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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Gut Reaction: Preseason Week 3 - Broncos vs 49ers

The Broncos won't win all their games this year.

But they'll be in every game.

This afternoon, the Broncos showed their starters can dominate anyone. The 49ers--already crowned the kings of the NFC by the national media, as they kiss the ring of Jim Harbaugh--could barely move the ball against the Broncos' first-string defense.  And Peyton Manning and Co.?  They only shredded the 49ers starters like they were straight out of the Oakland Raiders' prison league.

It's the depth that scares the hell out of me.

The Broncos are only deep at a few positions.  Unfortunately, I can't remember what they are right now.  Let's just hope the the starters can make it through sixteen games and go about our business for now.

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Open Thread: Preseason Week 3 Broncos vs 49ers

Enjoy the game, and Go Broncos!

A Second Helping of Robert Ayers vs Seattle

On Friday, we examined a fine play made by Nate Irving in run defense against the Seahawks, and promised we'd analyze the play which immediately followed. Unfortunately for Robert Ayers, what we'll find explains why he's dropped on this year’s depth chart.

I’ve supported Ayers in the past, but whether you agreed or disagreed, I could always show you why I felt that way on game film. During this training camp, Jack Del Rio talked about Ayers’s need to focus - on his play and on the things that he can control - not on those he cannot. What follows is an example of what JDR was talking about:

Seattle is facing second down with eight yards to gain, and Denver is in its base Cover 2 defensive alignment; Ayers is at the right defensive end position. Elvis Dumervil may be getting a few less reps there as the Broncos search out ways to bolster their run defense, which Ayers has always been good at. The Seahawks are in 12 personnel with the quarterback Russell Wilson under center and two tight ends on the offensive right. 

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Injury bug still biting Steelers Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! As we would expect, Peyton Manning tells Woody Paige he's not looking beyond 2012 when he envisions his Broncos career.

That's not to say he's planning a farewell tour this season, and Paige stresses that the Broncos plan for Peyton to be around for at least three seasons. As we pointed out the other day and Woody notes, the structure of Manning's contract tells us all we need to know there.

And although Peyton says all the right things in terms of trying to win a SB this year, out of respect for those teammates who will be gone in a year's time, he sounds like a guy who isn't quite sure what to expect of himself this season.

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More face-palms, more brain trauma

Happy Saturday, friends.  I’m back for Part 2 of Holding John Clayton Accountable for Sucking Fest 2012 (here's Part 1).  Some of you complained and criticized me for undertaking such a project yesterday.  Your concerns are noted, and are being taken under advisement.

Today, we continue our slog through the Chad Pennington Division, and then make our way into the Hit or Miss Division.  If you can believe it, the reasoning gets worse the further we go.  To wit:

Alex Smith hadn’t yet put together a complete effective season before last year, so Clayton rated him 28th.  That was reasonable, though I’ve always liked Smith, and would have had him a bit higher.  My issue with this paragraph is that Clayton treats the movement between last year’s ranking and this year’s ranking as an event.  Look here, John -  you made a statement based on some evidence, ultimately got proven wrong, and now you’re making a new statement based on additional evidence.  Smith just played good football, stayed healthy, and showed himself to be a winning player.

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Replacements still duds Lard

Good Morning/Afternoon, Broncos fans! Jim Leonhard went full-contact for the first time this year in practice yesterday (photos); Kevin Vickerson also put on the pads as he comes back from a concussion, but he did not work full-contactthere's a chance he'll play in tomorrow's home game against the 49ers.

As expected, Leonhard received some punts in practice yesterday, as did Syd'Quan Thompson, Matthew Willis, and Andre Caldwell. The return ability of Leonhard and Thompson could go a long way toward determining which of them make the final 53.

Keith Brooking and Mike Mohamed remained sidelined, and Brooking is unlikely to play in the final preseason game - making the decision whether to keep him a rather difficult one. Final cuts are due next Friday night, just hours after the Thursday night preseason finale in Arizona.

The team did move one small step closer to the 75-man limit that looms on Monday, as they waived injured WR Tyler Grisham yesterday.

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