominant, that domination was becoming less and less apparent the past few years.  Sure, injuries had something to do with it, but so does talent.  Terrell Davis was obviously a steal as a late round pick, but those guys don’t come along very often, if ever again.  Shanny tried with Clinton Portis, and failed with Tatum Bell.  From then on it was late round, journeymen types that either had injury histories(Selvin Young/Ryan Torain) or just weren’t very good.

McDaniels gets that.  Not only has he improved the depth with more known commodities but he drafted Moreno, the best back in the draft.  McDaniels knew he could fix everything that was wrong with the defense in one off-season, so he took steps to improve the strength of the team, the offense.  Moreno will have every opportunity to be the main ball carrier, but the Broncos will utilize other backs when the opponent calls for it.  Much like Kevin Faulk in New England, the Broncos have Peyton Hillis/Correll Buckhalter to make plays out of the backfield, especially on 3rd Down when a running back needs to be able to pass protect.


Fooch: It's hard not to look at Kyle Orton without laughing (not in terms of his football abilities, just the neck beard and pictures like this (http://content.ytmnd.com/content/3/c/9/3c966dacdef985be894c30ae242ddc13.jpg) and this (http://media.photobucket.com/image/kyle%20orton%20jack%20daniels/patroto/ortonmontage.jpg) .  However, given the skills of Jay Cutler, how are Broncos fans handling the Kyle Orton/Chris Simms experience?

JB: Fans are apprehensive about it, and for good reason.  Cutler has physical tools that only a couple of guys in the NFL have.  It does take more than that rocket arm to be successful, however, and the Broncos are banking on more of a team approach.  I have focused on the first 7 games of last season when it comes to Orton, simply because it was the first time he was the quarterback through a training camp.  He was having a solid year until he got hurt and never really got right.  Here are Orton’s stats through those 7 games –

Kyle Orton, 2008 through seven games

  • 1,669 yards
  • 10 touchdowns
  • 4 interceptions (5 games without an interception)
  • 143 completions
  • 230 attempts
  • 62.2 completion percentage
  • 7.26 per attempt
  • 4-3 team record

Meanwhile, Jay Cutler’s were very similar –

Jay Cutler, 2008 through seven games

  • 1,862 yards
  • 13 touchdowns
  • 7 interceptions (2 games without an interception)
  • 163 completions
  • 254 attempts
  • 64.2 completion percentage
  • 7.33 per attempt
  • 4-3 team record

I’m not saying that Kyle Orton has the physical tools Jay Cutler has.  Not by a long shot.  But I do know, through watching him at Purdue, as well as last season when he wass the starter throughout camp, that he can be successful.


Fooch
: As you asked, what will you be paying particular attention to this Friday?

JB: The progress the team is making, especially on offense.  The Broncos are not going to scare anyone with their defense so the offense has to be efficient and score points.  I’ll be watching to see if the quarterbacks are getting the ball out of their hands quickly and making the right decision.  That will tell me whether or not they are getting more comfortable with the offense.

On defense, I’ll be keeping my eye on the Front-7 to see if they are picking up the 3-4.  Are the linebackers breaking back into coverage quickly.  Is the line gaining leverage and keeping the gaurds from getting to the second level.   I’ll be looking for someone on the D-Line to stand out.

Honestly the score means little to me.


Fooch
: I liked your other question as well: surprise cut and surprise player that will make the team.

JB: Josh MCDaniels has made it known that every position on the field is up for grabs.  The players believe it and this Training Camp has been as competitive as any I have seen.  That said, there are areas that the team simply has too many players.  I think one of the veteran running backs has to go.  Right now, the odd-man out appears to be LaMont Jordan.  I know McDaniels likes Jordan, but Peyton Hillis can do a lot of the same things, as can Correll Buckhalter.

As for a player that will make the team, keep an eye on Rulon Davis along the D-line.  He’s a former Marine and plays that way.  He has great size and will get a lot of reps during the preseason to show what he’s got.  Ryan McBean is another.

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