The Denver Broncos and Michael Lombardi
I was meandering through some old materials this weekend when I found a pre-draft set of concerns about the Broncos by Michael Lombardi. I had thought at the time that they were reasonable and a fair consideration, so I kept them around. Here is what he said:
Often, you hear someone say or post, "Yeah, he's this year's _____ (fill in your own blank)". It's a kind of verbal shorthand that can be useful if we are either on the 6th beer or clear on why a certain player has something in common with the one cited. Commonly, it's a just way to denigrate the player without giving any specifics, as in 'He's this year's Ryan Leaf'. Anyone who's followed football for a decade knows exactly what is meant by that - Player X is going to be an utter bust (and probably a felon as well). It's an easy way to say something. Sometimes he's just going to be this year's Frunobulax.
The Myth of the Short Cornerback
When the Broncos drafted Alphonso Smith with their first pick in the second round of the NFL Draft, a huge cry went up among the pundits. Smith? No! He's too short! Shorter cornerbacks are at too big of a disadvantage. The belief was that if a receiver is taller than the coverage guy, all the offense has to do is to have their quarterback throw the ball up out of the cornerback’s reach and they will have reception after reception. This is such a common representation that I started to fire up NFL Rewind and to look for instances when it was true. The more football I watched, the more I realized that it only infrequently happened. Receptions commonly occur when the receiver is in front of the cornerback (and height doesn't matter that that point) or when the quarterback places the ball perfectly out in front as both are running (in whatever direction) but I could count the receptions where the wide receiver snared a pass that was thrown over a shorter corner such that the receiver leaps for it perfectly on just one hand. If it didn't work with just one receiver (looking specifically at taller receivers vs. shorter CBs) or in one game, sure, but in game after game it was a rarity and in most it didn't happen at all. I started to wonder, 'Why?'
With the onset of yet another strange distraction this offseason, as Brandon Marshall ignores the effects of his injury and additional problems this offseason with his personal life (neither of which kept him from demanding a trade), there is a lot of talk about the Broncos and the potential receivers who are out there and might be part of a trade for Marshall. While I wouldn't rule those out, from one perspective it's difficult to imagine how an injured problem-child with more offseason issues on his radar (he's already been suspended once and has more court hearings upcoming) will bring a king's ransom in a trade. It's entirely possible that Marshall will be spending 2009 with the Broncos. Whether or not he is, however, I thought it worthwhile to do a quick rundown of who Denver already has as receiving options. For purposes of organization, I broke them down into wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. How they are used may not be the same as how they are listed, but I wanted to keep it as simple as possible.
There are a few things that you can count on with Tom Brandstater. He's a big quarterback with nearly perfect size for the position. Drafted with the 1st pick of the 6th round (pick #174), Tom Brandstater is a 6'5", 222 lb. solid physical specimen. He's very intelligent and finished his degree in communications at Fresno State in only three years, also earning academic honors each year, a three-time Academic All-WAC choice. He's already finishing his Masters degree in psychology. His last name is pronounced Brand-STATE-ur. And after that, no one really agrees.
With 3rd-and-5 the offense is in the shotgun. The quarterback takes the snap and steps up into the forming pocket. The defenders come screaming in off of both sides and the MLB comes up the middle on a delayed blitz but the quarterback coolly performs his checkdowns and threads the ball between two defensive backs towards his receiver. The ball falls just out of reach and the play is over. What just happened? The truth is, we'll never know.
Innovation and the Forward Pass In the NFL
Last April, the Denver Broncos used a 7th-round pick on a player who was ranked by one service as the 76th-best player in the draft (Eddie Royal was ranked by the same service as the 78th). Peyton Hillis of the Arkansas Razorbacks had blocked for two of the best running backs in college football - Felix Jones and Darren McFadden. Just as importantly, he was known amongst college ranks for his power running and his soft and efficient hands out of the backfield.
Back in the 1970s, a couple of organizations evolved that would change the way we see and experience NFL football. They arose on the basis of a need teams to share the expenses of having area scouts - in those days, they didn't want to have the costs of supporting their own organizations of scouting. The first of these is still known as 'BLESTO'. This originally stood for Bears Lions Eagles Steelers Organization and was formed in 1963. The Eagles are no longer associated with it, but it boasts a roster of 12 teams, including the Atlanta Falcons. The second was National Football Scouting, which is known by the contraction, "National" and currently has 15 teams associated with it that I've been able to uncover. Four teams use independents and/or their own organizations exclusively, including the New England Patriots who only uses their own.
Horse Tracks listed a great article on the possibility that we may be in a Golden Age of Offensive Tackles. It got me to thinking about a great Super Bowl where the offense was so good - sometimes called the Greatest Show on Turf, with Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk - that the defense of the New England Patriots had to take a new and slightly different posture on it's way to a stunning win. The Game was the super Bowl of the 2001 season, the St. Louis Rams with Kurt Warner at the helm - against the New England Patriots. Here's what went down...
Born in Mableton, Georgia on January 31, 1987, Kenny McKinley was a sought-after quarterback at South Cobb High School. Kenny earned All-County honors as a junior and senior. As a junior in 2003, he racked up 1,575 yards and 12 scores passing and rushed for 400 yards and eight touchdowns more. McKinley threw for 1,470 yards and 16 touchdowns while rushing for 750 yards and 12 more TDs during his senior year, and was ranked as the 57th-best athlete in the country by Rivals.com. You can catch four recruiting videos of Kenny from high school at Mableton here:
Prior to the draft, NFLDraftDog.com commented,
South Carolina's Kenny McKinley (6' 0" 189 lbs) doesn't get much respect and I don't know why. He has gotten it done on the football field for years. He has been a four year starter with 2,781 career yards and 19 touchdowns. Now he goes to the combine and has a very solid performance. He ran a nice 4.44 forty and had the 2nd best 20 yard shuttle time of 4.10 seconds.