Digesting the Raiders

Week 4 will feature the much-hated traditional division rival Oakland Raiders coming into Mile High, still feeling good about their come-from-behind win over Pittsburgh. Denver is coming off a tough loss to the Houston Texans, falling short by six points for the second time in two weeks to teams that remain undefeated. Both the Broncos and Raiders see an opportunity to rack up a divisional win in the AFC West. Let’s go through the two teams.

Key Points: Oakland on Offense

The Raiders come in with the same 1-2 record that Denver has, with both teams’ wins having come against Pittsburgh. The Raiders have struggled to throw for distance, as shown by quarterback Carson Palmer’s 1-of-10 completions for 21 yards when throwing long (20 or more yards). He hasn’t thrown long for a TD, but has an interception when trying to go deep.

Darrius Heyward-Bey appears to have dodged a huge bullet after a frightening cervical injury last week, but he wasn’t helping them in the long game either. Denver should be able to maintain that tendency: Their pass rush appears stronger than the Raiders’ line, and cornerback Tracy Porter is expected to return to the lineup after a brief scare with what turned out to be a bruised knee.

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Hillman itching for more play Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It was another fine day at Dove Valley yesterday, but not in the positive sense of the word.

Von Miller was slapped with a $15,750 penalty for his late hit on Matt Schaub, which preceded Joe Mays's own suspension-inducing hit on the quarterback by one play. Mays will still collect a game check tomorrow, but he was fined $50K. In his brief career, Miller has already been penalized with over $60K in fines.

Meanwhile, John Fox has formally appealed the ridiculous $30K fine he received for his behavior in Atlanta; Jack Del Rio is expected to follow suit regarding his $25K penalty.

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Fat Camp: Run defense is still important

Every time you turn around, somebody is reminding you that the NFL has become a passing league.  Through a combination of offense-friendly rule changes, innovative passing concepts, and vastly improved QB coaching at the high school and college levels (not to even mention the excellent private tutoring out there), passing offenses in the NFL are better and more efficient than ever.

I agree wholeheartedly that passing rules in the NFL.  It’s easy to hear that, and read it, and conclude that the running game doesn’t really matter, though, and that’s not the case.  In fact, I would say that the ability to be very sound in run defense is the most important factor in defending the pass. 

That may be tough to get your head around, but let’s explore the idea, by first beginning with offense.  The offense is going to do something, and all 11 guys generally know what that something is.  The defense is reading keys, and trying to figure out what it will be, but they never really know until the play is underway.  This is the fundamental advantage of the offense. 

Embed this thought - you can lose games just as easily on defense by failing to stop the run, as you can by failing to stop the pass.  The reason for that is because failure to stop the run very often causes failure to stop the pass.

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D.J. to learn of extended ban soon Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! As expected, the first group of real officials were welcomed back heartily last night, as Gene Steratore's crew was given a standing ovation before the game.

Steratore even got hugs from Ravens coach John Harbaugh and linebacker Ray Lewis, and safety Bernard Pollard says the players have a new appreciation for the skill of the regular refs.

Before the game, Roger Goodell apologized to the fans, but framed the lockout as something that had to happen, and even summoned up the nerve to call the craptastic officiating as part of the "beauty of sports."

Judy Battista reports that indeed, progress in negotiations had been made prior to Monday, so there was actually a possibility of a deal before the game-deciding blown call. But according to her sources, owners Jerry Richardson of the Panthers and Woody Johnson of the Jets were among the owners digging their heels in on Tuesday, while the Patriots' Robert Kraft and Giants owner John Mara - often described as key moderates during last year's player lockout - were more concerned with the impact of using scab officials.

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Open Thread: TNF Week 4 - Browns @ Ravens

Enjoy the game, everyone - and welcome back, refs!

Bucky BrooksGordon McGuinness and Benjamin Hoffman preview the matchup.

Here are the inactives for the game.

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Digesting the inside zone runs of the Raiders

Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Raiders were already down an early touchdown when Darren McFadden took a simple zone-blocking play and ran it 65 yards into the end zone. It’s basic ZB technique, and the Broncos will need to make sure that they’re disciplined in their gaps and able to both fight through the line’s blocks and to make sure that the safety has upfield containment to combat it.

Pittsburgh failed on both aspects, and the result will always be the same, no matter who’s running this basic play. Denver uses it, and so do many teams around the league. It’s also part of how Arian Foster has been burning the league for three seasons.

Here’s the basic lineup: Pittsburgh is in their classic, Okie-based odd-front defense. They’ve got three down linemen and two OLBs, spread wide this time. The ILBs are in their standard, base positioning. The Raiders are in 11 personnel and face 1st and 10 at their own 35. Their formation pulls one safety off into coverage, leaving only Ryan Mundy to handle the deep middle.

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You Got Served: Simultaneous possession edition

Happy Thursday, friends.  I’m back from my trip to Cleveland, and I’ve dug out of the two-days-away hole at work, so I decided that it was time to get back on the horse.  So have you seen any cases of simultaneous possession lately?  I saw one on Saturday night at a wedding reception.

The bride tossed the bouquet, and the maid of honor and my girlfriend both caught it.  They both held it for a few seconds, before Laura deferred to the MOH and let it go, which was the right call.  The MOH was actually really gracious about the whole thing, and let Laura have the bouquet, which was cool until she left it in a hotel in Charlotte on Monday morning.

As for the garter, who do you think caught it?  I got my fifth one in my last seven weddings attended (starting in 2009).  I think we can safely say that I have elite garter skills.  To wit:

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Broncos bring Mohamed back to PS, dump Ingram

The Broncos have re-signed linebacker Mike Mohamed to their practice squad today; Jacksonville had waived him from their PS yesterday, two weeks after having signed him.

To make room for Mohamed, their own 2011 sixth-round pick, Denver waived TE Cornelius Ingram.

With the one-game suspension of Joe Mays and the injury to Nate Irving (concussion), Denver is currently down to five healthy linebackers. Von Miller, Keith Brooking, and Wesley Woodyard are expected to start on Sunday, with sixth-rounder Danny Trevathan and undrafted rookie Stephen Johnson as backups.

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Was it worth it, owners? Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Well, it's thankfully, finally over. Many hours after Chris Mortensen reported the NFL and NFLRA had come to an agreement on a new contract, they actually agreed to a fresh deal.

To get there, it only took three weeks of craptastic officiating and a call so bad that a Vegas sportsbook is refunding losing bets.

Some questions:

What if the tipping point Packers/Seahawks call had occurred instead in the Jacksonville/Indy Sunday game that was probably seen live by fifty people who aren't Jags or Colts fans? Would we still be celebrating a return of the regular officials today? Or would the resulting uproar not be enough to sway ownership?

Was it worth it, NFL owners? You've cost yourselves and your sport a good chunk of credibility. The fans who sided with you during the 2011 player lockout, and for two weeks of this officiating lockout? Even they finally realize now how little you truly care about the integrity of the game. We're curious to see if this affects the public opinion of player lawsuits regarding your handling of head injuries.

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Chris Kuper in pads and practicing

Manny Ramirez's days functioning as a turnstile along the Broncos offensive line are nearing an end.

Right guard Chris Kuper has returned to participate in today's padded practice, raising hopes that he will be available on at least a part-time basis on Sunday against Oakland. However, Lindsay Jones says the seventh-year player is unlikely to dress Sunday.

Ramirez is the only of Denver's five starting offensive linemen to receive a negative overall score from PFF (-5.3), although he did grade out at +2.1 for the opening win over Pittsburgh.

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