In 2013, the Broncos needed to make a few changes on the offensive line. Manny Ramirez did a better job at center than J.D. Walton had. Chris Clark impressed at left tackle as Ryan Clady's understudy.
In 2014, Denver wanted to play its five best starters, so Clady was back at left tackle with Clark on the right side, although there were potential problems there. The Broncos entered minicamp looking to move Orlando Franklin, formerly the right takle, to left guard.
Understandably, the Broncos wanted to see if Clark could do equally well on the right edge. They brought in Winston Justice to ‘give him competition'. Unfortunately, left and right tackle often require different body types. They need different skillsets, too.
One of the amazing things about elite athletes is the way they marry natural skill with endless practice. The fundamentals are always what a player, coach, or team goes back to when things are hard.
DeMarcus Ware showed off some of the keys to any lineman’s play during Denver's Week 10 win at Oakland.
Everyone notices when an elite player makes a splash play, and Ware has made more than his share over the years. But on many of his true splash plays, you barely see how he does it.
Early on, the Raiders knew they were going to struggle to keep Derek Carr’s uniform clean.
The news on Nate Irving’s torn MCL - that he was placed on IR and won’t return - saddened but didn’t surprise me. I’m sorry for the man, and I hope he recovers quickly and completely. I have a lot of respect for Nate.
But he won’t be back in orange this year, and his contract is up after the season. Denver may move on.
As we talked about on Thursday, Denver’s been using a three-safety look. T.J. Ward has been handling a SS/LB role when they’re in nickel. Quinton Carter has taken over SS, with Rahim Moore at FS. It’s a good option. Corey Nelson has taken some snaps in relief, as has Lamin Barrow. Both are rookies, and neither is at the level of Danny Trevathan, Brandon Marshall, or Von Miller, which is no insult.
A slow team start put the defense in a tough place, early in the Broncos' 41-17 road win over the Raiders. It was the defense that kept the Broncos in the game until they caught fire.
The defensive line kept up steady pressure all game. Despite not having a sack, they kept creating hurries and QB hits. They shut down the Raiders' run attack. The Denver secondary played exceptionally well in both the run and pass areas.
Two players led the way for the secondary: T.J. Ward and Quinton Carter. It wasn’t their stats so much as their attitude, which was contagious. Combining them with Rahim Moore is working well. Adding cornerbacks Chris Harris, Bradley Roby, and Aqib Talib makes them that much more physical. All three corners like to mix it up.
With the hangover of another loss at New England still in the backs of their minds, the Broncos could have been excused if they'd gone to Oakland hoping for a simple victory.
What they found is what a lot of teams have found this season. Oakland is a much better team than they usually show on the field. That doesn’t minimize the Raiders’ singular ability to shoot themselves in the foot.
Denver brought its own set of problems into what may be their final visit to the Coliseum. Problem 1 on the list has been the erratic play of their offensive line. Despite attempts to change it, the line has let down the running game this year more weeks than not. Few, if any, running backs consistently break tackles in their own backfield. The laws of inertia are against them.
Without warning, the outside door was suddenly flung open. Knowing what might happen, Brandon picked up the smallest child - one of his cousins - and fled to a bedroom.
He could hear his mother Barbara and his older brother Marcus yelling at a figure. It was his own father who was screaming and threatening them. Another younger cousin ran to a different bedroom. But Brandon’s father chased the child down when it was heard dialing for help. He slapped the phone to the floor, knocking it from the child’s hand.
From there, Barbara faced him down in the bathroom, where the adults' yelling turned to scuffling. Brandon crept to the doorway of the bathroom. He saw the furious look on his father’s face as he left the residence. It has stayed with him over the years.
When you have a running back who’s 200 lb, soaking wet after Sunday dinner, one question always stands out. How do you get yards up the middle with him?
There are several options - the inside zone run is always good. The back runs it on the right guard’s outside hip, and with Louis Vasquez, there’s lots of room. But, there are many plays that work just fine for a smaller back. Denver displayed one against San Diego in Week 8, featuring the blocking skills of Paul Cornick at right tackle.
The play shows exactly why Cornick replaced Chris Clark in the starting lineup:
Nearly halfway though the season, Denver is playing like the champions they intend to be. It’s an amazing privilege to watch Peyton Manning rewrite the record books. The question of the week tends to be what other Broncos played like champs. There’s always a list.
We talk about the importance of the lines, the guys in the trenches, and rightfully so. Terrance Knighton in particular has been a force of nature. It’s good to see Derek Wolfe playing so well after his last season. The secondary has played well. The Broncos have even held on goal line stands.
We can marvel at the kinds of financial choices Denver will face next offseason. They have Emmanuel Sanders locked up, but the Thomases and a slew of others to sign.
The Broncos' promotion of Kapri Bibbs to the active roster was a response to reported interest from the Bills, who lost two backs to injury last week. Denver now has five active running backs, four of whom aren’t badly injured.
Ronnie Hillman leads the group for now, with Juwan Thompson backing him up. C.J. Anderson, with only 13 carries in the last three games, has apparently dropped to the third string. What can we expect from each, now that we’ve seen all but Bibbs in game situations?
Bibbs is an impressive young runner. He’s missing the receiving and pass protection aspects of his game. Those, along with building the NFL body that coach Fox likes to mention, are the things that he should be working on. It’s a full time job.
Every year, we talk about the Broncos' issues with covering tight ends. Who’s strong enough, long enough, motivated enough?
We talk about it because the era of the tight end is back. Sid Gillman, who said that with two good TEs you can control the middle of the field, has again been proven right.
But the reality is that you don’t need to be tall or long to cover a TE. Strength helps, especially when the TE is firing off the line. You need a guy who can redirect him or change his timing. It’s the moment when the TE is most vulnerable. Most will be bigger than the coverage player. With good leverage and a nasty attitude, the defender can use the five-yard window to make the TE change his route.