Digesting the Titans

Happy Friday, friends.  I hope you enjoyed Tom Gower’s thoughts on the Titans that we posted earlier today.  He’s a respected writer who contributes to Football Outsiders, and we’re happy to have his work appear at our humble site.  My work likewise appeared over at his site, and I only hope that the readers at Total Titans find our contribution up to their normal standards.

Since Tom gave us some Titans thoughts, I said to myself, “Self, maybe you should go light, or even skip the Digesting piece, and just leave it to their “inside” guy who’s really familiar with the team.”  I considered doing so for a few minutes, but y’all know me: I like excess.  More is better than less.  That said, here are some observations on the Titans:

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Titans Q&A with Tom Gower

Total Titans approached us about collaborating with their site to preview Sunday's game by exchanging some questions and having a writer from each site provide insight on their respective teams.  Below are my questions to Tom Gower and his answers; Tom writes for TT and also contributes to Football Outsiders, and we appreciate his time and effort.  In turn, I answered some questions from Tom which have been posted here.

Ted - Would you say that the schemes of the Titans have changed significantly with the new coaching regime in place, and if so, how?

Tom - In the run game, I haven't seen much of a change.  In the passing game, the wide receivers are having to do much more reading of the defense and route adjustments than were apparent in Mike Heimderdinger's offense, where they pretty much had to run the route of the play as it was called. As you might expect from a wide receiving corps that doesn't have a lot of experience, that's been a work in progress.  Matt Hasselbeck is also a much different quarterback than Kerry Collins and Vince Young.  Particularly with Young, the Titans were a downfield passing team (they led the league last year in frequency and success rate of passes 21-30 yards downfield).  Hasselbeck doesn't have the arm to threaten defensive vertically like that, but is a much more precise thrower on short and intermediate passes, which he used to great effect in picking apart the Ravens' zones last week.

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The Daily Lard 9-23-11

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Denver's injury situation is gradually improving, with Brandon Lloyd a full participant in practice and limited participation from Elvis Dumervil, Knowshon Moreno and D.J. Williams yesterday. It's not clear whether Williams is expected to get the start over Wesley Woodyard, but Dennis Allen says D.J. could face some conditioning issues, so figure to see at least a decent amount of Woodyard come Sunday.

On the flip side, Champ Bailey has still not practiced since injuring his hamstring, although he's at least running and cutting. Basically, Champ sounds like he's not going to play, but that he would if it were a playoff game.

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Broncos bring back TE Rosario, waive LB Mohamed

The Broncos have re-signed veteran TE Dante Rosario and waived rookie LB Mike Mohamed to create room for him on the roster. Denver had originally signed Rosario as a free agent on August 1 before releasing him as part of their final cuts on September 3. In the intervening weeks, Rosario had been with the Dolphins, who released him on Tuesday.

Denver had been down to just two healthy TEs on their active roster (Daniel Fells, Virgil Green) with rookie Julius Thomas out for at least two weeks with a high ankle sprain. Mohamed was the team's sixth-round draft pick in April out of Cal. It would figure that Mohamed will end up on the practice squad if he clears waivers. (Thanks, Bob Morris!)

Fat Camp - 4-3 Defensive gaps and techniques (and a little Von Miller, too)

Several weeks ago, we reviewed the basics of gaps and techniques on defense.

You'll recall I compared football to a chessboard--techniques are where the pieces line up, while gaps are the responsibilities of the pieces.  The big difference is that in football, the pieces (defenders) can line up in a different spot on every play.

Now let's put that knowledge to work in the Broncos' current 4-3 system under Dennis Allen.

Allen runs the two prominent forms of the 4-3, the Under and the Over, although thus far in the season, he's favored the Under scheme.

You're about to find out why.

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The Daily Lard 9-22-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his latest mailbag (once he's through with his weekly cheap shots at Josh McDaniels), Woody Paige says the Broncos' brass is as divided over Tim Tebow's prospects as us fans are, and he says the team did in fact look into dealing Tebow away, but that they encountered little in the way of interest when they did so. Woody admits to not really knowing how Brian Xanders feels about Tebow, and he seems as puzzled as we are that Xanders has so far emerged scot free from all the blame which has landed at Josh McDaniels' feet for draft picks gone wrong.

Woody goes on to say the team's hierarchy has nobody to blame but themselves for the PR problem they've had this season after having used Tebow to sell season-ticket renewals and then trying and failing to trade Orton. He also repeats what he said on Sandy Clough's show last week, suggesting the team should deal Tebow before the deadline if they're intent on drafting a new QB next April. In that vein, Woodrow takes a look at the schedule and realizes (especially with the fine play of Detroit and Buffalo) that the Broncos are worthy entrants to the Suck for Luck race.

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Dumervil, Lloyd, Moreno & Williams back; Johnson to PS

Several key Broncos returned to practice today, including D.J. Williams for the first time since the preseason, along with Elvis Dumervi, Brandon Lloyd and Knowshon Moreno. Obviously, the return of these four veterans to a young squad still otherwise struggling with injuries is a big boost as the team heads to Tennessee for Sunday's game against the Titans. Denver is still without Champ Bailey, Eddie Royal, Marcus Thomas, Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas, who is expected to be out at least for another two or three weeks as he recovers from a fractured pinky finger.

Meanwhile, the team has re-signed Jeremiah Johnson to their practice squad after the RB cleared waivers, and they released WR D'Andre Goodwin from the PS to create room for him. (Thanks, RSH!)

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Wednesday Musings: Sunday’s win over the Bengals

It’s tough for Cincinnati to come into the Mile High City and exit with a win. The proof? Their last victory at altitude was on Nov. 9, 1975. On Sunday, the Broncos overcame a variety of mistakes, stepped up when things were tough and crafted a victory at home over a resilient Cincinnati team that was coming off a win over their own rivals, the Cleveland Browns.

Cincinnati made no bones about the path they wanted to take to beat the Broncos: Denver once gave up a league-record number of yards to Corey Dillon, and the Bengals wanted to see if they could do it again, this time with Cedric Benson. With an extensive list of inactives that included Champ Bailey, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Lloyd, Knowshon Moreno and D.J. Williams, it looked like Cincy might be an uphill battle for the Broncos. By the end of the first half, Julius Thomas (ankle) and Eddie Royal (groin) had joined those other key players on the sideline. I spent some time with the film of the Bengals' Week 1 win at Cleveland, and it looked like Cincy’s front line on defense was very much, as Ted has also noted, very physical and they also reminded me of the Oakland front. I expected a tough, close game, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Bengals are in a similar situation to the Broncos - having changed coaches, schemes and many of the players, it’s tough to get much film on them, so a lot of adjustments throughout the game on both sides were made on the fly.

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The Daily Lard 9-21-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Obviously, there are many ways to view the outcome of Sunday's two-point victory - the Broncos made the plays they needed to win the game, they were fortunate to have the ball bounce their way on certain occasions, the Bengals shot themselves in the foot with ill-timed penalties, or Cincy just isn't that good. But as Frank Frigo tells it, there was another major factor at play: Marvin Lewis incredibly managed to out-conservative our own cautious John Fox, and it did in his team.

No, it wasn't Lewis' decision to forego a 54-yard FG attempt in the closing minutes; instead it was his puzzling choice to punt on 4th-and-1 at midfield twice to start the game and to kick a FG on another 4th-and-1 while down five points at Denver's five-yard line, late in the third quarter and with momentum clearly on the Bengals' side. According to Frigo's calculations, these unprogressive decisions cost the Bengals more than 34% in Game Winning Chance (GWC) with the chip-shot FG counting for almost half of that. Of course, the Broncos have not yet gone for it on a fourth down (they have not yet faced a situation where they should have), and during his nine years in Carolina, Fox went for it fewer than ten times in four of those seasons, so at some point this same fogyish strategy Lewis employed to keep his team from winning on Sunday will bite Denver in the rear. Mark it.

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Broncos add WR Quan Cosby, waive Johnson

The Broncos have made a move to shore up their shrinking WR corps, but it was not a PS promotion as might have been expected. Rather, the team signed former Cincinnati Bengal, Anaheim Angels farmhand and Texas Longhorn Quan Cosby (5'9" 190) to the active roster and waived RB Jeremiah Johnson to make room for him. Cosby has served primarily as a punt returner during his two NFL seasons, and it would figure that he'll function in that same role for Denver now that Eric Decker can expect to see more time at WR following the injury to Eddie Royal. Cosby returned 70 punts for a 10.0-yard average but had only seven career offensive touches for the Bengals (six catches and one carry).

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