The summer sun is still high. The town is still packed. But the prime precursor that fall is on its way is here.Yes, they’re playing football.On Monday night your Denver Broncos open their 2007 pre-season in San Francisco. Football is here, whether you’re ready for it or not. The regular season will begin for the team on Sept. 9 in Buffalo when they face the Bills.This is the time of year when fans speculate on the prospects for the Broncos. Can they improve upon last year’s 9-7 record? Can they measure up to the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West? Will Dre Bly and Champ Bailey be the ultimate corner combo? Will Travis Henry be Mike Shanahan’s next Pro Bowl running back? Can Rod Smith make it through his 13th season? And most important, can they overcome the tragedies that befell them this past off-season when they lost Darrent Williams and Damien Nash in unfathomable circumstances?So how will they do?I call it a 10-6 season and second place to the Chargers in the AFC West with the team making the playoffs as a wild-card and losing in the first round of the playoffs. Sorry, I know that is a tough assessment for some to take but I think it is realistic, bordering on optimistic.Furthermore I think the most important name on the roster is not Jay Cutler, but rather, Patrick Ramsey. “Say what?” I hear you sputter, “Who is Patrick Ramsey and why is he the most important player on the Broncos?”In order, Patrick Ramsey is a five-year NFL veteran who has started 24 games in his career, all with the Washington Redskins, who drafted him out of Tulane with the 32nd pick of the 2002 NFL draft. He signed this year as a free agent specifically to back up the young Jay Cutler. Last year he backed up Chad Pennington with the New York Jets. He was born on Valentine’s Day in 1979 and won a gold medal in the Pan-Am Games throwing the Javelin.So?So Jay Cutler, praised by many as the next John Elway, is an unproven commodity. He started five games last year, his rookie season, and he went 2-3. He is raw. I contend that he needs the help of a veteran to get through the season and it is likely that Ramsey will be called on at some point to play. Perhaps extensively.Ramsey can be the steadying influence that the 24-year-old Cutler needs on the sidelines. He has been in a similar situation himself, having started five games as a rookie in Washington and then 11 games in his second year. If he is needed to spell Cutler he has solid game experience.I’m not saying that Patrick Ramsey is going to be the Broncos starting quarterback now, or ever. I’m just suggesting that his presence is vital to this team and he is a guy most folks, even avid Denver fans, know little about.I could be wrong. But that’s why they play the games.
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