Speed Heals: Defense

When Mike Shanahan was fired by the Broncos, he left behind a team that was a shell of its former self. The players who had been stallions during the Super Bowl years were long gone. The defensive players who remained were, they said publicly, treated as second-class citizens.

The roster was depleted in multiple areas and then a young former offensive coordinator tried to move the team to a reflection of the 3-4 system that he’d just left, but without the kind of players who made that system work. The offense wasn’t exactly loaded, either. A lot of things were missing on defense during that transition - stronger players, workable draft picks, a middle linebacker who keeps his helmet on, common sense - but one vacancy stood out as the roster was changed over:

Speed

It means linebackers with the legs to catch a returner in the open field, or to give cornerbacks a shot at covering the multiple players they are matched up against in passing situations. It means backside pursuit and pass rushers who can reach the quarterback before he can carve up the secondary. It’s essential to the new concept of Broncos defense that John Fox and Jack Del Rio will be implementing this season - which, whatever else is true, will require a faster pocket pressure with quicker linebackers and better defensive backfield speed.

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Marshawn Lynch, King of Corn (rows and mazes) Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Justin Bannan (calf), Ryan Harris (ankle), and Quinton Carter (knee, hamstring) were among those who did not participate in yesterday's practice (Peyton Manning, photos, more photos), while Ty Warren left early with a possible stomach virus. Newly signed LB Keith Brooking was already on the field for individual and 7-on-7 drills; he cannot join padded practices until Saturday.

D.J. Williams even saw some action, but it was only at the Sam spot when Von Miller got a late start to the morning walkthrough. A failure to stay in bounds by Knowshon Moreno while trying to run out the clock yesterday calls both his low Wonderlic score and Marion Barber to mind, although he did see first-team snaps.

The Broncos also had a walkthrough yesterday evening, and this morning's practice will be somewhat abbreviated so the team can catch a flight to Chicago for tomorrow's preseason opener.

After several days' worth of heaping praise, Brock Osweiler has struggled in the past couple of practices; Adam Weber was the only QB to lead a successful two-minute drill, as Peyton's turn ended with four straight incompletions at the goal line.

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No charges for Dumervil in Miami incident

At a time of year when football news tends to be of the negative variety (injuries), the Broncos instead got some of the pleasant kind today: the Miami-Dade state attorney will not be filing charges against Elvis Dumervil.

Elvis had been arrested last month in Miami under suspicion of having displayed a gun in a threatening manner during a road rage incident. But from the outset, his lawyer and agent both maintained that no charges had been or would be filed.

Updated 5:13pm ET

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You Got Served: K.C. Joyner is a tool

Happy Tuesday, friends.  I’m a little hard up for stuff to write about today, so I decided to eat some low-hanging fruit.  Being a person who subscribes to ESPN’s Insider service, I get an interesting mix of useful and useless material.  Among the useless stuff that I get is articles from K.C. Joyner, The Football Scientist, or as I like to call him, The “Football Scientist.”

Joyner was an early screamer about football stats, and how there weren’t enough of them, and how they weren’t good enough.  He had a point, but his personal capacity to remedy the situation was, shall we say, limited.  He created a bunch of metrics, many based upon his own subjective observations.  For an example, I give you Good Blocking Yards Per Attempt.  What exactly does “Good” mean?  It sounds like he’s measuring something that’s not exactly measurable.

I guess it’s good to be first on the scene, because then ESPN pays you to write stupid articles and pimp your book through oblique references to it, as if everybody bought and memorized the thing.  Actually, it’s good to be second too, because they do the same thing with Football Outsiders, who also acts as if their own proprietary stats are the bomb-diggity, be-all, end-all fountain of all football knowledge.  I’d like to see them have a nerd fight – My VYPA is better than your DVOA!  I’ll unleash my 23rd-level warlock on your paladin!  Pokemon to the rescue!  (I know, I’m kind of an a-hole jock – sue me.)

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Terrell Owens, back to troll the world Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The team returned to work yesterday (video, photos, more photos) following a day off Sunday.

Demaryius Thomas sat out the second half of practice with tightness in his Achilles; Thomas missed the first five games of 2011 after tearing his Achilles in February of 2011. Ryan Harris, Von Anthony Miller, and Greg Orton (all ankles) also left early, while Ronnie Hillman did conditioning work as he works back from a slight hamstring injury. Justin Bannan (calf) and Quinton Carter (knee, hamstring) remain sidelined.

Orlando Franklin practiced for the first time since having suffered a concussion a week earlier and took some snaps at right guard as Chris Kuper continues to work back to full strength.

Robert Ayers and Kevin Vickerson both took first-team snaps, and wideouts Matt Willis and Jason Hill impressed.

Working on the two-minute drill, Peyton Manning and Caleb Hanie each led drives that culminated in field goals, while Brock Osweiler threw a pick on the second play of his possession.

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Broncos add Brooking, place Fannin on IR

For the second time in the span of 48 hours, the Broncos have added a veteran defender on a one-year deal - this time signing 36-year-old linebacker Keith Brooking. They acquired safety Jim Leonhard on Saturday and placed him on the active PUP list a day later.

Brooking (6-2, 240) is entering his 15th NFL season after 11 years with Atlanta and three in Dallas, where he went from a 16-game starter in 2010 (906 snaps) to seeing more limited play last season (three starts, 408 snaps) after being replaced by Sean Lee.

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Gut Reaction: Broncos release first depth chart

Let the training camp intrigue officially begin: the Denver Broncos just released their first depth chart.  In the spirit of the coverage of the Olympic Games, let me offer you a SPOILER ALERT before you read the next sentence just in case you wanted to wait until Thursday's preseason game.

Peyton Manning held off Caleb Hanie at quarterback.  

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, don't read too much into this depth chart (which is what we're about to do).  It's only the first of many depth charts.  In other words, it's a working document.

Now, let's experience some irrational exuberance, or in some cases, rational melancholy.

Your Gut Reaction begins.  And remember Rule #7: Gut Reactions will last as long as they have to.

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Saints suspensions shortened soon? Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The Saints and Cardinals opened the preseason last night at the annual HOF game; Drew Brees was Drew Brees, and New Orleans won 17-10 in a game that featured only three second-half points (although Cardinals DB Justin Bethel impressed with a blocked FG).

With the referees association amidst a labor dispute with the NFL, replacement officials got off to an inauspicious start by screwing up the coin toss. Embattled Arizona QB Kevin Kolb also had a rough debut, completing just one pass out of four attempts, and bruising his ribs on the play.

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Deion Sanders isn’t buying your Peyton Manning hype

Prior to tonight's Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, Deion Sanders said the following on NFL Network regarding Peyton Manning:

"He just doesn't have the weapons to get the ball to."

Sanders then went on to predict the Broncos wouldn't go any farther than Tim Tebow took the Broncos last year.

So there you go.  Here's hoping that non-weapons Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, Andre Caldwell, Jacob Tamme, Ronnie Hillman, and Willis McGahee can get something done.   

Fannin again lost for season

Mario Fannin's NFL dreams have been put off for another season. For the second straight year, the former Auburn running back has suffered a season-ending injury, this time a torn Achilles tendon.

Fannin, who joined the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2011, was hurt during the team's scrimmage yesterday; he tore an ACL during training camp last summer, almost a year to the day. The 24-year-old was expected to compete for a backup spot behind Willis McGahee, and had earned praise for his combination of size (5-11, 224) and speed (4.37-second forty time).

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