Scouting the 2012 Broncos: Defensive tackles

Although John Elway said prior to the draft that Denver's roster had more strength at defensive tackle than people were aware, the team still used its first draft pick (early in the second round) to take Derek Wolfe, a penetrating, one-gap defensive under tackle. As usual, actions speak louder than words, and the Broncos weren’t quite in the shape at DT they wanted other people to believe them to be. That’s especially normal in the leadup to the draft - you never show your hand. As with most politicians, you can tell if the front office is lying by whether or not their lips are moving.

But the issues facing the Broncos defense go far beyond just the line. Within the draft, the Broncos addressed both defensive end (via the addition of Malik Jackson) and off tackle, via Wolfe. They also added a potential weakside linebacker who has a history of getting to the quarterback in tackling monster Danny Trevathan. With veteran linebacker D.J. Williams facing a six-game suspension for allegedly violating the league's PED policy (plus a DUI trial), there will be a competition to see who can obtain the downs that Williams will be missing. Adding another linebacker with penetrating skills should improve the overall quality of the front seven, and that’s who Denver chose with their last pick, in Trevathan. As a sixth-round pick he will have to show that he can handle the rigors of the NFL, but he has a history of getting to the QB, too.

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Broncos trade for another Gronkowski (no, not that one)

John Elway has announced that the Broncos have acquired fullback Chris Gronkowski from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for cornerback Cassius Vaughn.

According to Mike Klis, director of personnel Matt Russell was responsible for the deal, meaning the former CU Buff has essentially assumed the job of recently fired GM Brian Xanders, in addition to his own duties running the scouting department.

Chris is the middle of the NFL's three Gronkowski brothers; older brother Dan, currently a TE for the Cleveland Browns, was acquired by Denver in a trade for notorious Josh McDaniels draftee Alphonso Smith. Rob, the youngest and best of the trio, announced his presence as the NFL's preeminent TE in 2011 before going on to dominate the offseason as well.

Updated 3:04 pm ET

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The Daily Lard 5-23-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! After Denver's second day of OTAs, veteran defensive additions Tracy Porter, Justin Bannan, Mike Adams, and Drayton Florence (videos) all spoke with the media.

Naturally, everyone is happy to be on the same team as Peyton Manning and smitten with the idea of playing with leads. Regarding the league's decision to require thigh and knee pads in 2013, Porter already wears them and is fine with the mandate, while Bannan is skeptical about the benefits and is more concerned with the "integrity of the game," whatever that means. Florence isn't thrilled with the pads requirement and is adjusting to the new standard helmets, which are larger for concussion prevention.

Porter says he's already received plenty of welcome advice from Champ Bailey and admits he worried about a possible suspension in connection with the Saints' bounty system.

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Broncos sign sixth-round pick Trevathan

The Broncos announced the signing of sixth-round choice Danny Trevathan today. Denver selected the former Kentucky linebacker 188th overall in the 2012 Draft, and he is the third draftee to sign with the team, joining Omar Bolden and Malik Jackson. Derek Wolfe agreed to terms but has not yet signed his contract.

Three players have yet to agree to terms: Brock Osweiler, Ronnie Hillman, and Philip Blake. Today marks the second day of Denver's initial 2012 OTA.

Updated 1:32pm ET

The Daily Lard 5-22-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Mike Freeman dropped something of a bombshell yesterday regarding the league's handling of the Saints' bounty system.

As told to Freeman by several Saints players, the NFL's suspension letters to Sean Payton, Gregg Williams, Joe Vitt, and Mickey Loomis essentially offers them a way back into the league in exchange for their silence.

These players believe the NFL has little or no evidence of a bounty system in New Orleans, and that much of the punishment was levied in response to the recording of Williams's notorious pregame speech from last season.

They also maintain that the league has overblown the supposed admissions of Williams and Anthony Hargrove, claiming the NFL wrote Williams's confession and that Hargrove did not acknowledge the existence of a bounty system, as the NFL has alleged.

Obviously this is just one side of the story, and it could be a coordinated PR stunt by a still-defiant team. Or, there could be some truth to it and the NFL is handling this all like a bunch of dirty cops trying to show they care about player safety. Hopefully we'll learn the truth one of these days.

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Scouting the Broncos: RB Ronnie Hillman

Highlight film is notoriously useless for evaluating players since by its nature it’s focused on the best that the player can do and usually (although this seems to be changing, which I like) avoids their errors and weaknesses. Even with these limitations, there are things that stand out in the below video of new Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman. Taken with the fourth pick in the third round after a move up the board, the selection of Hillman confounded a lot of Denver fans. It hasn’t taken long to see the potential advantages that he brings to the Broncos.

For one, his shorter natural height is benefited by his tendency to run with a good pad level. He does run high from time to time, and if that doesn't change in the NFL, he’ll get to deal with the consequences. However - if you look at the number of tackles that he breaks, you get an immediate impression that for a somewhat smaller, lighter player, this is a kid (and at only 20, he is still a kid) who runs with surprising power and authority. He’s skilled at obtaining yards after the catch and it’s hard to argue with his production of 36 TDs and 3,243 yards in only two years of college. I don’t care what conference he was in - that’s serious production.

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The Daily Lard 5-21-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Denver's first set of OTAs will run from today through Wednesday, with more to come next week, and the last a week after that. These are voluntary in nature, so it will be interesting to see who shows up for the Broncos. What of Matt Prater ($2.6M franchise tag, unsigned) and Ty Warren (asked to take a significant cut from $4M), who are reportedly unhappy with their contract situations?

Today will mark the next "first" time Denver's coaches get to see Peyton Manning working with his new teammates, and what will they see? Respected analyst Chris Brown isn't so sure - whether Manning will be able to play up to his old level, or whether the Denver coaching staff is up to snuff. Will Mike McCoy show enough trust in Manning to duplicate the simplicity of the Colts offense? Can the two meld their personalities quickly enough to reprise the successes Manning had with Tom Moore?

Of course, it will be several months before we know the answers to those questions.

In the meantime, Brown offers his breakdown of the Indy offense as constructed by Moore and run by PMFM, including 12 passing concepts. It's a perfect complement to Ted's series on the topic.

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The Daily Lard 5-20-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Mark Kiszla thinks Rod Smith falls a bit short of HOF worthiness (agreed), but he also believes the Broncos should retire his #80.

Yet, with offseason rosters expanded to 90 players these days, retiring numbers gets to be a matter of (im)practicality. Eventually, you start running out of numbers to use, even though you can always unretire a number whenever you bring in a GOAT like PMFM.

Were Smith's number to be retired, what about that of Shannon Sharpe? Smith's practice squad teammate Tom Nalen? They both meant as much to Denver's successes, and as seventh-round picks, the unlikelihood of their personal achievements is almost as impressive as what Smith overcame. And had Mike Shanahan kept his own hubris in check and not allowed Shannon to walk in 2000, all three would be exclusively Denver Broncos.

Denver's Ring of Fame is an exclusive enough club, with Smith set to become the team's 23rd inductee. Let's worry about honoring every deserving Bronco before we consider elevating them to John Elway's level.

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Put Simon Fletcher in the Ring of Fame before Broncos fans puke

The Broncos added one of the all-time greats to their Ring of Fame earlier in the week in the form of wide receiver (and Eddie Kennison's tormentor) Rod Smith.

I should have enjoyed the announcement more than I did: Smith is my personal all-time favorite Denver Bronco. Unfortunately, all the announcement did was remind me that Simon Fletcher, the Broncos' all-time sack leader, is not in Mr. Smith's company; further, it makes me wonder if the Broncos' organization thinks we're all that stupid.

It makes me want to puke--even more than Jim Saccomano's twitter feed.

Can you think of one good reason Fletcher should be excluded from the Ring of Fame?  I can't, and it appears as if John Elway can't either.  As Mike Klis wrote last month, there was a press conference in which the current Broncos exec, and former teammate of Fletcher, actually believed for a few minutes that Fletcher had been elected.  Elway said at the time:

“Perfect. He’s a guy that was a great player and a guy I really enjoyed having as a teammate. He was a great football, a guy with a great sense of humor and a great teammate but a good man, too. I’m thrilled for Simon, it’s a well-deserved honor because he did have so many great years for the Broncos back in the late 80s early 90s. He was a guy, second round draft pick? Really did a great job. I’m really happy for Simon. An honor well deserved.”

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The Daily Lard 5-19-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Former CU Buffs and Patriots LB Ted Johnson, who retired in 2005 due to the after effects of the head injuries he suffered in his 10 years in the league, spoke at a conference on pediatric concussions at Boston Children's Hospital yesterday.

During his 30-minute speech, Johnson said he suffered 100-150 concussions during his career, and he told the conference he's certain that head injuries played a role in the suicide of Junior Seau:

It's corrode or explode. And it all exploded by killing (himself). You can't tell me the head trauma he had over his career didn't affect him. That was the tip of the tipping point for me. ... It makes you take inventory on your own mortality. If that can happen to him, I've got to be more diligent in how I live my life. 'Cause it's a road I don't want to go down.

The ex-LB hopes players will be more forthcoming about their own head injuries, admitting that he "felt compelled to play against doctors' orders" by coach Bill Belichick in 2002.

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