Fat off the Bone: Week 2 - Bengals

Last week we took a look at the Raiders and their preference for motion and use of the single tight end in most of their personnel packages.

In order to give the Broncos something they hadn't seen on tape, the Raiders started the game with even more motion and several three-back sets.  It was a sound strategy by Hue Jackson; it took the Broncos several series to adjust.

You should expect to see a wrinkle like this each week from the Broncos' opponents.  They know the Broncos watch their last three to four games and chart formations, packages, and tendencies, just like we are doing.   So they've got to surprise the Broncos, even if only for a drive or two.

This week we take a look at the Bengals.  Unlike the Raiders, it does us absolutely no good to scout any games from last year. The Bengals have a new offensive coordinator with a West Coast philosophy and a different quarterback in rookie Andy Dalton.  Anything we might have learned from last year would have been wasted.

So we've got a one-game sample from which to scout these cats--not preferable, but better than a kick to the family jewels.

Let's see what we can glean.

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The Daily Lard 9-17-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The team is apparently scheduled to work out veteran safety Darren Sharper on Tuesday along with at least one defensive lineman and several backs, including former Pats/Seahawks/Niners RB Thomas Clayton. But according to Jason La Canfora, it's highly unlikely the Broncos will sign Sharper, who most recently worked out for the Patriots and apparently turned down contract offers from two teams this summer. La Canfora figures the Broncos are simply working Sharper out in case of an injury later in the season. Of course, Sharper is plenty familiar with Dennis Allen, who was his secondary coach with the Saints for the past two seasons.

Bengals QB Andy Dalton was a full participant in practice yesterday and has been cleared to start on Sunday, while DE Robert Geathers is doubtful to play and T Andrew Whitworth is listed as probable.

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Lloyd limited in practice; Jeremiah Johnson to dress

Brandon Lloyd was limited today in his return to practice, while Champ Bailey, Elvis Dumervil and Knowshon Moreno again missed practice; all four are listed as questionable for Sunday's game versus Cincinnati, and Baily does not sound optimistic about his own status. Meanwhile, Mike Klis is reporting that RB Jeremiah Johnson will be activated from the team's practice squad as Moreno is expected to miss the game. No word on whom the team will release or waive to create room for Johnson on the roster.

Digesting the Bengals

Happy Friday, friends.  When we last talked I was depressed, and really down on Kyle Orton.  Today I’m doing fine, and I’m still really down on Kyle Orton.  A few of his cheerleaders on this site tried to get me to argue with them about Orton’s suckitude, but I have a long-standing policy of not arguing; I just say what I think.  Besides, their rationalizations are about as meaningful to me as a billboard is to John Fox.  He trusts his eyes, and I trust mine.  This article is not about Kyle Orton, though, so let’s get down to the business of digestion.  (Hat tip to broncosmontana for suggesting the title in last week’s comments.  We’re going with it every week.)

Game Watched : Week 1 at Cleveland

Bengals Defense

a.  My general observation is that the Bengals seem to have two tactics that they use frequently: They either line up in a Cover-2 look and play Cover-2, or they line up in a blitz/man look and blitz and play man-to-man.  There’s very little effort to disguise what’s coming on defense, or to disguise who is blitzing when they blitz.  They’re keeping it simple and trying to just go out and execute, and that kind of makes them parallel to the Colts' way of playing offense, except that the Colts (with Peyton Manning) are a lot better at executing on offense than the Bengals are at executing on defense.

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Conclusion reached on Tebow? Lard 9-16-11

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Fascinating radio conversation Wednesday between Sandy Clough and Woody Paige, with the latter stating that the Broncos' decision makers 1) are not fond of Kyle Orton's quarterbacking skills 2) believe Tim Tebow is not ready to be an NFL QB now, if ever 3) would be willing to deal Tebow to Baltimore in exchange for a third-rounder prior to the trade deadline (according to Clough, Peter King said on satellite radio the other day that Baltimore would have interest in such a deal).

This calls to mind a few thoughts: What if the main source for Mike Silver's controversial column from last month really was John Elway? You know, the one that says Tebow was the fourth-best QB in training camp behind undrafted rookie Adam Weber, and that the team felt as if it had dodged a bullet when it failed to trade Orton to Miami and open the starting QB gig for Tebow? (Let's not suggest that there's fiction among Silver's writing, or how else would he ever gain readmittance to Dove Valley to perform his job? This was not an opinion piece from afar, but an article with exclusive quotes gathered in person, and as TJ reminded us last night, Silver and Elway go way back.)

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Gut Reaction: Neither Tebow nor Orton

Last week, I mentioned John Elway's true intentions--get a quarterback in 2012.

Woody Paige confirmed this yesterday with Sandy Clough, based on hours of conversations with Elway and John Fox--namely, that the Broncos like neither Kyle Orton nor Tim Tebow (you can get the meat of this at the 13-minute mark).  Brady Quinn isn't even in the equation.

I've been asked how I can make such a claim.  Rather than repeat myself endlessly, I'll let Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power say it brutally and wonderfully:

Judge people by the results of their actions and maneuvers, not their words. Machiavelli calls this “the effective truth,” and it is his most brilliant concept, in my opinion. It works like this: people will say almost anything to justify their actions, to give them a moral or sanctimonious veneer. The only thing that is clear, the only way we can judge people and cut away all of this crap is by looking at their actions, the results of their actions. That is their effective truth.

This isn't about liking Tebow or liking Orton.  If you want to debate who's better and who should start, feel free, but it's not what I'm talking about.  I'm talking about accepting John Elway's behavior for what it is, and not for what we hope it to be.  It's a simple matter of paying attention to the organization's actions rather than their soundbites.

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Understanding the new on-field safety rules for 2011

I took a little time recently to work through the published rule changes for 2011, which you can find here on the team's official site. Most of it I’m very comfortable with, and a lot I’m strongly in favor of. The change that has already gotten the least fan support, for obvious reasons, is kicking off from the 35. What’s that about? The stats have shown an unacceptably high level of injury on special teams, particularly kickoffs. It’s really that simple. The NFL has decided that sending those 11 men flying full speed down the field, running into wedges (which are also now illegal) and hitting other players with a 20-yard run-up just isn’t worth the injury list. Much as I thrill to a great kickoff return like anyone else, I do support this one - player safety can’t be a catch phrase. It has to be turned into rational policy, and in this case, that’s what they’ve done. You’ll still see long TD returns, and shorter TD returns - perhaps not as many. You will see a greater benefit from a kicker with a big leg and an injury roster with less names. There’s a tradeoff, no doubt. I’m fine with it - it’s going to extend careers.

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The Daily Lard 9-15-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Over at PFF, Khaled Elsayed analyzes Monday's loss, calling Raiders LB Kam Wimbley the star of the night and crediting Von Miller with playing a game that hints at future stardom. The only other positive on the Broncos' ledger was the effort of Jason Hunter - no mention of Brian Dawkins. As for assigning blame, PFF graded all of the offensive linemen as having losing performances, especially Orlando Franklin and Chris Kuper, while Kyle Orton did not fare well under pressure. Let us know if you've heard that one before.

Meanwhile, Nathan Jahnke reviews the Bengals' victory over the Browns on Sunday, basically saying they won because they just managed to suck less than Cleveland did. Jahnke writes that DEs Robert Geathers (who did not practice yesterday) and Carlos Dunlap combined to apply plenty of pressure on Colt McCoy, that Cedric Benson had an impressive game, and that QB Andy Dalton forced plenty of passes and was lucky to not turn the ball over more and cost the Bengals the game. But Bruce Gradkowski graded out even worse, and aside from his quick-snap TD with nobody in coverage, he only completed 11 passes for 51 yards.

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Wednesday Musings: Surveying Monday night’s Mess

The Broncos are reeling from the awful performance they put out on the field Monday night. The offense was dreadful and the defense, although I saw some good things, still was vulnerable to runs on the weakside and up the middle. What was even more frustrating for fans and team alike is that the Broncos still were within striking range of the lead several times and failed to capitalize. Kyle Orton gave the worst performance of his career, and I’ve watched every game of his since the 2005 season. All in all - it was dreadful.

It’s not without its good sides. Overall, Dennis Allen called a good game. The same can’t be said for Mike McCoy, although he started to make better calls as the play went on. But the offense couldn’t seem to carry out anything he asked of them - so in one sense, it’s hard to judge. During the game, though, I was alternately watching the staff chat and watching the game, and a note went by that had been going through my own head for a while.

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The Daily Lard 9-14-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Woody Paige is annoyed with claims that the team may not have fared any better Monday night had Tim Tebow been the quarterback, and frankly so am I. So, Kyle isn't the only problem. The offensive line isn't so great, the run defense was iffy for much of the game and poor late, and the team as a whole exhibited a complete utter lack of discipline. But why does the fact that Orton is not the only player at fault mean he deserves to keep the starting gig?

So, the pass protection isn't that great. In that case, do you prefer a QB who steps/shuffles/slides his way into a sack multiple times per game and at best throws it away under serious pressure? Or would you like to give your team a chance to make winning plays when there's a little bit of pressure? Let's not call this a knee-jerk reaction to one little game either, or was nobody watching the preseason when Orton was doing the very same thing? Look, I'm not saying Orton is a terrible QB. He's not - we saw him turn in some excellent performances over his first two seasons in Denver. But to truly excel, the guy needs a lot of good things happening around him: big, clean pockets, a solid running game which he will not contribute to (Monday's one first down aside), and apparently a dry, sunny day. Tebow may not be the answer, but we might as well find out. If he's not, Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley or Landry Jones might be...

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