Broncos’ pursuit of Asante Samuel leaves clues to scheme and draft

The Broncos' pursuit of Asante Samuel is more than an admission they want to upgrade their secondary.

It might be the very clue we needed to put this whole question of their defensive scheme (and perhaps their draft strategy) together.

How so?  It starts with the overlooked fact that Asante Samuel's skillset is not tight, man-to-man coverage. It's playing off man in a Cover 2.  In fact, Samuel is world class at this style of cornerback play.  Coincidentally (not so much), it's also Champ Bailey's strength, although Bailey is certainly adept at playing tight man coverage when the situation calls for it.  But Bailey's preference is off man, where he can play five to seven yards off the line of scrimmage, aligned straight legged, and heads up or slightly outside of the receiver, peering into the backfield at the quarterback.  

You'll recall that when Bailey finished runner-up to Jason Taylor as Defensive POY in 2006, he played a majority of his coverages out of this scheme.  It allowed him to utilize his experience with offensive play and route recognition, along with his catlike reflexes.

Samuel, although not in Bailey's league when it comes to man-to-man coverage, has a similar ability to react to the quarterback and read routes out of off-man coverage. Of course, this is exactly why the Broncos wanted to trade for him.  Their intention was for their base defense to feature off-man coverage from the corners.  It's no coincidence the Broncos have also signed Tracy Porter, another cornerback, who, although younger than Samuel, also has a preference for off-man coverage.

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The Daily Lard 4-22-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! According to Woody Paige, the new Denver offense will be complected of:

  • Plays straight out of Indy's playbook, of course
  • Plays that John Fox and Mike McCoy grew fond of during their seven seasons together in Carolina
  • "Pass plays the Broncos had before Tebow," which really means concepts and plays inherited from Josh McDaniels
  • Willis McGahee-friendly rushing plays from last year
  • Plays copied from Green Bay and New Orleans, the preeminent passing offenses of the day
  • Pass plays which suited the skills of new Broncos Joel Dreessen and Andre Caldwell in their prior homes (Houston and Cincy, respectively)

Peyton Manning also tells Woody he's been spending some quality time with Johns Elway and Fox, and that he's found a house in the area.

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The Daily Lard 4-21-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the reason the Eagles and Broncos did not complete a deal to send CB Asante Samuel to Denver is that the Broncos and Samuel were unable to agree to a renegotiated contract. The 10th-year corner has expressed a willingness to rework his deal, but apparently the two sides haven't yet been able to find common ground.

And while Mike Klis's story from yesterday suggests that Denver has given up hope of completing a deal, McLane's account makes it sound more open-ended:

While Samuel has agreed to restructure the remaining two years of his contract - he's slated to earn $10 million this season and $11.5 million next season - he has yet to consent to some other requests by Denver, sources said.

McLane also says the Eagles "appear willing to take whatever they can get before the draft starts Thursday," so this truly isn't a matter of Denver Philly playing chicken.

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Ben Garland granted release from Air Force

Grand Junction native Ben Garland is back with the Broncos after receiving an early release from his Air Force commitment. The 24-year-old defensive tackle was originally signed by Denver as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and tallied six tackles that preseason before being placed on the Reserve/Military list.

During his time at the Air Force Academy, Garland started 34 of the 39 games he played and accumulated 115 tackles and 11.5 sacks while forcing three fumbles and blocking two kicks.

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Worried about the Broncos’ 2012 schedule? Don’t be.

NFL.com said the Broncos' 2012 schedule "might be the most difficult schedule in NFL history."

Chris Corbellini of Fox Sports wrote that the "Broncos have a brutal slate," while Gregg Rosenthal lamented: "Peyton Manning has an uphill climb to the playoffs."

Finally, The Old Man and the Hyperbole, Woody Paige, wrote:

Hannibal never endured such a demanding march, or October — road games against the Patriots and the Chargers and a home game with the Saints. Guess what? The final eight games are no bargain. The Broncos do get the Bucs and the Browns at home, and conclude the regular season at SAF at Mile High, as they did last year, against those pesky Chiefs. But they must play at Carolina — ever heard of Cam Newton? — and K.C., Oakland and Baltimore.

Woo. I've been covering the Broncos since 1974, and there hasn't been a schedule this grueling in any season since then — or, certainly, before.

This, of course, settles the issue, since 1974 was a watershed year.  It brought us "Jungle Boogie" from Kool and the Gang, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (warning, nightmares will ensue), and Woody Paige, Denver's own cuddly serial killer of football knowledge.

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DirecTV lowers Sunday Ticket pricing

Great news for all of us out-of-town fans - DirecTV has cut prices for its NFL Sunday Ticket package. The Max package, which includes computer and mobile access to game broadcasts, the Red Zone channel, and the 30-minute Short Cuts versions of games, will now cost $299.95, down from the $385 price from 2011. The price for the standard Sunday Ticket package has been slashed 40% from $334.95 to $199.95, and Sunday Ticket will again be offered at no extra charge to new DirecTV subscribers.

The Daily Lard 4-20-12

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Now that the 2012 schedule has been released, Judy Battista offers a fascinating look at how the schedule makers come up with their final product. And as silly as the leadup to the announcement each year may seem, with talk that the slate may or may not be made public on a certain day, there's apparently good reason for it.

What starts as 14,000 skeds gets narrowed down to 150, and those are painstakingly studied to come up with the best possible schedule, all the while accounting for religious holidays, weather, time zones, baseball playoffs, and even concerts. And that's before they even get to requests made by the teams themselves, nixing lengthy road trips, and trying to keep the TV networks happy.

As Battista tells it, it wasn't Peyton Manning's presence that spurred the league to schedule Denver for five primetime games, as was written by every football writer under the sun this week. Rather, it was Tim Tebow. The SNF opener which will have Denver hosting Pittsburgh in a rematch of their playoff meeting? That was already likely to happen pre-Peyton, and the league was looking to capitalize on Tebow's immense popularity with plenty of night games for the Broncos this season. So, they would have happened anyway - Denver will just have a better chance now of winning those games.

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The Daily Lard 4-19-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! We're only one week away from the start of the 2012 NFL Draft, and that can mean only one thing: it's time to celebrate The Passion of the Legwold.

Legwold kicks off Passion Week by breaking the news that Denver desires an impact player at #25, as opposed to the middling prospects they would normally be after in the first round. He also reiterates that the team has interest in BSU runner Doug Martin and could see them taking Martin at #25 if the top defensive tackles are all gone at that point. In fact, that's exactly what he has them doing in his first-round mock.

As for offensive linemen, The Impassioned One says the team is "giving long looks" to center and guard prospects because Peyton Manning is coming off an injury, not because J.D. Walton and Zane Beadles were pretty terrible last season. And, if Peyton were 100% healthy, they wouldn't want to give him great protection?

Presumably it's Legwold (or, could be Klis) who reviews Denver's 1st-to-3rd-round picks of the past 11 years, incredibly calling Jay Cutler just an "OK" pick, while generously calling Beadles and Walton "Good" picks. Look, Cutler may be a jerk, and we give the guy a ton of grief here, but let's be serious - he is a legitimate starting NFL QB and should remain one for a long time, and he is BY FAR the best QB from that 2006 Draft. To equate the expenditure of resources to select Cutler with those spent for Tebow, and to call Beadles and Walton better values than Jay is pure hackery. Really, it's a complete and utter joke.

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Scouting the Broncos: Tracy Porter on film

Bill Walsh pretty much had it covered, even over 20 years ago. He said this about cornerbacks:

Ideal size: 6-2, 195, but good ones come in all sizes

You would prefer a good-sized cornerback, but fortunately they have come in all sizes. Some of the best coverage men have been extremely small and dwarfed by their wide receivers and still were able to cover because of quickness, explosion and anticipation.

But the great cornerbacks have been able to play a physical game with receivers. They can bump the receiver on the release, but more important go up for a ball and not be overwhelmed or knocked off the pass by the receiver.

Of course, you need quickness and explosion. Full-sprint speed is important, but there have been cornerbacks who have overcome a lack of sprinters' speed and played many years and become Pro Bowl participants. You'd like to think of the cornerback being able to run 40 yards in under 4.5 seconds.

He must be able to do the kinds of things receivers do when they go up for a ball.

My emphasis added. Now, let’s walk through some game film and start seeing who Denver has this year, starting with new CB Tracy Porter.

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The Daily Lard 4-18-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Jeff Legwold continues his The Position I'm Writing About Today is a Notably Risky One to Draft series with wide receivers up next. Now, in fairness to Legwold, we did cite this piece yesterday in which Matt Waldman said teams find it especially hard to evaluate QBs, WRs and DBs. But name a position that Legwold hasn't written up as being a super duper gamble and we'll give you a gold star sticker.

Legwold also claims Denver needs more depth now that they have a QB who loves to throw the ball a ton, although this of course ignores the fact that running a no-huddle offense means not changing personnel all that much from play to play. As Ted has noted, the same players tend to stay on the field with Manning.

In reality, Peyton Manning does distribute the ball to a lot of players, but those players are basically all starters. A look back at his time in Indy finds that each year, the bulk of his passes would go to two or three wideouts, two or three tight ends, and two or three running backs. At almost no point in his career has a fourth WR caught very many passes, and early on it was essentially Marvin Harrison and nobody else.

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