A Second Helping of Tipped passes in the no-huddle

For well over a decade now, Peyton Manning's litany of skills has kept him in the conversation regarding who is the best quarterback in the NFL. He may have had four surgeries on his neck, and he’s 36 years old now, but if the topic is his supposed deterioration, try telling it to the 49ers starting defense he dismantled on Sunday.

One of those skills is the ball-handling required in using play-action to freeze defenses. With the running ability of Willis McGahee (and Ronnie Hillman in the wings), defenses have an even greater reason to respect Manning’s play-action passing.

When Manning moves to a no-huddle offense, the value of play-action becomes even greater - defenses have far less time (if any) for substitutions, so the balance that’s always a goal of John Fox's offense becomes an even greater weapon for Denver. Whether the Broncos want to run or pass, they’ve got an effective and productive scheme in place. Stopping the offense becomes more difficult still when any adjustments made by the defense end up being read and turned against them when Manning audibles.

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You Got Served: Taking stock of the Broncos roster

Happy Football Thursday, friends.  As the preseason comes to a close, we’re left to ponder the value of tonight’s game, which begins after my bedtime.  All I can really think of is that it gives the underdog lovers something to get all excited about. 

I’m continually interested in how fans latch on to some late or undrafted player, based on a play here or there, or his name, or where he went to school.  That underdog is going to be a major player, maybe even a star!  He’s a diamond in the rough, and I’ve been down since Day 1.  When the IAOFM crew was chatting during the Bears game, we were having a laugh about how Xavier Omon hysteria was about to be upon us when he made a few good runs against third-stringers.  Well, it came, and it went.  No other third-string defensive line that the Broncos played was sorry enough to be blocked by the Broncos' third-string offensive line.

For the Broncos, the value is that it gives them a chance to make a last-minute decision on who makes the team, and maybe more importantly, the practice squad.  For the most part, the decisions have most likely been made on the larger body of work, though.  If you think about it, tonight’s game is going to end around 2am Eastern.  Cuts to 53 have to be completed by 9pm Eastern time on Friday.  That leaves very little time for deliberation.

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NFL extends trade deadline

The NFLPA and the league have agreed to push the trade deadline back two weeks. Also, teams will be allowed to bring one player back from IR midseason, with restrictions.

Traditionally, the trade deadline has been the Tuesday following the conclusion of Week 6. The new deadline will be 4pm ET on Tuesday, October 30.

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Replacement refs like lamp Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The team held another padless practice (BTVphotos) yesterday before heading to Arizona for tomorrow morning's tonight's game against the Cardinals.

Chris Kuper and Tony Hills were again the only nonparticipants; Jim Leonhard practiced and could play tonight, while Keith Brooking was limited yesterday and thus unlikely to play.

Brock Osweiler (video) spoke after practice; looking back to rookie minicamp, BO says he was essentially drowning in the playbook at the time, and is now "fairly comfortable" with its contents. The former Sun Devil expects to have plenty of acquaintances in attendance tonight in Glendale.

More importantly, tonight will mark the final chance for several players to make an impression on the Broncos' coaches, and perhaps put something good on tape to prompt another team to pick them up if they're one of tomorrow's 20 cuts. Of course, there's also the chance that the last men to make the final 53 will later be jettisonned in favor of other squads' cuts.

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A Second Helping of Manny Ramirez vs the 49ers

I really didn’t know much about Manny Ramirez until recently. That’s no shock - he was out of football entirely for much of 2010 before Denver signed him to a  future contract in January of 2011. He played in two games for Denver last year and was inactive for the other sixteen games, including playoffs.

But because Manny’s stepping in for Chris Kuper until Kupe’s forearm heals, I took a long look at his performance against San Francisco on Sunday.

Backstory: Manny was chosen by Detroit in the fourth round (117th overall) of the 2007 Draft. He appeared in one game as a rookie on special teams, then moved up to playing in four games the next year, three of them starts - two at right guard, one at left guard. He didn’t have a penalty, but gave up two sacks. The following year, things changed.

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Gracias, John Elway

Poetry in demotion:

Chargers fielding team of undrafted rookies Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Caleb Hanie is likely to be the team's starting QB tomorrow night in Arizona, with ASU alum Brock Osweiler following him into the game for an early homecoming.

Of course, with 20 roster cuts looming the next day, those on the bubble will likely need to plead their cases via special teams play.

Whether this is the case for Knowshon Moreno - who is the most discussed bubble player, and for good reason - remains to be seen. According to Jeff Legwold, Knowshon has not take a single ST snap this summer, so it wouldn't make sense for him to pop that cherry tomorrow night in live action.

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Raiders finally understand who their fans are Lard

Good Evening, Broncos fans! Denver is edging its way to better health, as veteran defenders Keith Brooking and Jim Leonhard were full participants in the team's (unpadded) practice on Tuesday (photos).

Brooking says he feels great, but isn't sure whether he'll play on Thursday night at Arizona.

Omar Bolden (knee) and Lance Ball (ribs) both practiced after suffering minor injuries on Sunday, while Tony Hills (neck) was sidelined along with Chris Kuper, who is still recovering from his broken forearm.

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Thank Goodness Pat Bowlen is nothing like Jerry Jones Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Make sure you're sitting down for this one. It's a real shocker:

An appeals court has ruled that D.J. Williams's six-game suspension for having submitted a non-human urine sample should not be overturned. However, the three-judge panel did say the league and players union need to improve the collection process, and it's hard not to agree with that.

After all, D.J. wouldn't have had the chance to futz around with his bottle of liquid if the collector were allowed into the locker room. What a strange job, right?

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Bite-size nuggets: Re-thinking the coach’s challenge

Happy Monday, friends.  Yesterday’s game got me thinking about coach’s challenges, and I wanted to share those thoughts with all of you.  I’m a big fan of the new rule that mandates that all turnovers be automatically reviewed, in addition to all scoring plays.  Those are the high-leverage events which tend to swing football games, and I applaud the NFL’s commitment to get them correct, to the extent that their scab officials are capable of doing so.

The rule change necessitates a re-thinking of challenge strategy, though, because in the past, coaches would save their challenges for scoring plays and turnovers.  Since those plays aren’t challengeable any more, they’re going to be looking at lower-leverage plays.  That will lead a smart coach to figure out what kind of play is even worth risking a timeout for.  I came up with a few that I think are worth it, and a few that aren’t.

Down by contact on a possible lost fumble:  If the call on the field is a turnover, the play is automatically reviewed.  If the call on a fumble is that the runner was down by contact, the coach may still challenge the play.  The key is that the coach of the defensive team would only want to do so if the ball was clearly recovered by his team.

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