Pre-Game Recon With Mile High Report

This week's edition sees us chatting with the aptly named Sports Guru, the man behind the SB Nation blog about all things connected to the organization that spawned our very own Kubes.  Thus, without further ado, The Guru's thoughts on the other team playing before a national audience on December 13, 2007:

1.  What say you about Jay Cutler?  From looking at his numbers (which admittedly never tell the whole story), he looks to have had an up-and-down year, though he's coming off a damn fine performance versus Kansas City a few days ago.  So are we merely witnessing the maturation process of a young QB?  Or does his penchant for turning the ball over (12 INT, 8 FUM, 3 FUM Lost) make you wonder if this is going to be par for the course and subsequently drive you to buy stock in Jack Daniels?

MHR:  In Cutler's case, it's a little bit of both.  He is still learning, still maturing, still finding out what it takes to be a leader and QB in the National Football League.  He is doing all of this on a young team still trying to find its way together.  That said, there are issues with his mechanics that need to be addressed.  He has a penchant for  throwing off his back foot, and at times can actually fall away from where he trying to throw the football instead of driving towards the target.  I can't say that I really blame him for that since he spent 4 years getting killed at Vanderbilt.  There is no doubting Cutler's toughness, however, or the confidence he has in his ability.  Most importantly, Cutler has already won over the respect of his teammates, evident by the fact that they voted him an offensive captain before the season.  Now that he actually has a full 16 games under his belt, we are really starting to see what he has to offer and what he brings to the table.  That, more than anything, has fans excited and has Mike Shanahan giddy, to say the least.

2.  It's frequently said (well, at least by me) that the Denver system is so good that you could plug a corpse in at RB and he'd tally 1,000 yards on the ground.  An overstatement to be sure, but after seeing flashes of brilliance from Texas Ex Selvin Young and Non-Texas Ex Andre Hall this season (and guys like Mike Anderson and Reuben Droughns before them), why keep Travis Henry and his sizable contract next year?  Big contract, potent breeding habits, and addiction to hippie lettuce aside, how happy are you that your squad opted to sign Henry instead of Ahman "$16,971.28 Per Yard" Green back in March?

MHR:  It's easy to have hindsight, so I won't.  At the time, the Henry signing was applauded.  He was a workhorse for Tennessee last season, winning the Titans' Offensive MVP award, and it appeared that his off-the-field troubles were behind him.  The Broncos didn't know Selvin Young would be there after the draft, and there was a definite need at running back after the trade of Tatum Bell to Detroit.  Of course, the '07 season has been a complete disaster for Henry, starting with the injuries, then the drug test/appeal.  Henry has always been a guy who runs hard but also gets hurt, so the Broncos need as many runners as possible.  It will be interesting to see what the team does during the off-season with Henry and another high-priced guy that has spent most of the season injured - Javon Walker - with younger, cheaper players on the roster making huge impacts.  The Broncos can never have enough running backs, and I think Henry will be back in '08 motivated to show he can be a top-tier running back for Denver.

3.  You have Champ Bailey.  We have Andre Johnson.  Should we expect to see them matched up very much, if at all?  If not, who will draw the black tile and have to cover The Most Underrated Offensive Weapon In The NFL?  Should Champ and 'Dre line up, who do you like to get the best of that match-up?

MHR:  The Broncos very rarely have their corners shadow a receiver, so I could see everyone getting a crack at Johnson depending on where he lines up.  Even Karl Paymeh, the Broncos nickel corner, will get his chance if Johnson lines up in the slot.  I like Bailey in these battles because Dre Bly really struggles with big receivers.  Bly, while a great cover guy, is not that big and guys like Johnson can out-muscle him for position and out-jump him for the ball.  What will be most important for the Broncos will be to get pressure on the Texans' quarterback, forcing the ball to come out before he really wants to throw it.  Sage Rosenfels has shown he can make any throw and be very accurate if he is given the time.  If the Broncos can collapse the pocket like they did against Kansas City last week, it will force Rosenfels to get rid of the ball before he wants to and that is when mistakes are made.  Johnson is a stud, however, and few, if any, teams have stopped him.  The Texans have been a tough team to beat with Johnson on the field.  The Broncos are going to have to make sure they don't let someone else get going and do the best they can to limit Johnson's big play capabilities.

4.  Gary Kubiak has made no secret that he owes the Broncos organization, and Mike Shanahan, everything when it comes to him getting a shot at being a head coach in the NFL.  He's kept the Shanahan connection alive by hiring Mike's son Kyle, who may well be promoted to offensive coordinator in a couple of months.  Given the history between Kubes and the Broncos, I'm guessing Shanahan The Elder will have a few tricks up his sleeve for his protege.  Any ideas what they'll be?

MHR:  I think you might be right, though the Broncos just aren't a mature enough offensive team to really pull any tricks off.  The Broncos are what they are.  When they can run the ball, like we saw against K.C., they can be really tough to beat.  Jay Cutler is a rhythm quarterback.  When he starts to feel comfortable in the pocket his mechanics improve and he is very accurate.  I think Shanny will try and get a lead early, try to take the crowd out of the game, and force Rosenfels to beat them.  

One thing I have noticed from the Texans this year is they like to start fast.  When they do, like last week against the Bucs, they are a tough team.  Get up on them, however, and it's a bit different, though what they did against Tennessee earlier this year, nearly winning after being so far down in the fourth quarter, shows that they don't quit.  I think Shanny finally feels comfortable with what he has and what his offense will be in '07; I expect him to play to the Broncos' strengths.  Don't be surprised if his first offensive play from scrimmage is a home run ball.  Shanny likes to make a splash, especially on national TV, and hit a long one early.

5.  In the words of the great orator Herm Edwards, PUT YOUR NAME ON IT:  The final score of Thursday night's game will be Denver ???, Houston ???.  And at the end of the regular season, Denver's record will be ???-???.

MHR:  Homer-time...I am going with the Broncos, 20-16.  An up-and-down season will end with the Broncos at 8-8.

Good luck Thursday and most importantly, let's hope everyone stays healthy!

Many thanks to the illustrious Guru to taking the time to answer my queries.  As always, you can check out my answers to the Mile High interrogatories (there were a lot this week) here.

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