Scouting the Draft: 2012 Defensive tackles

It's Lying Season for the NFL (moreso than usual), but it's no great secret the Broncos have a significant need at defensive tackle, again. Last month I profiled Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox, who is expected to be long gone when Denver makes its first pick at #25, provided they remain there. If that scenario indeed plays out, what will be the Broncos' options?

Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy has been talked about quite a bit. Certainly, cornerback is a point of need: perhaps of greatest need other than under tackle. Other folks will have other perspectives, but I think that in general, while interior OL, MLB (unless they like Nate Irving), RB, and possibly safety are all areas of need in degree, press-man coverage CBs and one-gap penetrating DTs might be the hardest to find as the draft moves on.

There are always the players who work out later in the draft, but my feeling is that the lines and the CBs are essential to Denver’s success this year. So is the Mike, but since we don’t know what Denver’s plans for Irving are, and we do on these two positions, I’m going to take the step of looking at the most desirable of the available DTs in Denver’s theoretical scope of scheme - the penetrating under tackle. Sadly, letting Brodrick Bunkley get away has also played hob with the nose tackle position, and some of these players make sense at either slot.

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The Daily Lard 4-9-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The struggles continue for 2011 fourth-rounder Julius Thomas, whose high-ankle sprain last year allowed him just four games played and one catch. According to his father, Thomas underwent surgery last week to repair ligament damage in that ankle, and his availability for training camp is in doubt.

Thomas's lingering injury calls to Andrew Mason's mind the Denver failure of basketball convert Wesley Duke, who dressed for three games and caught just a pair of passes after being hailed as the next Antonio Gates by Shanny & Company. Meanwhile, Mason is glad Tim Tebow was never as creative in retelling history during his time with the Broncos as he was yesterday, when he happened to squeeze an Easter Sunday sermon into his busy football schedule.

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Ben Watson scored 12X Morris Claiborne’s Wonderlic, gives needed perspective

Ex-Patriot Benjamin Watson, who scored one of the highest scores ever, talks Wonderlic
www.bostonherald.com

How much do teams actually factor in the standardized 50-question test? The Pats have had some pretty good Wonderlic guys, most notably tight end Benjamin Watson. He scored a 48.

”Does a higher Wonderlic mean you’ll perform better on the football field? It might, or it might not,” said Watson, who was signed by Cleveland as a free agent in 2010. ”A person’s football ability might be totally different than their ability to score high on an aptitude test. I mean, I understand why the test is there. They want to have some type of standardized benchmark. They want to compare, and keep everyone on the same level. But when you look at it, a Wonderlic score doesn’t have as much to do with football as your film does in college and your body of work.”

Clearly, it doesn't take a Wonderlic wonder to play NFL football.  In fact, I'd say the only time the Wonderlic has real significance is when one debates (over a beer) John Elway and Dan Marino.

It's worth repeating (especially to Marino himself, who is very annoyed by the fact): Marino scored a 15 on his Wonderlic, and although he won a lot of passing titles, he could never figure out the zone blitz.  Here's a paragraph describing Marino from the book Blood, Sweat, and Chalk:

"The newness of the scheme was what really made it fun in those years, with Pittsburgh and Carolina," says [Dom] Capers. "Teams weren't ready for it.  There were very good teams that had a lot of trouble with it.  Miami had real problems, because Dan Marino had become so accustomed to making man-to-man reads that the fire zones really seemed to confuse him." [Dick] LeBeau recalls talking to Marino after a game and asking him what reads he was making: "He said, 'I had no idea what I was reading.'"

The zone blitz is another reason why Marino (and Jim Kelly, who also scored a 15) liked to run the no huddle.  The defense didn't have time to call a zone blitz. It left Marino (and his feeble mind) with man-to-man coverage; further, it allowed him to use his real talent: his cannon arm.

(Note & disclaimer: Author is biased to John Elway, the Denver Broncos; he hates anyone who suggests that Dan Marino or Jim Kelly is a better quarterback than the Broncos' current executive).

The Daily Lard 4-8-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Dan Pompei says the Broncos' acquisition of Peyton Manning, their trade of Tim Tebow to New Jersey, the signings of Alex Smith in San Francisco and Matt Flynn with Seattle, and Shanny's trade up to the #2 pick have created a sense of desperation for the teams that failed to land a big QB fish this offseason.

And the potential outcome of this urgency is A&M passer Ryan Tannehill flying up draft boards, perhaps even into the top five or ten picks to the Browns at four, Dolphins at eight, or the Chiefs at #11. Why? Because it's all about quarterbacks in this league, as the last nine Super Bowls have been won by the Manning brothers (three combined), Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger (two each), Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees (one each).

Adam Teicher says that after having passed up on Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Freeman in recent years, Tannehill could be the guy that makes KC pounce. As Teicher sees it, the Chiefs roster has few holes, with QB being perhaps the most glaring one.

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Broncos DT options narrow, Okoye signs with Bucs

Tonight, Adam Caplann tweeted:

The #Buccaneers and DT Amobi Okoye agreed to a one-year, two mill deal, his agents Darin Morgan and Ian Greengross confirmed.

The Broncos were rumored to be interested in Okoye for over a week, although this interest was never confirmed by the Broncos.

Meanwhile, we await news on both Justin Bannan and Marcus Thomas. 

The Daily Lard 4-7-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The fallout from the Gregg Williams pre-game speech continues; documentarian Sean Pamphilon says he did not violate his agreement with ex-Saint Steve Gleason by releasing the damning audio clip.

Several current and ex-players chimed in after hearing the speech: Giants legend Carl Banks interpreted it as 90-95% metaphorical coach-speak; Vikings punter Chris Kluwe says that other 10% is a big problem; Cris Carter thinks Williams should be banned for life; Antonio Pierce says he heard the same speech from every defensive coordinator he played for in the NFL.

Mike Lombardi echoes Mike Silver's column from yesterday in stating that Williams's status as a virtual independent contractor with full control over his defenses is what permitted him to operate as he did.

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Champ Bailey and YAC and smoking crack

Earlier in the week, Football Outsiders reported that in 2011, Champ Bailey gave up more yards after the catch (YAC) than any other cornerback in the league.

Was this a sign that Bailey was getting older, losing a step, or declining in skills?

On the surface, it's easy to look at Bailey's YAC stat and smoke the crack (and become immediately paranoid). If you had not watched a Broncos game all year, you'd assume Bailey was either missing a lot of tackles after the receiver caught the ball or he was getting beat deep badly.  Luckily, the gang at FO qualified the numbers:

Now, let's be clear: These YAC allowed numbers generally don't say much about the actual quality of a cornerback. There's generally very little correlation between a cornerback's rank in Success Rate and his rank in YAC allowed. Still, it is very strange to see Champ Bailey giving up the most average YAC of any starting cornerback in 2011 -- and by a wide margin. Isn't he known as an excellent tackler for a cornerback? Yes, and there isn't much evidence that this is an issue of tackling. We only recorded Bailey with two broken tackles on plays where he was in coverage. He just seemed to have a few more plays than usual where guys got behind him on short- and mid-range routes.

As we always preach around these parts, stats are nothing without context.  So let's provide some when it comes to Bailey and his YAC (not to be confused with GOAT, which is purely a term reserved for Norv Turner).

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John Elway 2.0: designer jeans, $100 hair, and ready to kick ass

The rebirth of John Elway
espn.go.com

Wearing designer jeans, a leather jacket and looking like he just walked out of a Beverly Hills hair salon, John Elway smiled winningly, shaking hands and offering quick quips as he breezed through. In the often stodgy world of the NFL, Elway was working the combine his own way. NFL front-office leaders are usually not the leather-jacket-and-$100-dollar-haircut types. Neither are they Super Bowl winning, Hall of Fame quarterbacks…

...“I think people underestimated how hungry John was and his love for the Broncos,” Ellis said. “He’s been waiting to do this. He brings a deep skill set, including a willingness to roll up his sleeves and work hard. … He has a terrific, deep base of football knowledge and he commands strong business skills. He is perfect for the big picture of our organization.”

Elway has been praised by people inside the organization for not having any ego and for his willingness to learn on the job. “He knows what he doesn’t know,” one team employee said. Agents around the league have been impressed with Elway’s professionalism and knowledge of players and contract situations. They have found him easy to deal with.

His first move may have been his most important. Elway and Fox have meshed beautifully, insiders say, and they have similar personalities and approaches.

Never underestimate the power of designer jeans.

Peyton Manning wrote letter to Dolphins explaining his decision

Were Miami Dolphins misled about Peyton Manning?
blogs.sun-sentinel.com

Never mind the fact the Denver Broncos, which eventually landed Manning, had four times the amount of cap space as the Dolphins. Ignore the South Florida condo the Manning family SHARES, which Peyton Manning used as his offseason home while training with Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon this offseason. Overlook the fact Manning personally told certain Dolphins figures he’d love to play for the team before being released by the Colts.

How did the Dolphins miscalculate Manning’s interest level so badly? “I felt like a lot of people,” owner Steve Ross said at the NFL’s owners meeting last week. I’m GUESSING Ross felt played, just like he did with Jeff Fisher?

“He’d been at two teams his whole life and I think he judged it based on the fact where he would feel most comfortable, where he had familiar faces around him because that’s what he was used to,” said Ross, who received a letter from Manning explaining his decision-making process.

My hope is Manning explained to Ross that his camp kept the Dolphins in the conversation purposely to drive up the asking price, which turned into $96 million over five-years.

For the benefit of Dolphins fans everywhere, here is a sample Wonderlic question to give some needed perspective:

Who would you rather play for?

  1. John Elway
  2. Jeff Ireland
  3. Chucky Manson
  4. Foghorn Leghorn

The heat is on Gregg Lard 4-6-12

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Roger Goodell heard appeals from the Saints, Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis, and Joe Vitt yesterday, and his decision is expected sometime next week. But the big story was the release of the audio recording of Gregg Williams's speech prior to the Saints' playoff game versus the Niners.

Naturally, reaction was strong and swift: Michael Irvin said he almost threw up while listening to it; Warren "QB Killa" Sapp called Dr. Heat's speech the most heinous, egregious thing in NFL history and says he wouldn't have stood for such a thing during his career.

White Sox GM Kenny Williams, father of 49ers WR Kyle Williams (who was a specific target in the speech due to a prior concussion) suggested that the banned coordinator's behavior bordered on criminality; Niners safety Donte Whitner recalls that the Saints were unusually vicious in the teams' preseason matchup last year.

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