With one game under our belts, we have some answers to the questions that I posted last week. We also have some incomplete answers and new questions.
While the results are preliminary, I think the Broncos answered this question. It may not be championship-caliber, but the Broncos' run defense has definitely improved over the last few years. In 2008, even the most average of running backs would gash the Broncos for nearly five yards per play.
While the Broncos are sure to face stiffer tests this year, Cedric Benson was held to a manageable 76 yards on 21 carries to average 3.6 yards per carry with a long of 20. The rest of the Bengals gained 10 yards on six carries.
Again, it is only one game, but the Broncos were able to get to Carson Palmer. After recording only 26 sacks in 2008, recording three sacks against the Bengals is a step in the right direction.
While there is room for improvement, the signs continue to be positive. All of the sacks were recorded by linebackers, so a stiffer push from the front three would be an area for improvement. After watching the futility of the past few years, this was a welcome sight.
Kyle Orton’s performance was questionable. The support from his receivers was not good. It will be very difficult to manage a game if the receivers are dropping passes and the running backs are not effective.
Without the 87-yard pass to Brandon Stokley, Orton’s numbers were rather mediocre. He held the ball too long and needs to make quicker decisions.
The one unquestionable positive to take away is he did not commit any turnovers. It is also likely that he was feeling the effect of his injured finger and loss of practice time over the past few weeks. As Brandon Marshall and Knowshon Moreno have more practice time, the offensive efficiency should improve.
This is a long-term question that we will not have an immediate answer to. For an offensive coach, the offense was not all that impressive. There is still much work to be done in improving efficiency. The one thing McDaniels will be judged on is wins and losses, and he came away with a win.
I will add a new question to the list. After holding the Bengals scoreless for the first 54 minutes, the Broncos allowed the Bengals to put together a 91-yard, 11-play drive, nearly ruining an otherwise outstanding effort.
In the preseason, the Broncos allowed Chicago to perform a similar feat. This is an area that will need to be improved if the Broncos are going to win close games.
All in all, Broncos fans should be encouraged. They have to realize coming away from this game with a win was very fortunate. The Bengals are most likely not a playoff-caliber team and beating them is not indicative of a great season.
However, the defense played well enough to keep them in a game in which the offense was only able to score six points in the first 59 minutes. How many times has that happened in the past two years? While there is much work to be done on the offense and in the return game, there are positives to build on.
If the Broncos can continue to build over the next few weeks, they will have much more confidence going into the toughest part of their schedule.
They have a very winnable game at home against the Browns before taking on the Raiders on the road and the Cowboys at home. It only gets tougher from there, so they need to notch the wins while they can.