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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Broncos cut Lonie Paxton and 11 others, place Hunter on IR

The Broncos announced 12 cuts to meet today's 75-man roster requirement. There is one unexpected name here - Lonie Paxton, who spent three seasons as Denver's long snapper.

Also let go, but to no great surprise, were LB Elliot Coffey, WR Mark Dell, WR Cameron Kenney, TE Anthony Miller, DE Cyril Obiozor, RB Xavier Omon, S Anthony Perkins, T Mike Remmers, CB Ramzee Robinson, FB Austin Sylvester, and G Austin Wuebbels.

Updated 6:03pm ET - Paxton cap figures corrected

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A Second Helping of Von Miller vs the 49ers

Von Miller, with a Defensive Rookie of the Year award already on his mantle, has decided that he’s going to become a complete linebacker, and he’s been vocal about it.

He feels that he needs to add skills in run stopping and in coverage, and there’s little disagreement that he needs to. He’s already one of the best rushing linebackers in the game, and with work, I believe that he can become one of the top LBs of this decade. He showed progress in both areas of emphasis during the first half of Sunday’s game against the 49ers. Today, let’s look at how he’s improving in run defense.

The sun is pounding down through the Mile High air, it's over 100 degrees on the field, and Peyton Manning has just directed the Broncos to a 3-0 lead. The kickoff by Matt Prater sails through the end zone, and the 49ers take over on offense at their own 20-yard line.

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Ready to Start Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! When Denver got thumped by Seattle last week, we found encouragement in the play of the starters, specifically the progress of Peyton Manning and the pass rush.

Causes for concern were the run defense, depth on the offensive line and throughout the defensive roster, and the influence of horrendous officiating.

Yesterday brought another loss, this time 29-24 to the 49ers (Gamebook, BTVNFLN, & PMFM highlights). The worries remain, for as much as John Elway & Co. have served to upgrade the team's depth, the second and third teamers continue to get whipped.

It's the reality of overhauling a team that won but four games in 2010 and scored more like a 6-12 team than the 9-9 record they sported (348 points for, 458 against = 6.2 expected wins, 11.8 expected losses).

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