Commentary

Dutton, Crush need to be a little more consistent

Unless the Crush can find a way to be more consistent, this team has the makings of a .500 club.

Originally Published: February 25, 2008
By Gary Horton | Scouts Inc.

This organization is loaded at the top with star power. With NFL Hall of Famer John Elway (co-owner and CEO), Michael Young (executive vice president), Pat Bowlen (co-owner, as well as president and CEO of the NFL's Denver Broncos) and Stan Kroenke (co-owner), the Crush have some powerful voices and opinions. Still, this group lets the coaches do their jobs, and they concentrate on the business side of the operation and doing a great job in the community. Elway is involved in the day-to-day operations and player personnel decisions and is an excellent sounding board for the coaching staff.

Coaches and front office

Coach Mike Dailey has 14 years of AFL experience and is entering his fourth season as the boss. He is a very steady guy, well respected by his peers and players, and his teams always are competitive. He has a young but capable staff of Chris Boden (offensive coordinator), Ernesto Purnsley (defensive coordinator), Matt Gardner (special teams/wide receivers) and Tony Federico (defensive line/strength). What they lack in experience they make up with loyalty to Dailey. The chemistry in this organization appears to be good.

Key players

QB John Dutton -- He threw for 4,312 yards with 84 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and a 102.6 QB rating last year. He is a solid guy who can look great one week but just average the next. And now he is without his best weapon, Damian Harrell, who plays for division-rival Chicago. Dutton has a strong arm, good accuracy and velocity and can read defenses.

WR Ben Nelson -- The big free-agent acquisition from San Jose is expected to replace Harrell. Still, that's no easy task. Nelson caught 108 passes for 1,258 yards and 25 TDs in 2007, but he did not have to be "the guy" in San Jose. Now he must be "the guy" and replace Harrell's numbers.

WRs Brad Pyatt and Willie Quinnie -- Both were rookies in 2007 but had good numbers as Harrell's complementary receivers. Pyatt had 95 receptions and 19 TDs, and Quinnie caught 72 balls for 14 TDs. This year, they will be asked to step up their production.

DB Rashad Floyd -- He might be the best defensive player in the league, and the Crush made a smart move re-signing him. He had a whopping 141 tackles with nine interceptions and 20 pass breakups last year. He seems to be all over the field and is the cornerstone of this defense.

OL Kyle Moore-Brown -- He is beginning his 14th AFL season and never has missed a game (211 consecutive starts). He is excellent on and off the field, and was a first-team, All-AFL performer last year.

DB Chris Angel -- He is a physical player with a good motor and is developing as a playmaker. He recorded 78 tackles and seven interceptions last year, and complements Floyd.

Players to keep an eye on

FB/LB Saul Patu and DL Dustin Barno -- Neither is a rookie, but both seem to be on the upswing. They are not big, physical players, but they play with intensity. Both are underrated pass-rushers and decent athletes. Patu recorded eight tackles for loss and three sacks last year, while Barno had 5.5 TFL and five sacks. Look for these numbers to improve in 2008.

Outlook

The Crush were not overly aggressive in free agency, and it might cost them in 2008. They lost their best offensive weapon, Harrell, to Chicago, and while they replaced him with Nelson, that's not an upgrade to an offense that struggled with consistency at times in 2007. Colorado's one big move was to re-sign Floyd, who might be the best defender in the league and is the ultimate defensive leader. The Crush were wise to not let him get away in free agency. They have a solid veteran QB in Dutton, but he contributes to this team looking great one week and ordinary the next. Their passing and scoring numbers are not consistently great, and their defense isn't always good enough to bail them out. They are a good, well-coached team that will tease you at times, but they just don't look elite. That adds up to a .500 season.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.

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