With the Indianapolis Colts facing the Denver Broncos this Sunday, Stampede Blue's Josh Wilson talked with Mile High Report's sadaraine about the Broncos and this Sunday's matchup. The questions are in bold and then sadaraine's responses follow.
1. Colts fans obviously still like to follow Peyton Manning, and while he hasn't been the Peyton Manning of old, how would you assess his play so far this year?
The first 5 games it was mostly garbage to be honest. He had a couple drives late in the games where he played well, but he didn't take well to the new offense to start off the season. His under center work wasn't sharp. His bootlegs looked like trash. His throws were mostly off the mark. There was a great wailing, gnashing of teeth, wearing of sack-cloth, and rending of robes going on in Broncos Country over our offense.
The past two games he's looked much more comfortable. Peyton and Kubiak have been adjusting the offense to find a happy medium between their two styles and his game is starting to click. The biggest thing I'm seeing is that he's really starting to feel comfortable in the pocket. A slew of his INTs were caused by him feeling too much pressure and the line not blocking well for him which caused him to rush throws that he had no business throwing.
I'll wrap it up by saying something that I think Manning fans will like to hear, but is my honest opinion: Manning hasn't yet peaked with the new offense. He's getting better as the season wears on. He may have lost some of his ability due to age, but not enough so that he can't make a deep run into the playoffs.
2. It's the first year under Gary Kubiak, and early on his offense seemed to create some struggles as he forced Manning to run his system. How has the offense changed as the year has gone on (if at all)?
Kubiak may have caused some headache for our offense with the switch he wanted to make this year, but give credit where credit is due: he's working with Manning and fixing it.
The first big change he made was to run the systems out of the pistol the majority of the time so that Peyton can spend more time reading the defense instead of making a drop back that requires him to not be scanning the defense.
Also we're seeing more of the route combinations that Manning is most comfortable with. I'm seeing more levels concepts that Manning loves being used. We've also started using the width of the field more in order to back off the pass rushers and make the defense not be so strong in the middle.
Finally, the biggest and most significant change to the offense has been the raw improvement of the offensive line. The line started the year playing absolutely atrocious football in both run blocking and pass blocking. They are starting to gel and that is what is making everything else work. I heard that Green Bay has a pretty good defense, but last week we lit them up to the tune of over 500 combined yards in offense.
3. The Broncos recently traded for tight end Vernon Davis, and this Sunday will be his first game with Denver. What is his role expected to be this weekend against the Colts? And how is he expected to fit in with this team?
I really don't expect much from him this week. He just got here. He's still learning the system. I'm betting it will take him another week to really start getting down the run blocking calls.
That being said, there is absolutely no reason that he can't contribute on obvious passing downs. He can stretch the field and is a superb route runner. I'd love to see them look his way 3-5 times in the passing game.
4. Obviously the Broncos' defense is phenomenal - the best in the league this year. What is it that makes them so good and dangerous this year? What are their strengths and weaknesses (if there are any)?
That's the big answer that I have a hard time saying, but it is the honest truth from what I'm seeing on the field: There is no weakness. Our front-7 is strong against the run, disciplined on the edges, and has absolutely devastating pass rushing capabilities. Our secondary is strong against the run, doesn't bite on play-action, and has the best cover talent in the league hands down as a unit.
I've seen man, zone, all out blitzes, cover-2, cover-3...Wade Philips doesn't call a defense that runs a system or two and plays read-and-react defense. He attacks. He does so creatively. He adjusts on the fly if a team starts finding some success.
5. Knowing what you do of the Broncos, how would you go about attacking them if you were the Colts' offensive and defensive coordinator?
On offense: First off, don't run inside very much...it doesn't work. Try to scheme some blockers out wide to get to the edge and try to have some success.
The only chance in the passing game that I see is having a QB who can make perfect throws on the outside. Our defense will leave Chris Harris, Jr., Aqib Talib, and Bradley Roby on an island. No one has yet been able to get their number, but if you can out maneuver them, it could turn into a big play.
On defense: You have to stop the run. The success our offense has had has been because the run games have forced teams to defend both edges and the middle of the field short. This has opened up big holes where our talented outside WRs can get open.
Also delayed blitzes have been very successful this season against us. That weakness is going away, but it is still worth a try a few times a game. Manning has taken some pretty good hits from this type of scheme and given the ball to the other team as well from it.
Thanks again to sadaraine for taking the time to answer these questions, and be sure to check out Mile High Report for complete coverage from the Broncos side of things!