Scouting the Broncos

Has Ronnie Hillman taken Montee Ball’s starting job away from him?

The Broncos' promotion of Kapri Bibbs to the active roster was a response to reported interest from the Bills, who lost two backs to injury last week. Denver now has five active running backs, four of whom aren’t badly injured.

Ronnie Hillman leads the group for now, with Juwan Thompson backing him up. C.J. Anderson, with only 13 carries in the last three games, has apparently dropped to the third string. What can we expect from each, now that we’ve seen all but Bibbs in game situations?

Bibbs is an impressive young runner. He’s missing the receiving and pass protection aspects of his game. Those, along with building the NFL body that coach Fox likes to mention, are the things that he should be working on. It’s a full time job.

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Evaluating Brandon Marshall

When the news broke that Danny Trevathan would go out with an injury, so did the hearts of many Denver Broncos fans. Last summer, Terrance ‘Pot Roast’ Knighton was asked who the most important defensive player was. Without hesitation, he named Danny Trevathan.

The only good news was that Denver was flush with talented young linebackers. They have Von Miller back from injury and starting to develop his old skills, while Nate Irving is opening some eyes. Denver’s young linebackers looked good in camp and preseason. 

Denver had again picked up a quality player. This time, the lowly Jaguars didn’t see a future for him. Richard Smith and Jack Del Rio disagreed. As I’ve said before, I don’t argue with those two regarding linebacking.

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Scouting the 2014 Broncos: Danny Trevathan’s injury

Outside of an injury to Peyton Manning, Danny Trevathan is one of the toughest players for the Broncos to lose. The good news is that this isn’t a dangerous injury - it will take a month or two to heal, but it could have been vastly worse.

Trevathan had been fighting for his professional life since leaving college. Two years ago, he fought through a pulled hamstring to perform his combine drills. Yet, all the pundits seemed to see was a guy who was too small, too light, and too slow.

Denver got him into camp and found that without the pulled hamstring, he was a lot faster. The player who had led the SEC in tackles for the previous two seasons was showing signs that he was a lot more than a small, slow linebacker. He still tackled just as much.

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Scouting the 2014 Broncos: Brandon Marshall’s chance

Sometimes it’s fate, karma, written in the stars, or whatever you prefer. Brandon Markieth Marshall was born on Sept 10, 1989 in Las Vegas, NV.

Vegas, love or hate it, has Lady Luck for its unofficial deity. An injury that’s bad for the Broncos has another side. A player drafted in 2012 by Jacksonville and waived three times now has first shot at a possible starting job on a SB contender. He lived on and off Jacksonville and Denver’s practice squads, which may be a blessing. He's had time to learn.

Denver has a plethora of options in Lamin Barrow, Lerentee McCray, Corey Nelson, and others. Marshall earned his second squad berth behind the injured Danny Trevathan; now he's going to try and hold off all comers to win the starting slot at the Will.

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Mail: Scouting Denver’s offensive line

Tia writes:

Hello, IAOFM staff! First, I just wanted to say thank you for continuing to be the best source there is for Broncos news and analysis. Your recent article on TJ Ward and what he'll be able to do for us this season was particularly great (can't wait to see him in action!), and I was writing to ask if you may be willing to do a similar sort of preview for the O-Line, based on a mix of last year's performances and what you've seen/heard from TC so far?

That seems to be our weak spot at the moment based on early camp reports, though I'm sure they're slower to adjust due to having two guys learning new positions, but I would just love to hear your thoughts on whether or not there's anything to worry about there, and what this newly retooled group's strengths and weaknesses may be this year.

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Scouting the 2014 Broncos: Tight Ends

A commenter recently slammed me for having a continuing interest in the tight end position. Properly used, I’d said, it’s a major way to improve your offense. The commenter responded that the position is nearly useless and will be phased out over the next decade.

In return, I noted Sid Gillman’s point that having two good TEs can let a team control the middle of the field. No shots were fired, but no agreement was reached, either.

The New England Patriots recently had two very good tight ends who did a lot of damage to opposing defenses, prompting teams to start looking at the position in earnest. The demand for good tight ends went up like a helium balloon. Rumors of the position’s demise were exaggerated. Having multiple effective tight ends is strongly back in vogue.

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Scouting the Broncos: Offensive line versatility

When someone visiting Dove Valley asks who will play right tackle, they’re going to get a stock answer.

Ryan Clady and Louis Vasquez will start at their traditional slots. Orlando Franklin will will start at left guard. Manny Ramirez leads at center going into training camp. Chris Clark has earned the right to head the right tackle depth chart going into camp, with Winston Justice his first competition.

Beyond those factors, it’s wide open.

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Scouting the Broncos: Hillman versus Bibbs

The Broncos have added plenty of speed and physicality to their offensive backfield this offseason.

Denver didn’t take a running back in the draft, which was no surprise - they already had Montee Ball penciled in as their starter, and C.J. Anderson to back him up. If he shows maturity and better hands, Ronnie Hillman can certainly be the third back.

But it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Hillman ends up fighting for his job, given his history and the quality of the undrafted backs behind him.

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Scouting the Broncos: Back to basics

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:

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Speed Heals: Defense

When Mike Shanahan was fired by the Broncos, he left behind a team that was a shell of its former self. The players who had been stallions during the Super Bowl years were long gone. The defensive players who remained were, they said publicly, treated as second-class citizens.

The roster was depleted in multiple areas and then a young former offensive coordinator tried to move the team to a reflection of the 3-4 system that he’d just left, but without the kind of players who made that system work. The offense wasn’t exactly loaded, either. A lot of things were missing on defense during that transition - stronger players, workable draft picks, a middle linebacker who keeps his helmet on, common sense - but one vacancy stood out as the roster was changed over:

Speed

It means linebackers with the legs to catch a returner in the open field, or to give cornerbacks a shot at covering the multiple players they are matched up against in passing situations. It means backside pursuit and pass rushers who can reach the quarterback before he can carve up the secondary. It’s essential to the new concept of Broncos defense that John Fox and Jack Del Rio will be implementing this season - which, whatever else is true, will require a faster pocket pressure with quicker linebackers and better defensive backfield speed.

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