If Broncos fans are thinking of how the offense is going to match up with the Chargers D, the San Diego papers are thinking about the same thing. This morning’s Union-Tribune ran a page 1 (Sports, of course – there’s another section of the paper?) article on the verities and weaknesses of the Charger D.
First in their sights was the play of Matt Wilhelm, the (currently) much maligned ILB. He acknowledged that right now, he’s been,
“…tentative at times, a step behind or out of the play.”
After two+ days of fighting the box monster I finally had enough time to sit down with the remote and pick apart as much of the Broncos tape as I could. I'm not a top analyist by any stretch, but there were a few things that I thought I'd like to share with the MHR community at large.
Two statistics on Cutler flew by me in the heat of the moment(s) and are worth repeating for those who might have missed them. Cutler is usually called a pocket passer but this is misleading. Over the past two years, he has the highest QB rating in the NFL when throwing from outside the pocket. That's right - numero uno.
MHR Regulars are familiar with my "respect" for the insight and analysis of SI's Peter King. Today, in his weekly Monday Morning QB column, he took the cake, and we can at least be happy that he wasn't directly slighting any Broncos in doing so.
The premise of his stupid article (he's relentlesslt consistent!) was that the suits at the NFL learned a lesson yesterday with Tom Brady's injury, that they shouldn't ever consider lengthening the regular season, because players get hurt. Where to begin with this bit of foolishness?
As a subscriber to Directv's Sunday Ticket package, I've had the chance to watch a lot of games today. The only ones I didn't watch any of were Buffalo-Seattle and San Francisco-Arizona. Observations on the other games follow.
San Diego – Opening Day
The morning fog slid over the waterfront like the greasy sauce on the enchiladas. The marine layer began to burn off just as the lattes were sliding into the cheaper seats in Qualcomm Stadium and another year of football was about to begin for the Chargers. It’s hard to sneak a 400 lb. Bear into the stadium, but I’m doing my job. I’m here to spy for the MHR.
The papers are but lightly filled with info on this team. The best article of the day was a short reflective on Charger history by Jerry Magee, and it might have been his last column for the Union-Tribune (downsizing – very sad). In it, he made the point that your record after having the most time to game-plan for any contest of the year matters - the best of coaches are ready to go for opening day (Shanahan is 11-4 on opening day going into tomorrow’s contest; Holmgren is next at 10-6). Norv Turner may not have read this, and certainly he didn’t internalize it – he’s now 4-7. The Chargers came out soft, unfocused, and ready to lose. They went on to carry out their game-plan.
When draft day rolled around this year, a lot of folks didn’t think that the Broncos had much of a chance. Pick #12 was a little too high for comfort, the critics said. There wouldn’t be a player there that was would be worth the high salary the pick demanded. Perhaps a running back, someone like Jonathan Stewart or even Mendenhall of Illinois, would give the Broncos that needed push, that power that Denver needed to put them back on top. More likely, it was said, they should think about trading down.
Others pointed to Chris Williams, himself of Vanderbilt, as one who could protect Cutler’s blind side. He might not be top 12 material, they admitted, but Lepsis retired because after years of hard work, finally injuries had taken their toll and he wasn’t ready to be any help. Pears wasn’t ready (if he ever would be) and Ryan Harris was too much of an unknown after two back surgeries at a young age. Yes, people generally agreed, Denver needed a LT, but Clady would be long gone and the second tier of those available might not be worth the money. So, go with a RB or improve a different category of player altogether.
It's well known (on this site at least) that the Broncos have both the most wins, and the highest degree of consistency in the last 30 years. Following them, in terms of average wins, are Pittsburgh, Miami, San Francisco, and Dallas. These teams all have a program, and it's the biggest reason for the sustained success.
I've always believed in the concept of a program, and I was reading Mike Lombardi the other day when he criticized Washington's lack of one. I liken the idea to a college football program, where a coach gets hired, and it's expected that he'll be there for a long time. He recruits and hires assistants, based upon specific overarching philosophies. If you think of a school like Penn State, they've been doing the same things for decades under Joe Paterno. When a kid commits to play there, he knows who the coaches will be, he knows how the schemes will look, and he knows Penn State will be competitive annually, and consistently bring in more good talent. The relentless consistency of the program is what breeds the consistency of the win-loss record.
Nationalfootballpost.com is a relatively new site which I really like, and find myself looking at on a daily basis now. Mike Lombardi (who also writes for SI,) Andrew Brandt, and Matt Bowen are the key players. Lombardi analyzes blurbs of beat writer articles each morning (Diner News) and talks about selected topics and mailbag inquiries at night (Tavern Talk.) Brandt deals with the business end of the NFL, and Bowen writes a weekly feature about NFL schemes, which is pretty in-depth and very worthwhile. They also have guest writers a lot, usually people you wouldn't think of, who end up adding value. A recent example was former NBA head coach Eric Musselman. There's a feature about making your woman love the NFL today.
This is a short compilation of excerpts from the current ESPN analysis of the raiders. After reading the San Fransisco Chronical’s view of the preseason, the part of me that slows to catch a glimpse of car crashes wanted to see more. I did.
I’d like to point out that I think the Raiders are a great test of our team. We will know, at the end of the game next Monday, if our changes to our run D are solid or not. The new scheme will be tested by some talented RBs. The Raiders pass D is very talented. Their run D, like ours, had been suspect (we were both awful) and they did things in the off season that, like us, they are happy with. They will be tested as well by the increasingly amazing arm of Cutler, Royal’s tremendous upside, Clady’s stoutness at LT and a solid, if not yet gifted group of RBs. We will see, of course, if Jackson and Colbert are the additions that we are looking for. Stokely is still one of the league’s best, and our TE’s are top rate. We will see if we have the pieces at the Dline, and if our safeties are up to the challenge on run D. It will be a very interesting contest.
Born in Hacienda Heights, Southern California, on January 222, 1983, the 6’4 Shaun Cody had a storied high school career at Hacienda Height HS, garnering USA Today All-USA Defensive MVP honors. He played in the first ever U.S. Army All-American Bowl game on December 30th, 2000. Advancing to college at USC, he was a first team All-American for the USC Trojans. He was the first Trojan since Chris Claiborne in 1998 to garner Pac-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors. The USC defense went on to shut down the Oklahoma Sooners in the ’04 Orange Bowl. Cody, along with Mike Patterson and linebackers Matt Grootegoed and Lofa Tatupu put on a defensive exhibition.