The Broncos' pursuit of Asante Samuel is more than an admission they want to upgrade their secondary.
It might be the very clue we needed to put this whole question of their defensive scheme (and perhaps their draft strategy) together.
How so? It starts with the overlooked fact that Asante Samuel's skillset is not tight, man-to-man coverage. It's playing off man in a Cover 2. In fact, Samuel is world class at this style of cornerback play. Coincidentally (not so much), it's also Champ Bailey's strength, although Bailey is certainly adept at playing tight man coverage when the situation calls for it. But Bailey's preference is off man, where he can play five to seven yards off the line of scrimmage, aligned straight legged, and heads up or slightly outside of the receiver, peering into the backfield at the quarterback.
You'll recall that when Bailey finished runner-up to Jason Taylor as Defensive POY in 2006, he played a majority of his coverages out of this scheme. It allowed him to utilize his experience with offensive play and route recognition, along with his catlike reflexes.
Samuel, although not in Bailey's league when it comes to man-to-man coverage, has a similar ability to react to the quarterback and read routes out of off-man coverage. Of course, this is exactly why the Broncos wanted to trade for him. Their intention was for their base defense to feature off-man coverage from the corners. It's no coincidence the Broncos have also signed Tracy Porter, another cornerback, who, although younger than Samuel, also has a preference for off-man coverage.
Finally, The Old Man and the Hyperbole, Woody Paige, wrote:
Hannibal never endured such a demanding march, or October — road games against the Patriots and the Chargers and a home game with the Saints. Guess what? The final eight games are no bargain. The Broncos do get the Bucs and the Browns at home, and conclude the regular season at SAF at Mile High, as they did last year, against those pesky Chiefs. But they must play at Carolina — ever heard of Cam Newton? — and K.C., Oakland and Baltimore.
Woo. I've been covering the Broncos since 1974, and there hasn't been a schedule this grueling in any season since then — or, certainly, before.
This, of course, settles the issue, since 1974 was a watershed year. It brought us "Jungle Boogie" from Kool and the Gang, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (warning, nightmares will ensue), and Woody Paige, Denver's own cuddly serial killer of football knowledge.
If you haven't noticed, more and more people seem to be finding the courage to wake up from the aw-shucks nightmare that was (and still is) Tebowmania. Perhaps not having Tebow around frees the mind--like trascendental meditation or a long hit from a sweet bong.
We've affectionately called this nightmare Zombieland. Here, all of the infected wear a #15 jersey and screech the word "intangibles" outside your boarded-up window (as film guru Greg Cosell has said, when intangibles are the first things someone brings up when talking about a quarterback, it's code for: he can't throw). It's like a page from the novel I Am Legend--except these Tebow vampires don't always want your flesh. They want to force you to attend Bob Tebow High School (where degrees are awarded sans biology, anthropology, and philosophy courses) and elect his son as class president--without an actual election.
Those who disagree--well, there's always your flesh or Twitter.
The latest to dissent are Darren McKee (D-Mac) and ex-Bronco Alfred Williams (Big Al) of Denver's Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan. Williams, we should note, has never been a fan of Tebow the football player. McKee, on the other hand, has been a strident Tebow supporter. Thursday, however, Big Al and D-Mac took things to another level. Not only did they openly describe Zombieland, they spoke the words that could not be spoken while Tebow was quarterback of the Broncos: you can't seperate Tebow the player from Tebow the religion.
Earlier in the week, Football Outsiders reported that in 2011, Champ Bailey gave up more yards after the catch (YAC) than any other cornerback in the league.
Was this a sign that Bailey was getting older, losing a step, or declining in skills?
On the surface, it's easy to look at Bailey's YAC stat and smoke the crack (and become immediately paranoid). If you had not watched a Broncos game all year, you'd assume Bailey was either missing a lot of tackles after the receiver caught the ball or he was getting beat deep badly. Luckily, the gang at FO qualified the numbers:
Now, let's be clear: These YAC allowed numbers generally don't say much about the actual quality of a cornerback. There's generally very little correlation between a cornerback's rank in Success Rate and his rank in YAC allowed. Still, it is very strange to see Champ Bailey giving up the most average YAC of any starting cornerback in 2011 -- and by a wide margin. Isn't he known as an excellent tackler for a cornerback? Yes, and there isn't much evidence that this is an issue of tackling. We only recorded Bailey with two broken tackles on plays where he was in coverage. He just seemed to have a few more plays than usual where guys got behind him on short- and mid-range routes.
As we always preach around these parts, stats are nothing without context. So let's provide some when it comes to Bailey and his YAC (not to be confused with GOAT, which is purely a term reserved for Norv Turner).
Happy Birthday to former Broncos linebacker Tom Jackson, who today turns 61.
Although Jackson is now known for his work as a football analyst at ESPN (since 1987), Jackson's legacy as a Denver Bronco and member of the Orange Crush is epic. During his 14-year career, TJ appeared in two Super Bowls and was a three-time Pro Bowler. Jackson was a classic "tweener" who thrived in Joe Collier's 3-4 defense in the 70s and 80s. It resulted in Jackson being inducted into the Broncos' Ring of Fame. Did we mention he was a mainstay of the Orange Crush?
Another reason we love Jackson, of course, is that he originally uttered the phrase (and the very name of this website) "It's all over, fat man!" in 1977 to then Raiders coach John Madden in Week 5 as the Broncos crushed the Raiders 30-7. You might say it was disrespectful. We prefer to call it a restating of the facts. When Jackson said what he said to Madden, the game, in fact, was over. And, facts being facts, Madden was (and still is) the original Oakland butterball. Sebastian Janikowski and JaMarcus Russell came way late to the party.
Today's article from Albert Breer may give Broncos fans pause. Breer suggests that the velocity on Peyton Manning's throws was already in decline during 2010--before his neck injury. Breer writes:
"The fall-off was significant on film," said one scout from a rival AFC team. "He showed stiffness and lost athletic traits. What made him special was never his athletic ability or movement skills, but you could see it with his arm strength, too. We break the field into 'short', 'intermediate' and 'deep', and on patterns deep and outside the numbers, you'd notice more air under the ball. There'd be more arc. Some it's by design, placing the ball where it needs to be. But it looked like his velocity was tailing off at the end of 2010. That's probably what he's most worried about. His rotation was fine, his accuracy was fine. But as far as the ball getting from Point A to Point B, and how much time he was giving defensive backs to drive on the football, there was enough there for concern."
The questions about Manning's arm strength go all the way back to the day he was drafted (Ryan Leaf had a stronger arm, after all). However, was it possible that in 2010, Manning had lost too much zip on his passes? The statistics certainly suggest as much. His Y/A, AY/A, NY/A, and ANY/A were all down by a full yard. At the same time, guys like Blair White, Pierre Garcon (which I believe means "dropped pass" in French), and Austin Collie weren't helping Manning's cause. And we saw what happened to the Colts in 2011 without Manning: they went down like they'd been shot by a sniper.
Manning has had other seasons with lower numbers than he had in 2010. So what is one to make of all of this?
In his press conference tonight with the New York media, Tim Tebow once again took the road less traveled.
That's because no one takes the high road any longer.
He thanked his fans in Denver, spoke highly of his new coaches and teammates, and reaffirmed his commitment to being a team player--even if it meant sitting behind Mark Sanchez and playing in wildcat packages. He also reaffirmed his commitment to working hard and improving as a quarterback. Simply put, he was typically Tim Tebow.
As I listened to Tebow, I couldn't help but remember another former Broncos quarterback that left Denver after only a few seasons: Jay Cutler. Although blessed with twice the talent, Cutler was half the man on his way out of town. Pouting was his brush; sulking his paint; melancholy his work of art. Tebow would have none of this silliness. It's beneath him. He wouldn't waste his energy on such trivial things.
There's another key difference between Cutler and Tebow, and it's this: Tebow will forever be etched in Broncos lore. No matter what happens during his time in the league, he joins a list that we all hold dear. This list includes Craig Morton, John Elway, Brian Griese, and Jake Plummer. What do they have in common? All of them have taken the Denver Broncos to the playoffs.
We have Peyton Manning; y'all don't.
Suck it down, Bud Adams, and, for that matter, the rest of the league.
If only Al Davis would have been around to weep--and to trade for Tim Tebow.
Oh well, you can't always get what you want.
For John Elway, putting the Broncos in position to win the Super Bowl is enough for now. Curing Tebowmania is icing on the cake.
As always, the gut don't lie. Let's get to it.
Jim Saccomano, Vice President of Public Relations for the Broncos, accomplished something today worth noting. He combined his typical effervescent I've been in this game longer than y'all have hubris and combined it with his other chief quality--namely, ass kissing.
First, he managed to bang out this tweet:
Critics are always there, but what TR said about the process remains true--the credit belongs to the one in the arena. #fb— Jim Saccomano (@broncos_sacco) March 10, 2012
This is a constant Sacco theme, and it goes something like this: critics suck, but we know what we are doing over here. Of course, he said this before Josh McDaniels, during Josh McDaniels, and after Josh McDaniels. He also did it before Tebow, during Tebow, and perhaps (now) after Tebow. In short, every decision the Broncos make is right, right now. I'd find this sort of loyalty laudable if it weren't purchased with six figures.
Let me get this out of the way first: Robert Griffin III is one hell of a quarterback.
It doesn't matter. It's a bad deal for the Redskins. There are times you go all in. This is not one of those times. It strikes a desparate chord on the part of Mike Shanahan.
NFL draft picks are not created equal, but all have a significant chance of going bad: they are more like bets on a roulette wheel than they are sure-fire franchise players (or starters, for that matter). The fewer bets you have--or in Shanny's case, the more you take from yourself--the less likely you are to get lucky and hit on something.