Second Helpings

A Second Helping of the Broncos’ improved running game

When Orlando Franklin learned that he was being moved to left guard last offseason, he issued a very negative tweet on the subject. He quickly took it down, and got on board with the idea. The development of the offensive line as a whole has followed a similar path.

There were some tenacious problems that developed early in the season. They were dealt with, one after another. No player is starting where he did last season for the Broncos. Yet Denver has a revitalized line.

"When I first heard about it, you get disappointed, because you're moving positions," Franklin said. "But at the end of the day, as long as I'm on the field and as long as I'm one of the best five, I'm happy with that."

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A Second Helping of Denver’s Week 12 win over Miami

Some fans had started to lose faith in the Broncos after they's lost two of their last three games in blowouts at New England and St. Louis.

The team knew Miami, which entered the game with a 3-2 road record, would be a tough opponent.

Denver, meanwhile, hadn't yet lost at home.

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A Second Helping of DeMarcus Ware against Oakland

One of the amazing things about elite athletes is the way they marry natural skill with endless practice. The fundamentals are always what a player, coach, or team goes back to when things are hard.

DeMarcus Ware showed off some of the keys to any lineman’s play during Denver's Week 10 win at Oakland.

Everyone notices when an elite player makes a splash play, and Ware has made more than his share over the years. But on many of his true splash plays, you barely see how he does it.

Early on, the Raiders knew they were going to struggle to keep Derek Carr’s uniform clean.

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A Second Helping of Paul Cornick and Ronnie Hillman against San Diego

When you have a running back who’s 200 lb, soaking wet after Sunday dinner, one question always stands out. How do you get yards up the middle with him?

There are several options - the inside zone run is always good. The back runs it on the right guard’s outside hip, and with Louis Vasquez, there’s lots of room. But, there are many plays that work just fine for a smaller back. Denver displayed one against San Diego in Week 8, featuring the blocking skills of Paul Cornick at right tackle.

The play shows exactly why Cornick replaced Chris Clark in the starting lineup:

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A Second Helping of Bradley Roby covering tight ends

Every year, we talk about the Broncos' issues with covering tight ends. Who’s strong enough, long enough, motivated enough?

We talk about it because the era of the tight end is back. Sid Gillman, who said that with two good TEs you can control the middle of the field, has again been proven right.

But the reality is that you don’t need to be tall or long to cover a TE. Strength helps, especially when the TE is firing off the line. You need a guy who can redirect him or change his timing. It’s the moment when the TE is most vulnerable. Most will be bigger than the coverage player. With good leverage and a nasty attitude, the defender can use the five-yard window to make the TE change his route.

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A Second Helping of Ronnie Hillman & Chris Clark against the Niners

Shutouts are always encouraging. When the Broncos' third string managed a stellar goal line stand, the team and fans went wild.

That is, except for Peyton Manning, who quietly stood and watched San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh as if he could read Harbaugh’s mind. Given Manning’s skills around football, he probably could. The newly built Levi's Stadium would forever be broken in with a 34-0 shutout.

It’s fair to say that both teams withheld many of their real strengths for their Week 7 Sunday night clash, but there's still plenty to take away from the contest.

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A Second Helping of the development of Sylvester Williams

Rookie Sylvester Williams had a unique journey to the pros, and struggled early, but lately has been showing exactly why Denver made him their first choice in the 2013 Draft. No one seemed to imagine a scenario where Williams would still be on the board when Denver chose, but an early run on offensive linemen left him to the Broncos, who gratefully snapped him up at #28.

That has turned out to be the right choice at the right time. Defensive line leader Kevin Vickerson suffered a season-ending hip injury in the Week 12 loss to the Patriots, and Williams started to see more time on the field.

He’s made the most of it, with a solid performance during the last quarter of the season. What Williams has done of late is to show that he understands the pro game and that he can play well at this level.  

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Breaking Down History: Peyton Manning’s TD passes, 1-10

Happy Monday, friends. As I mentioned amid the kerfluffle on Friday, I have recently come into a bit more free time, and I plan to put out some good analytical content over the next couple weeks.

When Peyton Manning agreed to come to the Broncos, I did a series of articles about the Manning Offense, which I called the simplest in the NFL.

For the most part, that remains true. This year, however, Adam Gase has introduced some creative wrinkles to the offense, and they’ve been used at key times to generate points.

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A Second Helping of Denver’s run game at Kansas City

The Broncos celebrated the first day of December with a brilliant come-from-behind 35-28 victory over the Chiefs, and now control the AFCW and their own destiny for playoff seeding.

After customarily deferring possession on the opening kickoff, Denver had to weather KC's emotional level of play in the first half, falling behind 21-7, but getting to within a touchdown late in the second quarter.

They went three-and-out on their next series, but starting with the second-half kickoff, the Broncos sucked the life out of Arrowhead with three consecutive long touchdown drives - of 80, 92, and 95 yards.

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A Second Helping of Derek Wolfe against Kansas City

Don’t you love life’s little ironies?

Just moments after Cris Collinsworth had long-windedly and orgasmically extolled the brilliance of Chiefs RT Eric Fisher (#72) during Denver's 27-17 Week 11 win, Derek Wolfe notched his fourth sack of the season by ragdolling Fisher. It happened with 9:35 left in the third quarter, and KC’s Alex Smith (#11) playing from the shotgun.

Since before he was drafted, I have liked Fisher’s play, and I enjoy watching his work. He’s learning quickly enough as a rookie for me to expect that at some point he’s going to take over the left tackle position from Branden Albert, just in view of his play so far. That doesn’t make his first year in the pros any less of a learning experience, though - every player has rookie moments.

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