The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

Russ Hochstein era officially over Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! In accordance with the new CBA's ban on full-contact two-a-days, the Broncos held a private walkthrough yesterday evening to complete the first day of training camp. RG Chris Kuper, who had not worked with the starters during morning practice, was back with them for the evening.

As for that morning session (BTVphotos), the departure of undrafted rookie Eric Page, who was waived due to a knee injury, left Eric Decker, Syd'Quan Thompson, Tracy Porter, and Drayton Florence to field punts. C.J. Davis was the backup center, meaning rookie Philip Blake isn't just competing with starter J.D. Walton for the spot, if he is at all.

Peyton Manning's perfectionism was there for all to see, as was some reported improvement in his throwing since OTAs, although the toughest throws like deep comebacks were not.

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We’re talking about practice Lard

Good Evening, Broncos fans! The team kicked off training camp today in front of the largest crowd ever assembled at Dove Valley; nearly 4,400 fans gathered to see Peyton Manning & Co. practice (photos).

Although Chris Kuper has been cleared medically, he did not practice with the starting five today; Manny Ramirez subbed for him. Brandon Stokley sat out with a case of the flu; Andre Caldwell acted as the third receiver and made several impressive plays.

Over on defense, Mitch Unrein (due to an injury to Justin Bannan) and Rahim Moore ran with the first-teamers, with Tracy Porter lining up across from Champ Bailey and ahead of Drayton Florence and Chris Harris.

Manning and coach John Fox (videos) spoke afterward and praised the tempo of practice and the level of fan support. Peyton says he's already accustomed to wearing his new orange and blue colors, and that he appreciates being back to the familiarity of practice. So far, so good.

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Peytonpalooza begins in earnest Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Peytonpalooza, the series of events formerly known around these parts as Broncos training camp, kicks off today at Dove Valley. Prepare yourselves for the forthcoming onslaught of Peyton Porn of this variety from NFL Network (He's HERE!). Later today, the "He THREW!" episode will air, to be followed by "He threw IN PADS" on Saturday.

In a couple of weeks, there will be the four-hour pregame show for his preseason debut in Chicago, along with the "He took his FIRST HIT as a Bronco!" segment that will loop endlessly on Sportscenter, with "He GOT UP and threw again!" shortly thereafter, we can only hope.

Until then, we'll get to hear/read over and over that expectations have been lifted in Denver, that everyone is watching Peyton, that his presence turns what is normally a mundane responsibility into a rock show, and that the defense finally gets to face a real quarterback in practice. And for six months, or until the Broncos are (or aren't) eliminated, we'll be reminded that the next Big Game is being played in the new QB's hometown.

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Push for 18 games waning Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! During the team's annual shareholder meeting, Packers team president Mark Murphy offered some revealing comments regarding the possibility of an 18-game season:

Now, to be honest with you, I couldn't support a move to 18. I just think with all the focus on the player health and safety, it would be really hard to do that. . . . I would be in support of a move to two (preseason games) and 16. Reduce the number of preseason games.

We've talked about at the league level that it wasn't that long ago boxing was one of the most popular sports in America. And I think people just got turned off by the violence and the impact that it had on boxers. My concern in the long term is that parents look at the game and say, 'It's too violent, there's too many risks involved. I don't want my son playing the game.'

According to Mike Freeman, Murphy is far from alone in backing off a push for an 18-game schedule, and he hears this retreat has come in response to the lawsuits filed against the league by so many ex-players. Freeman says that not only the sheer volume of names, but also the prominence of them, has had a profound effect on the owners' outlook.

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Chad Johnson changes name to Chad Johnson Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! With teams set to enter camp this week and sort out their depth charts, the Panthers swung a pair of trades yesterday which amounted in essence to a three-way deal.

They first acquired WR Louis Murphy from Oakland for an undisclosed conditional draft choice - it's expected to be a seventh-rounder. This was the second trade of the offseason between the two teams; back in March, the Raiders had sent lineman Bruce Campbell to the Panthers in return for RB Mike Goodson. Oakland drafted Murphy in the fourth round of the 2009 Draft; he posted 90 receptions for 1,371 yards and six touchdowns in three seasons with the team.

Later in the day, Carolina got a conditional seventh-rounder back from the Jets in exchange for the injury-prone tackle Jeff Otah. Otah had been a first-round pick in 2008 by Carolina, who moved up to take him just seven spots after Denver drafted Ryan Clady. A strong rookie season had plenty of folks saying he would join top overall pick Jake Long and Clady as elite ten-year tackles, but Otah would finish each of the next three seasons on IR, playing just 29 games in four NFL seasons.

The Jets are expecting Otah to compete with incumbent right tackle Wayne Hunter; Khaled Elsayed sees the deal as a positive for both teams.

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Broncos offer Clady $28M in guarantees Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Now that the team has reached an impasse in their negotiations on a long-term contract with the representatives for left tackle Ryan Clady, they're taking things public.

Mike Klis reports that Denver's latest offer to the 25-year-old tackle is a five-year deal with $28M in guarantees and a total value of $50M. The fifth-year player is set to make $3.5M in the final year of his rookie contract - a pittance relative to the position he plays. To wit, Klis says that salary would rank Clady 31st among the league's offensive tackles this season.

However, Clady's reps are reportedly using the contract of Browns LT Joe Thomas as a benchmark, and there's quite a gap between the two. Last summer, Thomas signed an eight-year deal with $44M in guarantees and a total value of $92M (most reports call it a seven-year deal, but Rotowire tends to have the most up-to-date figures).

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Zubaz pants still exist Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Players report to camp on Wednesday, with practices beginning the day after that. The team's annual scrimmage at SAF@MH is less than two weeks away (Saturday, August 4), and presumably this time the starting QB won't be booed.

In a preview of training camp, the DP writers label the secondary as Denver's biggest question mark. But with four starter-quality corners in Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter, Drayton Florence, and Chris Harris, and rookie Omar Bolden getting the opportunity to learn from all of them, we'll call the front seven a much greater concern.

After the team got zero sacks from its starting tackles in 2011, will Justin Bannan (only 31 pressures in three seasons according to PFF) and Ty Warren (hasn't played since 2009) provide anything in the pass rush? Is Joe Mays really a starting Mike linebacker (highest stop rate among inside backers, but also the most missed tackles in 2011)? Will Wesley Woodyard hold up well if he's called on to start six games in place of D.J. Williams? What if D.J. is suspended longer after his DUI trial concludes? If he's cut?

It's just about time to start finding out.

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Bruce Smith sues league, Emmitt says he lied to team docs Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The Chargers released guard Kris Dielman from their reserve-retired list yesterday, which prompted some puzzling rumors the 31-year-old was considering a return to play.

Instead, the move is more likely a precursor to legal action from Dielman against the Chargers and the NFL for their disastrous handling of his concussion last season.

Dielman had suffered a head injury during the fourth quarter of an October matchup with the Jets, but remained in the game despite showing signs of a concussion. Following the game, team personnel determined him fit to fly cross-country, even though air travel is thought to worsen post-concussive symptoms. Frighteningly, Dielman suffered a grand mal seizure during the flight and was later hospitalized.

Of course, we can talk all we want about personal responsibility, but does anyone want to suggest that Dielman was in any condition to determine whether it was a good idea for him to get on a plane that evening?

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Kerry Byrne is still a statistical hack Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! I don't bother linking to Kerry Byrne anymore because the guy is a statistical hack, and his latest column is no exception. But it also mentions the 1998 Broncos, so I figured why not take a closer peek.

I should have resisted the urge, because it gets ugly, and fast.

As expected, the whole thing is a joke, because Byrne tries to make the case that in 1998, the SB 33-losing Chris Chandler had the best year that any QB had had in 42 seasons. Yeah, better than seasons by Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and Steve Young. The guy completed 58.1% of his passes with a very high INT rate of 3.7%, and it's a historically peerless season?

Not quite. As usual, the problem with Byrne is that he picks a stat, declares it to be the best, and then claims it to prove everything thereafter. In this case Yards Per Attempt is his obsession. And yes, it's a good stat - as we always note, rate stats are far better than counting stats. But as we've also discussed plenty of times, there are better QB rate stats than YPA, including AY/A, NY/A and ANY/A, all from PFR. These figures all correlate better to winning than does YPA.

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Franchise tag conceived for Elway Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! We've mentioned here of late that the NFL's franchise tagging system has been bastardized a bit. Intended originally to keep iconic stars with the teams they are identified with, it has instead functioned recently as a way for teams to hang onto their most important free agent each year.

Clearly, this should almost never be the punter or kicker. But as Albert Breer notes, eleven specialists have been among the 55 players tagged in just the past four years.

Of greater interest to us is that Breer says Denver's Pat Bowlen was the owner lobbying hardest for the franchise tag 20 years ago, for the selfish reason of wanting to ensure John Elway would remain a Bronco for eternity.

Which of course is ironic - in that Dan Reeves drafted twenty-year-old UCLA sophomore Tommy Maddox that spring to eventually replace Elway - passing over Carl Pickens at a time when the Duke needed a top WR in the worst of ways. Jimmy Smith was taken a few picks after Pickens, but I have no idea if he was a consideration for Denver in the first round. Can any of our Broncos historians out there recall what the speculation was back then?

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