For years Mike Shanahan was the fearless leader of the Denver Broncos. After winning two Super Bowls in the late 90s, Shanahan was able to pull 1,000 yard rushers out of nowhere. Grab a guy from the draft *POOF*, 1,000 yards. Grab a undrafted free agent *POOF*, 1,000 yards. Grab a guy from the grocery store, *POOF* Super Bowl MVP… wait that was Kurt Warner, but still Shanahan had a way of making average guys look great.
However, after the 2008 season ended with the Broncos crumbling yet again and missing the playoffs yet again, Shanahan was shown the road leading out of the Rockies. The Broncos decided to bring in a young guy who had been helping the Patriots dominate for years. 32 year old Josh McDaniels was brought to town to take over this young team which consisted of Pro Bowl QB Jay Cutler as well as a number of stars who were ready to make a splash in the league. Their defense was lead by CB Champ Bailey and a few other decent players, but was really struggling. It looked at though McDaniels would step in and take this potent offense, patch up the defense, and make a deep playoff run. This was when the changes began to happen…
In his first off season, McDaniels busied himself by cutting players and signing free agents. Then McDaniels dealt with QB Jay Cutler’s whining about the changes by sending him to Chicago in exchange for a few draft picks and QB Kyle Orton. The team was definitely headed in a different direction.
The difference between the opening day roster in 2008 and the one we will see in 2010 is astounding. The offense has only 2 of their 11 starters that are currently starting. LT Ryan Clady has made a huge impact being perhaps the best OT drafted in the last 5 years. TE Daniel Graham, one of the final free agents signed by Shanahan in Denver, is the only other starter returning on offense. That opening day 2008 roster included WR Eddie Royal, who should be a starter next season with the recent trade of WR Brandon Marshall. C Casey Wiegmann started last year, but left this off season as a free agent. OT Tyler Polumbus finished last season as the starter at RT, however he may be replaced by Ryan Harris who is returning from injury. The only other player that remains on the roster from that 2008 depth chart is WR Brandon Stokley, who started that season as the #4 receiver, but still sees significant time. In recent weeks, they have traded away WR Brandon Marshall and TE Tony Scheffler (along with last season’s trade of Cutler) which leaves their incredible draft from 2007 looking rather dismal to them now. They have cut a number of players and others have retired, but this is not the same team that was here just over 18 months ago.
The defense is almost unrecognizable. Three players remain from that 2008 starting group. Elvis Dumervil moved from DE to OLB and has made a significant splash last season where he led the league with 17 sacks. DJ Williams was moved to the Inside from his WLB position in 2008. He has been decent since this move. CB Champ Bailey still starts, but has slipped from the ranks of the elite. He may only have a couple of years left before he fades off into the Hall of Fame. Former starter DT Marcus Thomas faded to a backup spot. This defense is about as different as any in the league.
The special teams have had large turnover, too. Kicker Matt Prater has stuck around, but the punting duties have changed hands.
This turn over is significant. Out of the players listed on the 2008 opening day depth chart, there would only be 13 left if the season started to day. This is the entire depth chart of 2 to 3 players at each position!
This huge turnover led the Broncos to the same 8-8 record in 2009 that they had the previous year. The only *Poof* in Denver is the team getting rid of former players. Broncos fans hope that McDaniels knows what he is doing, but questions remain about his strategies and leadership. Most of the star power for the team is gone. Players have been brought in from teams all over the league. With the made-over Broncos team, fans have come to expect changes in the team’s success to come with the roster changes. Most fans hope to see a return to the playoffs in the next year or two, but with a rebuilding team, McDaniels has his work cut out for him. Can he *POOF* the Broncos back to the top?