Have you ever been watching a game and wondered why a team doesn't use a formation that you think would be great? Why does a team send players in motion. What about what a QB is looking at when he is under center? What does audible mean, other than "able to be heard?" Are there audibles that can't be heard?
In the spirit of Hoosierteacher's great recent work explaining defensive concepts and methodologies, I've decided to put some general football educational items down related to offense. Please add your thoughts on anything I include or don't include, as I'd like this to be a value-adding discussion for all our readers.
It’s really shocking to me how irrelevant the Broncos currently seem to the national media. Their draft picks got almost no discussion this past weekend, and they’re getting graded consistently at a C level for their rookie class. For the most part, the graders are fools who don’t know what they’re talking about, but it still speaks to this ho-hum feeling around the team. I saw two 2009 mock drafts (by Andrew Perloff of SI and Todd McShay of ESPN) which project the Broncos to be picking in the low teens again next year. We’re irrelevant, and we have no chance for improvement. Viva la Broncos fanhood!
Mike Lombardi is a longtime NFL personnel man who most recently worked for the Broncos for about a year. I'm not sure what the circumstances surrounding his departure were, but he now writes for SI.com, and he's got a surprisingly nice writing style for a football man. Imagine Shannon Sharpe as a graduate of Syracuse University's broadcast journalism program.
I'm posting this, because he makes the point that if he ran the Broncos, he'd be looking to inject more size into the offensive line, and I fundamentally agree with his thinking. I'm kind of a QBs/WRs guy when it comes to where my real knowledge lies, but I've been doing a lof of posting about offensive line play on here. In this case, I'm going to talk about defense in order to explain my position.
There is not a Quarterback in the NFL whom I would trade Jay Cutler for. That includes Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Go ahead and call me crazy, but those two are in their primes now, and can only go down from here. Jay, on the other hand, is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. Sometimes, I watch him play, and just feel really lucky to have been blessed with another soon-to-be-great QB.
There was an asinine DP article by Jim Armstrong today that made the case that Phyllis Rivers is better than Jay. In terms of isolating individual play, it’s pretty clear that he is not. It’s also clear that Phyllis has a much lower ceiling, and is already beginning to bump into it. The best he’ll ever be is an accurate-throwing game manager, which he is on his way to being now, once he improves his accuracy a bit. You put good talent around a credible guy like Phyllis, and he wins more than he loses. Think Phil Simms with the Giants as a good comparison. Simms was a good player who played in an era full of great players.
Who Earl Bennett reminds me of as a player.
You always read where scouts say they need to envision a college player as comparable to somebody similar in the NFL. I finally figured out who Earl Bennett reminds me of. You know his profile: slightly below average height, stocky/muscular, more quick than fast, B+ hands, very productive in the SEC. He reminds me almost exactly of Darrell Jackson, who had about the same grade coming out of Florida.
There is a great chance to remake the bottom half of the roster.
The Broncos' roster currently lacks team speed, and I think it is very important that this is addressed in the Draft. Not coincidentally, the special teams play has been terrible the past few years. It's been a long time since I've watched a Broncos game and thought to myself, we're really winning the field position game here.
I'm a believer that field position is more important in a game than any variable except maybe turnovers. The thesis of this post is that with every pick, the Broncos should be thinking about improving the special teams during this Draft.
Why i favor a Left Tackle in the Draft
I think the Broncos have been making do with less at Tackle for a lot of years now, but really, the paradigm has shifted to this being a Cutler-centric team. While it is true that we've often gotten by with lesser talents on the OL, remember that the two Super Bowls were won with Gary Zimmerman and Tony Jones (A Hall of Famer and a near Pro Bowl-caliber pass-blocker, respectively) at LT.
I have love and appreciation for Matt Lepsis, but he had a terrible year in 2007, by his own admission. I think he was an A- Right Tackle, and a B- Left Tackle, at his best. He was always a very good run-blocker, and a somewhat marginal pass-blocker. Erik Pears, in my opinion, is really not a starting-caliber Tackle in the NFL, as much as we may like underdog stories. If you watch the line play over the last two seasons, you can routinely see Pears getting dominated. He was better on the right than he was on the left side, (where he was a disaster,) but he really should be a third tackle, not a starter.
Thoughts about passing offense.
I mentioned in my first post that I am an offense guy. Really, to expand upon that, I am very interested in the passing game. I think our passing game can find another gear this year, and be very dangerous, maybe as dangerous as it was during the Super Bowl years.
You hear a lot about the West Coast Offense which was popularized by Bill Walsh with the 49ers in the 1980s. It came to be used at a time when 3-4 defenses were used by nearly every team in the league, and it was designed specifically to beat the 3-4. By employing quick 3 and 5 step drops, rollouts, timing routes, and liberal use of the Tight End running the seam of the defense, it created good matchups against the comparatively lesser team speed of a 3-4. It's essentially designed to work more horizontally than vertically. You hear the Shanahan offense referred to as a West Coast offense, but I don't consider that to be very accurate.
A long-ish post about me and the kind of Broncos fan I am.
I became a Broncos fan in January of 1987, when I was 9 years old. Super Bowl XXI was the first game I ever watched in its entirety, and my father was rooting for the Giants. He kept yelling at my brother Chris and I to shut up so he could watch the game, so we got mad at him and started rooting for the Broncos. Both of us have been Broncos fans since. My father changes allegiances every time he changes cities, and in January 1998, he lived in Milwaukee and had become a Packers fan. He refused to take my call after TD scored, which made my gloating feel even better, and I still remember this as the happiest day of my life. Such is the power of football and the Denver Broncos.