The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

The Daily Lard 9-20-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Unfortunately, the news of the day was that WR Eddie Royal will be out at least two weeks with a strained groin, with his return figuring to be Week 5 against San Diego or Week 7 at Miami following the Broncos' bye week. Obviously, Royal's injury underscores the urgency for WR Brandon Lloyd to return from his groin strain this week; according to LJ, there's a chance Lloyd, DE Elvis Dumervil, RB Knowshon Moreno and LB D.J. Williams will be back practicing sometime this week. As for Denver's other serious injury from Sunday, TE Julius Thomas is also out for at least two weeks with a high ankle sprain, and he was in a boot and on crutches yesterday.

Meanwhile, John Fox said yesterday the Broncos wouldn't again make the glaring mistake of entering a game with only three healthy WRs - and since Lloyd's return to health is not guaranteed, it's probably a safe bet the team will call up Eron Riley or D'Andre Goodwin from the practice squad to supplement the current group of Lloyd?, Eric Decker and Matt Willis for Sunday's game at Tennessee. It will also be interesting to see if the team is willing to enter Sunday with only Daniel Fells and Virgil Green healthy at TE, as doing so would likely hamper Denver's ability to utilize two-TE and max-protect sets. If the team were to make a pair of moves, DT Mitch Unrein and RB Jeremiah Johnson would figure to be prime candidates to be waived and stashed on the PS if they were to clear. Is Richard Quinn healthy and/or in football shape?

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The Daily Lard 9-19-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Who said Denver doesn't have any depth? The Broncos had to resort to lining up Tim Tebow at WR yesterday as they eked out a 24-22 victory (box score) over the Bengals, and they sit in a tie for first place in the AFC West (probably won't be able to write that again this year). Denver lost Eddie Royal to what appeared to be a groin injury, while Julius Thomas suffered a high ankle sprain; both left the stadium on crutches.

The victory came on the strength of two beautiful Kyle Orton TD passes to Eric Decker, 101 patient and hard-fought rushing yards from Willis McGahee (who also punched in Denver's first touchdown), and Dennis Allen's defense holding Cincy to 1-of-11 on third down and making just enough plays to hang on for dear life in the fourth quarter. Wesley Woodyard (10 T, 3 A, 1 TFL, 1 PD) showed why D.J. Williams is overpaid and expendable for these Broncos, while Joe Mays (5 T, 3 A, 2 TFL) continued to thump and dole out statement-making hits.

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The Daily Lard 9-18-11

Good Morning/Afternoon, Broncos fans! Apologies for the late Lard, but I was out of town, back just in time to catch the day's games - this will be an abbreviated edition. Of course, the big news is that the Broncos have given up on the already slim chance that Ty Warren would be able to return to health in time to have an impact on the 2011 season while wasting a roster spot for much of the year. Instead, they placed him on IR yesterday to open a spot for RB Jeremiah Johnson, who was promoted from the practice squad for today's game.

In other injury news, Marcus Thomas had been expected to rejoin the team before last week's opener, but he apparently suffered a groin strain during his conditioning test - that is what kept him out Monday night and will cause him to miss today's game as well.

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The Daily Lard 9-17-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The team is apparently scheduled to work out veteran safety Darren Sharper on Tuesday along with at least one defensive lineman and several backs, including former Pats/Seahawks/Niners RB Thomas Clayton. But according to Jason La Canfora, it's highly unlikely the Broncos will sign Sharper, who most recently worked out for the Patriots and apparently turned down contract offers from two teams this summer. La Canfora figures the Broncos are simply working Sharper out in case of an injury later in the season. Of course, Sharper is plenty familiar with Dennis Allen, who was his secondary coach with the Saints for the past two seasons.

Bengals QB Andy Dalton was a full participant in practice yesterday and has been cleared to start on Sunday, while DE Robert Geathers is doubtful to play and T Andrew Whitworth is listed as probable.

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Conclusion reached on Tebow? Lard 9-16-11

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Fascinating radio conversation Wednesday between Sandy Clough and Woody Paige, with the latter stating that the Broncos' decision makers 1) are not fond of Kyle Orton's quarterbacking skills 2) believe Tim Tebow is not ready to be an NFL QB now, if ever 3) would be willing to deal Tebow to Baltimore in exchange for a third-rounder prior to the trade deadline (according to Clough, Peter King said on satellite radio the other day that Baltimore would have interest in such a deal).

This calls to mind a few thoughts: What if the main source for Mike Silver's controversial column from last month really was John Elway? You know, the one that says Tebow was the fourth-best QB in training camp behind undrafted rookie Adam Weber, and that the team felt as if it had dodged a bullet when it failed to trade Orton to Miami and open the starting QB gig for Tebow? (Let's not suggest that there's fiction among Silver's writing, or how else would he ever gain readmittance to Dove Valley to perform his job? This was not an opinion piece from afar, but an article with exclusive quotes gathered in person, and as TJ reminded us last night, Silver and Elway go way back.)

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The Daily Lard 9-15-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Over at PFF, Khaled Elsayed analyzes Monday's loss, calling Raiders LB Kam Wimbley the star of the night and crediting Von Miller with playing a game that hints at future stardom. The only other positive on the Broncos' ledger was the effort of Jason Hunter - no mention of Brian Dawkins. As for assigning blame, PFF graded all of the offensive linemen as having losing performances, especially Orlando Franklin and Chris Kuper, while Kyle Orton did not fare well under pressure. Let us know if you've heard that one before.

Meanwhile, Nathan Jahnke reviews the Bengals' victory over the Browns on Sunday, basically saying they won because they just managed to suck less than Cleveland did. Jahnke writes that DEs Robert Geathers (who did not practice yesterday) and Carlos Dunlap combined to apply plenty of pressure on Colt McCoy, that Cedric Benson had an impressive game, and that QB Andy Dalton forced plenty of passes and was lucky to not turn the ball over more and cost the Bengals the game. But Bruce Gradkowski graded out even worse, and aside from his quick-snap TD with nobody in coverage, he only completed 11 passes for 51 yards.

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The Daily Lard 9-14-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Woody Paige is annoyed with claims that the team may not have fared any better Monday night had Tim Tebow been the quarterback, and frankly so am I. So, Kyle isn't the only problem. The offensive line isn't so great, the run defense was iffy for much of the game and poor late, and the team as a whole exhibited a complete utter lack of discipline. But why does the fact that Orton is not the only player at fault mean he deserves to keep the starting gig?

So, the pass protection isn't that great. In that case, do you prefer a QB who steps/shuffles/slides his way into a sack multiple times per game and at best throws it away under serious pressure? Or would you like to give your team a chance to make winning plays when there's a little bit of pressure? Let's not call this a knee-jerk reaction to one little game either, or was nobody watching the preseason when Orton was doing the very same thing? Look, I'm not saying Orton is a terrible QB. He's not - we saw him turn in some excellent performances over his first two seasons in Denver. But to truly excel, the guy needs a lot of good things happening around him: big, clean pockets, a solid running game which he will not contribute to (Monday's one first down aside), and apparently a dry, sunny day. Tebow may not be the answer, but we might as well find out. If he's not, Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley or Landry Jones might be...

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The Daily Lard 9-13-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Well, it's (still) morning at least. While Denver's 23-20 loss (box score) to the Raiders was not quite of the same magnitude of their previous three defeats to Oakland, in some ways it was worse. The narrative we've been told for the past eight months is that John Fox would bring offensive balance and discipline to Denver, but his debut showed none of either; it was instead hallmarked by penalties in bunches (ten of them, and those are just the ones Oakland accepted), turnovers (three), a blocked punt, several wasted timeouts, and a complete dud on offense - the team mustered only 13 offensive points as Eric Decker's lipstick-on-a-pig punt-return TD was the only thing that saved Denver from getting blown out. The Broncos' reputed new commitment to the run resulted in 13 carries for just 38 yards with a long of 13 by none other than Kyle Orton.

Speaking of Orton, if last night didn't epitomize his career in Denver, then what does? Fantasy owners will be happy with his 304 yards, but that empty number required a whopping 46 attempts to achieve and was accompanied by just one TD but two costly turnovers - a ghastly INT and a phantom fumble that called Jay Cutler and Ed Hochuli to mind on what could have been a TD pass to a wide open Daniel Fells. To make matters worse, Orton shuffled his feet into five sacks and could have been picked off on several more occasions. Three visits to the red zone and just the one touchdown, when Oakland was working with a 10-point lead and playing off coverage. In short, it looks like we'll be seeing Tim Tebow a bit sooner than Woody had predicted, or perhaps the Broncos really will be in the running to select Andrew Luck next April.

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Pregame Lard 9-12-11

The team is asking all fans attending tonight's game to wear orange like the team is doing, and to be in their seats by 30 minutes prior to kickoff for a special ceremony commemorating the anniversary of 9/11. They've even been using a recording of Brandon Lloyd in phone calls to season-ticket holders to get the message out.

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The Daily Lard 9-12-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Here we go - it's been a tumultuous 12 months for our team, what with the firing of Josh McDaniels, John Elway taking over the organization, the hiring of John Fox, the lockout, yet another scandal (the arrest of Perrish Cox and the prospect of Broncos players having to testify against their ex-teammate) and something about a pair of quarterbacks whose names I'm struggling with at the moment. It felt like the longest offseason in history, but finally we get to see the 2011 Broncos for really real tonight, and against our most hated rivals, nonetheless.

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