The Daily Lard 9-9-11

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! How was that for a season opener? If you thought you had something better to do than watch Saints/Packers last night, it really wasn't. Green Bay outlasted New Orleans 42-34 (box score) in an all-out slugfest which featured 51 first downs, 17-of-26 third-down conversions, 876 yards of offense, 84 pass attempts for 731 yards and six touchdowns, two special teams touchdowns, and a goal-line stop by the Packers to conclude the game on an untimed down from the one-yard line.

As for what last night meant to us as Broncos fans: Be patient this season. No matter how far they exceed any of our expectations (if they do), it will take multiple years for Denver to be able to consistently compete with teams the caliber of today's Packers and Saints. We saw third and fourth receivers making huge plays, electric kick returners, two of the best QBs we'll ever see, and we can only hope at this point that Julius Thomas will someday be as effective as either Jermichael Finley or Jimmy Graham in the passing game. And of course, we won't be seeing that brand of football anyway, as the John Fox-led Panthers scored 34 points or more just 13 times in nine seasons (including playoffs). For comparison's sake, the Packers have scored 34 or more points 13 times in their last 48 games, while we only have to go back 37 games to find 13 such outputs by the Saints. On the bright side - and this is no small matter - Darren Sproles is no longer on our schedule twice a year - once every four years is bad enough, so let's all hope he finishes his career in the NFC.

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Open Thread - Thursday night opener

On the Broncos' front, Brodrick Bunkley returned to practice today and was listed as a Full Participant on the season's first injury report along with David Bruton, Quinton Carter, Chris Kuper, Demaryius Thomas and Matthew Willis. Only Marcus Thomas, Ty Warren and D.J. Williams did not participate. Meanwhile, the Broncos have unveiled a history section on the official site which features all of the team's media guides along with gamebooks and programs for home games. Be careful, because you may not emerge to see the light of day once you dive into this treasure trove...

The winners of the last two Super Bowls face off as the defending champion Green Bay Packers host the New Orleans Saints. Enjoy the game!

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Fat Pickins - Week 1

On most Thursdays, I put out a Mail Revue, a Playbook Abides, or a Fat Camp column.  But this isn't most Thursdays.  I've been traveling all week, and the NFL season actually starts tonight.  So today we'll simply introduce this year's picks segment.   Under normal circumstances, I'll be running this on Saturdays, along with a detailed scouting report on the week's opponent. So this Saturday, expect to see a scouting report that you're not going to find at other Broncos-centric websites.  In short, expect more and expect better.

With that out of the way, let's get right to it.  Last year, I called this segment The Jesus, The Generator, and the Experts.  That's because I wanted to show just how silly most NFL experts were by letting my cat (the feline kind - not the friend/buddy kind), Jesus Quintana and a random number generator (RNG) pick NFL games.  We weren't disappointed.  As expected, the RNG - armed with the notion that the home team wins about 57% of the time on average - ended up correctly picking about 57% of the games correctly.

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The Daily Lard 9-8-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The team will hold its first full practice regular-season practice and issue their first injury report today. As Lindsay Jones reiterates, the Broncos are hoping to get DTs Brodrick Bunkley and Marcus Thomas back in time for Monday's opener.

So, today is the day the DP unleashed their preview of the Broncos' season, and the focus is John Elway. Where Woody Paige typically shares an interview with team owner Pat Bowlen, Mike Klis instead presents one with Elway as the clear face of the Broncos organization. Within it, Elway speaks of lifting the pall that's enveloped the franchise in recent years as the tragedy of Darrent Williams and Kenny McKinley's untimely deaths, and the ugliness of the Jay Cutler drama have come to dominate the Denver headlines.

Elway strangely theorizes that it's a good defense that creates home-field advantage (tell that to Colts and Saints fans) and defends himself against the ridiculous notion that great players can't become great team execs, just because a few of them have failed to do so in the past. As for that garbage, Elway scored a 29 on the Wonderlic and Dan Marino scored a 16. Marino's flop running the Dolphins predicts nothing for Elway's stewardship.

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Fat Camp: The Erhardt-Perkins Offense, Part 1

As we shift from the player-evaluation mode of the preseason to games that count, I thought this would be a good time to turn our focus to just what type of offense we can expect to see from the Broncos. Exhibition games offer only a hint of what's to come, as teams are reluctant to telegraph their intentions for the regular season and are concentrating more on roster construction.

Denver is employing their own variation on the Erhardt-Perkins offense, which was very much what Josh McDaniels used both in New England and in Denver. The new version Denver will utilize will emphasize the run more, where McDaniels preferred to use the short pass more as a sort of ball-control passing game - in a certain respect, not dissimilar to the Bill Walsh theory of the game.  However, most of the passing from Denver is likely to be vertical, and of the Air Coryell variety.

A few simple things should be covered before we get into much detail on the offensive system, and we'll start today by revisiting the history of the Erhardt-Perkins Offense; we'll get more into the nitty-gritty on Saturday.

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The Daily Lard 9-7-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! On Broncos TV, Brian Xanders tells Chris Hall the team had settled on two or three players to make waiver claims on, but in the end decided the players already on the roster were preferable - or at least until they decided they weren't, and signed Tony Hills yesterday. Xanders also reminds us that waivers are a daily process and that the FO and coaches are constantly evaluating the roster - remember how Shanny used to try out several players almost every week during the season? Or the Curse of Brett Kern? And as Legwold points out, not only are the contracts of vested veterans not guaranteed if they're signed after Week 1, they are only paid on a week-to-week basis after that.

So in keeping with Ted's point yesterday to keep calm, realize that the roster as presently constructed is unlikely to remain unchanged for even three or four weeks. Plus, throughout the preseason we've generally been seeing the second and third units operating as a whole, rather than backups mixing in with starters. Yes, it's still about winning individual battles, but when the guys next to you are losing theirs...

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Broncos sign OT Tony Hills, waive Herb Taylor

As has been speculated upon for several days now, the Broncos have made a change at their backup OT spot, signing ex-Steeler Tony Hills (6'5" 304 lbs) and waiving Herb Taylor to create room for him on the roster. Hills is a fourth-year player who was originally drafted by Pittsburgh in the fourth round (130th overall) of the 2008 Draft out of Texas, and he played in four games for the Steelers during his time there (all in 2010, no starts). Hills, who will turn 27 in November, was waived by Pittsburgh on Saturday, and the Broncos have signed him to a two-year deal, according to Adam Schefter.

You Got Served - Freak out! (not)

Happy Tuesday, friends.  I had a nice Labor Day weekend, and I hope you did too.  It was busy, though, and I’m coming back to a busy workweek, so I’m kind of squeezed for time from both ends.  That said, I’m going to get moving and play for maximum value over minimum time.  I may even offend some people, with or without really meaning to.  Ready… BEGIN!!!

1.  Our friends at the DP rubed out again this weekend, breathlessly reporting that the Broncos would definitely be hitting the waiver wire hard before seeing them claim nobody at all.  As a staff, we were laughing at what seems to be the front office’s new practice of building up the expectations of the local media, only to make them look bad when things don’t happen the way they were speculated.  Woody is already bitching about John Fox’s skill in saying nothing at all while saying many words, as Doug pointed out in Monday’s Lard.

Personally, I’m not very surprised at all that the Broncos didn’t claim anybody.  I did a fairly basic exercise on Saturday where I picked through a lot of chaff looking for wheat, and I didn’t find much quality among young players who were waived.  The only guy I really liked was Tavares Gooden, and I can’t make a great case that Gooden is better than Mario Haggan or Nate Irving.  Of course, when you claim a guy on waivers, he goes to the active roster and you have to immediately cut a player to make room for him.

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The Daily Lard 9-6-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Some terrific news among Mike Klis' practice notes from yesterday - defensive tackles Brodrick Bunkley and Marcus Thomas may both return to practice sometime this week, which of course would be an enormous development as the Raiders bring their dominant rushing attack to town Monday night. Plus, Demaryius Thomas practiced yesterday as expected, although there is no publicized timetable as to when he'll return to action - apparently at this point it's strictly a matter of Demaryius getting back into football shape. Granted, that could take awhile.

Meanwhile, Chris Kuper was back at practice yesterday after missing last week with a toe injury. The team is off today and will practice tomorrow.

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Von Miller’s coaches

Following his graduation from Texas A&M, Von Miller was excited about getting drafted and finding a new team to call home and to work out with. Unfortunately, although he did get one of the rare and valuable playbooks, there was little communication between teams and their drafted players due to the lockout. Miller’s a fortunate player - he has four coaches other than John Fox who have helped him since the beginning of 2011. One of them isn’t even with the Broncos.

Von had quite a friend on his side to help ease his transition to the pro game this offseason, a man by the name of Dat Nguyen. Nguyen had attended college at Texas A&M before spending seven years playing linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys until an injury ended his on-field career. He chose to go into coaching, and after three years working with the Cowboys, Nguyen headed back to Texas A&M in 2010 as the Aggies' inside linebackers coach. Miller was enthusiastic about describing what he and Nguyen worked on and how they did it:

He played in the 4-3, did it in the NFL. He knows what to expect, so I've been working with him. I want to have all of the terminology down, know my responsibilities, so when we get the word I'm ready what I'm supposed to do in the Broncos' defense.

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