In a column posted yesterday at Pro Football Focus, Ben Stockwell suggests that, outside of favorable matchups against the Chargers, Elvis Dumervil hasn’t done a very good job of rushing the passer this season.
It even discusses the idea that potential opponents might just try and shut down Miller (good luck there) and let the rest of the line try and beat them. I think that in this case, even PFF’s own stats show this to be a weak argument. So does the film.
In this explanation, I used some numbers that I took out of PFF's own website - an article from earlier in the week on pass rushing productivity on third and fourth downs. According to PFF, Miller is second in the league in total late down pressures, which isn’t surprising. Who’s tied for tenth? Elvis Dumervil, the player who supposedly isn’t performing well. This ignores, incidentally, the fact that Von and Elvis have each forced six fumbles - which only serves to expand the impact of their pressures.
Happy Friday, Broncos fans! The AFC playoff picture got slightly clearer last night, as Cincinnati (8-6) pulled away in the second half of a 34-13 slopfest, turning over the Eagles (4-10) five times along the way.
The win puts them a half-game ahead of Pittsburgh, whom they'll visit next Sunday. A Steelers loss this week at Dallas would give the Bengals a chance to clinch a playoff spot next weekend with a win over Pittsburgh.
Cincy and Pittsburgh are essentially in a battle for the AFC's sixth seed, with an outside shot at overtaking Baltimore for the AFCN title.
The Jets have a slim chance at a wild card, while the Bills, Dolphins, Browns, and Chargers are essentially holding lottery tickets. To make the playoffs, San Diego needs to win out, have four other games go their way, and not be joined at 8-8 by Cleveland.
Meanwhile, a Denver win at Baltimore would almost ensure they'd be at least the number-three seed, and maintain their hopes of gaining a first-round bye.
Film Room: Quick Reels
Cameron didn’t do a lot schematically to make life easier on Joe Flacco. New offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell should be able to fix this. He’s never been a play-caller at the NFL level, but it doesn’t take any experience to know that in order to throw on Denver, you have to intertwine some routes. The Broncos have one of football’s best man-to-man outside tandems in Champ Bailey and Tony Carter. Plus, Chris Harris is one of the few nickelbacks capable of hanging with Anquan Boldin one-on-one in the slot.
Caldwell is no spring chicken, and this won't be his first rodeo; but it will be his first time ever calling plays in the NFL, and at any level since 1999 (he'll do so from up in the coaches' booth). Many have suggested this week that Caldwell's task will be a simple matter of giving Ray Rice more touches, and letting Joe Flacco go no-huddle. Pete Prisco thinks it won't quite be that easy.
Meanwhile, Jack Del Rio has drawn hefty praise for the wide variety of defensive looks he's shown opponents this season. Think he'll have a few wrinkles up his sleeve to greet Caldwell and the struggling Joe Flacco?
As this week draws on, we're finding it increasingly hard to think this will be such a difficult game for Denver, what with Baltimore's turmoil on offense and the mountain of injuries facing its defense. What do you think?
Further, Tagliabue emphasized that Goodell had done the right things the wrong way and that, as an investigator, Goodell pretty much makes Torquemada look like the chairman of your local ACLU. By vacating the suspensions levied by Goodell, Tagliabue may have defused a number of the inevitable lawsuits, and created a kind of détente with the NFL Players Association. (The NFLPA might well have settled for any finding that just made Goodell look ridiculous, which Tagliabue certainly did.) It is devoutly to be hoped that Vilma, whose lawyer may never stop crowing from the rooftops, goes ahead with his defamation suit against Goodell, because the discovery process alone in that one would be surreal.
You have to love Charlie Pierce, especially if you're a fellow liberal asshole from New England like I am. He uses his standard big/obscure words (like mountebank!) and employs his trademark rational thought. Like the best liberals, he doesn't automatically reach the predictable ideological point that the players are "martyrs for union solidarity and the rights of due process." They're no such thing, of course, and they pretty clearly behaved in a discreditable manner. The NFL (and Brother Ginger) were far worse, though.
Read the article, and give it a thought. It'll probably be the smartest thing you read all day.
Injuries at inside linebacker impacting defense's options
The Ravens may have to meet the Denver Broncos Sunday without their top three inside linebackers in Ray Lewis (torn right triceps), Jameel McClain (neck stinger) and Dannell Ellerbe (right ankle, left foot, both thumbs). That would leave the defense with just three healthy inside linebackers in Josh Bynes, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Albert McClellan.
Ayanbadejo, Bynes and McClellan have carved out a niche through their play on special teams, but are not being asked to absorb the assignments that Lewis, McClain and Ellerbe would normally run on defense.
Lewis and Ellerbe were apparently limited practice participants today, but at less than optimal health, they may provide better play than did their three backups (Bynes -2.3, Ayanbadejo -3.1, McClellan -1.6) last week, according to PFF. McClain, who has already been ruled out, was a brutal -5.8, and the four inside backers combined for four missed tackles in the loss to Washington. Should dovetail nicely with the strengths of Denver's offense.
Today, I want to briefly look at a play from the Raiders game that went for good yardage, and talk about why it worked. I'm going to try to start doing this at least every week to stimulate thought and discussion.
The situation in last Thursday's game that we're covering is a 1st-and-10 from the Denver 36, right after the Broncos have received a third-quarter punt. The score is 23-7:
Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's been quite a week in the hubris-filled, awareness-free alternate reality occupied by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Paul Tagliabue's smackdown of the Ginger Hammer's disastrous handling of the NFL PR department-crafted Saints bounty scandal showed how a quality commissioner should perform his job, and called into serious question whether Goodell deserves to keep his.
At least Tagliabue did Rog the favor of providing closure for the scandal and maintaining the power of the commissioner's office, even if it came with a sharp rebuke of Goodell's methods.
Were Goodell a reasonable person, this would have been a humbling, chastening experience - one prompting self-reflection and a reconsideration of one's tactics.
Champ Bailey, 'one of the greatest,' has Ravens' respect
“They’ve always been an aggressive defense that can get up and stop the run and has some good pass coverage on the outside and secondary and has the outside guys that can rush,” the fifth-year quarterback said. “Obviously, I don’t think we’ve played against Von and he adds another element to those guys being able to head to the passer and have a guy on each side and also be a very good player in the run. You guys are a good defense. They can do all those things—stop the run, get to the passer, cover the pass well—so it will be a good challenge for us.”
It's nice that Joe Flacco respects his elders, and he's right about Von Miller, but we're not sure what universe he's living in--one in which the Broncos have always gotten up and stopped the run. In fact, here's where the Broncos have ranked in yards per carry on defense since 2005 (Flacco came into the league in 2008):
If by "great" Flacco means completely "average" or even "ugly," well then, he's right on the money. Lucky for the Broncos, this year is turning out to be quite different.