From Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus earlier today:
In 2011 Elvis Dumervil went eight straight games with a sack late in the season. While he doesn’t have a sack yet this year, he has 13 overall pressures which ties him for the most among defensive linemen.
Pressures, schmessures. What every fan wants to see is sacks. There’s something exciting about seeing an edge rusher taking on a player who might outweigh him by 50 lb. and still flash by him, to, and through the quarterback. They’re the Holy Grail for the weekend watchers, a stat you can reel off and feel like you’re talking sense. And, no one can argue that sacks aren’t a great way to create negative yardage for the offense.
The sack is big news.
Elvis Dumervil doesn’t have one this year, and fans are getting antsy. Talk is increasing about how Doom isn’t having the same impact this season; how he’s been soundly beaten by offensive left tackles Sam Baker and Max Starks. With Jason Hunter out for the year and the DL having to try different options to get the pressure that the John Fox/Jack Del Rio scheme calls for, is Doom unfit for his role with the team?
As usual, I’ve been looking over the film of the first game with regard to the offensive line. Health issues prevented my spending the time necessary to fully cover the second game, but I did a little poking around in the stat pile as far as where the Denver OL stands in general.
I’ll work in what I found in the first game - as you’d expect, the stats were better in that contest, simply because the line played very well. Here are just the bare bones of the second game, using the figures over at Pro Football Focus:
The Broncos are in Atlanta for their first road contest tonight and a meeting with the Falcons, a very good team whose drafting and team development approaches I've followed for years.
The modern version of their franchise was built first by Rich McKay, who’s still the president and CEO, and developed more recently by GM Thomas Dimitroff, who’s a top young executive. Between them, they’ve put together a team that has an excellent offense and a defense that’s good, but is also vulnerable.
Last week, Atlanta lost Brent Grimes, their top cornerback, for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. They’ve signed former Colts corner Terrence Johnson, but 2009 third-rounder Chris Owens, who's never lived up to the Falcons' expectations, is expected to be their nickel corner tonight.
Let's take a look at the rest of Atlanta's roster to see what the Broncos are up against:
TJ recently commented that the rest of the AFC West may have watched the Broncos play Pittsburgh and realized they were playing for second place. After watching the Chiefs host the Falcons and the Chargers visit the Raiders, I think he’s being too kind. Right now, the three of them seem to be playing just to figure out who remains in the cellar and who departs.
To say that the Chiefs were bad against the Falcons doesn’t fully do them justice. The second half found them inept, bumbling, undexterous, clumsy, and dreadful: all fitting tributes to the hospitality the Chiefs provided to the Falcons. They did everything but gift them the game ball. Their fans did, however, show a lack of class when they chose to boo their former star tight end Tony Gonzalez, when he scored on a touchdown catch. Class, nothing but class. All third, but lots...
I understand that Kansas City is struggling with injuries, but this went far beyond that. Matt Cassel let the Falcons have it with the old 1-2-3: 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, and 3 sacks. The Chiefs had 69 plays for 393 yards. They converted 11 of 16 third downs, which sounds great, gained 4.6 yards per attempt in the rushing game for a total of 152 yards, and notched 22 first downs, but still managed to get beaten by a score of 40-24. It wasn’t even that close, by the end of the third quarter.
With five minutes to go in the opening quarter of Denver's season-opening win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Von Miller demonstrated that he's well on his way to reaching his goal of improving his run defense this season.
Miller increased the strength of his upper body this year, and it showed during the preseason. Against one of the better rushing teams in the AFC, it was made clear again.
Pittsburgh was in 12 personnel, with the two tight ends forming the closed side on the quarterback’s left: Heath Miller (83) is on the outside, a step back, and Leonard Pope (45) is inline, just inside of him. The Broncos have four down linemen, and Von Miller has moved to the closed side, across from his namesake Heath. Antonio Brown motions from the closed side to a stacked position behind Mike Wallace (17).
There were several brilliant performances by the Denver Broncos on Sunday night - from Peyton Manning, the defensive line, Von Miller, and Wesley Woodyard, among others. But despite the abundance of bright spots, the play of Tracy Porter still stands out.
I watched film of Porter from 2010 and 2011 and understood the one-year contract Denver gave him. He was very slender - skinny, really. He didn’t have the power or form to tackle right - often as not, he threw himself at opponents' ankles and hoped for the best. He struggled with run support and had to battle in press coverage.
This year, he looks like a different player physically. His positives from earlier were that he has a textbook backpedal, was and is cheetah fast, flips his hips beautifully, and takes smart gambles. Those attributes are still present, and Jack Del Rio and defensive backs coach Ron Milus have him wrapping up, driving upward, and tackling hard. They haven’t tried to pull him back when it’s time to gamble, either.
Like other quarterbacks will do, Ben Roethlisberger appeared to make a concerted effort to throw against Porter in man coverage, and only threw to Champ Bailey's side when the Broncos used a zone defense. It’s exactly what Denver brought Porter in to do. They needed an experienced NFL cornerback with an aggressive attitude and a short memory - every CB gets beaten. You can’t let it affect you.
Like a lot of folks, I tend to spend what time I have to watch television on things like programs on nature, astronomy, history, et cetera.
I recently caught a program that dealt with wolves, and found that they’re remarkable animals. They live in a complex society: they have a clear social hierarchy, an extensive symbolic language, and are beautiful to watch. Wolves generally hunt in packs - they work synergistically with each other to bring down prey quickly and safely (for them).
Wolves also commonly attack their prey from behind, jumping on their backs to bring them down or hamstringing them to prevent them from getting away before the full pack attacks.
Broncos defensive lineman Derek Wolfe may have seen the same program. No question, he lived much of it Week 1 against Pittsburgh; his impact on the game was first demonstrated with 9:42 remaining in the first quarter Sunday night.
One of the goals that Von Miller has set for his sophomore NFL season is to improve both his run defense and pass coverage.
We’ve already looked at a run play where he showed that improvement - now let’s take a peek at some simple things that he - and the rest of the Broncos - have done to improve in pass defense.
13:39 remains in the second quarter of the preseason game against San Francisco, and the 49ers have scored a touchdown in response to 17 straight points from the Broncos.
If things go well this season, Denver will be facing a lot of obvious passing downs in just such a position - playing with a lead while the opponent tries to get back into the game. It’s 3rd and 6, and the 49ers have driven deep into Broncos territory - they’re on the 15-yard line, and they are seeking either a touchdown or a first down.
Jack Del Rio has made no bones about it - he wants to increase the defense’s pressure on opposing offensive lines.
That pressure will affect the passing game by sacking, hurrying, and harassing the quarterback, making the job of the secondary easier. It also affects the run game, creating more tackles for loss, and more hits and tackles made at or near the line of scrimmage. Even in the simplified world of preseason football, the approaches Denver will take showed glimpses of themselves.
For a prime example, let's review a sack from two weeks ago by Elvis Dumervil against the 49ers and QB Alex Smith.
With 10:36 to go in the first quarter, the 49ers are down 3-0 and facing third and six - a tough down to achieve - and usually an obvious passing down. The 49ers are in a shotgun 11 formation with three wideouts, and Frank Gore alongside quarterback Alex Smith in the backfield.