For Jason Campbell last Sunday, it was just another play in a drive in a season in a year in which the Oakland Raiders were back, perhaps all the way back. The journey had been a tough one, but the Raiders had accumulated enough talent on both sides of the ball to survive the loss of TE Zach Miller. One of the first steps in the journey had been the signing of Campbell to a free-agent contract in 2010. At the time, Al Davis had declared that Campbell reminded him of Jim Plunkett. Davis foresaw great things from Campbell; he said that he knew Campbell wasn't going to let him down. It was thought that at the end of 2011, Campbell was going to sign a big-money extension with the Raiders if he had made good on his end of Davis' bargain.
Campbell had played well enough to lead the Raiders to a .500 record his first year and was gunning for nothing less than a playoff berth this year. So with 4:08 remaining in the 2nd quarter and the Raiders up 14-7 on the visiting Cleveland Browns, Campbell was going to do what he'd been doing all along when facing 3rd and long. He was going to make a play.
The Browns showed blitz and man-to-man coverage with two safeties over the top. Campbell instantly recognized the play was going to be trouble because all three of his primary receivers were either running a deep post or a deep out. In essence, his receivers were headed right into the teeth of the coverage.
It took Campbell only a flash to confirm his suspicion, step up in the pocket, and begin his swift scramble for the sticks just eight yards away...
Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his latest mailbag, Woody responds to more Tebow-centric witch-hunt-y questions about Brandon Lloyd, and of course he says that Brandon "wasn't a troublemaker" and "didn't conduct his business in public." Woody points to Brandon's intellect and skill and writes that just like any wide receiver (except Brandon Marshall, of course) BLloyd wanted to stay friendly with all of the QBs to ensure they threw him the ball. He says that most of these Broncos talk to the media off the record, although he doesn't mention whether that's unusual as far as Denver teams go, or any NFL squads, for that matter. Woody says Lloyd used to be a good source for anonymous quotes, since he of course is so well-spoken.
In response to a question about how Denver fans treat their players, Woody points out that fans are the same everywhere, and he's right. Here in New York, Mets fans bombard the call-in sports talk shows with their misery, and even worse, ownership tends to "hear' them and react by overpaying guys like Jason Bay, Frankie Rodriguez, Ollie Perez and Luis Castillo, seemingly to pacify ticketholders who want something big done yesterday. And of course, as soon as these ill-advised moves fail and the players don't live up to their contracts, there are those same fans, booing. Carlos Beltran, one of the very best players in Mets history, is remembered by most fans for not swinging at one of the timeliest and most devastating curveballs you'll ever see, rather than the graceful excellence he exhibited every night. So, Kyle Orton has had a rough time with the Broncos, but it's not Denver-specific. The grass is just always greener, with other quarterbacks, cities and fanbases alike.
When the 2011 season started, I found myself being more and more drawn to the play of the offensive line. Why? First were the conflicting reports on the play of J.D. Walton and Zane Beadles in training camp; second, the fact that three of the five starters are in their first or second NFL seasons; finally, since 2008, the Denver offensive line hasn’t been exactly the gold standard of the league. So, I wanted to get a much clearer picture of the group together. Every offensive play, run or pass, is dependent in degree on that group of men and given their youth, I’m hoping that some development might be visible over the season.
Over the years, at times I’ve talked to people who see the play of the OL in fairly simplistic terms, and in one sense, that’s very understandable. You’ve got a bunch of very large men in the center of the field - they fight with each other, and just how that affects the play might be obvious - the hole that the running back dashes through, the time the quarterback has to make his progressions, choose and make his pass - but exactly how the OL does or doesn’t achieve that may be both complex and obscure. The camera usually follows the ball, as do the eyes of most fans, and it’s not easy to teach oneself to watch certain players instead. Consider a single partial paragraph from Steve Belichick’s Football Scouting Methods, talking about the 3-4 nose guard and his interaction with the offensive line:
The Broncos took an apparent gamble on Monday when they replaced Brandon Lloyd on the active roster with S Rafael Bush instead of WR Eron Riley while Brian Dawkins recovers from a neck injury, and it may have cost them. The Jets have signed Riley off Denver's practice squad, and the Broncos have responded by bringing back WR D'Andre Goodwin to replace him; both Goodwin and Riley had made strong pushes to make the final roster with their play during the exhibition season. Hopefully we won't be looking back on this move as a younger sibling to the prior losses of Domenik Hixon and Josh Barrett.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! The trade deadline has passed, and Kyle Orton, D.J. Williams and Eddie Royal are still Broncos, while Brandon Lloyd is not. Well, that would make sense - only the most talented of the four was coveted by another team. Remember, this is a team that's gone 7-24 over its last 31 games, so the notion that the players we want to see shipped out (Orton, D.J.) would actually be desired elsewhere is perhaps a bit misguided. It would be a surprise to see any of those three players back next year, though.
Yes, D.J. is signed through 2013, but his contract is one that no team would likely want to inherit, and it would be surprising to learn that Denver was interested in paying the rest of it out. He's making $4.9M this year, $5M next year, and $6M in 2013. But it doesn't appear he's due any guarantees going forward, so color me shocked if D.J. isn't cut sometime between the end of this season and the beginning of the next. Perhaps Denver could get a seventh-rounder at some point if D.J. is willing to renegotiate his contract to go someplace specific, but that too seems like a stretch. Oh well. On to Miami...
Happy Tuesday, friends. Since there was no Broncos game this weekend to comment on, I decided to just share some stray football thoughts for a while. Since I actually had to closely watch the Miami game live last night, my normal Monday night writing time was short, so we’ll see what comes out. Ready….. BEGIN!!
1. I suppose I should begin with the “fire sale” concept, and whether the Broncos are having one. I supported the trade of Brandon Lloyd, because clearly the team had decided that they weren’t going to pay him long dollars in the offseason. Teams have to make organizational decisions, and frankly, we’ve seen a few work out pretty well lately. I don’t miss Brandon Marshall, for example. Did anybody see him playing like he just didn’t care Monday night? That guy is a losing football player, and I don't miss him.
6:02PM ET - NFLN is reporting that the conditional second-rounder Oakland is sending Cincy only becomes a first-rounder if the Raiders make it to the AFC title game either this year or next. It had been previously reported that the first-round trigger was a single playoff victory.
5:25PM ET - Post-deadline updates:
12:56PM ET - Baxter McLove is now actively tweeting. What more is there to say? @BaxterMcLove
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Denver made another roster move last night, filling the spot vacated by the Brandon Lloyd trade with safety Rafael Bush (5'11, 197), whom they signed off of Atlanta's practice squad. The Falcons signed Bush as an undrafted free agent last year out of South Carolina State, and he dressed for their season finale after spending the year on the PS. Mike Klis says the signing of Bush is likely a response to the neck injury which kept Brian Dawkins out of practice yesterday and the poor play by Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter in the Broncos' last game versus San Diego.
Klis says the Lloyd trade was largely about money, as the team apparently offered Brandon a two-year deal but with no guaranteed money coming until after this season, and a salary below what Lloyd felt he deserved. Add to that the presence of young wideouts Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas (who was back at practice yesterday) and mix in the fact that Denver just isn't chucking it downfield very much under John Fox's guidance, and you have the makings of a trade which both sides are happy with. And to reiterate, the Broncos would not have received a compensatory pick until the 2013 Draft had they kept Brandon around for the remained of the season.
I read the other day that OL coach Dave Magazu said the San Diego game featured Ryan Clady’s best run-blocking of the season to date. Although I had Clady set up for a little later in my film study series, I wanted to see why Magazu, who’s got a pretty top reputation as an OL coach, was that excited about what he’d seen. It didn’t take long to get me excited, either. I’ll share with you what I found, and take you through the second half of that game. On some plays, I’ve listed more than just Clady’s performance - you’ll understand why.
A technical note: I wanted to start making my life easier, so I’m using a version of the shorthand that Steve Belichick, Bill’s father, recommended in his book Football Scouting Methods. I list the quarter and the time at the start of the drive and sometimes if a certain play is worth checking, and I also list the down, distance and the location of the ball. To do that, I use the notation ‘-X yards’ if Denver’s on their side of the 50 and +X yards if they’re in their opponent's side of the field (plus territory). If I’ve listed the location of the ball on first down, and the team gained five yards I usually don’t bother listing the ball location - I just assume that everyone can do the math. So far, it’s confusing my voice recognition software, so keeping my keystrokes down helps my hands out. I hope that you can follow the notations when I kept them short.
3:07PM ET - David Garrard is reportedly to have back surgery. Could this impact whatever market exists for Kyle Orton? Cough..Oakland...cough
2:17PM ET - But wait, there's more! Denver DT Ryan McBean was arrested on Oct. 14 for stalking, according to 9NEWS.
1:36PM ET - According to Schefter, all that it would take for the pick to move up from a sixth-rounder to a fifth-rounder in 2012 is that Lloyd catch 30 passes for the Rams over the remainder of the season. Obviously, this is a highly attainable and likely threshold, and it puts the trade in a much better light.
1:08PM ET - Mort says the Broncos will receive a conditional pick from St. Louis that will come in either the fifth or sixth round of the 2012 Draft depending upon how many receptions Lloyd tallies with the Rams.