Happy Thursday, friends. I was already in bed when news broke of the Broncos’ signing of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, so I wasn’t quite as on-the-spot as we’ve been the last couple days. Hopefully, the novelty having worn off overnight doesn’t make this stale.
Rodgers-Cromartie is a tall (6-2), long, and fast (4.33 at the 2008 Combine) CB who is at his best (by far) in press man-to-man coverage. He’s very good at using the sideline as an extra defender, and he’s difficult to beat over the top. There really aren’t very many CBs in the NFL who have a better package of physical attributes and inherent talents.
The issues for DRC start when you ask him to play very much zone. He tends to get a little bit lost, and his awareness of route combinations isn’t the greatest. He’s also not the greatest (or most enthusiastic) tackler in the world.
The Broncos keep on working free agency, and they haven’t even had to cut Elvis Dumervil yet, as far as we know. The signing of Terrance Knighton is another good one, assuming the money is reasonable. As with Kevin Vickerson, Knighton portends to play a key role in keeping the running game clogged up with only seven men.
Knighton is another guy who Tom Nalen would call a fatty, tipping the scales at 330 pounds. I call him a dude who can mash an offensive guard, and who can defend two gaps up front. He’s also an excellent athlete for his size, and he played TE in high school in Windsor, CT. (Shout out to my fellow nutmegger!)
Well, I’m shocked, and I’ve come around to joining Doug in being pretty happy that Wes Welker will be joining the Denver Broncos. The main reason for my shift in opinion is that they got him quite a bit cheaper, and on a shorter-term deal than I thought was possible. Remember, the Broncos are a team that has to pay Von Miller and Demaryius Thomas over the next couple of years, so keeping a deal short is key.
On the field, this move is going to make the Broncos nigh on unstoppable offensively. I expect them to play four guys from the quintet of Thomas, Eric Decker, Welker, Jacob Tamme, and Joel Dreessen, and just grind teams up with the passing game at all levels of the field.
It doesn’t matter who the running back is, because the acquisition of Welker guarantees that the Broncos won’t be seeing base defense much at all. Whoever the RB is will be running against really light box counts, and Welker is an excellent blocker for his size. In the running game, Welker is a sneaky positive, because he mashes the nickelback in front of him way more often than not.
San Diego has countered Denver's signing of Louis Vasquez with an offensive line signing of their own - former Eagles tackle King Dunlap. Since I watched very little of the Eagles this past season, I did a quick and dirty check of PFF's ratings on each player. Here's what I found:
Vasquez was on the field for 1,057 snaps in 2012. His combined rating was +12.8. That includes a +8.6 rating on his pass blocking, and a -2.0 on his run blocking. He was charged with two sacks and 22 total pressures, but did not commit a single penalty.
I'll just start by saying that I'm very happy that the Broncos re-signed Kevin Vickerson. He did a terrific job for them in 2012 and played a big part in them doing such a good job against the run for most of the season. Along with Justin Bannan and Derek Wolfe, the Broncos' front-three did a nice job occupying the opposing five offensive linemen in the run game, and allowing the other front-seven players to flow to the ball.
Fundamentally, all things being equal, I always think it's better to re-sign a player than it is to sign a free agent from another team. With an outsider, you face scheme risk, in the sense that you don't know if a guy translates to what you're going to ask him to do. The Broncos know that Big Vick can play in multiple alignments, two-gap on base downs, and one-gap some in passing downs. What they're doing schematically isn't really common, so knowing a guy can do the job is key.
I’m never a really big proponent of signing free agents in the first hour of the proceedings, because you end up having to pay top of the market prices for them. I’m a much bigger fan of waiting a day or two, and letting the suckers get their money out there, and see who’s left.
That said, if you really want to upgrade at offensive guard, you could do worse than signing Louis Vasquez. I think he came into his own as a player in 2012, and was definitely the best offensive lineman on the Chargers. Of course, their line was pitiful, and their number-one priority has to be fixing it. By signing Vasquez, the Broncos just helped themselves, and hurt the second-place team in the division in about the worst way they could be hurt.
I’ve been waiting for somebody to hire Chip Kelly so I could write this article, and I thought I was going to miss out on the chance for this season. The Eagles have landed (their guy) though, so it turns out I get to write it. I think it’s going to be a home run for them, and I applaud them for going all out to land the man they wanted.
A lot of people who don’t know what they’re talking about are going to condemn the Kelly hire, and say their stuff about how he runs a gimmick college offense, and it’ll never work in the pros, and blah blah blah. They’re wrong, though, and the evidence of the last couple of seasons is accumulating that teams can have a lot of success in spreading out defenses, and running the ball with zone-read concepts.
There is no monolithic “spread offense,” and anybody who acts like they’re all the same is ignorant. Kelly’s offense does like to use a lot of fast personnel, and does spread out its formations. It’s a run-heavy offense though, and if anything, it’s more old-school than it is revolutionary.
Twice yesterday, John Fox decided that thirty-something seconds and multiple timeouts wasn't enough to move downfield for a score.
The first came with 36 seconds left in the first half at 21-21 from Denver's 20-yard line, with all three timeouts in hand. He reprised that decision at 35-35 and 31 seconds remaining in regulation, and two timeouts from the 20.
In the first instance, Denver handed off to Jacob Hester. Then, at the end of regulation, Peyton Manning - the king of NFL comeback QBs - was instructed to take a knee, and you know what happened from there.
Earlier in the year, Peyton Manning was mic'd up and remarked that it was bad to throw across the body.
He should have heeded his own advice.
Today he did it again for the second time--a time too many. And in the freezing, uncompromising cold of Denver (the wind chill was well below zero) Manning's arm--and the ball--went completely dead.
So did the Broncos' playoff chances.
One and done. All that work, shattered. Shattered like the dreams of Broncomaniacs everywhere. All those pretty little stats, gone. Gone like your breath into the chilly night. All that talk of going all the way, numb.
Numb like it's 1996 all over again.
It's official--the Ravens are coming to Denver for a rematch.
After dispatching the Colts 24-9, the Ravens now bring their slightly-less injured team to altitude next Saturday on only six days of rest.
Since the game was something of a bore, here's what you need to know, summarized by Barry Wilner of the Associated Press:
[Anquan] Boldin set a franchise record with 145 yards receiving, including the clinching touchdown in the Ravens' 24-9 victory over Indianapolis in an AFC wild-card game.