I’m still watching film of the preseason opener. Overall, I like what I see. Dallas is a very physical team that Denver had to stand up to, and the starting offense put together a nice early drive and basically took a bow, while the defense played on a bit. It’s a good start to the preseason - I want to see some production, and I liked what I saw early on defense. Since those are mostly the players that will be with the team later on, they were the ones that I tended to focus on.
A lot was made of free agency this year - the unprecedented number of UFAs, the unusual (but effective) signing of UDFAs as well as the inevitable draft, which once more featured the Broncos moving up and down the board effectively. Rookie signings went off without a hitch, and I don’t ever remember that happening before. Denver seems to be moving in a direction that meets both of their needs - they’re bringing in players who are veteran enough to play right now, and they’re getting veterans who are young enough to build on over time. I have to admit - add the way Denver’s moved around the draft board and the way they are handling the most important FA period in 10 years and you have to give credit where it’s due. The team looks a lot deeper, more talented and well-planned than the conglomeration of odds and ends they'd had each of the prior four or five years.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Legwold checks in on DT Marcus Thomas, who has of course played for a different defensive coordinator in each of his five NFL seasons with the Broncos. Thomas, who will only be turning 26 next month, tells Legwold that, "Every year it seemed like I was trying to learn a new system, learn something new," followed by the obligatory, "I feel like this defense suits me and the things I can do."
As Legwold points out, Mike Shanahan called Thomas a "first-round talent" after he dealt three picks to the Vikings in a draft day trade for the 121st-overall pick the Broncos would use to select the ex-Gator. One of those picks (Denver's '08 third-rounder) would eventually end up with KC, who utilized it to draft Jamaal Charles. Interestingly, that #121 pick had been Denver's original fourth-rounder, but they'd dealt it away the year before as part of their two-part move up to get Jay Cutler, and other players tied to its transactions include WR Sidney Rice and the oft-rumored Denver target John Abraham. Pretty simple, right?
One thing that Denver is working hard on is defensive communication. The past two seasons were frequently marred by communication breakdowns on both offense and defense, which are a sign that the coaching isn’t getting through to the players. This year, Dennis Allen isn’t going to have any of it:
Dennis Allen’s voice is always heard loud and clear on the practice field and communication was key for the defensive coordinator during the walkthrough. “We have got to emphasize our communication,” Allen said repeatedly to his defense. “Don’t assume everyone knows the call.”
That seems so obvious, doesn’t it? Yet, if you look over the past two seasons, one consistency was that the players were often on different pages and the pointless penalties that usually come from a lack of communication and lapses in concentration - false starts, offsides, encroachment and so forth - were surprisingly common and broke up many Denver drives and lengthened opponents' possessions unnecessarily.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! The Broncos have been a bit banged up at receiver, but Eddie Royal did catch passes yesterday on a field adjacent to practice and should be back in full this week. Royal has been hampered by soreness in his previously healthy hip, presumably due to him compensating for his surgically repaired one. Plus, Matthew Willis was limited in practice and TE Richard Quinn will be out 2-4 weeks with a strained MCL.
Meanwhile, the team waived/injured WR Mark Dell and will likely place him on IR if he clears waivers; Dell suffered a serious knee injury in Thursday's game. They replaced him with former Purdue WR Greg Orton, who was an undrafted signee of the Bengals in 2009 and appeared in three preseason games for Cincy that year.
The defensive backfield has some interesting plot twists coming into view this week. Second-year player and former UDFA out of Mississippi, Cassius Vaughn (4 tackles, 1 assist) had a young players’ game - he made some mistakes and made some great plays. His mistakes tended to be from trying to do too much, but he played very well overall. Perrish Cox (no tackles) had some good plays and an excellent INT; he’s struggled in his attempt to change to nickelback, which is a new position for him. Despite his legal struggles, there’s no question that he’s a talented player - his interception showed that - but Denver can’t count on him being around all season, to be real about it. Vaughn has taken more naturally to the nickel position and as a result he has been getting reps with the first-team nickel package, the second-team base defense (left cornerback), the second-team nickel package and all of the special-teams units, in one role or another. He’s also the No. 2 kickoff returner behind Eric Decker, and looks to have a roster slot locked up in a defensive backfield that’s going to be tough to make.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! The details of Matt Prater's DUI arrest are pretty embarrassing*, laughable within the context that nobody got hurt and it all occurred within the confines of a parking lot. Sounds like our idiot kicker picked up a waitress/bartender/stripper at Shotgun Willie's, backed his Blazer into a parked car, and then tried to get a room in the hotel of said parking lot after being yelled at by a bunch of witnesses. When that didn't work out, he ditched the young lady and headed over to a nearby La Quinta where the police found him.
Prater then proceeded to fail his sobriety test and took a breathalyzer test at the police station, telling the cops along the way, "I really messed up. I'm going to lose my job. I deserve this." Meanwhile, the Broncos released the following statement:
Our organization is disappointed with the poor judgment shown by Matt Prater on Aug. 2. This matter, which was addressed with the team last week, continues to be thoroughly reviewed internally.
Drinking and driving is without doubt a serious matter, as comedic as this tale appears to be. But let's just be glad no one was injured, and hope that Prater and his teammates learn a good lesson from his shenanigans.
* Speaking of embarrassing, I'm reminded that I forgot to mention that it's Doc's birthday today! Please join all of us in wishing Doc a happy one, with many healthy ones to come!
In case you were wondering why the Broncos had Steven Hauschka still on the roster and playing last night, it wasn't just to keep starting placekicker Matt Prater fresh. Turns out, the team may need him at some point this year - if and when Prater is suspended by the NFL. Why would he be suspended? Well, Prater was arrested last week for DUI in Greenwood Village. Apparently, Prater's hefty raise from $550K last year to $1.835M this season on a restricted tender couldn't afford the guy a cab or designated driver. And to top it all off, he was also charged with fleeing the scene of an accident. Idiot kickers...
The IAOFM staff will be discussing and analyzing every Broncos game this year, and we'll present each of those conversations the day following the game.
TJ - I'm prepping my formations chart. Interestingly enough, I never used the 23 personnel package with the Broncos last year on the chart! Haha now it will be common
Ted - So I'm dating a new girl lately, and I schooled her on the not bothering me during Broncos games rule. She seems to get it, thankfully.
Doug - Ted, a little early to be making that claim, no? I mean, they haven't even kicked off yet...
Ted - Well, yeah... that's a point, Doug. We'll see how it plays
Doug - So, what's noteworthy on the Cowboys? And best, realistic case tonight? Orton and Tebow both play well, defense rushes the passer all night?
Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Overall, it was a very encouraging preseason-opening performance by Denver last night in losing to Dallas 24-23 (box score). Both of Denver's starting lines controlled the action pretty well, although there was a divergence beyond the first teams as the defensive line showed plenty of depth while the offensive line showed practically none. All three QBs looked mostly very good: Kyle Orton displayed his usual poise, although his familiar immobility also popped up and contributed largely to his sole possession ending with Denver settling for a short FG. Tim Tebow was skittish on his first drive and was fortunate to get a PI call on a terrible decision/throw, but recovered quite nicely after that. Brady Quinn looked poised and confident in the second half, like a quality backup NFL QB - especially so on a horrific bounced snap which he calmly turned into a TD pass to Eron Riley.
Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee both ran well, and Jeremiah Johnson showed why he's been drawing so many raves in camp. His speed (which far exceeds that of the other RBs) and potential to be a change-of-pace guy could make it difficult to cut him. On defense, the star of the game for Denver was probably new DC Dennis Allen, who showed that his strong safeties will be quite active - Brian Dawkins, revelation Kyle McCarthy and Quinton Carter all were very involved, in a good way. Meanwhile, S/CB swingman Nate Jones struggled all game long and Perrish Cox outplayed Cassius Vaughn despite sitting below him on the depth chart. The third-string defense was quite poor, but who cares, right?
Before you can walk, you'll need to crawl.
Or you can just watch Ryan Clady bury some dude in the turf.
For all of the talk about Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow, and even Brady Quinn, the real story of the Broncos' offseason should have been the running game.
The Broncos--for the meat of the game tonight--controlled the line of scrimmage from both sides. Their third-string defense ultimately gave up the game 24-23, but by that time, the verdict on the Broncos' toughness had already been rendered.
This year, the Broncos will run. This year, the Broncos will stop the run.
While one half of a preseason game does not a season make, it appears as if the additions of John Fox and Dennis Allen are going to bring respectability back to the ground game in Denver.
That, and a lot of versatile defensive linemen.