To get ready for this week's Bears vs Broncos match-up, we kicked back and chatted with Sadarine from Mile High Report to learn a little bit about the state of their team, how Brock Osweiler compares to Peyton Manning, and how he sees their season turning out in 2015.
1- John Elway is now in his 5th year as Executive VP of Football Operations, essentially having final say over all football matters. Prior to that, he had zero experience in running an NFL front office. Obviously the Broncos have had great success during his tenure-- what changed under Elway's leadership, and how much credit does he deserve for the success of the team during his tenure?
Sadaraine: It is important to understand that John Elway is a driven leader. By every account I've seen or heard, he's one of the most competitive people on the planet. He wins at whatever he does and if he loses, it is used as a learning opportunity so that he can win in his next shot (ask Bubby Brister about playing pool or poker with him sometime).
Post-NFL QB Elway set his sights very early in becoming a successful businessman and one who could be the manager of an NFL team like he is today. He ran his car dealership to get business experience, then ran the Colorado Crush (to an arena football league championship) to get experience in the front office of a football operation.
What Elway brought back to Denver as our Vice President of Football Operations is the vision and leadership that our team needs to be a contender: Our goal is to win championships from now on. He manages with this in mind at all times.
The biggest key to his success in my mind is that he has gotten a superb sense of the worth of player contracts and how they affect the team from a salary cap standpoint. He uses that knowledge to only sign contracts that are fair to the players and fair to the team. We don't give big signing bonuses. We don't guarantee contracts past 2-3 years typically. This keeps us out of cap hell and in a place where we are agile enough to use the draft and free agency to full effectiveness.
The other thing he's done that in my mind is the overlooked huge advantage of the team is brought in a team of scouts that know something other teams don't about finding gems from the unknown and overlooked schools. Our highest rated cornerback (Chris Harris, Jr.) was an undrafted college free agent. So was C.J. Anderson (starting quality RB), Shaquill Barrett (starting quality OLB), Todd Davis (backup ILB), Bennie Fowler (#3-4 WR), Lerentee McCray (backup OLB), and Juwan Thompson (#3 RB).
2- John Fox and Adam Gase are clearly familiar with the Broncos strengths and weaknesses, but with Brock Osweiler getting his first career start, a lot is up in the air. How did Osweiler look in Training Camp and preseason? How do you think he will do in his first career start?
Sadaraine: Osweiler ran the Kubiak offense in the preseason far more effectively than Manning did. He played under center, in the shotgun, ran naked bootlegs, and looked pretty comfortable. While he's had his ups and downs every year in the preseason, I've seen progress for him every year and I've been encouraged by it. That being said, TC and preseason are not regular season NFL football.
I have low expectations for Osweiler because this is his first complete start ever. He's going to look bad at spots. He's going to throw a pick or two. This is just how you have to view new QBs starting for the first time. There is no substitute for real game time. The biggest thing I look for from him is to be smart with the football. We have a complete team. If he can go out there and execute wisely we can win this game. I think he'll be jittery at times, but he's excited about the opportunity and will give us his best. I'd expect somewhere around 250 yards, 2 INTs, and 2 TDs would be a likely situation.
3- Who are some rookies and sophomores that we should keep an eye on during this game?
Sadaraine: For rookies, watch Shane Ray. He's by all accounts healthy and back on the field. Ray has the goods and has definitely made an impact when he's been on the field. He can pass rush and he so far doesn't suck at run defense from the limited snaps he's seen.
For your perspective, you'll like watching Max Garcia. He's a guard for us who's getting playing time each week. He's going to be solid moving forward, but his play is spotty so far this year. He's solid against the pass but has been beaten in run blocking here and there (though that could be said of our whole line to be fair to him).
Many of us really like sophomore Bennie Fowler at WR. He's got all the goods from what I see: decent hands, good route running, speed, quickness, and knows how to use his body to get catches. Manning didn't throw his way a ton, but when he did, Bennie was solid.
4- The Broncos are on a two game slide right now, but how do you see the rest of the season shaking out? Do you think they're good enough to contend for the AFC crown?
Sadaraine: This team is too talented top to bottom to not be in contention for the crown honestly. But this is the NFL and you have to bring it each and every week to be able to get into the mix of the playoffs and have an impact. The past two weeks our team hasn't gotten it done. The offense hasn't had any semblance of balance or productivity which has led to the defense being on the field way too much. We have a tough schedule and there can be more up and down (even this week...I don't think anyone takes this game as a gimmie with how hot your team has been as of late). I think we'll win more than we lose going around 12-4 and poised to do some damage in the playoffs.
5- Besides scoring more points than them, how do the Bears walk away from this game with a win-- how do they beat the Broncos?
Sadaraine: I would start by creating havok with our offense. It is the low-hanging fruit to be honest. Stuff the run (should be easy with our poor line) and force predictable throws. Then create pressure and cause turnovers. You have a new QB on his first start ever. Bring the heat, mix up the defenses, and keep the offense on its heels.
Offensively, play sound football using quick throws and good protection schemes. We have a superb pass rush. Teams are recently are finding success against us by attacking the middle of the field and the intermediate sides with quick throws. Our run defense can get beat as well for solid gains, though our back side support is very good and doesn't give up many long runs.
The big thing overall is to put pressure on the offense. Keep them off-kilter and unsettled. That has a domino effect of negatively affecting the rest of the team and can be a recipe for a Chicago win.