Wednesday, September 17, 2008

After Further Review...

Isn't DVR a wonderful thing? A second/third viewing of the September 14 game between the Broncos and the Chargers has produced the following observations:

  • The overall defense wasn't as bad as it seemed in realtime. Run D is much improved.

  • Pressure was applied to Philip Rivers, but he just stands in the shrinking pocket and throws the ball. Elvis is banged up and the Broncos need another pass rushing defensive lineman. We are all wondering about Jarvis Moss. Ekuban and Peterson made some big-time defensive plays. Engelberger had a sack. Josh Shaw played some. Robertson and Thomas are doing a good job in the middle and really collapse the pocket on pass plays while remaining solid against the run. The Broncos are playing a three-man odd-front D-Line in passing situations. My jury is still out on that.

  • Sproles was mostly contained when he was rushing except for his TD run which must have been a blown play for the D. The Bronco LBs ran themselves out of position in a way that Slowik couldn't have possibly wanted. Aside from the kick return for a TD (oops), he was contained by Denver's ST.

  • Denver's LBs may as well be considered as new with Williams and Webster in new spots and Bailey new to the team. Boss was playing in his first game since the first preseason game. It seems that he was manned up on Tolbert when San Diego made a big pass play to him in the third quarter. My take is that the defense will improve as it advances through the season with the backers becoming more comfortable with the system, the calls and each other. One wonders, however, if Webster runs himself out of position to make tackles. DJ was great and got a flag for a hit on Rivers which was duplicated by the Chargers later on, but with no flag on them.

  • In spite of big plays by the Chargers in the third quarter, Denver's D held them to two FGs instead of TDs which is huge.

  • Karl Paymah doesn't seem to be able to cover as a nickel DB. That's odd because nickel coverage is often cover 1. Paymah was clearly in man several times, especially against Chris Chambers. Eventually Jack Williams may get his chance.

  • Safety play appears to be just adequate at the moment. Three of them (McCree, Manuel and Lowry) are new, so maybe we'll see steady improvement. I hope so. Two Safeties (Barrett and Rogers) are on the Practice Squad, so if there is regression at that position ...

  • Punting and place-kicking are vastly improved this year. Prater made a 50+ FGA and Kern punted for about 60yds a couple of times. He seems to be a pretty good holder, too. This situation seems fixed. O'Brian seems to be a good coach for kickers/punters.

  • Kick coverage is mostly good except for the occasional breakdown (e.g., Sproles' TD). There are many new players on ST (Koutouvides, Woodyard, Larsen, etc.), so maybe more consistency can be anticipated. Punt coverage was pretty good.

  • Raving about the "skill" positions aside, the big development for Denver's O is the line. Hey ... , they ARE BIG. The tackles are very young and inexperienced, but the Ryans are playing great right now. Clady is a better pass than run blocker at the moment, but he has much upside. Harris has really stepped up and pleasantly surprised us all after we expected to see Kuper at RT. San Diego's odd-front DL w/a different backer coming each play was a good test for the O-Line. That front is more difficult for the C and Gs than for the tackles. Kuper struggled with it at times, but came out OK. Hamilton's return is doing wonders for the OL. His experience, leadership and consistency are invaluable. Wiegmann is doing a great job, but gets his butt kicked from time to time. An odd front with a big NT and ILBs blitzing the A gap is harder for him than a split-front. Let us hope Nalen can return before much longer and give Casey a break. Lichtensteiger is getting some game time in the backfield on short yardage/in + 20 situations which is interesting.

  • Even after trading away Colbert and Jackson injured at the moment, Denver's receivers are a scary bunch especially when you include Scheffler. One of his TDs came on a route he ran as a split-end vs. double coverage. Marshall the Monster, Royal the Rookie (who plays like a vet) and Stokley the Slot Machine are as difficult a group to cover as any in the league because they are all so different from each other. Imagine covering Scheffler on one play and Royal on the next followed by Marshall and, later on, Stokley. Wait 'til Darrell is back at full speed. Graham is stll mostly a blocker (he's SO good at it), but he will get some balls thrown his way in each game. Nate Jackson draws coverage and is an excellent ST player.
  • The RB committee is working well, better than most suspected. Hall, Young and Pittman are following their blocks, making the cuts and getting good yards. How did you like that 3rd and 24 situation where the Broncos gave the ball to Selvin who cut back and got blocks from Cutler, Marshall and Royal to run for a 1st down? Sweet! By rotating the backs, Shanahan is keeping them all healthy and using them on ST as well. Just wait until Torain returns ... just wait. Peyton Hillis deservedly earned his roster spot as the "true FB". He is learning as he goes. Sometimes he blocks the wrong guy on a blitz, but he will figure it all out sooner rather than later. His blocking is better than I thought it would be. Also thought he would have a bigger impact as a receiver than a ballcarrier, but so far it's been the other way around. It is inevitable that will change when defenses think they have found a way to cover Marshall, Royal and Scheffler AND stop the run when Hillis is in. That's when Shanahan and Co. will get him the ball through the air. Watch out when Pittman is in the backfield with Hillis.
  • If Jay Cutler isn't the real deal as a premier NFL QB, then I haven't seen one lately. He has a ball security issue that I'm sure he will fix (dropped the ball twice vs. Chargers). Averaging over 300 yards per game, he seems to be on a mission to compensate for the defense (which shows signs of improvement). The OL is protecting him well giving ample time to connect with a dangerous group of receivers. The pass is setting up a run game which must be respected at all times. Finally, the playcalling is imaginative and aggressive. Cutler gives Shanahan and Co. the ability to run anything from their playbook from anyplace on the field.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your comment about the pass rush strikes home with me; I remember watching the game and thinking that Rivers pocket was collapsing quickly but not quickly ENOUGH. He was able to set, cock back and throw the ball in 3-4 seconds very consistently, and he could throw an accurate ball so that even Bailey in Man coverage wasn't getting his hands on the ball.

I suspect a problem there is that safeties in zone are not fast enough to provide assistance and get the deflection from the other side. That's a bit of a fuzzy part of football to me still, there are so many combinations there I don't have a good feel for all of them yet.

Really, Rivers spent that game making a great argument about how good a quarterback he is this year. Scary.