Scouting the Broncos

Scouting the 2015 Broncos: Jon Halapio

Broncos guard Jon Halapio is a Floridian from St. Petersburg. Signed to the practice squad in December, he remains Denver's property, at least for now. So, I spent some time on him and his film.

Mike Mayock once made a comment. He said to put on some tape of a guy. Don’t look to see which guy it is. If by the middle you’re still not sure which guy you should be watching, he’s not worth watching for. That was pretty much my experience with Halapio.

He chose to attend the University of Florida in 2009. He did so over offers from the University of Colorado and from Notre Dame. He suffered an eye injury that required stitches just three games into his freshman year, and was granted a medical redshirt for the year from that incident. That gave him time away to think.

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Scouting the 2015 Broncos: Michael Schofield

Time’s running shorter. There’s still free agency time to work, and the draft is giving Denver 10 picks. But the offensive line needs help in a big way. I’m not talking about Gino Gradkowski and Shelley Smith here. They’re good depth. Losing Orlando Franklin and Will Montgomery meant the last season’s top two graded linemen are now gone.

Denver’s still about where it was when head coach Gary Kubiak said, "We have to get better up front." It wasn’t a shock, and he’s right. It’s the time of year to fix it. Denver does need to be better up front. One piece of that puzzle is already on the table. It depends on whether Michael Schofield can handle right tackle in the NFL.

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Scouting the Broncos: Tight ends taking shape

Every new coach brings along a few players and coaches that he trusts. He trusts them to do their job, but knows that it goes both ways. Jack Del Rio was the fire under Terrance Knighton, who turned into a leader.

Owen Daniels has spent all nine of his NFL seasons under Gary Kubiak. They were together for eight years in Houston before spending 2014 in Baltimore. They have a relationship of trust. Every new head coach needs a guy to help teach and motivate the other players at his position. Kubiak feels he can count on Daniels to help fill that role for him.

Daniels came out of the University of Wisconsin in 2006. He’s played in the full zone blocking scheme in both college and in the pros. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 Draft, 98th overall. Kubiak found in him a dependable, intelligent, and focused player.

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How do Denver’s current backs fit within a zone blocking system?

The issues of zone blocking itself and the personnel for it are now well covered. The next step is considering the personnel that will be carrying the ball. These were David Hooper’s preferred qualities of running backs for the zone blocking scheme:

  • Disciplined, willing to do their job and not improvise.
  • Decisive.
  • Crisp runners - not necessarily fast, but they must have sharp cuts.
  • Committed, willing to blast toward a gap that doesn't exist - yet.
  • Decisive. No, really. A backfield dancer is absolutely doomed.

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Scouting the Broncos: Michael Schofield

In 2013, the Broncos needed to make a few changes on the offensive line. Manny Ramirez did a better job at center than J.D. Walton had. Chris Clark impressed at left tackle as Ryan Clady's understudy.

In 2014, Denver wanted to play its five best starters, so Clady was back at left tackle with Clark on the right side, although there were potential problems there. The Broncos entered minicamp looking to move Orlando Franklin, formerly the right takle, to left guard.

Understandably, the Broncos wanted to see if Clark could do equally well on the right edge. They brought in Winston Justice to ‘give him competition'. Unfortunately, left and right tackle often require different body types. They need different skillsets, too.

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How might the Broncos replace Nate Irving?

The news on Nate Irving’s torn MCL - that he was placed on IR and won’t return - saddened but didn’t surprise me. I’m sorry for the man, and I hope he recovers quickly and completely. I have a lot of respect for Nate.

But he won’t be back in orange this year, and his contract is up after the season. Denver may move on.

As we talked about on Thursday, Denver’s been using a three-safety look. T.J. Ward has been handling a SS/LB role when they’re in nickel. Quinton Carter has taken over SS, with Rahim Moore at FS. It’s a good option. Corey Nelson has taken some snaps in relief, as has Lamin Barrow. Both are rookies, and neither is at the level of Danny Trevathan, Brandon Marshall, or Von Miller, which is no insult.

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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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