Work in Sports
Return of Davis predicates any playoff possibilities
The Denver Broncos, welcoming offensive cog Terrell Davis back, open their training camp at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo., on July 20. Here are a few questions from Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z, followed by CNNSI.com's perspective on some of the issues facing the Broncos this season. SI's season preview will post Aug. 23.
Dr. Z wants to know:
1.) With Terrell Davis back, what will happen to Olandis Gary, one of the NFL's unsung heroes of 1999? Coaches always talk about giving heavy-duty runners a breather, but that's all it is, talk. What kind of numbers did the backups to Emmitt Smith or Barry Sanders or Walter Payton or anybody, ever put up?
2.) Do you believe the unsettling rumors that QB Brian Griese didn't get along with his teammates last year?
3.) Do you feel that Gus Frerotte is seriously in the mix? Mike Shanahan has proven that he's not afraid to lift a QB.
4.) Do you agree with me that the addition of DEs Kavika Pittman and Lester Archambeau will give the Broncos one of the really effective front fours in the NFL?
5.) Are you wringing your hands that CB Dale Carter is gone for the year or do you feel that the Broncos are well rid of him and will do quite well with rookie Deltha O'Neal?
The Broncos can make the playoffs if ... Terrell Davis rushes for 2,008 yards. All right, I'll even allow you that they would probably make the playoffs if Davis rushes for only1,500 yards. The point being, last year's 6-10 record was a direct result of the defending NFL co-MVP going down for the season with a knee injury in Week 4. Olandis Gary piled up 1,159 yards in a surprisingly successful rookie year, but he managed only seven touchdowns in 12 starts compared to Davis' 21 scores in 16 games in 1998.
Pivotal games: Sept. 4 at St. Louis; Dec. 17 at Kansas City. A 6-10 season was a big disappointment in Denver, but the resulting fifth-place schedule this season will help a team trying to get back in the playoff hunt. The season opener on Monday night in St. Louis will provide a true test of whether Denver is again a team to be reckoned with or not. The game at Arrowhead on the second last week of the regular season gives the Broncos one final push against a division opponent. The toughest stretch of the schedule comes late in the season when three out of four on the road will make or break Denver's playoff hopes. The Broncos' schedule is the fifth easiest in the league, and the Broncos only have three games against playoff teams.
On the hot seat: A Duncan yo-yo doesn't have anything on Brian Griese. During the past year, Griese has gone from backup to starter to rumored backup to Steve Young back to starter. Whew. With only Gus Frerotte to push him now, the third-year player out of Michigan appears firmly entrenched as the starter. For now. Mike Shanahan proved last year that he is quick to hook struggling quarterbacks by yanking Bubby Brister.
Up-and-comers: John Mobley's season-ending knee injury paved the way for rookie Al Wilson to step into the starting lineup and record an impressive first-year campaign. Wilson started 12 games, recorded 60 tackles, and rarely looked like a rookie in Greg Robinson's defense. Mobley return on the outside will only help the run-stuffing Tennessee product boost his tackle totals. The Broncos are hopeful that Wilson can emerge into a Pro Bowl caliber player and will anchor their run defense for years to come. Also, first-round draft pick Deltha O'Neal could be a starter by the regular-season opener, and will contribute from the outset as a return man regardless of whether he wins Dale Carter's cornerback spot opposite Ray Crockett.