The Daily Lard 2-22-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Naturally, there's plenty of reaction to Brady Quinn's quotes from Mike Silver's GQ article, which Quinn foolishly tried yesterday to portray as a misrepresentation of his words. Silver, being the pro's pro that he is, told Mike Florio he's got a recording of the entire interview, and that Brady has a copy too.

Doug Farrar, Barry Petchesky, and Christmas Ape offer their takes; Woody Paige doesn't really see anything over the line in Brady words, and he says Quinn is a class act; Demaryius Thomas doesn't believe in luck.

Meanwhile, Jeff Legwold thinks Sage Rosenfels and Byron Leftwich are legitimate veteran options to sign and compete with Tebow. Yikes.

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Fat Camp: Pass protection basics

The 2011 Denver Broncos were really bad at protecting the Quarterback, whether it was Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow.  Part of that was on the QBs themselves – Orton lacks escapability, and Tebow was extremely conservative about throwing against tight coverage, and often held the ball too long.  But most of the issue was the play of the individual protection players, and some questionable scheming. 

LT Ryan Clady had a down year, which still put him in the top 10 or so of players at his position.  His foot quickness has never gotten back to what he showed in his first two seasons, and sometimes he gets beat with quickness.  LG Zane Beadles and C J.D. Walton don’t anchor well enough, and both need to get significantly stronger as their careers progress.  RG Chris Kuper was the best of the bunch, but he’s coming off of a broken leg, which is a significant injury.  Finally, RT Orlando Franklin buried guys in the run game, but his foot quickness needs a lot of improvement if he’s going to play outside.

The good news is that this is a group of five players who are all still in their 20s and showed a high degree of durability.  I’ve said this before, but for an offensive lineman, durability is a skill.  Teams tend to carry only eight of them, so if a player gets hurt a lot, he’s a liability.  Linemen get hit a lot, but they tend to be lower-impact close area hits, where the guy they’re colliding with doesn’t have much of a running start.  You have to be able to take 1,000 or so of those hits and play every snap while managing some aches and pains and avoiding ankle sprains and the like.

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The Daily Lard 2-21-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Mike Klis had a sitdown at Dove Valley yesterday with John Fox, who had the following to say:

  • Expect the Broncos to add two more QBs to the roster
  • Brian Dawkins will come back for one more year in Denver or retire
  • Ty Warren's potential return to health is not being taken for granted
  • Denver's greatest draft needs align with where this class is deep: defensive line and secondary

Nothing particularly new or surprising, but we'll take what we can get for the middle of February.

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Ten Worst Moves of 2011: #7 - Tight end letdown

(Note: This is the fourth part in an Epic a mini ten-part series on the Worst Moves of 2011; we'll also be doing a ten-part mini on the Ten Best Moves of 2011.  If you want to see #10: Trading Jabar Gaffney, click here; #9: The Duke Takes on Twitter, click here; #8: Fox "screws" Tebow, click here.)

It's hard to fault the Broncos for the way they handled their tight ends in 2011. In theory, the plan they had was sound enough. First, they avoided paying a $1 million roster bonus by letting hometown favorite Daniel Graham go before the season began.  Then they signed serviceable veterans Daniel Fells and Dante Rosario to one-year deals. This would allow the Broncos a year to bring along and develop the raw but deadly pass-catching talents of Julius Thomas and Virgil Green.

It's this context in which the Broncos should be judged. Obviously, the Broncos made the playoffs.  So the natural instinct is to say "scoreboard" and be done with it. When you're conducting a year-end review, however, you've got to apply a different standard--a standard that draws heavily from the reality of what actually happened.  Call it hindsight bias (which it is); call it unfair (certainly); call it impatient (yeah, I want my sugar now).  Just recognize that the Broncos didn't get what they wanted from the tight end position last year.

That makes it our seventh-worst move of 2011.

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The Daily Lard 2-20-12

Good Afternoon, Broncos fans! As we learn more about the effects of head injuries on football players during and after their playing careers, the future of the sport itself continues to come into question.

First there was Malcolm Gladwell's article in the New Yorker which likened football to dogfighting, Jeanne Marie Laskas's GQ piece focusing on the NFL's blackballing of CTE researchers, and her subsequent story on former Vikings star Fred McNeill. More recently we heard from Tony Dorsett about the ghastly treatment of his head injuries by the Cowboys medical staff, and a pair of economists writing for Grantland laid out their vision of how football will someday lose its standing as America's favorite sport.

Fans and even ex-players have begun to question whether they'd allow their own children to play the sport they spend so many hours watching on Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays, not to mention reading and writing about it on blogs like this one. Countless NFL retirees have filed suit against the league for having turned a blind eye to their concussions and resultant health and cognitive problems.

Now add to the mix a Hall of Famer and three-time SB champion who is one of the faces of the league - FOX's current lead football analyst Troy Aikman, whose own playing career was shortened by the effects of the head injuries he suffered.

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The Daily Lard 2-19-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his Sunday column, Dan Pompei examines the trend around the league of teams blocking assistant coaches from interviewing for coordinator positions elsewhere. Not that long ago, coaches were allowed to speak with other teams as long as they were being considered for promotions.

But prior to the 2000 season, the NFL did away with a rule that had allowed teams to protect only one defensive coach and one offensive assistant from departing. As Pompei tells it, thinking was that too many coaches were changing jobs, and that teams would not stand in the way of their assistants landing big promotions and  the chance to double or quadruple their salaries.

Unfortunately it hasn't worked out that way, as new Bucs coach Greg Schiano was denied the chance to interview at least six assistants, including former Denver secondary coach Ed Donatell, who was blocked from pursuing multiple gigs.

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The Daily Lard 2-18-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! We're just days away from the 2012 Cattle Call Combine, which means we're in for a deluge of meaningless quotes from EFX™ courtesy of NFLN. Well, meaningless except for the unintentional comedy they will surely provide. Chris Farley Brian Xanders is already obliging us:

We plan to be aggressive and smart at the same time and try to get some good signings in here, some valued signings that help contribute to wins. We also have to address signing our own unrestricted free agents, and we also have the free agency market. So we will have a plan for that. We have a long term vision, too.

Of course, as long as he keeps drafting guys like Von Miller and uncovering gems like Chris Harris, we'll happily take the X-Man's malapropisms.

* EFX is the intellectual property of Woody Paige, who also happens to have been a co-inventor of the internet along with Al Gore

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The Daily Lard 2-17-12

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Clinton Portis has been cleared to resume his career after playing in just five games in 2010 and missing all of 2011; according to his agent, multiple teams have expressed interest. For this Portis fan, every mention of his name evokes memories of this beatdown of the first-place Chiefs - one of the best individual games we'll ever see by a Bronco. Of course, it's the one where his friend Pastor Troy gave him a championship belt after his five-TD performance. Good luck finding a new NFL home, CP - you were a superstar for us. Oh, and thanks for bringing us Champ.

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The Daily Lard 2-16-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In addition to guard C.J. Davis, Denver signed former Jaguars and Niners WR Jason Hill to a one-year deal yesterday. The 6-foot, 202-lb receiver (he's apparently shrunk an inch since cattle call combine, or got a haircut?) has 76 catches for 1,028 yards and eight TDs in 50 career games; he has virtually no experience as a return man, with just one kick return as a pro and two punt returns in college.

Last year for Jacksonville he caught 25 of the 53 passes thrown his way for 367 yards (14.7 YPR) and three scores, along with four drops. Hill will turn 27 next Monday and was originally drafted by the Niners in the third round of the 2007 Draft (76th overall) out of WSU after running the second-fastest combine time that year among receivers with a blistering 4.32-second forty.

Hill's speed will be a much-needed addition to an offense that had hardly any in 2011, whether at running back or wideout. Andrew Mason seems to think the signing of Hill makes it even less likely that Denver would bring back free agent Eddie Royal, despite Woody Paige's claims to the contrary. Eddie will surely present a hopeful outlook on Facebook and Twitter about sticking around, but he's a sunny guy. We can take his pro-Tebow comments at face value, or we can note that Tim targeted Eddie just 48 times in 12 games -  28 times in Denver's last nine games. Anyone really think he wants to be third or fourth banana again and relegated to return duty? Don't count on it.

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Scouting the Broncos: A first look at free agency

It’s that time again - almost spring - when a young man’s fancies turn lightly to free agency and the draft. Equally, it’s much like love in that there’s often more wishful thinking than reason to the players that are mentioned. That being the case, I thought I’d jot some things down regarding important areas of the Broncos' rebuilding project.

John Elway has confirmed exactly what a lot of our readers have expressed hope for - that the Broncos intend to build through the draft and fill gaps in free agency. The thing is, just as it is with Denver’s own, that most free agents would just as soon not move and have to rebuild relationships without a lot of good reasons, most of them green. The Carl Nickses of the league aren't likely shots, to put it mildly, although you never really know who will become available or have a tiff with their team. However - there are a lot of good players available who can help Denver immediately via either free agency or the draft. I’ll be covering this by position, post-Combine, to add some draft options, but here are some rarely stressed basics to think seriously about.

First on the list? Remember to check for unrestricted free agents (UFA) vs. restricted free agents (RFA). Folks should keep in mind that taking on an RFA would cost the Broncos a draft pick as compensation to the former team, in addition to the monetary value of whatever contract they give the player. It could happen with the right deal, but it's highly unlikely. Those valuable picks are going to be the basis for the rebuilding process - I can seen trading out of the 25th-overall pick for a couple of second-rounders, for example. Denver needs more picks, not less.

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