Some quick and speculative observations about Del Rio and the 4-3

One gap or two?

Now that the Broncos have hired Jack Del Rio as their defensive coordinator, will they continue to run the aggressive one-gap 4-3 that Dennis Allen favored, or the rumored and virtually extinct two-gap version?

In order to get an idea, I went to the tape of twelve of the Jacksonville Jaguars' games over the last two years.  That's because Mel Tucker, the Jags' defensive coordinator, had been rumored to be contemplating a switch to a two-gap system, but it never happened under Del Rio's leadership.  And despite articles claiming that Tucker and Del Rio were running a 4-3 two-gap system in Jacksonville, I never saw it.

Play after play, game after game, when the Jags weren't in nickel or dime facing three- and four-wide receiver sets, they played a standard one gap 4-3. They often favored the 4-3 Over.  For a review of both the 4-3 Over and the 4-3 Under, you can click our Fat Camp feature on them from earlier in the season.

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The Daily Lard 1-29-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The biggest story out of Indy continues to be the Peyton Manning/Jim Irsay drama, rather than the Super Bowl being played there a week from tonight. In the latest development, Jason La Canfora reported that the Colts had already made the decision to move on from Manning several weeks ago. Naturally, Irsay has disputed the validity of that report, if anyone wants to believe him; Colts WR Reggie Wayne, who's about to hit unrestricted free agency, says the whole thing is like a soap opera.

Meanwhile, the Colts have hired Bruce Arians to run their offense - a week after the Steelers announced he was retiring and Arians said he was pushed out of Pittsburgh.

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Broncography: Jack Del Rio

New Broncos Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio was born in Castro Valley, CA on April 4, 1963 and attended Hayward High School, in California. Del Rio was active in sports from an early age, and he played football and baseball for the school, where he was a teammate of former Seattle Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu. Del Rio was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays right out of high school, but after some thought, he decided to attend college at USC. He was recruited by John Robinson, and history records that he made a very good decision.

He continued his sports career with the Trojans, playing both baseball and football for them. In football Jack was a linebacker - 6’2” and 246 lb by the end of his time there, he started for the Trojans for four straight years. During that time, he was a consensus All-American as a senior as well as runner-up for the Lombardi Award, but didn’t wait for then to shine. USC went 30-15-1 while he was there, ranking in the top 20 teams in the country three of those four years. In addition to playing in the 1982 Fiesta Bowl, he was the MVP of the Rose Bowl in 1985.

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The Daily Lard 1-28-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Jack Del Rio will become Denver's seventh DC in seven seasons this year; he was also John Fox's first DC with the Panthers in 2002, Del Rio's only season as an NFL DC. Obviously, the familiarity for the two men is a plus, although presumably a successful 2012 has the great likelihood of Del Rio landing another HC gig the following year. But, let's worry about that when the time comes.

Terms of Denver's deal with Del Rio were not disclosed, although the coach will make $5 million in 2012 - the salary he's owed by the Jaguars. Whatever the Broncos pay him, Jacksonville will owe Del Rio the difference of the two figures. Denver also hired former Jaguars strength coach Luke Richesson.

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The Daily Lard 1-27-12

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! There's apparently quite the rift between Peyton Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay, who is rather unhappy about Manning's comments to the Indy Star regarding the sudden and vast changes within the organization earlier in the week. Manning had said,

It's not a real good environment down there right now, to say the least. Everybody's walking around on eggshells. I don't recognize our building right now. There's such complete and total change...I mean, it's 20 degrees, it's snowing, the building is absolutely empty except when you see coaches cleaning out their offices...It's unfortunate because so many of them have been such a big part of so many big wins here, and this is so ... sudden. Their keys didn't work the next day. There's no other way to do it?

Irsay's response yesterday:

He’s a politician...I don’t think it’s in a good interest to paint the horseshoe in a negative light, I really don’t. He’s such a big part of that and everything else, but the horseshoe always comes first....I think one thing that he’s always known, because he’s been around it so long, is you keep it in the family.

Sounds like it's the end of the Manning Era in Indy, as Phillip Wilson is ready to accept; Bob Kravitz thinks the two men should bury the hatchet before moving on; Dan Wetzel says this all started with Rob Lowe's tweet.

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Honoring the Broncos’ 2012 Pro Bowlers

Denver found itself on the receiving end of a lot of awards this season:  from all-rookie teams to the Pro Bowl, it’s something that the team hasn’t found itself getting a lot of over the past few years. Chris Harris and Von Miller made the Pro Football Weekly All-Rookie Team; Orlando Franklin joined them on Mike Tanier's squad. Franklin was also only the second rookie in Broncos history to start at RT over the season and led the team in rushes through his slot for the season. Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, Champ Bailey, Ryan Clady, Willis McGahee and Brian Dawkins all made the Pro Bowl.

Tim Tebow, Matt Prater and Britton Colquitt were all named as alternates. Those three won't play, and Dawkins may not either, due to his neck injury, but each deserves congratulations for the recognition that they’re getting. This is a very different Denver squad from last year, even if many of the names are the same.

Both offensive players who are in, Clady and McGahee, also got in due to injuries to Jake Long and Arian Foster, respectively. Let’s look at each:

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The Daily Lard 1-26-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The self-appointed Grand Poobah of Denver sports has proclaimed:

  1. Denver should go with Richard Smith at DC, because Woody likes the job he did with the linebackers this year.
  2. For some reason, Woody thinks Chuck Pagano (who took the Colts job) was a possibility, even though he was already a DC in Baltimore. Really, this is just some mental masturbation so that after Pagano has success in Indy, Woodrow can say he wanted Denver to hire him.
  3. He says Eddie Royal "really wants to return" and even posits that he "probably will." Yeah, right.
  4. Who else but Woody would have the chutzpah to apply the "bust" label to a seventh-round pick who played in 15 games (three starts) like he did with Virgil Green? Paige even says Green and fellow rookie Julius Thomas need to "get a clue."
  5. He expects the Broncos to trade out of the first round. This is called throwing $#!t against the wall in hopes of it sticking.
  6. Woody doesn't expect the Broncos to draft a QB, and of course he doesn't think they should.
  7. He actually extends an olive branch out to Mike McCoy and praises the stellar work he did this year. Let's see if his minions do the same...
  8. And, to top it all off, Woody says John Elway got too much credit for his comeback wins just as Tim Tebow does. And, wait for it...wait for it...John Elway was never a pure pocket passer. Only the greatest QB prospect in perhaps the history of the sport, but he was just an earlier version of Tebow. They're basically the same guy!

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Ten thoughts from the AFC championship game

1. The Pats are driving deep, early on, and Ravens DE Paul Kruger sacks NE QB Tom Brady off the right tackle edge. The announcer said that he got RT Nate Solder leaning forward, but that wasn’t it - I went back several times to watch it because I love trench fighting. Kruger used fast stutter-steps, ala basketball, to get Solder flat-footed for a quick moment, and when that happened he punched hard with his right hand (legally) as he brought his left arm over and in front of himself in a swim move: he just flew past Nate. If you want to see a great pass rushing move, this one works fine. I know that Von Miller has struggled a times with Solder, who’s a fine young RT. He may want to work this move in.

2.  Patriots NT Vince Wilfork was unstoppable against Denver, but I think that he was even meaner against the Ravens. It takes Denver center J.D. Walton off the hook a little - not a lot, but a little. Wilfork seems to be playing at his highest level in a long time - congratulations to the big fella.

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The Daily Lard 1-25-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Jeff Legwold says Denver LB coach Richard Smith and former Jags HC Jack Del Rio are the most likely replacements for Dennis Allen, who left to take the head job in Oakland. Meanwhile, Andrew Mason adds ex-Rams DC Ken Flajole, Packers DL coach Mike Trgovac and Cowboys DL coach Brian Baker as possible candidates; all had coached on John Fox's defensive staff with the Panthers.

Although the glitziest name (by far) among these options, it's worth noting that Del Rio would presumably only take an assistant position as a precursor to lining himself up for another head gig elsewhere. So even if he were to take the job that Mason suggests could be "his to turn down," were Del Rio to be successful in Denver, he'd likely be out the door shortly thereafter. What's the priority for Fox? Get the best man for the job, period? Or, the best man for the job who is also likely to stick around beyond one year? Of course, it could be that Fox believes he can always refill the position with a qualified coach, and one can never know when a coach will get called upon for a promotion - after all, the presumption in this space had been that Allen's youth and relative inexperience would keep him in Denver for at least another year. So much for that.

Thanks, Dennis Allen, for returning the Broncos defense to respectability - it was no minor task. May you have many a second-place finish in your future.

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Raiders to hire Dennis Allen as head coach

The Broncos have lost defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to Oakland, where he will take over as their new head coach. Denver will again be searching for someone new to run their defense and will start the 2012 season with their seventh DC in  as many seasons. Allen had been an assistant for the Saints under DC Gregg Williams before John Fox made him a coordinator for the first time, and like Williams he showed himself a confident and aggressive coach unafraid to dictate terms to opposing offenses.

There's been some speculation that ex-Jags coach Jack Del Rio is a possibility, and Dave Krieger says current Denver LB coach Richard Smith is another option. Del Rio was the Carolina DC for one season under Fox in 2002 before taking the head job in Jacksonville, while Smith has been a DC in Miami (2005) and Houston (2006-08).