Good Morning, Broncos fans! DT Justin Bannan (calf) finally returned to practice without a hitch yesterday (photos, more photos), while newly-signed linebacker Keith Brooking (hamstring) left early for an MRI. T Ryan Harris (ankle) and FB Chris Gronkowski (groin) were back in action; LB Danny Trevathan (ankle), S Quinton Carter (knee), and S Jim Leonhard (knee) remain sidelined.
Carter's knee injury apparently dates back to last season, and its repair was prompted by the hamstring injury he suffered early in camp. TE Julius Thomas says his knee recovery is still only at 80%, but along with Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas, he was one of the day's standouts.
Eric Decker had a productive day working against Champ Bailey, and the backup running backs all made notable plays. Ronnie Hillman also made a big play, and he would have been active in the preseason opener were it not for the rainy conditions.
Happy Monday, friends. I’m going to be working to split my various pontifications and blatherings into smaller, and more frequent articles, and finally get with the spirit of the whole blogging thing. To that end, I’m going to be more topical, and less wide-ranging in each one.
Today, I decided to talk about the play of rookie QBs in their first preseason games, focusing on the five who seem to have a chance to start for their teams. I saw a lot of good play from these guys, for beginners, and I was mostly very impressed.
Andrew Luck - Indianapolis Colts, 1st pick
Luck looked excellent, especially in the areas of anticipation, footwork, ball handling, concept understanding, and accuracy. He even zipped a couple of deep outs a little better than I thought he could. His ball handling is the most impressive thing to me, and he obviously has a lot of background with play action from his time at Stanford.
Luck looked like he could be one of the best QBs in the NFL right away on Sunday, but there’s a huge caveat to that. He was playing against a really vanilla defense, and the Colts were running concepts that were specifically designed to beat those defenses. I’ll be interested to see how well the kid does in recognizing more exotic coverages and rush schemes once the season starts. In terms of handling the speed of the game, though, and executing NFL QB responsibilities, he’s beyond advanced.
8:17 remains in the fourth quarter of the Broncos' 31-3 preseason-opening victory over the Bears. Matt Blanchard is Chicago's quarterback and has his guys in a 113 (sometimes called ‘Posse’) shotgun formation, with his running back to his right and tight end Evan Rodriguez (88) outside the left offensive tackle, which creates the closed side* of the formation.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Andrew Mason updated his predictions for the Broncos' 53-man roster, and he has T Ryan Harris, DE Jeremy Beal, and LB Mike Mohamed among those on the outside looking in.
Despite fan dreams of Harris returning to form (and health) and playing a major role in a revamped offensive line, it's just not happening. Per Mason, the starting five is set, and it will be the same group that started all 16 regular season games together in 2011: LT Ryan Clady, LG Zane Beadles, C J.D. Walton, RG Chris Kuper, and RT Orlando Franklin.
While some of us have remained eternally hopeful that the 2008 version of Harris (the only one that played 16 games, and more than 11) would reappaear at some point, a reality check is in order. Harris dressed for a combined 19 games (18 starts) in 2009 and 2010, and none in 2011; so far in camp, he has worked behind both Chris Clark and Adam Grant. And although he's listed as being the second-string right tackle on the initial depth chart, the versatility (and health) of Clark and Grant give the slightly younger players (both are 26, Harris is 27) a distinct advantage.
Updated 9:52am ET
Earlier in the week came news that the Raiders had chosen to lower their blackout threshold. As a Broncos fan, I'm used to watching a franchise that has an infinitesimal chance of needing to manipulate the blackout rule, but living in San Diego for the last few years has afforded me an up-close view of a franchise that struggles to sell tickets despite having been fairly successful for much of the last decade.
While I understand that to the NFL, control of the product is considered an important linchpin in maintaining their revenue stream, I don't think that teams comprehend the basis for why the blackout rule is bad for both the teams and the fans. I’ve lived here for four years, and I have yet to hear anyone say, “Hey, I want to get to the game this weekend because they’re going to black it out otherwise.”
The truth is, in San Diego you’re fighting a beach-oriented culture in which schoolkids are bussed to the shore for surfing classes, street fairs can pop up at any time because there really isn’t a bad weather season, and the local NFL franchise really isn’t a big draw. The media coverage isn’t exactly fertile, and despite my own interest in the game, I rarely meet a serious Chargers fan. Contrary to some of my experiences on the Internet, the ones that i meet tend to be, well, SoCal folks - laidback, not that attached or as used to the teams’ shenanigans as Chicago's North Siders were to the losing ways of the Cubs.
Keith Brooking put on the pads for the first time since he signed on Monday, and even got into a scuffle with center J.D. Walton. The fifteenth-year veteran worked at the Will linebacker spot and is also expected to work at the Mike. Brooking says he needs to improve his familiarity with Denver's defensive scheme, and that he expects to be something of a mentor to the younger linebackers.
CB Tracy Porter strained an ab muscle, while LB Danny Trevathan (ankle), FB Chris Gronkowski (groin) sat out due to injuries from Thursday. T Ryan Harris (ankle) and DT Justin Bannan (calf) did not play Thursday or practice yesterday.
Ronnie Hillman returned to full-fledged action following his hamstring injury; fellow running back Xavier Omon and LB Wesley Woodyard excelled. So did S Rahim Moore, and Chris Harris appears to be holding onto his nickel corner role.
The team held a walkthrough in the evening and will have another day off today.
The Broncos have just capped off a seven-play, 52-yard drive with a Xavier Omon touchdown run to extend their lead to 17-0 over the Bears. After the ensuing kickoff, the Bears have the ball on their own 23-yard line with 6:23 to go in the third quarter of Thursday's preseason opener.
The Bears are arranged in a 21 (regular) ‘I’ formation with the tight end on the offensive left. The handoff will be going to #25, tailback Armando Allen, who is intended to follow his fullback and hit the closed side (the one with the tight end) of the formation. The fullback is to fake a block to the strong side and then cut back to the weak side for his blocking assignment. The tight end will help double-team the right defensive end along with the left tackle, or take on the safety if he cheats up.
Denver is in one of their 4-3 defensive fronts, this time using the (traditional) Will (Nate Irving, #56) in a two-point stance at the right end of the DL. From Irving, top to bottom, are right defensive end Cyril Obiozor (54), tackles Ben Garland (63) and Sealver Siliga (98), and left defensive end Jamie Blatnick (77). The four defensive linemen and the Will linebacker want to engage with the entire offensive line including the TE, unless he releases. Irving would take him in that event.
Good Morning/Afternoon, Broncos fans! There's been plenty of chatter about the possibility of the Broncos shifting right tackle Orlando Franklin over to guard, and of course, a lot of that took place right here at IAOFM. TJ has been beating that drum since a month after the team drafted the guy, while Ted and Doc have also mentioned the idea of using Franklin to replace Zane Beadles at left guard.
According to Jeff Legwold, the Broncos have indeed pondered a move, although it's not the one-for-one Franklin/Beadles swap. Rather, he says the team is is considering sliding Big O over one spot to Chris Kuper's right guard position, with Kuper likewise moving leftward as the one to replace Beadles.
Of course, the trick here is finding someone good enough to start at right tackle, whether it be Ryan Harris, Chris Clark, or even Beadles. Don't forget - Zane was a tackle at Utah, and his first six starts in the pros came at right tackle when Harris was injured in 2010.
Manning wasn't quite all there - several of his throws fluttered a bit - and his only possession ended with what appeared a poorly-placed throw at the goal line to Brandon Stokley which was tipped and intercepted. FWIW, Stokes claims he ran a poor route on the play, but we'll never know for sure.
But Peyton's legendary footwork, decision-making, and quick release were on full display, and from his postgame comments, it's clear he wasn't so sure a year ago that he'd ever be back in the NFL. Last night was obviously a big deal to Peyton, who we're guessing had as much nervous anticipation for a preseason game as he did for his very first one in 1998.