Monday, June 30, 2008

Nickel & Dime/Gun Control and what dialect do you speak?

One reason I love the game of football so much is its seemingly endless capacity for innovation. I was fortunate to work under a brilliant head coach who was steeped in football history. Not who necessarily won what when, but certain coaches at certain schools and what they came up with and what they called it. It wasn't just formations and defenses, it was drills, plays, blitzes, etc. All the stuff he used had the appropriate names paying homage to its originator and place of origin. That's another thing about football, the need to communicate. Certain terminology is ubiquitous while some is local dialect.

Shotgun formation has been around for a long time shooting the ball from the center to the QB. Hey, if you could snap it to a FB in Single Wing and to the punter, why not in ... shotgun. Then came the fairly recent combo of gun + option + spread formation = spread option. Then Chris Ault at Nevada shortens the gun and puts a TB behind the QB, and it's ... pistol. All this stuff is great for the game and you can see it in HS football stadia if you are a student of the game. Try it , football fans. It's not expensive and it won't interfere with college and pro ball. Surely you NFL/fantasy league guys can figure what mere high school football teams are doing. Plus, it's educational; you might learn something ... about football, that is.

Each football team must make up certain terminology. Most defenses have four DBs. So, if you take out a backer or a DL and put in a fifth DB, it got called nickel because the author thought, "One, two, three, four, five pennies make a nickel." Hey, if the HC said it, who's going to argue with his impeccable logic? After all, this is the guy who has the power to name any player anything he wants and to send assistants to scout in Jal. What if you add a sixth DB to that? Another line coach and I used to vehemently insist that you can't call it dime unless you have TEN DBs. If five DBs is nickel, ten DBs is dime. Come on! Be consistent! Actually, we just wanted to see a D w/ten DBs. Didn't Ray Rhodes try that? Once again, logic is defeated and dime is six DBs, usually with four DL and one LB.

There are certain core rules common to all levels of football (not including Arena, Canadian, XFL, etc.). Offense must line up seven players on the LOS who must be set prior to the snap of the ball. Only the players on the ends of this line are eligible to touch the ball before it touches the ground. There are four who line up in back of this line one of whom may be moving when the ball is put into play. Isn't it amazing how much variation has been derived from that? Five WR sets two of whom must be ends; empty backfield; watch out for QB draw.

Given the caliber of NFL WRs today, such an offensive formation needs the best possible defensive coverage. The Broncos' WRs seem quite deep. Could we see five wideout/empty backfield formations this year? If you want to run cover 1 against that it could be done with dime either using one DB as a FS or doubling the most dangerous receiver with one backer as a spy on the QB and rush four DL. You could have nickel cover zero and still keep a couple of backers in. With such limited time between plays, someone in the box with binoculars and a headset must do nothing but watch personnel changes going in. How they get that done amazes me.

NFL teams that run cover 2 have acquired the necessary safeties to cover deep halves. They're really more like corners. The Broncos may play more of a 4-4 w/a box safety and a deep/FS. That works great aginst the run and in cover 3, but what about nickel and dime? If it was cover 1 or zero, I'd pull both safeties and the MLB. Assuming Jack Williams makes the team, the Broncos have five good corners. If you need another DB for dime, put in the best FS type along with the five corners. When an offense lines up with four or five WRs, you don't have to play man. D can play zone even in nickel and dime. Always try to make it look like what it isn't; look like zone, play man; look like man, play zone; man under, zone deep; zone under, man deep.

Around the time of the draft it seemed there were many voicing the idea of trading Domonique Foxworth. I guess at draft time some guys think if they have twenty picks it means they're going to the Super Bowl. KC expressed some interest in Karl Paymah (love the Nordic spelling), but as I recall, Shanahan himself nixed it. Hmmm. You don't suppose any of this had to do with the departure of Ted Sundquist ... do you? I just can't imagine Mike Shanahan wanting to be rid of any of his corners. It was a surprise when Jack Williams was drafted, but it seems that NFL teams can't get enough corners. A bunch of them were drafted rather early. Remember the playoffs? Deep playoff runs like the Giants' require depth everywhere, but especially in the secondary because the teams you're facing have great receivers.

As the Broncos get ready for training camp, cornerback is the strongest, deepest, most settled position they have. This is a good thing, compadres, embrace it and desire to keep it that way as long as possible.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

'08 Denver Broncos' Defense: Position Breakdown

With the possible exception of ST, Broncos D will be the most changed from '07. We will see as many as seven new starters, perhaps as many as eleven new defensive players. When one considers there are four rookies and four players new in '07 left over from last year, that's a major rebuild! There could be as many as 19 new faces among the 25 or so on D, in the past two seasons. Add to that a new DC, LB coach and a couple of new defensive assistants, the Broncos' '08 D will be almost brand new.

The position with the least turnover, and therefore the strongest headed into '08, is cornerback. Two proven veterans, Bailey and Bly, backed up by two experienced young players, Foxworth and Paymah with a promising rookie in Jack Williams. It may be the deepest set of corners in the NFL. Just in case you were wondering how important they are, remember how they came flying off the draft board in April? The Broncos may have the luxury of planning ahead for the future of this position. Not many question marks here ... yet.

The DL was joined by three rookies in '07, ends Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder and tackle Marcus Thomas. Moss's season ended early with an injury, Thomas was never really in shape having missed '06; he and Crowder got a lot of playing time. DL usually show great improvement in their second season, Mario Williams a case in point. Elvis Dumervil continues to develop as a PRS getting into double-digits in '07. DeWayne Robertson joins the Broncos DL from the Jets switching back to a more one-gap 3 tech. after having been NT a couple of seasons. A rookie DT, Carlton Powell of Va.Tech., was added in the 5th round. Most of us expect to see these six joined by two or three from: Ebenezer Ekuban, John Engelberger, Thomas Harris, Alvin McKinley, Kenny Peterson, Josh Mallard (trying out at LS), Nic Clemons, Larry Birdine and Paul Carrington. Question marks would appear to be: how will Robertson's knee hold up; how well will the sophs (Moss, Crowder and Thomas) mature; will Dumervil morph into a PRS with about 20 sacks; how much will Powell contribute in a DT rotation this year? A DL will need to be drafted or otherwise acquired in '09. After all those Browns' DL, the situation finally starts to look more promising and manageable.

The last time Denver had a great D, there was a high motor/thumper/emotional leader named Al Wilson at MLB. Bronco fans miss him. His replacement is yet to be found. DJ Williams, who has played all LB spots very well, did a good job at MLB in '07. We are all excited about his return (finally) to WLB where his talents can shine. Nate Webster has yet to show he is the answer at MLB. Niko Koutouvides was signed as an UFA from Seattle. He will get his chance to play MLB and maybe we should have the Greek flags, music, food, drink, etc. ready just in case. Spencer Larsen is a 6th round pick from Arizona (which has produced some great LBs) who has the look of a thumper in the middle. The Bailey brothers finally get their wish to play together yet again, maybe even on the same side of the D most of the time. Jamie Winborn (who played very well in relief) and Jordan Beck (who excelled on ST) are in the mix as well. Also listed as a LB is the top-ranked undrafted player in '08, Wesley Woodyard. Is he a LB or a S? The Broncos will retain six or seven on the roster. Louis Green and Nate Webster will have their hands full just making the team.

The defensive position which I and others have no clue about is safety. Part of it is that we out here really don't know what they in there are up to. Hey, send me to Denver with an expense account and a press pass to all practices, and ... There are six of them; seven if you count Woodyard as a S. But, what is a box S in the Broncos' D? Same as a LB in a split-six (4-4)? Even if the the Broncos intend to play eight in the box, they still need a FS type/center-fielder/break on the ball/big hitter. Could Abdullah, Barrett and Rogers be the FS types with Lynch, McCree, Manuel and Woodyard the box/SS types? Who knows? How many will they keep? Four? Five? Who will the '08 Bronco safeties be? Like I said, no clue. Stay tuned. It will be a big surprise, especially to other NFL teams ... I hope.

Broncos Defensive Expectations

Defense, especially against the run, was a big problem for the Broncos in '07. Jim Bates and his defensive philosophy have come and gone. Some seem to think that Mike Shanahan knows nothing about defense and has to find a DC that he can trust, from whom he can just walk away and be completely hands off. If that was ever the case in the past, which I doubt, '08 will be a season where coordinators and assistants will look up and see Mike in their position practice, at meetings, etc. He has always been hands on with the O and I think he is going to be all over his whole team in '08 (including ST).

Having said that, what does Mike Shanahan want his defense to be? It seems obvious that he is much more comfortable keeping an opponent's running game shut down, or at least greatly inhibited, rather than the other way around. That makes sense for a former option QB who, as an OC and head coach, clearly likes to run the ball.

There are two widely used defenses currently seen in the NFL: a variation of the Oklahoma 50 which most call the 3-4; and the split front 4-3 w/two corners and two safeties which many teams employ in cover 2. Since someone on another site mentioned it, I've been thinking. It has to do with Shanahan's inclination to keep one of the safeties in the tackle box. We saw this often in Larry Coyer's D. Another Bronco fan commented that it's really more like a 4-4. I finally snapped. That's very similar to the split six D run for years by the HS team I used to help. We called it the 60.

The split-six (4-4) is excellent at stopping the run. Years ago many of our opponents ran the Wing-T offense and our 60 was good against it if the players avoided certain bad habits. Option teams used to cause problems, but the 60 was pretty good vs. the run if coached, called and played properly. Our opponents started throwing more, but as long as we had good corners and a good FS, cover 3 worked well along with cover 1, 0 and variations ... , but never cover 2.

Many NFL teams use cover 2 in some form, but I haven't seen the Broncos use it much. With the personnel they have, I guess the corners could be inverted to take deep halves and position the deep safety where the deep halves start to pick up a receiver running post up the seam. This S would need to: cover, break on the ball and hit hard. One approach to attacking cover 2 might be X and Z fade and Y post out of pro or some formation w/X & Z on opposite sides. Then switch it up: X fade , Y chair, Z post; X post, Y corner, Z curl, etc. If the Y is a TE, then run must be respected. Which is what needs to be done against cover 2 teams ... run the ball.

There have been indications that Denver's '08 D will line up in a split front with three backers and a S (SS?) in or near the tackle box. The front seven or eight will play a gap control run D in which the DL will often slant, angle, pinch, gut, loop as well as jam and slide some. There will be blitzes (not on 3rd & long, I hope) and twists. Every conceivable zone coverage will be seen along with cover 3, 1 and zero. Cover 2 might even be thrown in rarely.

Preparing the D for a game is much more time consuming than O. Some NFL teams can change their offensive or defensive personality from week to week. I've seen the Pats do it. However, each team's personnel (including coaches) is the center of gravity from which they won't stray too far. Pretty soon the Broncos will need to start grooming a young box safety and a new deep safety. Could this be what they have in mind for Wesley Woodyard and Josh Barrett?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tim Crowder: In His Own Words

"[The Broncos defensive line] can be great. We have all the conditions. We have all the great guys. We've got the pass rush. We've got run stoppers," Crowder said. "We have guys that can do it all."

"I think minicamps went great," Crowder said. "Overall, everybody had good and bad days, but everybody improved. I improved, and I already feel better than last year."

"Just relax," Crowder said. "That's the main thing because training camp will be here before you know it."

"I ask more of myself," Crowder said. "I want to be able to do more and more each year and just be a dominant player right now."

"If you do your job, you're helping the team. That's basically what I'm trying to do," Crowder said. "Personal goals come with it."

"I just want to do anything to help the team win."

Tim Crowder, was Denver's second round pick last year out of Texas. You'll remember that he picked off Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback Ben Rothlisberger last season and ran the ball back for a touchdown.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Marshall says arrest was a shake down by his ex...

I'm going to do this "In His Own Words" style, the Rocky Mountain News is the first to post an interview with Brandon Marshall, that's where we got the quotes. I'm going to withhold judgment, I'm the first person to say that someone can change and usually the second to say women can be crazy, but where there's smoke, there's fire...

Let me catch you up, just a bit before you dive into the couple of quotes below. Marshall's ex-girlfriend admitted to "striking Brandon in the eye" during the March 2nd, 2008 fight. Also, over a 13 month period his ex-girlfriend's lawyers sent several e-mails claiming the Marshall had agreed to putting Rasheeda Whatley (Marshall's ex-girlfriend) up in a furnished apartment for a year, buying her a car comparable to her BMW 645, putting $30,000 into her bank account and that a settlement of $150,000 would be accepted (which later dropped to $100,000).

Prior to that Whatley through her lawyers had demanded $500,000 within 30 days. This is six weeks after the July 17th, 2006 incident (the 'blocking her in with his car' incident).

Which leads to...

Brandon Marshall, in his own words:

"Basically, what it was is I had just gotten into town and the relationship was basically over. I told her it was time to end it now and she didn't like that," said Marshall, who owns a home in the Atlanta area. "We've been dating off and on since the eighth grade and she said, 'I'm going to ruin you.' The only thing I did was try to get out of the house."

"If you look at Brandon Marshall's history, almost all — except the DUI — are about her," said Marshall, referring to himself in third person. "That's been my biggest problem is that I just ignored it. I thought we could work it out. ... Now, looking back on it, I can laugh about why I stayed in that relationship. I mean, it was ridiculous."

"Absolutely," he said. "You read the demand letters, 'Give me a BMW, furniture, what I'm used to, cash?' Come on."

“I can look you guys in the eyes or the camera, or I can tell you guys I am a good person. Like I said before, if you ever see me in the grocery store or the movie theater, you can always stop and talk to me.”

No wonder we have no clue whether or not Marshall can catch a pass, he can throw up a decent gang sign though (thanks BroncoTalk) while partying in the same club Javon Walker was in prior to being kidnapped and beaten the week before. If you troll the message boards like I do or if you caught Champ Bailey's interview on XM Radio earlier this summer, when he was backing the Broncos bringing Chad Johnson to Denver... Then you know what fans were saying about drama and begging Denver not to bring Johnson in. You may also remember when Terrel Owens was eating dinner at the Shanahan household and how fans were freaking out.

I'd take Chad Johnson/Terrell Owens ("That's my quarterback!") drama over Brandon Marshall drama right about now. Come on Brandon, get your shit together, between you and Marcus Thomas, a Denver Bronco should never leave the state and NEVER go to Florida (or Georgia apparently) unless John Lynch is showing you around. PR nightmare, thank God this is happening before the season, yet still the looming DUI incident which is scheduled to take place sometime in September. You better not cost us my predicted 13-3 season.

Is it Sunday yet?

PS- Officially less than one month until training camp begins.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wow... "He's not my favorite person right now."

Another day, another Brandon Marshall story this one from The Denver Post revealing that Marshall had been arrested March 6th in Atlanta for battery, stemming from a March 4th altercation with his girlfriend (same one from earlier incidents). That's three times in a year for anyone with the scoreboard and at this point, the NFL may get involved. Jay Cutler's comment put into context makes a lot more sense now.

I mused prior to the draft, when all we knew was that Marshall had potentially ruined his right hand, that we would know how he really was based on who we drafted. Then we picked Eddie Royal with our second pick, this was, I believe, to fill the weak spot we had at Kick Returner and Punt Returner. It's not weird for the Broncos to have so many receivers going into training camp, Keary Colbert was signed March 2nd (two days before the alleged March 4th Marshall incident and four days before his arrest). However, the Darrell Jackson signing may have been a direct attribute to the Marshall incident.

We haven't posted up our break down on Denver's receivers yet, but let's look at worse case scenario. Keep in mind that Marshall's DUI case is still looming as well and has been postponed to September. So things just aren't looking great for him and I can't imagine him not missing at least a little time during the season due to a suspension. It would be almost hypocritical of Coach Shanahan to look past the multiple Marshall incidents while getting rid of people like Travis Henry and Todd Sauerbrun (at least Sauerbrun hits men). So as I said, worst case scenario, what does a Denver wide receiver lineup look like sans Marshall?

My best guess is Darrell Jackson at the X, Keary Colbert/Brandon Stokley at the Y and Samie Parker/Brandon Stokley/Eddie Royal at the Z. Not terrible, Bronco football without Marshall on the field would not be the end of the team, but he'd definitely be missed. Keep in mind, we'd still have Tony Scheffler, Daniel Graham and very good pass catching backs in Selvin Young, Andre Hall and Peyton Hillis.

Argh... Is it Sunday yet?

NFL Networks episode of "32 Teams in 32 Days" featuring Denver, a Major Disappoinment

If you're like me you've been anticipating the episode for at least a couple weeks if not more. The only reason I have Direct TV is for NFL Network and Sunday Ticket, because they have the monopoly in my market and many other markets around the United States and I wouldn't even be able to see NFL Network without it. I can remember times last year when the weather was bad in New York during the season, knocking out Direct TV reception and having to SIMCast the game from some kind soul in Turkey or Italy... Resorting to illegally watch a game from someone outside of the United States, just because the weather was bad and the NFL agreed to a shitty monopolist contract years ago. So let's get past that, I am :)

Onto tonight, NFL Network, "32 Teams in 32 Days!" Day number 15, I believe, I could be mistaken. Clinton Portis is the guest host, this is cool, he's a fun guy, former Bronco, maybe he has something to say about Javon Walker or maybe even Champ Bailey... He's a great guy and had nothing but nice things to say about Denver, even explaining the intricacies of the stretch play that Denver has made famous during the Shanahan Era.

I've only seen a couple of these episodes from NFL Total Access, Houston being one of the ones that stick out in my mind. They had an Intro, an intro to their 32 Teams episode that was so good, that I swear if they weren't in the AFC they may have become my second favorite team that night. The Denver episode was so bad that if you would have awaken from a one-year coma today and watched this episode to catch up, you would have found out that: Denver won it's first two games, lost the third, Javon Walker, Travis Henry and Jason Elam no longer play for the team... Jump to week seven we won, week eight we lost, lost to Chicago, then Houston. Oh and Chad Johnson's spending his off time hanging out in his garage (which he always does, thank you Chad!) smoking cigars and listening to Frank Sinatra. Oh and Cinton Portis wants to let viewers decide his character for next season!

Also we have a player named Selvin Young, Jay Cutler started last season for the whole season, got hurt in Detroit and we may or may not have improved our Defense... We'll just have to wait until Oakland to find out, won't we Denver faithful!

:: Rant over ::

Thank God for places like BroncoTalk, Broncos Country Message Board, OrangeMane and a handful of other blogs (maybe even this one, if I want to be a dick about it) or Denver fans may not even be able to decipher who the Broncos even got in the draft. Waiting on the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News is reminiscent of The Pony Express. I've been all over the United States, I've been a New Yorker in Boston in 2006, I've been a Wyomingite at UCLA (that may be an odd reference, but Wyoming beat UCLA in a bowl game in 2005), but best of all, I've been a Bronco Fan for my entire life (yes, even in the mid-late '80's). I know the drill, I should be happy that we're being brushed over in literally every national media spotlight, because every time they do that we come out of nowhere and knock them in their mouth.

Here's to the 2008 season Broncos fan, we (the collective bloggers) will put you on our shoulders and we can carry you into the season until the National Media wants to talk about Jay Cutler (not his diabetes), Brandon Marshall (not his severed tendon), the Denver Running Game (not Travis Henry), the Denver Passing Game (not Javon Walker) and the Juggernaut Denver Defense (not the Defensive Line)!

Oh and did I mention, it's Smack Talk Week over at BroncoTalk and Kyle's doing well. If you really want some added value check out the comment section and the brave AFC West fans who are brave enough to speak up. Hell, even lay some smack down yourself, it's your team too!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Arrest Made in Javon Walker Case

Denver's CBS4 is reporting via the AP that there has been an arrest made in the Javon Walker, beating/kidnap.
"Lt. Clinton Nichols said Tuesday that 30-year-old Arfat Fadel is suspected of multiple felonies including kidnapping and robbery. Police said Fadel was arrested Friday and police were looking for a second suspect.

Nichols said police believe the second man is still in Las Vegas."
I was done making posts about this case and was going to continue to just link, however now that Brandon Marshall's name is now showing up, I might have to keep up with it.

See you soon Sam!

Be well and keep in mind... Aio, quantitas magna frumentorum est

Are you ****ing kidding!

Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting that Brandon Marshall was at club Tryst (the same club Javon Walker was at) on Friday.

Here's the blurb:

Metro's investigation into the bizarre Javon Walker case has focused on two critical points after he left Body English nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel: Who was with him at a party in the Hard Rock penthouse and whom did he leave with?

And just when the story couldn't get any weirder -- on second thought, the hunch here is that it's going to get much wilder -- Walker's former Denver Broncos teammate Brandon Marshall showed up Friday at Tryst.

It was Marshall and his cousin who started spraying champagne at a Denver nightclub on New Year's Eve a year and a half ago, igniting bad blood with some gang members, according to published reports.

Shortly after Walker and some teammates left in a limo, Broncos defensive back Darren[t] Williams was shot in a drive-by and died in Walker's arms."

No wonder Marshall had no comment earlier when The Denver Post wanted to know how he was doing with his hand. However, this blurb could mean anything, was Brandon Marshall there this Friday or the Friday two days before Walker was there? Either way, what the hell is he doing in Vegas at the same club Walker was just in before he got "robbed"? Come on man, someone hire this guy an Eric Murphy and kick his loser brother (cousin) Drama to the curb.

Monday, June 23, 2008

In His Own Words: Spencer Larsen

"There is a lot thrown at you, more so as a rookie," Larsen said. "It is a real confidence builder coming out having defense and in my case the offense down as well and come out in training camp and not be worried about understanding the full playbooks. I have the base concept and now I can go ahead and move on."

"It is a lot," Larsen said. "You just have to study and dedicate the time to it. It is like learning a new language, once you learn it. Defense is a lot easier than offense since I have been more involved in that."

"I think I have less distractions," Larsen said. "My age comes with a little more maturity but I also have things a little more under control as far as family life and I have a system and way of going about things that has been in place for a few years."

"Being a professional athlete brings a whole new aura in the way that people look at me and even my family," Larsen said. "It is just a different way of life that takes some getting used to."

Marshall: No comment on progression

Eager fans awaited June 22nd as the day that Brandon Marshall would return full-strength to his superhuman self and single handedly take on entire NFL defenses.

Yet, as The Denver Post reported earlier today (June 23rd) there is nothing to report. Marshall did show up at Broncos HQ today, but most likely did not catch any passes opting to run and lift weights instead. He denied a request for an interview, my best guess is because he didn't catch any passes.

Marshall may have called it a little early (or maybe it was his doctors), today was the due date, but I've never severed anything in my hand and I don't know if I'm ready to catch one of Cutler's 90 mile-per-hour fastballs.

Hmm... is it Sunday yet?

'08 Bronco Special Teams

We have been asked to discuss place-kicking and punting and we are nothing if not responsive to requests. In fact, see that little comment thing down there? No, not that, the comment ... yes, that's it. TALK US. WE LISTEN YOU. Sorry, just love speaking caveman.

Well, placekicking and punting are just a part of Special Teams (hereinafter referred to as ST). Kickoff Returners and Punt Returners are also just a part of ST. Basically it's any change of possession plus Extra Point Attempt (XPA) and Field Goal Attempt (FGA). We're talking: Punt (P); Punt Return (PR); Kickoff (KO); Kickoff Return (KOR). Kick coverage requires tackling so some equate it with defense although I think the NFL tallies ST tackles in a separate category. Kick/punt returns produce yards, but they are lumped with the returns of fumbles or interceptions (at least that's how I do it) as a change of possession.

In the NFL, and for the Broncos this season especially, ST are a place where players can showcase their basic football abilities: running, blocking and tackling. Last season most of the deficiencies on Bronco ST can be attributed to poor running, blocking and tackling. Yes, I know, that sounds repetitious, doesn't it? Sorry, but that's football ... running, blocking and tackling. That's what the guy whose name is on the NFL Championship Trophy always said ... Vince somebody ...? I know how fans like to blame all bad returns on the returner and all bad kicks on the kicker, but it's a team game ... ten other guys ... hello.

Bronco offseason acquisitions (not inquisitions) are bristling with players who can have an instant impact on ST: Nikos Koutouvides, Spencer Larsen, Wesley Woodyard, Marquand Manuel, Josh Barrett, Keary Colbert, Lorne Sam, Eddie Royal, Jack Williams, Brett Kern, Garrett Hartley, Ryan Torain and Anthony Aldridge. When you add that to Jordan Beck et al. from '07, that's a bunch of fresh legs. Speaking of which, If you haven't read "Do we or don't we want to fill our football pants?", look it up here to your right. It definitely has a bearing on ST.

As alluded to previously, ST is not rocket science ... , it's basic football. Kick coverage is, see the field? You know, that big green thing with white lines and numbers on it? Use that stuff (numbers, hash marks, etc.) as guidelines to ... guide you ... as you RUN TOP SPEED DOWN THE FIELD WITH NO REGARD FOR YOUR OWN PERSONAL SAFETY. Each guy has his own lane ... no road rage now. Run your lane, run through blocks not around them, find the guy with the ball, break down, head (the thing with your eyes in it) in front, wrap up and drive your feet. By the way, here's a place where those 40 yd. times really mean something.

Kick/punt returns are also very simple: right, left or middle return; maybe some kind of reverse/fake reverse on KOR. Here's where that thing called b-l-o-c-k-i-n-g comes in. It doesn't have to be a pancake. A block consists of getting between the guy you want to block and your returner. You are wearing all that protective equipment though; why not HIT SOMEBODY? Got pads in your pants? No clipping! Watch out for fake punts and onsides kicks.

Here's something I've always wondered about in relation to the NFL roster limit. Instead of having a special long snapper (no fishing license required), have several guys, linemen, TEs, LBs, etc. prepared to do that. There's one roster spot (nothing personal, Mike). Then, how about you have one guy who punts and placekicks? He'll need to be be a regular sized football player, not one of those tiny guys. Remember, punter and kicker-offer must tackle. There's a second roster spot. Or, on KO, what if we find several guys on the team capable of hanging the kick up and have it consistently come down on the number 10? That way you could run jaws on KO coverage plus have a real headhunter in there instead of a kicker. Just wondering.

Going into training camp next month, the Broncos have two of each, punters and place kickers. P Sam Paulescu, Oregon State, is in his second year and his competition is Brett Kern, a rookie from Toledo. PK Matt Prater, Central Florida, is also in his second year and his rookie counterpart is Garrett Hartley, Oklahoma. Kick-o-rama is almost here! Guess I expected more candidates. There was another P, Danny Baugher, but he was released. The Broncos will be on the lookout for more guys. Mike Dragosavich was signed as a CFA by the Patriots but was released recently, if I'm not mistaken. Those punters need to take as few steps as possible and stroke it just like a golf swing or a baseball batter with good consistent contact and follow through. For XPA/FGA the hashmarks are lined up on the goalposts. Keep your head down and follow through. Kick the bottom of the ball on XPA for liftoff. It's not kicking/punting ... IT'S AN ADVENTURE! Punters will get reps holding for XPA/FGA. This is where the LS, the line (all locked up), and the wings must allow no penetration.

I know that many Bronco fans are still in shock and denial about Jason Elam. Some of our brethern have said that Elam's range has been decreasing. I don't know. All I can think of is all those winning clutch kicks. We need to realize that: Jason still wants to kick: Jason wants appropriate remuneration for his services; Jason wants to set unbreakable records before retirement; and, Jason thinks kicking in a building will help. Hey, Brett Kern is #1 now if that's any consolation ... no? I expect the loser of each kicking competition to be on the Practice Squad, just in case. Look for the Broncos to bring in more kickers and punters for tryouts until they find what they need: reliability and consistency. Hey, in '07 I was excited about Sauerbrun returning to Denver ... until the game at Chicago.

And finally, the returners. It's a cliche that you can't coach speed. You actually can in high school because a lot of kids just don't know how to run economically yet. That's why so many HS football coaches also coach track and field. By the time a player reaches the NFL, however, that cliche is pretty true. Some have criticized the Broncos' returners in '07. My own impression was the blocking wasn't there. At any rate, Shanahan has loaded up with some speed demons for kick/punt returns: Eddie Royal, Anthony Aldridge, Samie Parker, Jack Williams and Josh Barrett (maybe). Did I leave anyone out? Andre Hall?

Attention all diehard Bronco fans! During preseason games don't leave your seat! Especially during P, PR, KO, KOR, XPA, FGA because it will be exciting! A whole bunch of guys trying to make the team will be trying to get your attention. They deserve it.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

X, Y, Z: '08 Bronco Receivers

With about a month left before training camp, the Broncos still have eleven WRs and five TEs with a couple of cuts needed in order to be at 80. Mike Shanahan recently commented on the depth at WR as being the best ever.

There seems to be a top group of six including Brandons Marshall and Stokley, Darrell Jackson, Keary Colbert, Samie Parker and Eddie Royal. Except for rookie Royal ('08 2nd round pick), it is a group of established experience and accomplishment in the NFL. If this group becomes the '08 WR corps, I can certainly see what Shanahan is saying ... that's deep.

The other five include Glenn Martinez (who logged plenty of time in '07), Cliff Russell (former 3rd round DC of the Redskins and a pretty speedy guy), Lorne Sam (a CFA from UTEP who is a very intelligent and gifted athlete with size and speed), Marquay McDaniel ('07 Practice Squad) and Edell Shepherd (added in the off season).

One wonders how many WRs the Broncos will keep? That top six would fine by me. Besides the unusual size of Marshall, consumate ability of Stokley ("the slot machine") and interchangeability of Jackson and Colbert, you have major speed demons in Parker and Royal. It's only when you look at all of the players in each position that you really gain appreciation of Shanahan's architecture. Sam would seem a likely candidate for the Practice Squad.

Ian previously commented on the lack of depth at TE. I can't really see the Broncos keeping more than three and they have five now: Tony Scheffler, Daniel Graham, Nate Jackson, Chad Mustard and Brett Pierce. Scheffler and Graham are very good at what they do. Mustard had recent hamstring repair surgery (doesn't really sound very good) and Nate Jackson is coming back from injury in '07. Brett Pierce was added in the offseason and used to be a decent blocker and short to mid-range receiver when he played at Stanford. This position is not able to sustain injury, but would it ever? The Giants lost Shockey in '07 and relied on rookie Kevin Boss in the playoff run. Scheffler's annual injury escapades worry us all and Graham is getting older. Perhaps next year, the Broncos will add a rookie TE. It's a hard position recently because they seem to either be blockers or receivers, but not often both. I hope Mustard is ready by TC.

So, X=Marshall, Jackson and Colbert? Y=Scheffler, Graham, and Brett Jackstard? Z=Stokley, Parker and Royal? I never was any good at algebra. What is that anyway? An undergarment made from plant fibers?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

CBS: DeAngelo Hall is Wrong

Clark Judge a Senior Writer at has capped off an article, which is (halfway) favorable to Denver, but best of all, here's the first two sentences of the article:
"DeAngelo Hall is wrong.

When the Oakland cornerback said in an interview that the Raiders had the best set of corners in the league, he erred. The Raiders aren't the best at anything unless, of course, you're talking about losing."
If this were a Kay Slay tape then insert the overwhelming, "DAMN!" and let it resonate.

He has this to say about Denver:
"Champ Bailey is still the platinum bar of cornerbacks, the standard by which others are measured, and I don't care if you buy into it or not. Most GMs, coaches and personnel directors do, and that's good enough for me.

"He's an elite player," said one general manager. "He not only makes all the plays; he makes whoever plays with him better."

That would be Dre' Bly, and there's nothing extraordinary about him other than he takes too many risks ("for every five plays he makes, he'll miss on two others," said one GM). But pair him with Bailey, and, suddenly, the conversation changes.

"Dre' Bly is nothing better than OK," said an AFC offensive assistant, "but having him with Champ Bailey makes him look better than he is."

Yes, Bailey was hurt last year. He still was second-team All-Pro. That should tell you something. So should this: He has been chosen to eight consecutive Pro Bowls and four straight All-Pro teams.

"The guy is special," a pro personnel director said. "There's no downside to him."

While Bly did extremely well on his own last year (see the Pittsburgh game) there were times when he left me screaming at my television screen (see the Green Bay game). I'm not ready to give up on a guy who was forced to spend 75% of his pass coverage with his eye in the backfield, for help with run defense.

'08 Season Record: Cause for Optimism?

Or delusion? Ever hear the way Lewis Black says that? Delooosion. Well, Ian, I've given some thought to the same topic on which you have held forth so persuasively. This is something you hope the players never do (yeah, right)... prognosticate. Being a creature of habit, there is a certain way I have always broken down the Broncos' upcoming season. The repetitious and structured nature of the schedule lends itself to this.

Division opponents: At this time, a split with San Diego would seem a reasonable goal with game two at Denver being the obvious venue. It comes after a Monday night game at Oakland. Nothing in the NFL is easy. KC and Oakland are in the process of getting better, too, but a sweep of both will be necessary. 5-1?

AFC East: Buffalo and Miami at home; Patriots and Jets on the road. Optimistically speaking, we could say defeats of the home opponents and split the road games. I like the Bills and respect them; always have. But, I think winning at Mile High will be too much for them. At this point few would expect the Dolphins to defeat the Broncos although they did defeat the Ravens ... Cutler's arm should do well in the Meadowlands allowing DeWayne to have a successful reappearance in his old stomping grounds. Realistically, we are expecting an L in New England although the Broncos have had some success even there... 3-1?

NFC South: This is where the luck of the scheduling is most advantageous. The two toughest teams from this group, the Saints and the Bucs, appear in Denver early in the season. The Broncos travel to Atlanta and Carolina during the second half of the season. Would a sweep of this division be too optimistic, especially after '07's unsatisfactory performance vs. the NFC North? Nah! 4-0?

The other two second place teams from AFC divisions: This is the most problematic of these segments. The tougher of the two, Jacksonville, is a home game in the first half of the season. Normally, I would figure that as an L, but the Broncos could conceivably be 5-0 at that point. Momentum and the hysteria of Denver's home fans would be formidable obstacles for the Jags to overcome. The Browns have a weird, symbiotic relationship with the Broncos. The nature of the symbiosis seems to be just when the Browns are starting to get good, the Broncos rain on their parade. Not yet? 1-1? 2-0?

Let's see, 5+3+4+1 or 2=13 or 14. Wow, Ian, you are persuasive!

In His Own Words: Anthony "Quick" Aldridge

"I mean the guy is fast," Samie Paker, unofficially the current fastest player on the Broncos, said. "As fast as advertised."

"I think I’m more of a speed back," Alridge said. "I think I can hit the edges. Counter plays, catching the ball out of the backfield. I think that is my part on this team. I am just going to try and do my part."

"Really nothing has surprised me," Alridge said. "I knew everybody was going to be fast on the defense. I knew everyone was going to float to the ball. I’m just trying to soak it all in because of all the plays and the long terminology. The blocking schemes are a whole lot different than college. It is a little challenging but it is fun all at the same time."

"They are teaching me everything I know," Alridge said. "Selvin Young has taken me under his wing, been a big brother type. Michael Pittman is doing the same thing. I am just learning as much as I can and trying to soak it all in."

"I am always with [Jarvis Moss] (whom is from the same home town as Aldridge) so it isn’t anything new; it’s fun," Alridge said.

"Who’s the fastest on the team? It’s me," Alridge said. "The rookie free agent. Anthony Alridge. Houston, Texas."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Denver will go 13-3 in 2008

Okay, at worst 12-4. I’m not kidding, allow me to state my case:

Offseason Losses:
Javon Walker – WR
Travis Henry - RB
Ian Gold – OLB
Matt Lepsis - LT
Chris Myers – C/G
Jason Elam – K

Key Pickups:
Dewayne Robertson – DT
Darrell Jackson - WR
Niko Koutouvides – MLB
Boss Bailey – OLB
Marlon McCree – SS
Casey Wiegmann – C/G
Keary Colbert – WR
Samie Parker – WR
Michael Pittman – HB
Dylan Gandy – G/T
Ryan Clady – LT*
Eddie Royal – WR/KR/PR*
Peyton Hillis – FB*
Ryan Torain – RB*
Carlton Powell – DT*
Spencer Larsen – MLB*
*-(Draft Pick)
**- Picks are in order based on what I see as their importance to the team. With the rookies below the free agents.

See that list? Maybe that makes my point, maybe it doesn’t. One thing you will come to learn about me is that I don’t like to make points, I like to over make them. Love leaving someone who felt like they had a point, forgetting what their point was in the first place.

In 2007 Denver played every AFC Playoff team, except for New England, including San Diego twice. They also played a Green Bay Packers team that went 13-3, the Bears, who had lost the Super Bowl the previous season (and barely missed the playoffs in ’07) and teams in Houston and Buffalo who were in the playoff hunt until the very end.

All said, of the 13 teams that Denver played in 2007, six made the playoffs and another two could have easily been there. Granted the Broncos only beat two of those six, but did give Green Bay a run for their money and there were moments of hope at Indianapolis and against Jacksonville. Speaking of Green Bay and I mentioned Chicago earlier, any fans in doubt that had we won those overtime coin tosses Denver would have finished the season 9-7 instead of 7-9?

So what’s in the cards for Denver this season? On paper Denver has the third weakest strength of schedule in the NFL, Oakland has the second and New England (go figure) has the easiest schedule. Despite going 7-9 last season, Denver did finish second in the AFC West. So they are going to play the other second place teams (Jacksonville and Cleveland) in the AFC as well as pulling the AFC East (New England, Miami, Buffalo and New York Jets) and the NFC South (Tampa, New Orleans, Carolina and Atlanta). Of course they’ll have Kansas City, San Diego and Oakland twice.

Not looking so bleak anymore is it?

Or are you still concerned? Many blame last season predominantly on lousy run defense, I focus on an incredibly unfortunate amount of injuries and lack of depth. Over the course of the season Denver lost: their best receiver, their two best offensive linemen, two of their best defensive ends, their starting running back, the backbone to their defense safety and cornerback, their pass catching tight end and their other two starting receivers at different points in the season. Granted some came back during the season, but hardly any were able to return to starting fashion before the end of the season. Brandon Stokley and Tony Scheffler being the exceptions, the best part about that laundry list of injuries is that all (except Javon Walker) will be back, healthy (crossing fingers) for 2008.

Add the list of healthy onto that exciting laundry list of offseason pickups and we’re not built like a 7-9 team. Matter of fact, that’s what I would call a 13-3 team, 12-4 if you want to be an ass. Jay Cutler, whom by now everyone knows, was playing with the worst type of diabetes for all of last season, now has the disease under control. Cutler has thrown for 300 yards in his career only twice. However, he’s coming into his third season in a Mike Shanahan offense: John Elway (twice), Steve Young and Jake Plummer all flourished in their third season in a Shanahan offense.

Selvin Young may not be the answer at running back, but he’s not going to hurt, the exact same thing can be said for Andre Hall, Michael Pittman, Ryan Torain and Anthony Aldridge. Though the thought of any of them running for 2,000 yards may be a little absurd, the idea of them combining for 2,500+ yards is not. Last season Denver ran for a combined 1,957 with a makeshift offensive line. This year, even if there are as many as three injuries to starters on the offensive line, Denver has the depth to replace them with someone equally as talented.

When Javon Walker went down last season, Denver was faced with a second year player in Brandon Marshall and the NFL’s best slot receiver in Brandon Stokley (who played out of his most productive position for the rest of the season). Then Stokley was lost for the last three games of the season. Taking 12 receivers into camp is nothing out of the ordinary for a Shanahan team and due to that practice Denver doesn’t look to topple off talent wise at receiver until they get down near the 5th or 6th member of the depth chart.

This couldn’t be said last season, Walker went down and Denver had no depth behind Stokley and Marshall, who combined for 1,960 yards in 2007. Do you not think that with Darrell Jackson, Sammie Parker, Eddie Royal and Keary Colbert the team might be able to do a bit more than that? Not to mention relieve some of the time Stokley spends on the field, possibly allowing for him to stay healthy the entire season?

In fact if I had one concern for the entire Denver Broncos offense, it would be the lack of depth at tight end. Already, before training camp, we can see what Denver would be faced with if they were to start the season. Daniel Graham, Nate Jackson and… Mike Leech (our long snapper) at tight end. Though the late word out of team camp is that Jackson’s looking great.

Now, what am I forgetting about? Fullback, remember Denver’s final pick in the draft? Peyton Hillis, yeah, he was blocking for Darren McFadden and Felix Jones last season. He was also catching passes, both of these abilities will help the Broncos offense punch it in while in the end zone. What a steal, of course still employed at fullback are Cecil Sapp and Mike Bell, though neither were terribly impressive last season, yet who can blame them?

In the NFL it’s a rule, everyone is equal, on paper someone may be better, but on any given Sunday any team can win. Teams that are predicted to do well can have a horrible season losing one player. If a team can stay healthy, the team usually has a season that carries deep into January.

About last night... :-P

Sorry about the lack of posts yesterday, I had some personal issues and now I'm posting the first part of a two part blog that I'll have up completely by tomorrow.

By the way, don't be scared to comment (on Sam's articles, not mine, I'll argue with a brick wall about its thickness). We appreciate you guys checking us out, sometimes multiple times a day looking for content and we're getting ready to kick it into fifth gear before we get into training camp.

Here's some links:

Montrae Holland speaks so Ryan Clady doesn't have to.
I'm done talking about Javon Walker, but the Bellagio says his story's incorrect.
And the Broncos wish him well.
Keyshawn Johnson's got something to say about it too on TMZ.
Former Bronco Mike Anderson may be suspended.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

'08 Bronco Running Backs

Bronco fans have long known that their team will run the ball and do that well. So, with seven players listed at RB, who shall we see on the roster? The release of Travis Henry shook the Richter Scale of the Bronco World and sent a message that the example of Selvin Young was to be the preferred model. Thus far, Peyton Hillis is the only FB listed (see previous post "FBs/TEs and auxiliary blockers"). Does that mean Denver will only carry one player repped at that spot, or will one of the larger RBs make the roster as a FB rather than as a RB?

For the second year in a row, an undrafted college free agent running back emerged as a go-to guy at the RB spot. Actually, two of them made their presence felt as Selvin Young joined Andre Hall, from the '06 practice squad. Add Mike Bell and the Broncos have shown they know how to find promising young free agent running backs. Young isn't satisfied with his durability or stats from '07 and seems to be on a mission to break through as a top NFL player. Andre Hall also had some nagging injuries that slowed him in '07, but his performance at Chicago was eye-opening in what should have been a key element of a victory had it not been for some disastrous kicking blunders.

Mike Bell has been on an emotional roller coaster: starter at beginning of '06; 2nd string at end of '06; Tatum Bell traded; Travis Henry signed; moved to FB; few carries/one fumble in '07; plagued by injuries in '07; Travis Henry released ... Some fans seem to think he should have been released by now. It's crazy to me how quickly some fans want to discard players after a down time. What is it? He lost you some money in fantasy football? Your Madden cybercomponent isn't up to par so let's replace it? I'll bet Bobby Turner wants all these guys to do well and make the roster decisions most difficult. Mike, Mike ... it's in your head, Bro. Come back, baby, you can do it.

Ryan Torain was one of the top college RBs entering the '07 season. He was injured and then a slew (understatement) of great Junior RBs came out for the '08 draft. He was almost forgotten. His injury is a question mark but his between the tackles running ability isn't. Training camp and preseason will test the durability of the new Lisfranc repair he had. If it doesn't hold up, IR/PUP awaits. If he finds himself on the roster, he will play ST and eventually get a shot.

Michael Pittman was signed just prior to Travis Henry's release. It's interesting how Shanahan has positioned veterans at each position except PK/P. RBs have a very short shelf life in the NFL and Pittman's expiration date is ...? He is one whose size, blocking and receiving ability may keep him on the roster in the capacity of FB/RB/ST.

Cecil Sapp is another with characteristics similar to Pittman; i.e., FB/RB/ST. The former CSU Ram has been a genuine team player for the Broncos. My guess is that he's not ready to quit yet and still has much to offer. In the event that he is released and not signed by another NFL team, don't be surprised to see him signed and released several times during the season by the Broncos a la Chad Mustard in '07.

Anthony Aldridge is the latest college free agent running back. He is small, but with great speed. My guess is he will be given a chance to return punts and kicks in preseason with that being his chance of making the roster. Carrying the ball between the tackles on a regular basis seems out of the question for him. Some have suggested he will really practice with the WRs (a la Vance Johnson) although he is still listed as a RB. Speaking of WRs, Samie Parker and Aldridge are in the process of deciding exactly who has the fastest set of wheels in town. Do you return kicks, Samie? It seems Shanahan is determined to fix KR/PR with speedy returners: Eddie Royal, Jack Williams and Anthony Aldridge. Having several would seem a major improvement.

How many RBs will the Broncos keep on the roster? Three? Four? Five? That's not counting FBs. How many of those? One? Two? Hillis alone or Hillis with one of the RBs, or no Hillis or FBs at all? As for the tandem possibility, I would classify them in the following similar pairs: Young and Hall as the change of pace guys; Bell and Torain as the between the tackles RBs; Pittman and Sapp as the FB/RBs; with Aldridge in a class of his own (kick return/specials). This is guaranteed to be the hottest competition during camp and preseason. I have no idea who will make it, who will be released and who will be on IR. I do know one thing: they will all be playing ST like demons because that will be the deciding factor of whom they keep.

Eddie Royal Highlights

Slow Broncos day so far, here's some Eddie Royal Highlights from YouTube.

God I hope this kid can lead us to the promise land...

Josh Barett: DENIED

According to former DenverPoster current ESPNer Bill Williamson, the NFL denied the contract between Josh Barrett and the Denver Broncos. So bring the total number of Denver Broncos rookies currently under contract back to 0.

What does this mean? Well, his and all rookies rights still belong to the Broncos, but Barrett is no longer signed to Denver.

Why did this happen? Rookie mistake, not Barrett's though, whomever in Denver is handling contracts... Remember Denver does not have a General Manager anymore, so that means someone new is handling contracts.

It's most likely just some language inside of the contract that didn't work for the NFL. I doubt it has anything to do with our Salary Cap (eeeek!).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Cutler: The Next Great NFL Quarterback"

"He has an Elway-like swagger and confidence. He is a student of the game by all accounts. He's very studious and learns quickly on the field. He has been exceptionally clutch, only failing twice to not score in a game-tying or game winning-situation in the final half of the fourth quarter.

He already has eight fourth-quarter, game-tying or game-winning drives, and he would have had two more if not for dropped fourth-down passes. By all measures, he took the leadership role in his second year."

And so goes Nick Ruland's article over at The Bleacher Report. Now I know that the credibility of the Bleacher Report bloggers can be debated, but my credibility cannot. Ruland brings up an interesting point. How good is our Jay Cutler? Mike Martz says that he's better than Peyton Manning (or will be soon). Was Steve Young better than Peyton Manning? or John Elway? Because those are two guys that Mike Shanahan has tutored.

I'm coming back to this issue, just wanted to see what your guys' thoughts were on it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Well, I was going to write about RBs, but

... this thing with Javon Walker came up and it has me thinking about a bunch of other stuff right now.

Some Bronco fans don't like Javon right now because he wanted out of Denver and he's a Raider now. I really hope that hearing about his assault and injury doesn't have too many gloating or telling anyone "I told you so!".

If we truly love this game, we want to see it played, and for that we need opponents. If we respect players and want to see them treated as people and not slaves, we appreciate what their union has accomplished in the area of free agency.

I read some things recently where a Bronco fan was expressing some kind of perverse pleasure about Philip Rivers' painful recovery from his knee injury. Phil isn't the most popular guy in Denver these days (see game #2 at Mile High '08). However, as a fellow human (kind of) who has had some injuries and surgeries, let me encourage all my brothers and sisters out there to feel sympathy for our fellows in pain.

Javon has a serious and painful injury. Let's hope he plays in the season opener against our beloved Broncos. If he doesn't, that won't be fun.

Javon likes to party as many of us do. If I had his money and body, I don't know if I'd even own a shirt ... well ... anyway. One thing that has crossed my mind is exactly why he was so determined to leave Denver? You don't suppose ...? It IS an unsolved murder case. And now this. I sincerely hope there is no connection.

Ever see that show on ESPN about funny sports stuff? You know like the fly ball that hit a bird which drops on the outfielder's head ... stuff like that? Remember the one at a hockey game where the visitor's penalty box is plexiglass and is surrounded by home fans? One of the fans is talking major trash to the guy in the penalty box and he leans on the side of the box a little too hard and ... be careful what you wish for ... let's wish each other well more often than not.

UPDATE: Javon Walker

Okay, before I get into the article, I want to point out that the Javon Walker quote is from a website famous for posting pictures of Arizona Cardinals Quarterback Matt Leinart and Tennesse Titans Quarterback Vince Young. As well as a picture of our own Jay Cutler, I believe. Had they not signed off with a very poor last sentence, I'd be linking to them, but they did. So I'm going to link from ProFootballTalk, whom I know has some type of vendetta against Coach Shanahan. Anyway, here's the article, it's the lesser of two evils:


Raiders receiver Javon Walker has given an exclusive interview to, a web site that gathered notoriety over the past few months for, among other things, the publication of photographs of NFL players in compromising positions.

Here’s Walker’s claim: “I was just back at my room and at about 5:30 in the morning, I got a knock at the door, I opened it and 3 guys with guns were there, they cracked me in the head a few times knocking me unconcious. They then robbed me of everything I had– my watch– money– everything! Somehow they got me to the car and dropped me off in the street. That’s what happened.”

Our reaction? Perhaps they need to check out Walker’s brain function a little more closely. Because whatever it was that cracked his orbital bone also might have functioned as the equivalent of a lobotomy.

Think about it. Three gun-wielding thugs walk through the lobby and, somehow knowing the number of Walker’s room, show up there, knock on the door, and pistol whip him when he opens it. Then, after ransacking the room, they drag his unconscious body out of the hotel without being detected and leave it in the street.

As we suggested during our Tuesday night visit with Todd Wright on Sporting News Radio, maybe the crooks put Brandon Marshall’s McDonald’s bag over Walker’s head so that Javon wouldn’t know where they were taking him.

If Walker’s story is true (and we’re certain that it isn’t), it’s surely not a random act. Robbers just want the loot — they feel no need to disrespect the victim if doing so enhances the possibility of being caught.

Given this lame-ass explanation, we’ve concluded that any and all jokes about the situation are fair game. And so we present Taco Bill’s Pic of the Day, crafted in honor of the Walker incident.

So if Walker was still signed I'd be making this a Shots Fired article, but he's not so I'm not. And just remember Mike Florio said it, not me.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Updates: Walker was Robbed...

Javon Walker's situation is updated by KVVU Fox 5 in Las Vegas.
LAS VEGAS -- NFL wide receiver Javon Walker was the victim of an apparent early morning robbery, according to Metro police.

Walker was found unconscious at about 7:19 a.m. Monday near the intersection of Koval Lane and Winnick Avenue, officers said.

The Oakland Raiders player was taken to Sunrise Medical Center’s Trauma unit, where he was listed in fair condition late Monday afternoon, hospital officials said.

Police said Walker had significant injuries.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Norm Clarke, Walker was seen Saturday night at Tryst at the Wynn spraying the crowd with some of the 15 bottles of Dom Perignon Rose champagne he ordered.

Clarke also said Walker was at Body English at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino until 6:30 a.m. Monday and that his first round of champagne cost him $15,000.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555.
So the good news is he's in fair condition, he was throwing around expensive champagne and ran up a fifteen thousand dollar bill at another bar. How do you spend that much money in a bar? I guess it's easy once you've taken a part in 15 bottles of Dom Perignon at the previous bar. With that much alcohol in your system and throwing around that much money, it's easy to see why he became a target.

About his injury:

Treatment may include:

  • A consultation with an ophthalmologist (physician who specializes in comprehensive eye care) may be necessary for a complete evaluation of the eye.

  • Some fractures do not have to be treated immediately. Depending on the injury, time may be allowed for the swelling and bruising to go away before the fracture is treated.

  • Usually, the double vision will resolve without treatment in three to four days.

  • Surgery may be indicated for severe fractures, or if there is involvement of the eye. Surgery may be performed immediately, or up to several days after the trauma.
Thanks to:

Breaking News: Javon Walker found Unconscious

NFL wide receiver Javon Walker was found unconscious on East Flamingo Road and Koval Lane Monday morning, Metro police said.

The Oakland Raiders player was taken to Sunrise Medical Center’s Trauma unit, where he was listed in fair condition late Monday afternoon, hospital officials said.

Police said Walker had an orbital fracture. They said they are not sure how he received the fracture.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Walker was seen Saturday night at Tryst at the Wynn spraying the crowd with some of the 15 bottles of Dom Perignon Rose champagne he ordered.

As Broncos fans we can't say that we expected this to happen, but even if he is a Raider now. Our best wishes go out to him, hoping that he can still make it to Week 1.

Fullbacks, Tight Ends and auxiliary blockers

Prior to the '08 NFL draft, there was much discussion amongst Bronco fans about whether or not a "true fullback" was needed. I admit to being one of those who lobbied for Owen Schmitt. The perceived needs were: better lead blocking on run plays especially out of the I or offset I ("jack"/"king") formations; better blocking in max pass pro situations; a reliable outlet/safety valve receiver to keep backers & DL honest; an extra head hunter/blocker on kick coverage and kick return ST; and, someone with lead in his butt who could occasionally grind some tough yards between the tackles.

There are some who think FBs, in-line blocking TEs and H-backs are becoming passe in the NFL where three and four WR formations are seen often and "receiving TEs" who line up split are now common. Bronco fans may remember Daniel Graham lining up off the LOS as a wing, slot, 40/Z back, H-Back going in motion to kick out, lead, seal, arc release on running plays. Shanahan likes to run the ball. I like that Shanahan likes to run the ball. Some running plays can be deceptive, like counter, but most rely on outnumbering the D at the point-of-attack. A common way of doing that is with a player in motion to playside. If you run out of that look, motion can set up play action pass.

The pro game has different rules than lower levels of football and hashmarks aligned with the uprights of the goalposts so that the ball is always spotted in the middle of the field. Even so, football is football and on offense balance is a good thing. A one-dimensional team is much easier to defend against and game plan for. Teams that seem one-dimensional can surprise their opponents by doing the opposite. NFL teams are capable of changing their style from one week to the next as the New England Patriots have demonstrated on both sides of the ball.

The '08 draft had many football players available at most positions; it was very deep. Fullbacks weren't expected to be drafted before the 5th ,or 4th round at the earliest. Only five FBs were drafted in '08, but an additional twenty or so have been signed as College Free Agents. The Chargers surprised by taking Jacob Hester from LSU in the 3rd. Jerome Felton (Lions) from Furman and Owen Schmitt (Seahawks) were both taken in the 5th. The Dolphins drafted Lex Hilliard, Montana, in the 6th. Why Peyton Hillis, whom many regarded as the top FB in '08, lasted until the 7th no one knows. I've heard rumors that Houston Nutt said some uncomplimentary things about him (how nutty!). Who knows? Bottom line, thanks to Jake Plummer, is that Peyton is now a Bronco and, I would venture to guess, has an excellent shot at making the roster for no other reason than he seems to be the lone, "true FB".

I'm sure Denver's offensive coaches will look at formations with Graham lined up as a TE and Hillis somewhere in the backfield as a FB, Z/40 back, H-Back, wing, in motion in order to have the option of a more power-style running attack. It would be nice for Graham to stay on the LOS and concentrate on those blocking angles while Hillis can take care of the rest. I also hear that the former Razorback has a nice set of hands. Sweet! Let the games begin!

Peyton Hillis - College Highlights

He's sat in the shadows for the last three years, blocking for Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. He watched them both go in the first round to Oakland and Dallas, then he watched as every team in the NFL passed him up over and over ad nauseum. Projected in the 3rd, projected in the 4th, someone will pick him up in the 5th, definitely in the 6th!

Thank God in that blue and orange sunset that Jake Plummer existed, because without Jake Plummer the Broncos would have never had the pick that landed them Peyton Hillis. Any pick out of all the picks from 2008 is simply pure potential and truth be told. I don't know why I'm so high on Hillis, maybe it's because before every McFadden highlight, before every Felix Jones highlight there was Hillis leading the way.

Here's some highlights for you:

His college career long (63 yards) rush against LSU to put Arkansas ahead:

Here's Hillis making someone else look good (watch it as Jones makes his break):

Is it Sunday yet?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Division Rivalry with the Chargers

The Broncos, Chargers, Raiders and Chiefs have played each other home and away every year since 1960. It's a well-developed relationship and seems to go in cycles. During the sixties when I first became a Bronco fan, the Broncos usually couldn't get out of the cellar of the division. That didn't keep us from loving the Broncos and following each little rumor and move concerning the team. Long live Floyd Little! Eventually, after a long process, Chargers, Chiefs and Raiders all learned what it was like to be trampled by the Broncos.

If you listen to the fans ... , if you are able to through all of the ranting, screaming, salivating, manic depressive berserker behavior ... usually what they indicate, if we can get an augur in here to take the auspices, is that the most hated division rival is the Raiders. However, since the Chargers have been division champs lately, and have been beating up on the Broncos in the process, they have earned the most recent wrath of the fanatics and some of the Broncos, too.

Apparently, Bly was at Chapel Hill for an event and just happened to bump into Chris Chambers. The exchange was detected by the media (oops), and now we have lockerroom bulletin board material, as if this issue didn't already exist. Thanks, Dre.

That game at San Diego in '07 quickly got out of hand on the scoreboard in spite of many Broncos giving giving maximum effort right to the last tick. My own memory of that game is marred by Travis Henry's pitiful performance. Yes, I know, Travis who? Philip Rivers is a competitor with much physical courage (see playoffs at New England). After having seen him on the NFL Channel, I can see how some find him annoying and you can multiply that geometrically (is that possible?) during the heat of battle.

It has been said that you can judge yourself by the quality of your enemies. The Chargers are an extremely talented group of football players. Good! That's the way you want it. We should all want the AFC West to get back to being the toughest division in the NFL. You don't get better by playing weak opponents and that's six out of sixteen games each season.

At any level of football it's very important to focus on and respect each opponent one at a time. Sometimes fans look at the schedule and ask, "To which game are you most looking forward?" My answer is always the same ... the next one. The second game of the '08 season is the Chargers at Mile High. Isn't the first one at Oakland?

Shots Fired: Pat Yasinskas vs. Keary Colbert

You may not know who Pat Yasinskas is, well, he's one of the bloggers over at ESPN's Hashmarks. Of note to this blog is the left field comment he made about Keary Colbert regarding Matt Jones.
"[Jones] only had 24 catches, which basically puts him with the Keary Colberts of the world."
Hmmm, ouch. Well, Keary, you've been called out. This won't be the first time in your career you've made someone eat crow I'm sure.

Shots Fired: Bly vs. Rivers

The writing's on the wall my friends or alea iacta est (the dice is thrown), as my friend Sam might point out. In an article posted yesterday by Yahoo, Dre Bly is quoted and like Champ Bailey, he's definitely not on the Rivers' bandwagon. What's in the cards? What will it be after week three in 2008? We'll see, but it won't be soon that Denver forgets this little incident:

Big mouth has become Rivers' trademark
By Michael Silver, Yahoo! Sports
June 13, 2008

SAN DIEGO – Chris Chambers was at fellow wideout and St. Louis Ram Torry Holt's charity banquet in North Carolina earlier this spring when the San Diego Chargers' key 2007 midseason acquisition suddenly found himself in press coverage. Confronting Chambers was DrĂ© Bly, the veteran cornerback who plays for the Denver Broncos and does not have fond memories of his most recent encounter with the AFC West rival Chargers.

"Why is your quarterback always talking so much mess?" Bly asked Chambers. "Nobody in the league likes that guy."

Chambers smiled and replied, "That's y'all's prerogative. But we love him."

For all of the reasons to celebrate Philip Rivers – his emergence as a Pro Bowl passer in his first year as a starter, his impeccable off-the-field behavior, his exceptionally gutsy effort in last year's AFC Championship game after having torn his anterior cruciate ligament the week before – the fifth-year quarterback heads into the 2008 season as a 6-foot-5, 228-pound target. His well-documented fits of yapping at opposing players and fans has incurred the ire of countless others besides Bly. One veteran defensive back calls Rivers "the most obnoxious dude in the NFL."

Simply put, Rivers' mouth gets more attention than his arm. And thanks to the magic of 24-hour NFL television coverage and readily accessible Internet video, some of his more conspicuous displays of verbal instigation are there for public consumption in a way that, say, infamous Chargers washout Ryan Leaf never experienced.

"When you see it on TV, I'll be the first one to agree, it doesn't look that good," Rivers said Wednesday from the Chargers' training facility. "But there's nothing I say out there that I couldn't tell my six-year-old daughter. I don't curse, and I'm not saying anything out of line at all."

Rivers shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and waited for the inevitable follow-up question. An accessible and engaging interview subject, he typically becomes frustrated when asked to explain his penchant for talking smack, especially when the subject starts to dwarf the elements of his game he holds dearest. There he was on Wednesday, having fully participated in the Chargers' second-to-last offseason coaching session before training camp less than five months after having undergone major reconstructive knee surgery, a recovery that so far has been stunningly smooth and rapid.

"If I had to play a game this Sunday," he insisted, "I could."

That, of course, was the real story. But do a word-association game with the typical NFL fan – or player – outside of San Diego County, and Rivers is likely to provoke a far less complimentary response than courageous or heroic.

Both words applied last January in frigid Foxborough, Mass., where Rivers summoned what seemed to be a medical miracle. Having torn the ACL in his right knee in the Chargers' divisional playoff upset of the defending champion Colts in Indy, Rivers had an arthroscopic procedure to clean out the area the following day and set his sights on playing in the AFC Championship game six days later. With the knee heavily taped underneath a stabilizing brace, Rivers braved the 23-degree temperature (and a wind chill of nine degrees) at Gillette Stadium and hung tough against the undefeated Patriots, completing 19 of 37 passes for 211 yards in a 21-12 defeat.

That effort elevated Rivers in the eyes of his teammates, who already appreciated him for his intelligence and cool under fire. "That he played at all was amazing," Chambers says. "He really proved a lot."

It was a defining moment for Rivers, the No. 4 overall pick in the '04 draft who sat for two seasons as Drew Brees' understudy before taking over as the starter. He played well enough in '06 to make the Pro Bowl but wilted down the stretch as the top-seeded Chargers flopped in their playoff opener against the Pats. Last season, conversely, Rivers was shaky early on as he tried to adjust to new coach Norv Turner's offensive system. But in leading the Chargers to victories in their final six regular season games and first two playoff contests, Rivers completed 133 of 214 passes (62.1 percent) for 1,656 yards, throwing 14 touchdowns and only five interceptions for a cumulative passer rating of 98.2.

Clearly, he had the hot hand. But, as his critics are quick to point out, Rivers tends to come off like a hothead. Some examples:

• After the home playoff defeat to the Pats in January of '07, Rivers, angered by what he felt were taunting celebrations by New England players, approached cornerback Ellis Hobbs and called him "the sorriest corner in the league."

• When the Chargers were booed at home in Week 12 against the Baltimore Ravens, cameras caught Rivers gesturing to San Diego fans and saying "Shut up!" In the regular season finale, he got into it with Raiders fans in Oakland. He also jawed at Colts fans in the playoff game at the RCA Dome, telling them "I'll be back" while heading to the locker room after hurting his knee.

• He had several shouting matches with All-Pro halfback LaDainian Tomlinson on the sidelines, including an oft-replayed tiff during the Chargers' pivotal victory over the Titans in Nashville last December.

• Most notoriously, Rivers walked onto the field to taunt Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler after a Chargers defensive stand late in San Diego's 23-3 victory, an incident that undoubtedly helped shape Bly's unfavorable opinion.

All of which has Rivers, a married father of four who teammates describe as a clean-living homebody, wondering how so many outsiders can be so mistaken about him. Citing Brett Favre's celebrated on-field woofing with Warren Sapp – "Though obviously those guys have earned the right to say whatever they want," Rivers qualifies – he insists that everything he says is in the spirit of good, clean fun.

"You want to make a good impression with the public, and I agree that it's a fine line between playing with emotion and taking things too far," Rivers says. "But I'm not doing it to get attention or for any reason other than to have a good time. If we can't have fun playing the game, then I don't want to play. I really don't. If we have to tone down the emotions to the point where it's no fun, that's just silly."

To his credit, Rivers resists all efforts to play up his improbable effort in the AFC Championship game. This is yet another indication that Rivers, the son of an Alabama high school football coach, doesn't possess the prima donna tendencies expected of him by many of his critics.

"There were a couple of times when the knee buckled (against the Patriots) and I had to catch myself, but I didn't feel like there was any throw I made the whole game that was affected by the knee," he says. "I liked all the compliments I got from my teammates, and I know things like that help you gain respect. But we didn't win, which was the purpose of my playing in the first place.

"The bottom line is: It ain't gonna last forever. Two years from now, people aren't gonna say, 'Oh, he played with a torn ACL, let's give him a free pass.' "

Rivers had reconstructive surgery three days after the New England game, then watched as Eli Manning – the quarterback for whom he was traded on draft day – reinvented himself by leading the Giants to a shocking Super Bowl XLII upset of the Pats. Though it might sound like sacrilege in San Diego, where Manning is reviled for having told the Chargers he wouldn't play for them before the '04 draft, Rivers openly rooted for Peyton's oft-criticized kid brother to beat New England.

"I really was pulling for Eli," Rivers says. "We will always be linked, and I think (the trade) worked out for both of us. I was glad he won a championship, and that's something we can do, too. We're proud of what we accomplished last year, but now anything short of winning it all will be disappointing."

Though Rivers insists he won't curb his enthusiasm, he does plan to make one behavioral modification. "Looking back at the way some of the stuff went down, I may cut out talking to the fans," he says. "I agree that it doesn't look good, and I can probably better direct my energies elsewhere."

Whether Rivers can stick to that plan remains to be seen. Says Chambers: "He'll probably calm down from a little bit of that stuff, but when he gets emotional, I don't see him backing down anytime soon. Guys from all over the league are always telling me, 'I don't like your quarterback,' but personally I like a gutsy, fiery guy – he gets me going.

"He holds no punches, whether he's talking to our guys or guys on (the opposing) defense. It rubs a lot of people the wrong way. But we know him. We know what he's about inside. And that's the guy we want leading our team."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Exam Study Guide/aka P-notes


The news that Jay Cutler has Type 1 Diabetes actually tends to explain a few things: weight loss, fatigue. Of how many jobs can you think where doctors and trainers and concerned companions are constantly hovering about? My own take is that he will be fine and have a breakout season. The cause of my optimism is the OL. Offense begins and ends with them.

In '07, Lepsis returned to LT from a season ending '06 injury. Erik Pears moved to RT. Montrae Holland filled RG in place of the departed Cooper Carlisle. Tom Nalen and Ben Hamilton lined up in their customary spots. No, wait ... Ben Hamilton has a "spinal cord concussion" which can't be good. Out for the year. That's OK, Chris Myers comes in at LG. Zap! Tom Nalen tears a bicep and is also out for the rest of the season. Myers moves to C and Chris Kuper comes in at LG. The only backups are rookie Ryan Harris, PJ Alexander and ... Chad Mustard in a pinch? Pretty thin.
Lepsis has an off year, Pears struggles. Kuper does well as does Myers. Holland actually plays very consistently well for a guy new to the "system". Then, boom, Myers is traded. Nalen and Hamilton are said to be returning, but still thin on the OL. The rebu ..., sorry, transition, commences.

Casey Wiegmann, formerly of the Chiefs, and almost as old as Nalen (who will be deified just as Herakles) is signed. Not too auspicious for a youth movement. Then things start to happen. OT Ryan Clady is #1 draft pick, and C/G Kory Lichtensteiger is #4a. Tyler Polumbus and Mitch Erickson are CFAs and Dylan Gandy from the Colts is added afterward. As of this post there are thirteen OL headed for training camp and all but two are under 30 years of age; eight are 26 years old or younger. The two oldest guys are centers as is a rookie. Presto, a reb ... new OL.

Shanahan announces that Clady is LT which might as well happen for this enormously talented young man who appears to be a prototype at his position. Erik Pears is now the backup LT which is a good move because it seems he was better on the left and he has much experience. One thing some don't know about him is that he played G in NFL Europa (Koln/Cologne Centurions?). For the moment Ben Hamilton is back at LG, but he could be one hard hit away from forced retirement. That is where the brilliance of the Gandy acquisition shines. The same can be said of Wiegmann in the event that Tom Nalen runs down. Montrae Holland is the only OL in the same spot from the end of '07. He doesn't seem like a typical Denver OL, but he's fitting in and may even be better in '08. Chris Kuper, who earned his spurs in '07 as a G is competing with Ryan Harris at RT.

With the age of the centers becoming more of an issue every season, it appears that Lichtensteiger was drafted to be a C. He's coming off a shoulder (ouch) injury and won't be ready to practice until training camp. It is possible he could be IR/PUP after camp. Barring extensive injuries, the clock on PJ Alexander's NFL career may be winding down. I doubt if he's eligible for the Practice Squad, nor do I think he'd be interested if he was. However, that's where Tyler Polumbus and Mitch Erickson may find themselves after camp unless disaster strikes the OL two years in a row.

So, guys who can play C=Nalen, Wiegmann, Hamilton, Lichtensteiger, Kuper, Gandy.
Guys who can play G=Holland, Hamilton, Gandy, Kuper, Harris, Lichtensteiger, Pears, Wiegmann, Erickson, Alexander.

Offensive Tackles=Clady, Pears, Kuper, Harris, Polumbus, Erickson.

Nine OL will probably be on the roster. We'll just need to wait and see how Hamilton and Nalen (just had his knee scoped) do. This group is sufficiently deep to sustain some losses. Don't forget that R. Harris was on the roster but not available at the start of '07 (back surgery) which is why last year's OL situation was so precarious.

Why am I optimistic for the OL in '08? Two or almost two deep means lots of vigorous reps in practice especially for the youngsters. I bet that didn't happen last year because of the lack of depth. Until he does otherwise, I expect Clady to play LT from now on. He's young, has a lot of upside and probably a high learning curve. I hope Nalen, Hamilton and Wiegmann can play this whole year in order to give the young guys veteran leadership and a sense of direction before they hang it up. I expect Holland, Kuper, Gandy, Pears, Harris and Lichtensteiger to be around for years to come and to get better as they go along. The latter five can play more than one spot on the OL (Kuper can do them all).

When this season is over, I hope my optimism will seem to have been justified. It may seem farfetched now, but I can see this group knocking people down for the runners, building a wall for pass pro and closing ranks when one needs to step out, and not miss a beat in the process.

And now, a moment of silence. Requiescat in Pace, Tim Russert.

Vale/Be strong,