We've been talking for weeks now about the nose tackles in this league, on this team and in this draft. It seems that every time I turn around, some other NFL team has decided that the intelligent answer to the short passing-based attack that has been sweeping the NFL is to move to the versatility of the 3-4 formation. As more and more teams use this attack as their primary or secondary weapon (in the case of some of the hybrids formations, another commonality in the NFL right now), there is a growing demand for nose tackles. Big ones and shorter ones, faster and slower ones, nose tackles are becoming one of the talks of the league.
Born in Arkansas, the son of Amos and Elsie Branson, and growing up in Starkville AK, Marquez Branson is one of two things. Depending on exactly how you like to see the world, either he's a converted wide receiver who doesn't really fit anywhere in the NFL game, or he's another of the multi-talented, versatile players that coaches like Josh McDaniels is looking for. After only a single season on the Denver Broncos practice squad, it's really anyone's guess which one he is, but right now he's someone who is clearly worth keeping an eye on.
Branson's name has come up in two different capacities in the past week. First of all, he's ostensibly a tight end and the Broncos seem to be debating the future of Tony Scheffler with the club. At about 6'3 and somewhere between 242 and 250, he's obviously somewhat light for the position right now, but has the frame to fill out another 10-20 lbs over the next few years.
Eddie Royal didn't have the 2009 that he had intended to have. On the other hand, Eddie Royal is a man who is used to difficult experiences.
You could say that his whole life was just such an experience - he was the last child born into a family of seven children. He and his siblings were raised by Pearl Royal, who was a single mother. The family stayed together. They went to church together. Sometimes there wasn't much food, but Pearl was a constant positive role model for Eddie. Eddie saw people in his life making the wrong decisions and it drove him to do better. He realized from an early age just what was and what was not important in life. One of those things was an education. Eddie realized that he could play football pretty early on. His choice of Virginia Tech showed that he was just as concerned with his classroom work as he was with the playing field. He did well at both.
Things change. In the case of the Broncos, the changes have come fast and have shaken people up. From the moment that Pat Bowlen announced that he'd fired Mike Shanahan, most of our preconceptions about this team have been thrown into the fire. What remains is different from anything we expected about this offseason.
Topping the list has been the situation that resulted in the Cutler trade. Chris Simms was brought in as a highly-paid backup and will now compete for a starting job. Kyle Orton was a rumor and a name that crossed some website - now he's a household name in Denver, and fans debate his background and skill-set with fervor. And there is still the specter of Jay Cutler and what he was able, and not able, to accomplish last season.
McDaniels and the Broncos
Growing up in Canton, Ohio as the son of the high school coach is an invitation to a tough adolescence. Josh McDaniels didn't mind the added scrutiny. After all, he would later be the quarterback of the McKinley High School team anyway, as his brother, Ben, would after him. The scrutiny just went with the territory. Even at that age, it rarely seemed to bother him.
People out there will never understand the pressure Josh was under his whole high school career," said Jack Rose, who coached against the McDaniels' McKinley High School while coaching Massillon Washington High School. "The people of McKinley were tough to play for. I'm going to tell you right now, that Cutler guy never went through what Josh McDaniels went through in high school. He was really a good player, had a great winning record at McKinley, and people were always (complaining) about him. It toughened him. It made him stronger for what he's facing today. How he handled it back then, it's not surprising how he handled what's been going on out there now.
Tough is one thing; death threats are another. When Josh and his younger brother Ben took the bus to school, there was a time when police cruisers had to follow the bus. Thom McDaniels had received a death threat and one that had mentioned kidnapping this sons. It didn't stop Thom, it didn't stop his boys, and life went on. Signs were planted on the lawn of the McDanielses' large, A-framed house, making more threats. Nothing changed. The family went about its business. In his typically understated way, Josh referred back to those days this year.
"Tis a happy thing to be a father onto many sons..." Shakespeare, King Henry the VI, Part III
It's the week that some of us have been waiting for: the week when the Denver Broncos will wrestle with the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels have a relationship and a friendship; the roots of both go deep. They are far more than mentor and disciple. They are currently professional equals, and their teams will meet on a level playing field and fight for victory in a single contest. It's a great story, and a great opportunity for the Broncos. Many will be the discussion of each team's strengths and weaknesses, and that's as it should be. I wanted to know something a little deeper.
I love to study football; its history, its systems, coaching, scouting, formations and schemes, film breakdowns and stories. I love to know where the players come from, what has driven them, why they traveled the road that they have. And I've been just as interested in its coaches. for those that know me, I also promise to keep this one substantially shorter than Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples.
Question - Is Mario Haggan an ILB, an OLB or a coach? Answer - he sure is. And that explains a lot. It explains why the Broncos were glad to give him a contract extension on Wednesday and why he was also announced as a team captain on the same day.
He is a product of relative poverty, a man who knew that sports were a way upward in his life. Mario Marcell Haggan was born on March 3, 1980, in Clarksdale, Miss. He comes out of the Deep South, a man who went to college at Mississippi State following an All-American status while at Clarksdale High School. While there, he was named first-team all-state by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and played in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game... Mario also led his team to the state Class 4A championship in 1997. As a senior, he recorded 158 tackles with three fumble recoveries. He also earned All-American status with USA Today. Even so, the offers to play in college didn't exactly roll in, but he found interest from a few. As is his way, Mario wanted to stay near home.
As the glow from Thursday's game starts to fade every so slightly, and the nervous anticipation of opening the 2009 season on the road in Cincinnati begins to build, it seems appropriate to take a few moments to look back at the path taken and the job done by rookie quarterback Tom Brandstater - his background, his performances and his development. I think that despite the widely differing opinions that folks have as to the path the Broncos have taken to get here, and the variance between our visions of the future, there are probably relatively few Denver fans who don't recognize that they have caught a glimpse of a team as it could be. The aggressive defense, the excellent TO ratio, the high caliber play from the first string and the third and the play of a rookie quarterback who seemed to play with ice in his veins and passion in his heart, who made passes at all levels, moved well and showed how quickly he picks up the new scheme rang in a harmonious chord.
In Texas, football is a religious experience. There are three states - California, Florida and Texas - that lead the country in candidates for the NFL, but Texas has an energy all its own. The fervor of their passion pounds through the veins of fans and young players like the rush of liquor: hot and furious.
High school football games are held on Friday nights. Small towns swell; big towns are flooded with pickups, station wagons and SUVs pull in, loaded with the faithful. The atmosphere is carnival-like, but the mindset of those in the experience is far more serious than that. For Stephen Darcel McBath, it carried with it an initiation into the mysteries of the game that came to McBath at a very early age. He would soon rise to the top of the Texas football pantheon.
McBath wasn't a name that many of the Broncos fans were familiar with before April's draft. Names like Louis Delmas and Patrick Chung were more commonly known and another player in the defensive secondary wasn't exactly what most of the members were looking for when his name was called. A protesting murmur rippled through the posts. What was Josh McDaniels thinking? On Friday night, with Brian Dawkins sidelined by a hand injury that required a simple surgery, we got to find out that Darcel McBath is a solid young player.
Some men, they say, are born to ramble. Ryan McBean may be one of them. His road has already taken him to Jamaica, New York, Texas, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and Denver.
Ryan McBean was born in Kingston, Jamaica as the son of Donnett McBean on April 23, 1984. He came to the United States when he was 14, moving to Brooklyn, NY for a few months. Then it was back to the road, this time wandering to Euless, TX. Texas is one of the 'Big Three' (with Florida and California) for finding talent among high school football
McBean soon found a home there; Ryan made the football team at Euless' Trinity High School and immediately found some success. He was a first-team All-District selection after his senior season as well as the district's Defensive MVP. He was also named first-team All-District by the Dallas Morning News.