Everything that has a beginning has an end. Beginnings are usually laced with excitement and anticipation. Endings are often sad. This one isn’t, but it’s bittersweet.
I’ve had the privilege of writing about the Broncos since the lost days of On the Bus at the Denver Post. I learned a great deal about the game from some of the writers at MHR. That was an earlier incarnation of that site and I wrote there for some time. Eventually, TJ, Doug, and I felt a kinship for a different kind of option.
And IAOFM.com was born.
We're well into the 2015 offseason now, with the draft quickly approaching. But I’d like to take a moment to congratulate Chris Harris Jr. on his special 2014 campaign. Among other things, Chris won a place on the AP’s All-Pro second team and PFF’s All-Pro first team. That adds to his Pro Bowl status. Rarely has a player deserved an honor more.
The undrafted fourth-year defensive back out of Kansas played 1,004 snaps in the 2014 regular season. He allowed 46 receptions on 89 targets for 356 yards and did not give up a single touchdown. He stole three interceptions, permitting a 47.8 opposing quarterback rating, per Pro Football Focus' metrics. He had 54 tackles, 50 of them solo.
The problems with overmedication and athletes has been well-known for over half a century. The iconic book - and later movie - North Dallas Forty brought the issue to the public’s eye. Pills and numbing injections were and are used to keep the player from knowing how much damage he was inflicting upon his body.
That’s what pain is - it’s a way of your body telling you that something’s wrong. Block it and you may injure yourself permanently. Oral painkillers were a daily part of life for many, perhaps most of the football players back then. For many players and ex-players of today, they still are.
Broncos guard Jon Halapio is a Floridian from St. Petersburg. Signed to the practice squad in December, he remains Denver's property, at least for now. So, I spent some time on him and his film.
Mike Mayock once made a comment. He said to put on some tape of a guy. Don’t look to see which guy it is. If by the middle you’re still not sure which guy you should be watching, he’s not worth watching for. That was pretty much my experience with Halapio.
He chose to attend the University of Florida in 2009. He did so over offers from the University of Colorado and from Notre Dame. He suffered an eye injury that required stitches just three games into his freshman year, and was granted a medical redshirt for the year from that incident. That gave him time away to think.
Back in 1986, I bought a house up in the Rocky Mountains and, with the help of some friends, spent a weekend moving my things in. Like a lot of folks, the first thing I hooked up was the stereo. Moving’s always easier with some music to move you. I got up the next morning and rubbed some liniment on the aches. I had breakfast and went to my clinic. Just a normal day.
I got an odd phone call in the afternoon and decided to drive home. I did - and there was no house there. The stereo was off, but had developed a short. It turned itself on and overheated. That started a smoldering fire.
They’d saved the roof and outside walls. Everything else was gone, except for the few things in my car. It was very much as I'd imagine being hit in the stomach by Derek Wolfe would feel. You stand there like an idiot, unable to think or act. You suddenly notice that tears are running down your face. The shock is overwhelming.
Like many, I see the option of grabbing a center as a prime goal for the Broncos. Matt Paradis might have come to the point where he’s ready. On the other hand, John Elway has spoken repeatedly on their happiness with OT Michael Schofield. He’s been far less effusive about Paradis, although says that they still have faith in him.
That situation has left me combing through the various centers available this year. Will Montgomery went to the Bears, so an additional change is needed. Who?
Time’s running shorter. There’s still free agency time to work, and the draft is giving Denver 10 picks. But the offensive line needs help in a big way. I’m not talking about Gino Gradkowski and Shelley Smith here. They’re good depth. Losing Orlando Franklin and Will Montgomery meant the last season’s top two graded linemen are now gone.
Denver’s still about where it was when head coach Gary Kubiak said, "We have to get better up front." It wasn’t a shock, and he’s right. It’s the time of year to fix it. Denver does need to be better up front. One piece of that puzzle is already on the table. It depends on whether Michael Schofield can handle right tackle in the NFL.
Duke guard Laken Tomlinson was clear about what he wanted to prove to the NFL during Senior Bowl week. "One of the things I want to market to the other teams is that I'm one hell of a player."
The scouts agree. If you want proof, just turn on some later 2014 film of him.
Tomlinson came to America from Jamaica when he was 10 and started football at 11. This is a player smart enough to carry a double major at Duke. That’s in addition to football. He plans to become a physician after his playing career.
Every team needs to have the depth to spell its starters on the defensive line. Having different skillsets provides variety in sub packages. That’s essential in today’s game.
In free agency, you look for players that seem to fit your scheme. Once they’re in camp, you find out the details of their strengths and weaknesses. You do the same in the draft. You get to test, drill, and interview them with extreme thoroughness. Drafts often turn on how well you match player and scheme. That’s why a failing fourth-rounder with one team can play like a first-rounder with the right team’s approach.
When you play an even front defense, as Denver did until recently, you often look for a squatty, snarling defensive tackle who bathes infrequently and dines on raw meat. That’s your basic nose guard. You want him as large as possible, while still maintaining his footwork.
When you play a Phillips defense, as the Broncos will do again starting in 2015, you tend to focus on footwork, hand-fighting, and quickness. Malcom Brown of Texas can be a monster in any system. It will make him highly sought after in next month's draft.