The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

The Daily Lard 10-3-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! After keeping it close (and even winning one) against three sloppy teams who handed them 11 first downs along the way, reality hit hard yesterday as Denver lost in Green Bay 49-23 to the flawless Packers (box score). While the Broncos made it momentarily close in the second quarter with two Kyle Orton-to-Eric Decker touchdowns bringing them within four points of the defending champs, it was a men-versus-boys type of affair as Aaron Rodgers accounted for a whopping six TDs - four through the air and two via the ground. Green Bay's other TD came on an early pick-six of Orton by Charles Woodson which put the Pack up 14-3.

There were a few positives, as Von Miller was again a terror (two sacks, three QB hits, two TFL), Willis McGahee topped 100 yards on just 15 carries, Mike McCoy opened up the playbook a bit, Orton had three TD passes, and Brandon Lloyd broke free for 136 yards on eight receptions after his "selfish complaining" from last week (hilarious). But in addition to his fatal misthrow to Woodson, Orton also came up woefully short on a would-be 40-yard TD pass to an open Lloyd early in the fourth quarter, and instead CB Sam Shields took it back 60 yards before Rodgers connected with Donald Driver to cap Green Bay's scoring.

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Dinger Lard 10-2-11

It's a sad weekend in Broncos Country, as former Denver assistant head coach and wide receivers coach Mike Heimerdinger passed away Friday night at the age of 58 in Mexico, where he was receiving experimental cancer treatments. Heimerdinger had been diagosed with a rare and aggressive cancer which attacks the lymphatic system in November of 2010, and he incredibly continued to coach the Titans' offense and call plays for them while undergoing chemotherapy last season.

Coach Heimerdinger, who played WR in college, was a roommate and teammate of Mike Shanahan while both were at Eastern Illinois, and Shanny credits Dinger with having saved his life after the young QB had ruptured a kidney during spring practice. The two were reunited in 1995 when Shanahan hired Heimerdinger to coach the Broncos' wide receivers, and during his five seasons in that role he helped turn Rod Smith into the only undrafted player to gain 10,000 receiving yards, and the twice-discarded Ed McCaffrey into a Denver fixture. Dinger returned to Denver in 2006 as Shanahan's assistant head coach for two years, coordinating the Titans and Jets' offenses during the intervening years.

Heimerdinger is survived by his wife Kathie, their daughter, Alicia, and son, Brian, who works for Kubes and the Texans in their scouting department. Our thoughts at IAOFM go out to the Heimerdinger family. RIP, Coach Dinger.

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The Daily Lard 10-1-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Knowshon Moreno and D.J. Williams are listed as probable on the final injury report for the week, Champ Bailey, Elvis Dumervil and Marcus Thomas are questionable, and Eddie Royal, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas are likely not back before Denver's Week 6 bye. For Green Bay, RB Ryan Grant and RT Bryan Bulaga are indeed out, while LT Chad Clifton, LB Clay Matthews, TE Jermichael Finley, CB Tramon Williams and CB Charles Woodson are all probable.

Chris Benson of PFF previews the game, and he thinks a realistic goal for Denver is to cover the 13-point spread. He writes that the Broncos have not faced anyone as dangerous as Jermichael Finley, and that the teams is faced with quite a dilemma in picking the poison between Finley and WRs Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. Benson thinks that if Champ isn't quite up to his usual standard, Aaron Rodgers may pick on him a bit with Jennings, and of course he figures that the Broncos will provide Orlando Franklin with plenty of help in dealing with Clay Matthews.

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The Daily Lard 9-30-11

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Surely this is going to bring some cries of diva, but Brandon Lloyd wants to see more deep targets in his direction. He does have 10 catches in just two games played (he missed the Bengals game with a groin injury), but his average reception has gone for just 12.7 yards, a pittance relative to his 18.8-yard average from last season.

Lloyd blames the team's purported commitment to the run, while John Fox says Lloyd just hasn't been healthy enough (probably true). Yet, the Broncos have a split of 62% pass and 38% run so far - they just haven't attacked deep, or as Ted would say, they haven't taken the top off of the defense. To wit, the Broncos and Kyle Orton have only attempted 13 deep passes through three games, completing five of them. Meanwhile, the team has just 7 passes that have gone for 20 or more yards (including YAC) which ties them for 8th-fewest in the league. Meanwhile, the Patriots have had 22 such plays and the Cowboys 20 of them, although the high-octane Packers have had just 9 passes go for 20+ yards and have only attempted 17 deep passes.

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The Daily Lard 9-29-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Denver finally got Marcus Thomas back onto the practice field along with Champ Bailey and Elvis Dumervil, albeit in limited fashion for all three. It's been a rough go for Thomas, who suffered a pec injury during training camp and recovered in time for Week 1 before straining a groin during his conditioning test. Obviously, it could take him a while to get back into playing shape - so even if he's able to play on Sunday at all, figure his playing time to be severely limited.

Meanwhile, Knowshon Moreno and D.J. Williams were full participants yesterday, and it will be interesting to see how their respective returns affect how much action Willis McGahee and Wesley Woodyard see in Green Bay. Eddie Royal, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas remain sidelined and are unlikely to return prior to Week 7 (following Denver's bye).

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The Daily Lard 9-28-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! As Legwold reminds us, it's getting about time for the Denver offense to start putting together some longer drives to give its own defense a breather, and to shorten the game for them. Revisiting the drive data I've been going over after games, the Broncos have had 22 possessions the past two weeks excluding the kneeldown to end the win over Cincy. Of these 22 possessions, six resulted in scores, while all 16 non-scoring drives have consumed 2:46 or less of game clock, and the only drive among the 16 that lasted longer than six plays ended in an interception (the one that sealed Sunday's loss). A staggering 10 of the 16 non-scoring drives were three-or-less and out.

Yes, the defense has overall been quite impressive, at least relative to the garbage we became accustomed to in 2008 and 2010. But it's not going to cut it against Aaron Rodgers & Co. unless the offense helps them out a bit, extends some drives and kills some clock, not to mention scores some points. If not, it's going to be a long Sunday for all of us...

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The Daily Lard 9-27-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Plenty of injury updates from Mike Klis: Denver is expecting to have Elvis Dumervil, Champ Bailey, D.J. Williams and Knowshon Moreno back in action this week for their game in Green Bay. Obviously, they'll need all the help they can get, so these returns could not come soon enough, although whether having Williams take over for his worthy replacement Wesley Woodyard isn't so clear.

In more great news, Marcus Thomas is expected to practice this week but perhaps on a limited basis - it remains to be seen if  he's anywhere near the proper shape to play after missing most of camp with a strained pec and then missing the first three games with a groin injury. Julius Thomas got rid of his walking boot and could be back next week against San Diego, while the other injured Thomas (Demaryius) is not expected back until Week 7 (after the bye).

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The Daily Lard 9-26-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! So, welcome to Foxball, everyone. After falling to the Titans in Tennessee 17-14 (box score), Denver's 1-2 record consists of two three-point losses and a two-point victory. Once again, the Broncos' defense did enough to win, and a remarkable lack of discipline by the Titans (11 penalties for 80 yards and three huge first downs) kept Denver in a game where its offense was outclassed (231 net yards on 63 plays for a paltry 3.7-yard average).

Last week against the Bengals, Denver's offense produced two long scoring drives and two quick TDs but sputtered on eight possessions which each took four plays or fewer and consumed 2:13 or less of game clock. Yesterday was much of the same, as the team managed two TD drives but couldn't sustain its other eight possessions, which maxed out at 2:46 worth of game clock. Willis McGahee could gain only 52 yards on 22 attempts, while Kyle Orton's 39 passes garnered a measly 173 yards. That, my friends, is the epitome of inefficiency.

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The Daily Lard 9-25-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! I don't often utilize this space to address or respond to comments, but I feel like doing so today. Yesterday, it was stated that pointing out Kyle Orton's shortcomings was becoming a tired exercise, that the Orton/Tebow debate is old hat. That bringing up the sack data from FO was useless. Here's what I have to say about that:

  1. Focusing on the fact that Orton holds the ball too long does not relate to Tim Tebow, nor was it a call for the youngster to play.
  2. It's not hackneyed, because we hear all the time that Orton doesn't stand a chance behind Denver's offensive line, or did you miss all the reaction to the opener versus the Raiders?
  3. IAOFM is about critical thinking. It's not about sticking to positivity, Kool-Aid, or expecting the Broncos to go 13-3 every year. You know where to go for that. And as Ted mentioned yesterday, there's no room for getting emotionally attached to one player or another, at least not for us writers. I'm guessing a lot of you would visit us a lot less frequently if we were to hold to our opinions out of stubbornness and ignore facts and film. Like Ted, I am constantly getting new information from my eyes, and if that means a fluidity to my assessments of Orton and Tebow, then so be it. Honestly, I do not care who is quarterbacking the Denver Broncos - only that he does so for a long time and at a high level that produces lots of wins for our team. That's it. Yes, there are other things to worry about, but in the NFL it's all about the quarterback, and the Broncos are unsettled in that department. So until that changes, we are going to be spending a lot of time here writing/debating the quarterback position.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the day's news. Of course, we'll have some Fat Pickins, an open thread and TJ's incomparable Gut Reactions for you today. Have a great day, everyone!

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The Daily Lard 9-24-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Here's something to consider when figuring out where to assign blame for the 70 sacks Kyle Orton has taken during his 31 games as a Bronco - how long do the sacks of Orton take to play out? Obviously, there's been plenty of chatter here about Orton and pass protection, and it's been my assertion that Kyle "walks into" too many of them due to his poor pocket awareness and mobility within it, while Ted has focused on Orton's tendency to hold the ball too long and his reluctance to check it down.

Well, as the data from J.J. Cooper of Football Outsiders points out, the overwhelming majority (80.49%) of sacks Denver allowed in 2009 and 2010 took more than 2.5 seconds to play out, which is the fifth-highest such figure among all teams, trailing only the Chiefs, Titans, Ravens and Vikings. At the other end of the spectrum is the Colts and their craptastic offensive line - and although Indy didn't allow a high number of sacks, we all know that's a credit to Peyton Manning's awareness and quick decisions. An incredible 61.76% of their sacks allowed took less than 2.5 seconds to occur, or when Manning just didn't have time to get the ball out. So, Kyle...just get rid of the damn ball!

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