Before you can walk, you'll need to crawl.
Or you can just watch Ryan Clady bury some dude in the turf.
For all of the talk about Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow, and even Brady Quinn, the real story of the Broncos' offseason should have been the running game.
The Broncos--for the meat of the game tonight--controlled the line of scrimmage from both sides. Their third-string defense ultimately gave up the game 24-23, but by that time, the verdict on the Broncos' toughness had already been rendered.
This year, the Broncos will run. This year, the Broncos will stop the run.
While one half of a preseason game does not a season make, it appears as if the additions of John Fox and Dennis Allen are going to bring respectability back to the ground game in Denver.
That, and a lot of versatile defensive linemen.
Adam Schefter is reporting that the Broncos have signed longtime Patriots Defensive Lineman Ty Warren to a 2-year, $10 million deal with $2.5 million guaranteed. I discussed the prospect of having eight quality NFL D-Linemen, and now it seems likely that the Broncos have nine. Warren has primarily been a DE for the Patriots, but he grew up as a DT for the Texas A&M Aggies, and I expect that he’ll mostly play inside for the Broncos.
Warren is 6-foot-5 and weighs 300 pounds. He missed the entire 2010 season with a hip injury that he suffered in training camp, and he was released last week when he failed the Patriots’ demanding physical. Evidently, the Broncos have a less rigorous one.
Now that John Elway is back with the Broncos, the suffering of Cleveland Browns fans can commence yet again.
Enter Brodrick Bunkley. For whatever reason--whether Bunkley wouldn't report to the Browns or not--Bunkley won't have the pleasure of seeing grown men gorge themselves on dog biscuits.
Instead, he's coming to Denver.
After watching Brodrick Bunkley on film last year, it's easy to see why the Broncos traded for him.
Bunkley is workmanlike; he does his job. That's been a rarity in the last two years in Denver.
Bunkley will be a welcome addition.
I watched two of Bunkley's game tapes. The first was from Week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys, which Pro Football Focus (PFF) rated as Bunkley's best game. The second was the Week 3 matchup against the Jaguars, which PFF rated as his worst game.
I’m a Florida Gators fan, which everybody knows, but that’s not the reason that I like Derrick Harvey. I think the guy has been a pretty good NFL player since he came into the League, but that he has been judged through the prism of being the eighth-overall pick in a Draft and not showing the pass-rushing production of a pick that high.
Harvey is very solid against the run, but has never shown the quick-twitch athleticism that it takes to be a dominant pass rusher. The truth is, he’s never been that kind of player, even going back to his college days, when he got a lot of sacks.
For once, I agree with an agent.
Here's what Richard Bernoski, agent for recently signed Marcus Thomas, had to say only moments ago:
We're excited about the scheme that John Fox is running, it will give Marcus Thomas a chance to reach his potential and do what he does best which is penetrate to get up field to cause chaos in the backfield. He's been the most productive defensive tackle in Denver playing in a system that didn't fit his skill-set.
Bernoski knows his client well. There was perhaps no player who had to fight his natural tendencies more in the 3-4 defense that Josh McDaniels wanted to run during his time in Denver.
Thomas was never a fit as a two-gap defender. He was simply out of place. Despite this, he played with a lot of effort and held his own as a defensive end.
Marcus Thomas is your classic 3-technique penetrator. He split gaps and uses his quick first step to his advantage.
Then he tries to unleash hell.
In this year's draft, the worst-kept secret in the world was the Broncos' need to acquire a defensive tackle.
Yesterday, they finally did, signing Texas Tech lineman Colby Whitlock.
Surprisingly, he might stick around.
Whitlock played a lot of 3-4 nose tackle for Texas Tech. As you'll see from this tape, that helped him to develop a certain toughness that one doesn't see from 4-3 defensive tackles. In the 3-4, you need to be stout at the point of attack, you need to be willing to sacrifice yourself at even the slightest hint of a double team, and you'd better have a motor that never stops.
Note: Bellore is apparently headed to the Jets instead of Denver
(Note: Browning was originally reported as agreeing with Denver, but ultimately he chose to join the St. Louis Rams)
To find a future star in the NFL among undrafted rookie free agents, you could do a lot worse than looking for three things:
3) A brother with speed, who was also Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2008.
Deron Mayo may be undersized for the NFL. He's listed at 5-11 and 220 pounds. That's why teams shied away from him in the draft. However, like his famous brother, he brings quickness and speed. Deron is actually faster than his older brother, and runs (by some accounts) a sub-4.4 forty-yard dash. He's a tweener DE/OLB, who many thought would have been a good fit as a 3-4 OLB after adding a few pounds. In fact, he had this to say recently:
People like (Denver’s) Elvis Dumervil and (Pittsburgh’s) James Harrison definitely give me hope. I’m 5-11. I look at people like that and it gives me a lot of motivation. It’s all about learning the game. I feel like I can rush the passer from the edge. It’s just a matter of a coach or a team taking a chance on me, which I know will pay off.
John Fox likes versatility in his running back combinations.
Enter Mario Fannin.
Fannin was Auburn's third-string running back last year. Despite this, he was projected by some to be drafted as high as the 5th round in this year's draft.
Why? Fannin set the building on fire at the combine with a 4.37 40-yard dash and a 37.5-inch vertical jump. Those are numbers that Knowshon Moreno would have killed for at his combine.
Fannin left little doubt that he's a world-class athlete by those measures. He's also a master of catching the ball out of the backfield and has a knack for the YAC (yards after catch).
If Fannin makes the Broncos' roster, it won't be because of his running ability. His field vision after getting the handoff has always been his weakest attribute. It will be because Denver needs a weapon on 3rd-down-and-medium.