Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Scraping the Summer Football Bucket

Before continuing with the 6th & 7th rounds and conclusion to "Preparing for the 2009 NFL Draft", thought I'd share a few observations gleaned from the slim pickings of football before TC. There are a few NFL replays that are enjoyable, but none have anything to do with the Broncos. Recuperating from surgery has made me more sedentary than I would prefer, so the many channels via satellite dish have been perused and reperused for anything, and I mean ANYTHING interesting. CBS-College and ESPNU to the rescue, especially the former. Three of their rebroadcasts caught my eye recently: Arkansas at LSU, 11/23/07; Boston College at Virginia Tech, 10/25/07; and, the ACC Championship Game, BC vs. VaTech, 12/1/07. Besides the attraction of games with so many players recently drafted, here was an opportunity to observe three Denver draft choices in action and all of them in big games.

Peyton Hillis was obviously the focus of my attention in the Arkansas/LSU game. Several future opponents were there as well (Jacob Hester-Chargers, Glenn Dorsey-Chiefs, Darren McFadden-Raiders, Felix Jones-Cowboys, Nate Garner-Jets, Marcuses Harrison & Monk + Craig Steltz-Bears, Chevis Jackson & Keith Zinger-Falcons, Matt Flynn-Packers and Early Doucet-Cardinals). All of these will be opponents during pre/regular season '08 (except the Bears) and will give many draftniks the opportunity to confirm or deny their previous thoughts about these players.

Peyton Hillis is a good blocker and receiver. He did some lead blocking, mostly for Felix Jones, and seemed effective. His best block, however, was the kickout and he took his guy to the sideline every time. His pass protection also seemed more than adequate, all of this against a pretty good defense. His route running is very exact for a back and he has good hands for catching passes. His best route, as expected for a back, was the wheel route and he scored on one of those. It was cool to see him play and it gave me a good feeling all over again about the Broncos picking him. His chances of making the roster seem very good because of his special set of skills perfect for a FB/H-Back.

Watching the two VaTech/BC games consecutively was very cool, too. Once again, there were a number of players soon to be drafted (Matt Ryan-Falcons, Gosder Cherilus-Lions, DeJuan Tribble-Chargers, Duane Brown & Xavier Adibi-Texans, Brandon Flowers-Chiefs, Chris Ellis-Bills and Josh Morgan-49ers). The focus of my attention was, of course, Eddie Royal and Carlton Powell. Virginia Tech lost the regular season game at home by four points due to: failing to cover an onsides kick after BC finally scored in the 4th quarter; and, a come from behind scoring drive led by Matt Ryan after BC covered their KO. In the ACC Championship game, ST kept VaTech in it (two blocked kicks) at first, followed by the D, until the offense finally scored the go-ahead TD in the 4th quarter on a stunning catch at the GL by Eddie Royal. In both games he caught a number of passes, many for first downs, but Eddie was one of four good VaTech WRs BC had to cover. He was lined up as a Z, off the LOS, sometimes in motion. He is a dangerous P/K returner BC worked very hard to contain.

Carlton Powell started at RDT, but VaTech rotated their whole D-Line regularly, so that's something he's used to. In the regular season game he was often lined up as a 1 tech (inside shade of the G) and, consequently, was often doubled. In spite of that, he was able to split the double on a number of occasions. BC didn't run the ball right at him very often and when they did they didn't gain much. VaTech slanted and stunted their DL often. A couple of times the call had Carlton slanting away from the side the run went to, but that's not his fault, it's the call. He seems to have a motor. On pass plays he gets a big push off the ball and has a spin move which I didn't expect. Sometimes the call had him looping outside where he shows quickness. Carlton had a tfl on a running play (5 tech in 3-man line prevent D) to force BC to punt from their - 8 or so, but they got a first down on a roughing the kicker penalty. He always pursues and never stops going for the ball until the whistle ends the play.

In the ACC Championship Game, Powell played mostly 3 tech although he got kicked to 0/NT a couple of times. His play was very consistently similar to the previous BC game. He is very strong at the point-of-attack and knows how to split a double. On passing plays, he always gets a big push off the ball and that kind of penetration is important because it can create gaps in pass pro. In the 4th quarter, I believe, BC had a 3rd & short situation where they tried to convert by a power running play. They came out in tight wing left, split backs w/FB left. Carlton was in a 3 tech. BC had their LT (Gosder Cherilus) block down on Carlton so their LG could pull and kick out the DE. BC's C and LT were supposed to double Powell out of the hole. BC's playside TE & Wing/H were supposed to block down/across the hole and clear out the backers while the FB was supposed to lead the TB through the 5/6 hole for a first down. When the G in front of Carlton pulled, he was able to get a little penetration before Cherilus and the C doubled him. Isn't the DVR feature great? I watched that play ten times in a row, at least. First to understand the blocking assignments and then to see what happened because the play lost almost a yard. When he got hit with the double, Carlton got stood up a little, but he SPLIT THE DOUBLE and ended up standing in the hole which allowed his teammates to flow to the ball and stuff the play for a loss. I should also add that the pulling G's kickout didn't go well either because the DE got low and didn't get moved.

Carlton Powell, JR. is a very hard DT to block, even with two OL. It must be a combination of strength, technique and tenacity. When BC tried to block him on a running play and Carlton wasn't slanting or pinching, he didn't get moved out of the way. In other words, at his level of competition, Powell is an OC's play calling red flag. BC actually ran mostly to the other side. But, on that crucial 3rd & short in the 4th quarter, Steve Logan (OC) must have thought they could double team Carlton out of the hole and get enough for a first down on a power running play. That's a classic case of the D lining up on the O. With a TE, H and a FB to that side, Tech correctly read run to the D's right. Maybe BC should have run PAP ... ? Carlton will be a rookie in the NFL probably rotating with DeWayne Robertson. It's a whole new game for him, but he seems to have what it takes, especially against the run.

It was nice to scout these Bronco rookies and focus on them exclusively since I already knew the outcome of the game. There probably won't be too many other rebroadcasts with Bronco rookies, although I did get to see Wesley Woodyard recently in the LSU at Kentucky game from 10/13/07. Like all Bronco fans, I hope most of their rookies make the team (one CFA, Hartley, was cut yeterday) and especially all the draftees. These recent rebroadcasts have given me cause for optimism.

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