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News » Slowik knows there's so much to be done

Slowik knows there's so much to be done

Slowik knows there's so much to be done

That's the only way Bob Slowik's demeanor could be described after the collapse of the Broncos defense Sunday night.

The coordinator tried gallows humor, reminding his inquisitor that, yes, he did know his group allowed 52 points in a winner- take-all, AFC West showdown against the San Diego Chargers.

At the same time, he acknowledged there was nothing remotely funny about how the Broncos defense responded when the stakes were highest.

The Broncos allowed season highs in yards (491), rushing yards (289) and points (52), capping a season in which the defense ranked 29th. It finished the season ranked 24th or worse in 16 major categories.

"The disappointing thing is there was no mystery to what the Chargers were doing," Slowik said. "They were running the ball. We never worked harder on the run - ever, anywhere I've ever been in 17 years of coaching. You have to execute fundamentally in big games - read your keys, believe your keys, get off your blocks and make tackles, things like that. I really don't have an answer."

Yet Slowik can bet there will be, and already are, plenty of questions about how to get a group that has allowed 409 and 448 points the past two seasons - only the 1963 and 1964 teams were worse in consecutive seasons - to a respectable level.

Coach Mike Shanahan said Slowik would stay, averting the past fates of Greg Robinson, Ray Rhodes, Larry Coyer and Jim Bates since 2000. But Slowik knows his scheme will be dissected and he'll become a scapegoat to many.

"Sure, and that's no problem," he said. "It's a bottom-line business. Everybody that coaches knows that. In the end, how you perform on the field is a reflection of what kind of coaching they have."

Other items such as personnel can't be overlooked; nor can a lack of continuity. Replacing Slowik and a roster overhaul brings things back to square one.

"But continuity is something that sooner or later is going to have to be established with this group so that they can draw from experience and say, 'Yeah, we know exactly what you're talking about,' and the terminology remains the same," Slowik said. "And I'm not pleading any case. That's the fact."

The defense hit its nadir Sunday night in a season replete with less-than-stellar moments. San Diego's 289 rushing yards was the worst performance by a Broncos team since an infamous 407-yard debacle against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2000 that contributed to Robinson's firing. The five Chargers rushing touchdowns tied for the most ever against the Broncos.

It was the third time this season the Broncos allowed 200-plus rushing yards. Ten times Denver gave up at least 139 yards on the ground and finished 27th at 146.1 per game.

"I'm shocked, friggin' flabbergasted, whatever words you can use, completely surprised," Slowik said about the poor tackling and lack of gap integrity against the Chargers. "If they would have thrown the ball for an extraordinary amount of yards, then that would have been different because so much has been put into the run defense. But when it happens this way, after your whole emphasis from Day 1 has been to stop the run, play the run better, play tough, be physical and not get it done in a big game, is disheartening as a coach."

There were plenty of those feelings to go around in 2008. In the end, the Broncos finished with a franchise-low 13 takeaways.

Their 67.3 percent completion rate allowed broke the team- record high of 63.6 in 2002. The first downs allowed (327) smashed the 1995 record. The 26 rushing touchdowns was five more than allowed in 1965.

"Defensively, we've got a lot of work to do . . . ," Shanahan said.

Safety and the defensive front likely will be emphasized in free agency and in the draft, where the Broncos have nine picks, including No. 12 overall.

The Broncos also will look to find a spot for rookie linebacker Wesley Woodyard, perhaps necessitating another shift by D.J. Williams back to the middle.

But the main point of emphasis - an eight-man front to curtail the run out of a base 4-3 alignment - is fundamentally sound in Slowik's view. It comes down to execution, and, ultimately, expansion of principles.

"The point there is when you're starting a scheme in the first year and you simplify the scheme to establish fundamentals, techniques and terminology, that's just the beginning," Slowik said, alluding to an early- season switch out of a 3-4 look. "If you can maintain continuity, then you can grow and expand from there. But until you get a base that you're comfortable in and the players are comfortable in, that they know how to execute, then you don't have a chance."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 30, 2008

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Marques Harris Name: Marques Harris
Position: LB
Age: 26
Experience: 4 years
College: Southern Utah
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