There are players who come into the NFL, seemingly immediately ready to take on the challenges of the game. You may find them in the 1st round or the 7th - you may even find them in the ranks of the undrafted college free agents. Regardless of where they are found, they all have one thing in common - they're very, very rare. Only a gifted few players are ready to contribute immediately. Most NFL teams will give even 1st round prospects 2 full training camps before even considering how well they might be working out for the team. The NFL game is bigger, faster, stronger and a lot more complex, and it takes most people time to figure it out. One of those players is Marquez Branson.
I've been one of the folks who would prefer a more balanced view of the Broncos newest quarterback. He's done some great things, and he has some weaknesses that are not minor issues. In the midst of all the laudatory arguments that seem to claim that the Broncos are now Super Bowl bound, I'd like to add some centrist reasoning. I'm hearing quite a few straw men arguments, and perhaps there's a middle road to be considered on that.
I tend to read and research quite a bit. Contrary to a recent post, I've heard very few people claim that Tebow 'wasn't accurate' in college. It's extremely important for the chances of future success that a QB making the leap from the college to the pro level to have a minimum of a 60% completion rate in college. Tebow's was well over that, and I haven't hear much in the way of comments that differ on this. College and the NFL, however, are vastly different. I have heard the criticism that he has trouble with accuracy on certain throws. That will or won't be true at the NFL level with the new throwing motion that he is trying to develop - certainly, there is a great connection between Tebow and McDaniels, and TT's in the best spot that he could be in that sense. He'll get the best help that he can to work on all throws.
The Option of Drafting a Later Round QB
I was wandering through the day's information, casual as you please, when this next bit from walterfootball.com jumped up and bit me on the imagination. As most of you know, I tend to be a big Bill Walsh fan, and Mike Holmgren was his star QBs pupil. That made me think about the following blurb:
Holmgren has never spent a first-round pick on a quarterback. There's a reason for this. Like Bill Walsh, Holmgren firmly believes that he can take "inferior" quarterbacks and make them into really proficient passers. These "inferior" signal-callers don't have to possess a great or even a very good arm; they just need to make quick decisions, and be accurate in the short and the intermediate passing game. Clausen could absolutely thrive in Holmgren's offense, but I don't think Holmgren would be willing to spend the No. 7 overall pick on the Notre Dame product - even if he is the top quarterback prospect in this class.
About 3 months before this time of year, you start to hear terms bandied about, sometimes accurately, sometimes carelessly. The most common point of discussion is talked about as 'need' versus "BPA' or best player available. The fact is, no team drafts exclusively for one or the other. Both come into play when a team talks about any player. Let's start wth scouting and move along the path to the draft.
One of the complaints that you will hear yearly at this time comes from the scouts in the game. I'll explain in a little while. Some teams use services, like BLESTO (which was originally and acronym for the Bears, Lions, Eagles and Steelers scouting organization. National Scouting Service, knows simply as 'National' is the other larger scouting house. More and more, though, teams have their own scouts arranged usually by region or by conference. They may still subscribe to the info from the scouting services, but they do their own legwork once the early work is done.
In Part I, I tried to look at where Denver stands right now, and to establish how a year's familiarity with the team and systems could, for most of the players and coaches, provide a noticeable benefit. In this installment, I'm going to dissect the defense and look at some strengths, weaknesses, and potential for the future.
There's a new defensive coordinator in town, and Don 'Wink' Martindale has been unabashed about his feelings on the game. He's enthusiastic, he's excited and he plans to increase the aggression level of the Denver D. There was a lot of 'read and react' during the unlamented 2008 version, and it didn't work well. You still saw some of that in 2009, but it was (thankfully) limited. What you did see a lot of was what Renaldo Hill called 'vision coverage' - the DBs watched the QB's eyes to take their cues, which is somewhat different from read and react, an approach that deals with both run and pass. Vision coverage is, according to an interview with Renaldo Hill, a little moment slower and leaves some openings that receivers can take advantage of as a result. According to Hill, that won't be the case this year. You can expect to see the players locking harder onto the offensive players who come into their zones. Hill seemed to think that dropping this coverage and implementing the different approach would improve the secondary and the pass defense. There will also be more blitzing, and there will be an effort to avoid using eight in the box as much as is possible unless it's being done to exploit an offensive weakness. Nate Jones, the newest cornerback, is said to specialize in cornerback blitzing, so there should be some opportunity there which adds a weapon to the arsenal.
The Denver Broncos came into 2009 on the heels of a shocking dismissal of long-time head coach Mike Shanahan. The next few months would be filled with the hiring of Josh McDaniels and his entire coaching staff, the dismissal/firing of both Jim and Jeff Goodman, the architects of the 2008 draft class, a tiff with QB Jay Cutler that resulted in his trade to Chicago, rumors of trades of Tony Scheffler (who ended 2009 in the doghouse of the new coaching regime), a very active role in free agency and a hotly debated role in the 2009 draft. Other than that, it was unusually calm in Dove Valley, unless you include redecorating and even removing some pictures, resulting in some (even more) irritated fans. Comparatively, 2010 has been very quiet. The two worst problems are trying to know if we have an interior line guy on either side of the ball and trying to understand who folks are talking about when they just say, 'Quinn'. Brady or Richard? Richard is the taller one....
When I was asked for a piece on Mario Haggan and the inside linebacker position, I went through the three research files on Haggan that I had already developed and quickly realized that there was a lot more to the situation than just a story on Mario. Since I've covered him a few times already, I felt it best to deal more directly with the question, "What options do the Broncos have for ILB this year?" Since getting it all done solo wasn't an option right now, I gave a call to the Dude, admired the way his rug pulled the room together and enticed him into the project. Never one to miss out on some play time, TJ tossed in with gusto. At this point, you hopefully can't tell where one of us stops and the other begins, in a literary sense. We both hope that you enjoy the offering. - Doc and TJ
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.
Perusing the list of offerings from this past week, I particularly liked the article Trends that Ivan put together, and I want to compliment him on that great effort. It was a very nice job of organizing a lot of disparate information in a way that brought out and clarified many of the concepts that were within its scope. As good articles tend to do, I found that I did have a couple of questions and thoughts from it. I thought they would fit best in an article rather than a comment - I try not to write a 'War and Peace' comment more than once a month.... After the response to the historical retrospective on choosing a quarterback, it brought me to the understanding that it will take a little time to cover the issues that have to be considered when choosing a nose tackle for a 3-4 defense. Much of this originally came up in regard to T. Cody, but this is equally important regardless of which NT you decide to draft for your team.
One of the most important abilities as a general manager, a coach or a scout is the ability to analyze talent. Each of these professions needs to understand what a players strengths are, what their weaknesses are, and what they will and won't be expected to be able to do. It's particularly important - and difficult - when it comes to talking about quarterbacks. What is it that makes a quarterback successful? How can you structure an understanding of how effective a player will be in 1, 2, 3 and 5 or more years from when they will be drafted? Why is it, historically, that so many quarterbacks have failed to make the leap from college to the NFL? There have been many quarterbacks who we can look at, to try to discover why it's such a difficult decision.