Before I get to this week's picks, let me give you a quick scouting report on the Miami Dolphins.
They try to run. When that doesn't work, Brandon Marshall tries to push off up the field to get separation. Call it the bully route.
It's not been working that well this year. In fact, it's been a bit clumsy.
Gee, where have I heard that before?
Look for the trend to continue.
Now, on to the picks.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! You know what really grinds my gears? People like Dan Gainor (whom Kiszla quotes extensively in his column today) who say they're rooting for Tim Tebow because he's a "good role model" and a "player whose jersey you can wear and not worry about wanting to burn it tomorrow" because presumably he's not engaging in any scandalous behavior. Right, because most players are involved in scandals? Are the Broncos lacking in role models? What's wrong with Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins, Elvis Dumervil, Eddie Royal, or Kyle Orton among the notable Denver veterans?
What's even funnier, is that Gainor goes on to say that if whatever criticism is directed at Tebow were instead aimed at a racial minority, there would be quite the backlash. This prompts a simple question. Would folks like Gainor be so interested in Tebow or in extolling his virtues if Tim weren't white?
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Denver is hoping to have Julius Thomas in action tomorrow, although he's listed as questionable. Brian Dawkins, Demaryius Thomas, Eddie Royal and Willis McGahee are all listed as probably and will play.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins are banged up at free safety and are unlikely to have usual starter Reshad Jones (doubtful) and his main backup Chris Clemons (questionable). That leaves Tyrone Culver, who's primarily a special-teams player, and Gerald Alexander (who was just re-signed on Wednesday) to man the position. CB Vontae Davis and TE Will Yeatman are also questionable, while Brandon Marshall, Reggie Bush, LB Cameron Wake, RB Daniel Thomas, and CB Nolan Carroll are all listed as probable.
Happy Friday, friends. I hope you're hungry, because today we're going to munch on some Dolphins that got caught in the nets. The Broncos travel south to sunny Miami, where they've never won a regular season game. Since the Dolphins seem hell-bent on winning the Suck for Luck sweepstakes, it's looking like the Broncos will have a solid chance to end that streak. Can you hear the zealots? Tebow is the greatest ever! He did something that no Broncos QB has ever done!
Personally, I'd be happy with continuous improvement from Tebow, and effective overall play. If the Broncos get that, and if the defense plays like it did in the second half vs. San Diego, I feel pretty good about their chances to improve to 2-4. If not, there's always next week. Anyway, let's get on with the show. As En Vogue once said, Now it's time for a breakdown.
Game Watched: Dolphins at NY Jets (Week 6)
Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Chris Benson previews Sunday's game for PFF, and he's looking forward to seeing what Denver's young wideouts have to offer - he says Demaryius Thomas provides the most potential, and that Eric Decker must prove that he can get open without Brandon Lloyd commanding the attention of opposing defenses. Benson writes that winning the game (for either team) will be a matter of committing to the run and not making big/costly mistakes in the passing game, and he points out that Joe Mays has been very much hit or miss (literally) in run defense. In fact, Mays is among the leaders among inside backers in terms of defensive stops, but he's got a stomach-turning number of whiffed tackles (eight in five games).
Finally, Benson is interested to see how Orlando Franklin fares (along with whatever TE help Denver provides him) in keeping Dolphins pass rusher Cameron Wake away from Tim Tebow, and he considers it another important key to the game.
Welcome to the 2008 Gators Edition of the Stats That Don't Lie. After all, if the Dolphins are honoring Tim Tebow's championship team as he leads our Broncos into town, then who the hell are we not to do the same? In that light, for just this week we're going to name each category for a key figure from that title team.
Obviously, the context that overlies this Gators edition of STDL is that both teams have new quarterbacks - Tebow making his first start of the season, and Matt Moore making just his second for Miami, if his atrocious performance Monday night even counts. Let's get right to it...
For Jason Campbell last Sunday, it was just another play in a drive in a season in a year in which the Oakland Raiders were back, perhaps all the way back. The journey had been a tough one, but the Raiders had accumulated enough talent on both sides of the ball to survive the loss of TE Zach Miller. One of the first steps in the journey had been the signing of Campbell to a free-agent contract in 2010. At the time, Al Davis had declared that Campbell reminded him of Jim Plunkett. Davis foresaw great things from Campbell; he said that he knew Campbell wasn't going to let him down. It was thought that at the end of 2011, Campbell was going to sign a big-money extension with the Raiders if he had made good on his end of Davis' bargain.
Campbell had played well enough to lead the Raiders to a .500 record his first year and was gunning for nothing less than a playoff berth this year. So with 4:08 remaining in the 2nd quarter and the Raiders up 14-7 on the visiting Cleveland Browns, Campbell was going to do what he'd been doing all along when facing 3rd and long. He was going to make a play.
The Browns showed blitz and man-to-man coverage with two safeties over the top. Campbell instantly recognized the play was going to be trouble because all three of his primary receivers were either running a deep post or a deep out. In essence, his receivers were headed right into the teeth of the coverage.
It took Campbell only a flash to confirm his suspicion, step up in the pocket, and begin his swift scramble for the sticks just eight yards away...
Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his latest mailbag, Woody responds to more Tebow-centric witch-hunt-y questions about Brandon Lloyd, and of course he says that Brandon "wasn't a troublemaker" and "didn't conduct his business in public." Woody points to Brandon's intellect and skill and writes that just like any wide receiver (except Brandon Marshall, of course) BLloyd wanted to stay friendly with all of the QBs to ensure they threw him the ball. He says that most of these Broncos talk to the media off the record, although he doesn't mention whether that's unusual as far as Denver teams go, or any NFL squads, for that matter. Woody says Lloyd used to be a good source for anonymous quotes, since he of course is so well-spoken.
In response to a question about how Denver fans treat their players, Woody points out that fans are the same everywhere, and he's right. Here in New York, Mets fans bombard the call-in sports talk shows with their misery, and even worse, ownership tends to "hear' them and react by overpaying guys like Jason Bay, Frankie Rodriguez, Ollie Perez and Luis Castillo, seemingly to pacify ticketholders who want something big done yesterday. And of course, as soon as these ill-advised moves fail and the players don't live up to their contracts, there are those same fans, booing. Carlos Beltran, one of the very best players in Mets history, is remembered by most fans for not swinging at one of the timeliest and most devastating curveballs you'll ever see, rather than the graceful excellence he exhibited every night. So, Kyle Orton has had a rough time with the Broncos, but it's not Denver-specific. The grass is just always greener, with other quarterbacks, cities and fanbases alike.
When the 2011 season started, I found myself being more and more drawn to the play of the offensive line. Why? First were the conflicting reports on the play of J.D. Walton and Zane Beadles in training camp; second, the fact that three of the five starters are in their first or second NFL seasons; finally, since 2008, the Denver offensive line hasn’t been exactly the gold standard of the league. So, I wanted to get a much clearer picture of the group together. Every offensive play, run or pass, is dependent in degree on that group of men and given their youth, I’m hoping that some development might be visible over the season.
Over the years, at times I’ve talked to people who see the play of the OL in fairly simplistic terms, and in one sense, that’s very understandable. You’ve got a bunch of very large men in the center of the field - they fight with each other, and just how that affects the play might be obvious - the hole that the running back dashes through, the time the quarterback has to make his progressions, choose and make his pass - but exactly how the OL does or doesn’t achieve that may be both complex and obscure. The camera usually follows the ball, as do the eyes of most fans, and it’s not easy to teach oneself to watch certain players instead. Consider a single partial paragraph from Steve Belichick’s Football Scouting Methods, talking about the 3-4 nose guard and his interaction with the offensive line:
The Broncos took an apparent gamble on Monday when they replaced Brandon Lloyd on the active roster with S Rafael Bush instead of WR Eron Riley while Brian Dawkins recovers from a neck injury, and it may have cost them. The Jets have signed Riley off Denver's practice squad, and the Broncos have responded by bringing back WR D'Andre Goodwin to replace him; both Goodwin and Riley had made strong pushes to make the final roster with their play during the exhibition season. Hopefully we won't be looking back on this move as a younger sibling to the prior losses of Domenik Hixon and Josh Barrett.