Sunday, August 2, 2009

Training Camp is Here; or, A Brief Analysis Concerning America's One Completely Steroid-Free Professional Sport

Training camp is here, 'raaaayyyy. Normally I'd have been quivering with excitement for the last two weeks, but this year it almost snuck up on me, because I had to actually start working for a living again. Lemme tell you, nothing cramps your style like work. You have to wear pants and shit.

This time last year we Broncos fans were champing at the bit to see more of Jay Cutler and Travis Henry, of Dwayne Robertson and Jarvis Moss. Bob Slowik was our third defensive coordinator in three years, and we'd looked pretty bad in '07, but it had to be better, right? Just had to.

A calendar forward and we're itching to find out what we've got with...Kyle Orton and Jabar Gaffney. We're looking for info on Ryan McBean and Ronald Fields. Mike Nolan is our fourth defensive coordinator in four years, and holy fuck did we look awful in '08. But it's gotta be better, yes? How can it be any worse?

It's my completely homeriffic opinion that it will not be worse.

Mind you, I base that on exactly nothing. The front seven could easily be as bad as last year's version, for one thing, and maybe Elvis Dumervil can't transition to becoming a pass-rushing 3-4 linebacker--he has never, according to Kiszla's column today, dropped into coverage before. Excellent. Jarvis Moss is already thinking about retiring from football, and Tim Crowder--proud grad of Texas University, Ol' No. 7's favorite bastion of higher ed--got stomped out by Peyton Hillis in one-on-one tackling drills to the point where he didn't get off the ground for a few minutes. Those three guys represent a good portion of our potential outside LB staff. Ay yi yi.

We don't have a nose tackle, at least, not yet. Maybe Ronald Fields, who backed up in San Francisco, can take the reins, or maybe a youngster like Carlton Powell or Chris Baker will step up. But that's asking a lot, especially for a young player--defensive linemen, as I'll mutter under my breath many times this season, need a few years to develop. Unless they were drafted by Mike Shanahan, in which case you can just flush them down the toilet immediately.

Anyway, that's the reality-based viewpoint. The homeriffic one:

We had become dangerously undersized up front the last few years. As much as I like Elvis, he's a situational guy. You can't be throwing him into run support all game, you'll neutralize his strengths. Shanny had his favorites that would stick around from year to year for whatever reason (John "Mr. Worthless" Engelberger) the objects of his free agency/trading affections (Robertson) and draft picks that were either a bad fit or couldn't play dead (Moss, Crowder), but they all had one thing in common--there was no rhyme or reason as to *why* they were there. The decisions that brought them aboard were reactionary--whether it was because different coordinators came through and wanted different players, as the story went with Bates and the Moss pick, or because Shanny had a habit of falling in and out of love with players and schemes, I dunno. In any case, it made for a mess.

And it was only made worse by the presence of Bob Slowik. Slowik is the guy that epitomizes the late-period Shanahan era: not qualified for any reason beyond his own longtime relationship with Mike, a "company man" who wouldn't make noise and wouldn't demand a say in personnel. In short, a mouthpiece, a cipher. Even worse, a defensive coach without any imagination or huevos. Bates was a mess, yes, but Slowik was a drunk driving on a busy holiday sidewalk. Mike Nolan is a competent defensive coach who will impress his charges by looking stern and wearing a tie.