Since we are playing actual games against opponents - even if they are exhibitions - BTB now presents the first "5 Questions" series of the year. Every week, I’ll ask the blogger for the opposing team at SB Nation to answer five questions so you can get a little more knowledge on our opponents. I didn’t get to do it for the first game because I had just gotten back from training camp. But this week I bring you The Sports Guru, who runs the show over at Mile High Report, which is the end-all, be-all of Broncos blogs.
BTB: Give us the scoop on Jay Cutler. It's his team now; what are your thoughts on Cutler for this year, and his long-term future in Denver?
The Sports Guru: Everything I have seen from Cutler has screamed he’ll be a star in this League. He obviously has all the physical tools and can make every throw. What is so impressive is his mental approach to the game and how "easily" it seems to come to him. To listen to him speak you’d think he were a 10 year vet. I know there are doubts just because he came from a school not especially known for football, but make no mistake, Jay Cutler can play, and can play at a high level. I think he’ll prove that this year.
BTB: You guys always dominate with the running game. Is there any reason to think that won't be true again this year? Tell us about Travis Henry, Mike Bell and the running game.
TSG: For the first time since Terrell Davis the Broncos have a true power back that will eat up a lot of carries and yards. Sure, guys like Mike Anderson and Reuben Droughns were nice, but Henry brings that certain "it" back to the Denver backfield. With Henry getting 25 carries a game I expect the Broncos to get back to what they do best – get the lead early and take the air out of the ball at the end. I predict Henry will go for 1500 yards and 15 TD’s this season. As for Mike Bell, he provides the Broncos an excellent complimentary back, and while he isn’t the game breaker that Henry is, the Broncos could do a lot worse as a backup for Henry. Cecil Sapp and Andre Hall figure to get some touches as well.
BTB: I've read that Denver has had injury problems with their draft class, including Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder. How bad are the injuries, and which guys in the draft class were expected to contribute in a significant way this year?
TSG: Moss seems to be back on track after a near miss knee strain. Crowder is said to have "severely" sprained his ankle and was seen on crutches after practice Thursday. OT Ryan Harris, the Broncos 3rd round pick from Notre Dame, underwent back surgery and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Of the top 3 picks I thought Crowder was going to be the best of the rookies and his loss could hurt the most. Moss, while possessing the higher upside when compared to Crowder, is a bit rough around the edges and will need some time a-la Jason Taylor. Harris was expected to be the heir apparent to Matt Lepsis at Left Tackle and wasn’t expected to see much action in 2007.
BTB: What's the feeling about Mike Shanahan in Denver? Any signs that the fans or the organization are getting restless for another Super Bowl run, or do the two championships and continually good teams make him immune?
TSG: I think there are those that have gotten completely spoiled by the success and expect a bit too much. Go back through history and you’ll see just how tough it is to replace a legend. Even the Cowboys found that out, trying to replace Troy Aikman. All the while the Broncos have maintained a high level of success, and while much is made of the Broncos lack of playoff success since John Elway retired, there are teams, like the Cowboys, who have had longer droughts without a playoff win. Kansas City, for instance, hasn’t won a playoff game since 1993. Mike Shanahan is a top-tier Head Coach and those in the know in Denver realize that and don’t take it for granted.
BTB: What are your expectations for the 2007 Broncos?
TSG: Speaking personally, I have extremely high expectations for the Broncos. They were able to plug a lot of holes and for the first time since #7 led the offense the Broncos will be able to utilize the entire playbook with reckless abandon. Mike Shanahan is one of the most aggressive play callers in the game and with the weapons he has added on offense should be able to come up with mis-matches all over the field. On defense, the combination of Champ Bailey and Dre Bly will give opposing quarterbacks all kinds of headaches. The AFC is loaded, however, and it really will come down to a survival of the fittest. I think the stability within the organization gives the Broncos a bit of an edge over the Chargers in the AFC West, and it will come down to whoever is the healthiest come playoff time. The Broncos will be right in the thick of it and could shock a lot of people in 2007.