The Daily Lard 2-2-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Gather 'round, kids - it's time for another episode of Learning With Woody. Today's lessons:

  1. March 8 (when Peyton Manning's roster bonus is due) falls this year "at the end of" the month.
  2. Denver isn't close enough to the SB for Manning to join the Broncos, but the Redskins and Dolphins are.¹
  3. The Broncos would have gone 4-12 if Kyle Orton was the QB all year, and this is an indisputable fact.
  4. Demaryius Thomas drops too many passes and runs "pretty lousy" routes.
  5. Denver needs better from Thomas, because Tebow "can make that (deep) throw." ²

Now to the actual journalism (maybe): Woody's sense is the Broncos will give Tim Tebow all of 2012 to prove whether he should be their long-term QB or not, and if not then they'll draft a new guy high in the 2013 Draft.

¹ This is not a suggestion that Manning should come to Denver. Really, it's not.
² According to PFF, Tebow ranked 28th out of 31 QBs in terms of deep passing accuracy, despite the 10th-lowest drop rate on such passes (only two drops in 63 attempts).*

* Not saying Tebow can't throw deep or can't improve. Just presenting facts.

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The truth about altitude and late season swoons

When I first moved to Colorado, I was coming from about 250 ft of altitude in Chicago (where I was born) to 9,200 feet up in Summit County. For those not in Colorado, it’s an hour up the interstate 70 and through either Loveland Pass or the Eisenhower Tunnel to get to the main area of the county, which includes Breckenridge, Frisco, Keystone, Silverthorne and other towns and areas. I loved it from the first time I saw it, years before I moved up there.

And, for years after, I’d find myself breathing differently just to go up six steps. It wasn’t hard - but I’ve been told that there’s only a third of the oxygen that there would be in Denver, the Mile High City, so you simply pant more. Denver has a third less oxygen than the air at sea level. Later I trained heavily at the altitude at the Continental Divide and I found that by going down to Denver, still a mile up, to work out it was like drinking oxygen soup. When you train at altitude, you adapt and you get in that kind of condition. I shared a clinic with an expert on high altitude nutrition for the first year I was there and there was no shortage of such cases, so I got a fast indoctrination into the concepts of training at altitude and nutritional approaches to preventing altitude sickness. I then spent another 15 years or so living down lower at the connection of SW Denver metro and the foothills, and I learned about adjusting to that altitude. It’s not complicated. Friends from sea level would visit and quickly adapt. Many did so in a few days which is medically about normal. Rehydrating consistently and taking simple over the counter nutrients is all that’s required in the vast majority of cases. And a professional athlete is at a vastly lower risk than an average person.

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The Daily Lard 2-1-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The Super Bowl is only four days away, but the biggest news in Indy continues to circle around Peyton Manning, who says his recovery is on schedule and that he has no plans to retire. In an interview with the Worldwide Leader, Manning said,

I really feel good. I continue to make progress every day. Everything that the doctors have told me has been on point, which is encouraging to me. I just had a great day today with rehab, just got back from the facility, and that's what we continue to do. Just keep trying to get better. So far I have. That's the plan from here on out.

Meanwhile, he told Dan Wetzel.

I have no plans on [retiring]. All the other talk, it is what it is. My plan hasn’t changed. I’m on track with what the doctors told me to do. I’m doing that. I’m rehabbing hard. And I’m enjoying this week.

Barry Petchesky thinks Peter King and Jason Cole went a bit far in their coverage of Manning's rehab this week; in their younger days, Peyton used to dole out some knowledge along with the beatings he gave Eli.

 

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Scouting the Senior Bowl defenders

As we ramped up to the Senior Bowl, a few names came up that Broncos fans may want to keep an eye on. There’s little doubt that Denver will need a top man corner in the near future. Safety is an issue, with Brian Dawkins unsure of his return and the number of injuries that have plagued the team at that position. Then there’s the running back the Broncos need, probably a wide receiver (although hopefully a veteran who can teach and catch, like, oh, Jabar Gaffney or someone) and the constant need for ever-better defensive line players. The OL is very young already, but you never miss a chance to upgrade if you can take it rationally. Since you can only do so much, I mostly wanted to take a look at some of the names that we can watch on defense, given the issues that Denver has there.

Denver’s front office and scouting team did a heck of a job of putting together a front defensive line for 2011, but there’s still some work to do going forward. They have a one-gap penetrating line that needs the discipline to sniff out the screen, but the ability to get pressure consistently. Former longtime NFL GM Ernie Accorsi said once, in essence, that beyond a QB and his protection, you can’t have too many pass rushers. Defenses that also play the run tough are even more difficult to go up against. Getting a first-rounder with both attributes, if he’s still there, makes the middle more powerful early on. It’s one option.

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The Daily Lard 1-31-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Let's lead off with a phenomenal quote from Von Miller (via Jeff Legwold) about being taken off the field during Denver's Week 5 home loss to the Chargers. Keep in mind, Von is only 22 years old (he'll turn 23 in March):

Something like that had never happened to me before. They took me off the field, and I had to watch other people play because of my mistakes. I felt like I was better than that and that it would make me stronger, but right then you kind of think you weren't ready. But they want to see how you do with that too. You can't just fold up. You have to be strong. I was determined to be strong and show the coaches and my teammates that I'm a guy they can rely on.

That's a remarkable bit of self-awareness and perspective, especially from an elite young athlete. One has to figure the Broncos didn't need to think long about whether to draft Von after seeing his tape and interviewing him at the Senior Bowl.

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The Daily Lard 1-30-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The AFC beat the NFC 59-41 in the Pro Bowl last night, and former Denver WR Brandon Marshall was the star of the show and MVP, catching six passes for 176 yards and a record four touchdowns.

Von Miller led all players with eight tackles and two tackles for loss, and he posted the game's lone sack, taking down Cam Newton for an 8-yard loss. Willis McGahee had 43 yards from scrimmage, Champ Bailey recovered a fumble, and Brian Dawkins played for the first time since leaving the Buffalo game early. Hopefully he came out of the game feeling okay and his health will allow him to keep playing. Denver's other Pro Bowlers were Elvis Dumervil and Ryan Clady.

Oh, and Drew Brees whiffed on a drop kick.

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Some quick and speculative observations about Del Rio and the 4-3

One gap or two?

Now that the Broncos have hired Jack Del Rio as their defensive coordinator, will they continue to run the aggressive one-gap 4-3 that Dennis Allen favored, or the rumored and virtually extinct two-gap version?

In order to get an idea, I went to the tape of twelve of the Jacksonville Jaguars' games over the last two years.  That's because Mel Tucker, the Jags' defensive coordinator, had been rumored to be contemplating a switch to a two-gap system, but it never happened under Del Rio's leadership.  And despite articles claiming that Tucker and Del Rio were running a 4-3 two-gap system in Jacksonville, I never saw it.

Play after play, game after game, when the Jags weren't in nickel or dime facing three- and four-wide receiver sets, they played a standard one gap 4-3. They often favored the 4-3 Over.  For a review of both the 4-3 Over and the 4-3 Under, you can click our Fat Camp feature on them from earlier in the season.

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The Daily Lard 1-29-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The biggest story out of Indy continues to be the Peyton Manning/Jim Irsay drama, rather than the Super Bowl being played there a week from tonight. In the latest development, Jason La Canfora reported that the Colts had already made the decision to move on from Manning several weeks ago. Naturally, Irsay has disputed the validity of that report, if anyone wants to believe him; Colts WR Reggie Wayne, who's about to hit unrestricted free agency, says the whole thing is like a soap opera.

Meanwhile, the Colts have hired Bruce Arians to run their offense - a week after the Steelers announced he was retiring and Arians said he was pushed out of Pittsburgh.

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Broncography: Jack Del Rio

New Broncos Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio was born in Castro Valley, CA on April 4, 1963 and attended Hayward High School, in California. Del Rio was active in sports from an early age, and he played football and baseball for the school, where he was a teammate of former Seattle Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu. Del Rio was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays right out of high school, but after some thought, he decided to attend college at USC. He was recruited by John Robinson, and history records that he made a very good decision.

He continued his sports career with the Trojans, playing both baseball and football for them. In football Jack was a linebacker - 6’2” and 246 lb by the end of his time there, he started for the Trojans for four straight years. During that time, he was a consensus All-American as a senior as well as runner-up for the Lombardi Award, but didn’t wait for then to shine. USC went 30-15-1 while he was there, ranking in the top 20 teams in the country three of those four years. In addition to playing in the 1982 Fiesta Bowl, he was the MVP of the Rose Bowl in 1985.

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The Daily Lard 1-28-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Jack Del Rio will become Denver's seventh DC in seven seasons this year; he was also John Fox's first DC with the Panthers in 2002, Del Rio's only season as an NFL DC. Obviously, the familiarity for the two men is a plus, although presumably a successful 2012 has the great likelihood of Del Rio landing another HC gig the following year. But, let's worry about that when the time comes.

Terms of Denver's deal with Del Rio were not disclosed, although the coach will make $5 million in 2012 - the salary he's owed by the Jaguars. Whatever the Broncos pay him, Jacksonville will owe Del Rio the difference of the two figures. Denver also hired former Jaguars strength coach Luke Richesson.

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