There has been no shortage of exceptional special team players with the Denver Broncos this year. Among them is linebacker Steven Johnson, currently second to Jacob Tamme with four tackles and an assist.
Johnson's signature play of the season was his Week 4 blocked punt and touchdown return against the Eagles that resulted from two factors: a quick explosion off the snap to the right side of Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos (46), and blown blocking assignments by the offensive line. Let's take a detailed look at what happened.
As you'll see below, the Eagles put four men on the offensive right - the special teams guard and tackle, plus two more - running back Chris Polk (32) and safety Colt Anderson (30). Johnson makes his charge through the A gap between the center and right guard - the guard is ‘covered’ (looking directly at) by Johnson but blocks down (to his own right) on Adrian Robinson (57) while the snapper blocks to his left, making Johnson's charge up the middle easier.
Last offseason, the Broncos signed undrafted rookie Quincy McDuffie to try out for the team as a receiver and return specialist. He had been named a Sports Illustrated All-American as a kick returner, which put him up against returner/receiver Trindon Holliday in a battle of the bantams.
In the end, both the contest and the position went to Holliday, and thankfully so: through five weeks, he already has touchdowns on both punt and kick returns. He’s consistently exciting as a returner and often extends his returns - getting back to the the 35 is a short return for him.
When he does bring it out, he’s averaging 37.7 yards, on six returns; the former NCAA track champion has an amazing four touchdowns among his last 26 returns.
Rahim 'The Dream' Moore has put his catastrophic error from last year's season-ending playoff loss behind him, but still uses it for motivation. Moore said on Monday that he’d picked up some things that he wants to focus on in his play, including improving his angles and route recognition.
His hit on Dallas Clark in the third quarter of the opener against Baltimore showed just how aggressive and effective Moore can become. Peyton Manning’s constant efforts to improve has created a special kind of energy that’s rubbed off on the entire locker room. This is a team that doesn’t care about who starts: they just care about winning.
Moore and the other safeties have internalized that. The ferocity of Duke Ihenacho and David Bruton (who added a hit and a hurry to his punt block) playing alongside him hasn’t hurt. This is a very tough group of defensive backs.
Denver’s preseason-opening win at San Francisco featured just one touchdown - a fumble forced by Nate Irving and returned to paydirt by Shaun Phillips. Considering that these are the two players that may be most impacted by a possible suspension of Von Miller, I thought this would be a good play to look at.
The play starts at 7:28 of the second quarter; SF has been backed up by a good punt by Britton Colquitt and a penalty on the return, but a missed tackle by Omar Bolden on a pass to Kassim Osgood has them in 2nd and 1.
Many teams will try a long pass in that down and distance, counting on a third down run if needed to convert the first down. Instead, still deep in his own zone, Scott Tolzien hands off to D.J. Harper (36) for a run play around left tackle, and the whole game changes.
Second-year Denver linebacker Danny Trevathan is hoping to continue and increase his repetitions with starter Wesley Woodyard on nickel downs. Trevathan took some snaps last season with the radio helmet when Woodyard was injured, but his normal role is to match with Woodyard (who usually wears the radio) in the nickel/base formation.
If Woodyard is injured, Trevathan will be likely to step into Woodyard’s roles, with one of the other linebackers stepping into Trevathan’s.
Trevathan’s work showed up in the pivotal Week 6 game in San Diego last year, where the Broncos snoozed through the first half, handing over a couple of fumbles and spotting the Bolts a 24-point lead. Yet San Diego found they’d awakened a sleeping giant when the gun sounded for the second half.
Yesterday me and the boys were kickin' it down at IAOFM headquarters (which is twice as cool as Kickin' It headquarters), when we received several emails linking us to a film review of Champ Bailey's subpar play from 2012. The cat who wrote this piece, Uptown Murf, supposedly watched film of Bailey's 2012 play and came to the conclusion that Bailey is no longer a #1 corner:
For the 2012 season, Champ Bailey finished with 66 tackles, 2 Int’s, and 9 passes defensed. I give him a C for his overall play. He did some great things, and brings a tremendous amount of experience to the Broncos secondary. Unfortunately at this point in his career, (Based off 2012 film) I believe he’s no longer a number 1 corner. He doesn’t necessarily need to switch positions, but he should primarily face the #2 receiver on each team.
In order to provide proof of this conclusion, the article cut up several plays in which Bailey was toasted last year for long gains, including plays against Vincent Jackson, Andre Johnson, and A.J. Green.
Fortunately for Broncos fans, it's not true.
PFF's Ben Stockwell writes in great depth today about Von Miller's remarkable pass rush skills. From his piece:
What Miller achieved this year was simply astonishing — to be that prolific, show such improvement in one facet of his skills as a pass rusher, and be so close to perfectly balanced as a pass rusher. Miller got pressure inside of opposing pass protectors as often as anyone, and got pressure outside of pass protectors as often as anyone. Combine that with an ability to just drive straight through a pass rusher on a bullrush (1 Sk, 1 Ht, 6 Hu) when needed, and the energy and awareness to clean up plays when the pocket breaks (12 pressures including four sacks in clean up and pursuit) and you have nothing short of the ideal pass rusher. I’m not sure how you improve on what Miller did this season, and his biggest challenge is doing it with even more expected from him, and without Elvis Dumervil on the other side. The fascinating battle will be whether his opponents can focus one (or two) men in on him, or whether the role in which the Broncos deploy him will allow him to continue to cause mayhem against a plethora of blockers.
Denver Post reporter Jeff Legwold has not been a fan of Darrelle-Revis-to-Denver speculation, not one bit. You may recall this nugget from two weeks ago...
Enough already....the Broncos are NOT interested in trading for Darrelle Revis. $9 million cap hit for a player coming off ACL surgery.— Jeff Legwold(@Jeff_Legwold) March 5, 2013
...which was followed a few minutes later by this:
Manning to Broncos...more coming on Espn— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 19, 2012
Well, of course you do. In honor of one of the Broncos' greatest off-field moments, let's take a trip down memory lane:
By now, you know the hideously grotesque details.
The 2012 Denver Broncos--who had effectively ruptured the spleen of their opponents on eleven straight occasions--were 41 seconds away from hosting its first AFC Championship since 2005.
Their opponents, the Baltimore Ravens--a team featuring more centenarians than the Sardinian Blue Zone--were coming off just six days of rest; they'd just played through almost four quarters of penis-shriveling cold at an altitude of five thousand, two hundred, and eighty feet; they stupidly had no timeouts; the noise of the Denver crowd was so loud it was rumored to have shattered the eardrums of the rotund (meaning a lot of inner-ear fat) Peter King.