Fooch's Note: Josh Branco wrote this up but coudn't get it posted yesterday when the site was down, so I'm posting it for him.
We'll continue to jump around the 49ers' schedule with these posts, and this week we will cover the Week 8 game against the Denver Broncos. While this is technically a 49ers home-game, it will be taking place in the friendly confines of Wembley Stadium in London, England. You can find my earlier articles covering the Broncos' off-season here and here.
The obvious storyline heading into the season is the acquisition of Tim Tebow, and what his future holds for the franchise. We'll cover that and more after the jump.
The team acquired quarterback Brady Quinn in exchange for FB Peyton Hillis, a 6th round pick in the 2011 draft, and a conditional pick in the 2012 draft. Quinn was expected to slide comfortably into the back-up role, while pushing Kyle Orton for the starting position. Then the team selected Tim Tebow in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
The Broncos selected WR DeMaryius Thomas with their first selection of the draft. Thomas is very big for a wide-out, and his size and strength should make him an excellent number one receiver in the future.
Whether it's fair or not, Thomas and Tebow will always be compared to the recently departed Cutler and Marshall. They're Josh McDaniel's players, and the head coach will more than likely sink or swim based on how these two young men perform.
Free Agent Nose Tackle Jamal Williams should also give the club a big boost as they continue their transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense.
The biggest subtraction this off-season has been the loss of Brandon Marshall. Despite his reputation as a distraction, his performance on the field has been commendable. Denver will need incumbent Jabar Gaffney to step up and produce while their draft picks at the position develop and mature, whether or not Gaffney can do that will play a large role in deciding the success of the Bronco's offense.
2010 Questions and Answers
Who will play quarterback in 2010? The Bronco's stable of quarterbacks has suddenly become very crowded. Last year's starter Kyle Orton, the former Cleveland Brown Brady Quinn, and Florida standout Tim Tebow will likely all compete for playing time. My guess is that Orton will start the season under center, but Quinn and Tebow could both get an opportunity if he struggles out of the gate.
Can Knowshon Moreno improve upon his rookie season? Moreno led all rookies in rushing yards (947), yards from scrimmage (1,160), and touchdowns (9). It will be interesting to see just how productive he can become in Josh McDaniel's offense. As he matures and develops, I would expect his catches out of the backfield to increase from last season's mark of 28.
To me, this game is going to be all about defense. I would never count out a Josh McDaniels' offense, but I just don't see where the points are going to come from against the 49ers. Brandon Marshall was their one true big play receiver, and he's gone. Moreno is a good back, but San Francisco thrives on shutting down opponents running game.
If Denver's defense can return to their 2009 form, then the 49ers offense could have an equally difficult time scoring. It difficult to know how the departure of Mike Nolan will affect the unit, but if the Broncos want to make this a game they will need to be strong on the defensive side of the ball.
This is a match-up that could go either way in my opinion, but I'll give the 49ers the edge since they're playing at home. Still, I would not be surprised if Denver is able to come out on top thanks to a solid defensive performance.