The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

The Daily Lard 11-15-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! PFF's John Breitenbach analyzes the Jets' loss to the Patriots Sunday night, and he says NJ played quite well at times but blew their opportunities with poor special teams play and turnovers. They allowed 4.5 sacks to Shanny favorite and Denver son Andre Carter, with Mark Sanchez deserving plenty of blame for holding the ball too long. We'll see how that works out against Von Miller.

Meanwhile, Breitenbach has plenty of praise for Jets NT Sione Pouha, whom he says is always involved in running plays and "occupies double teams but gets off blocks and makes tackles too." He then goes on to list the virtues of Jets C Nick Mangold, comparing him to ex-Broncos C Chris Myers, who has excelled with the Texans after Shanny & Co. sent him to Kubes in a rare sign-and-trade deal. Finally, Breitenbach writes that Jets S Eric Smith had a rough day trying to cover Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker, and that his tackles in the run game all came downfield. Hopefully there'll be more of that come Thursday...

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The Daily Lard 11-14-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Last week, the Broncos wore out a college play and rode it to a divisional road win. Yesterday, they employed the high school strategy of running the ball 87% of the time in a road division game, and it worked - Denver won at Arrowhead 17-10 (box score). What will they do on Thursday night when the Jets come to town? Punt on third down? Who cares, right? After all, the Broncos are just a game below .500 now and that same margin behind the first-place Raiders (5-4), tied with the Chargers and Chiefs at 4-5.

In case it wasn't abundantly clear after Tim Tebow did not attempt a single pass during the fourth quarter in Oakland with the game on the line, yesterday absolutely confirmed that John Fox and Mike McCoy do not trust their young QB to throw the ball. It was a record-setting day in that regard: in 51.5 seasons of Broncos football, the team had never attempted fewer than 11 passes in a game; yesterday Tebow threw eight passes and completed two of them. This marked just the third time Denver had as few as two pass completions in a game; the first two instances were in 1966 and 1967, both blowout losses. Denver's 55 rushing attempts were their most since twice topping that figure in 1978.

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The Daily Lard 11-13-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! As Dave Krieger stresses in his column today, one of the keys to the potential success of the zone read is that defenses are not used to facing it. Krieger reminds us that teams like Miami, Tennessee and Atlanta have gone to the Wildcat or a version of the option in recent years to compensate for a less-than-stellar passing game. As usual, the key today will be whether Tim Tebow can keep the Chiefs defense honest with his arm, and if he can exploit enough of the single-coverage matchups he's sure to see. If so, Tebow will have his third road victory of the season, he'll be above .500 as an NFL starter, and the Broncos will be just a game out of first place in the AFC West. We'll see what happens...

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The Daily Lard 11-12-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Pat KirwanMike LombardiMike SilverClark Judge, and Peter King preview the week's games: Kirwan wonders if Tebow could run for 100 yards on a frequent basis, Judge is picking the Broncos, and Silver thinks Penn State acted just like the Catholic Church in trying to first protect itself rather than do the right thing. Lombardi thinks the Chargers are suffering from a lack of talent at this juncture. Plus, Judge thinks it's ridiculous that the league scheduled three games for San Diego in 11 days, and it's hard to dispute that.

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The Daily Lard 11-10-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Andrew Brandt points out that the deadline has passed for teams to extend players' contracts and confine the financial impact to the 2011 salary cap. This means it's likely Denver will allow Eddie Royal, Daniel Fells, Marcus Thomas, Brodrick Bunkley, Wesley Woodyard, Mario Haggan, Joe Mays, and Matt Prater become free agents, among others (not that it's a shock). Based upon their respective roles, age and what interest they'd likely command on the open market (not much, frankly), I'd say the only one I'd like to have seen locked up would be Prater - and Denver can always franchise the guy if they're unable to reach agreement with him after the season. Then again, the team is still able to work on a new deal with any of these players until the day before the season finale, and Denver has plenty of cap room - so any guaranteed money would be prorated over the length of the contract rather than assigned to the 2011 cap.

Obviously it'd be nice to hang onto most, if not all of those other guys, but the question is at what cost and rather than which potential draft/FA replacements? Even if Denver were interested in keeping Royal, it's safe to presume he'll want to test the FA waters to find a situation where he can start instead of potentially being stuck behind Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas in a run-first (and second) offense. The question to consider is whether there will be better, cheaper and/or younger options available in the offseason, and the only resounding "no" in that regard is Prater.

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The Daily Lard 11-9-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his weekly film review, Andy Benoit is stunned that Oakland didn't spy Tim Tebow as much as Miami had, and he's baffled that the Raiders were so ill-prepared for Denver's zone read when considering the Broncos' lack of offensive diversity. Yes, Tebow & Co. had a few big pass plays including the two scores, but if 113 net yards on 23 attempts + sacks were enough to keep a defense honest, the whole league would be showing a 60/40 run/pass split every week. Seriously. It will be an outright shock if any Denver opponent going forward does not truly sell out to stop the run and keep Tebow in the pocket; doesn't mean it'll work or that the Broncos won't be able to win any more games in Sunday's manner (presumably Tebow will make at least some plays through the air, and hopefully the defense plays better than it has been), but don't expect other teams to be so hapless in defending the zone read.

Benoit also blames personnel for Oakland's problems (the absence of LB Rolando McClain), and on the other side of the ball, Benoit thinks the injury to C Samson Satele and their typical slew of penalties are what caused the Oakland rushing offense to go from gashing Denver early to struggling later. Benoit saw Dennis Allen's use of Von Miller as an inside blitzer as a great new wrinkle and isn't yet buying the notion that the real Elvis Dumervil is quite back.

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The Daily Lard 11-7-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It all went according to plan yesterday, as Denver was able to exploit the Raiders' struggling run defense to the tune of 298 rushing yards, won the turnover battle (three Carson Palmer INTs to no Denver giveaways) and got a big special teams play in the form of an 85-yard Eddie Royal punt return to beat the Raiders 38-24 (box score). In other words, the Broncos finally turned the tables on Oakland and beat them at their own game, physically outmatching them for the first time in over two years.

Willis McGahee gashed Oakland for 163 yards and two scores, while Tim Tebow added 117 rushing yards and two sharp TD passes, one each to Eric Decker and Royal. Tebow took just two sacks and did not fumble, clearly playing better than he had against Detroit even if he still threw some brutal passes throughout the game; Tebow ended up with a 98.1 QB Rating for the game and is now 2-1 as a starter this year (3-3 for his career) with both wins coming on the road (Denver won only one road game last year, at Tennessee).

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The Daily Lard 11-6-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his column today, Dave Krieger suggests that Tim Tebow's window as Denver's starting QB is closing, and he points to a quote from Champ Bailey earlier in the week as proof that Tim's teammates don't believe he has the talent to make it in the NFL. Said Bailey,

You can be as competitive and have as much heart as possible, but if you don't have the talent for this league, it's hard to play.

Obviously, this line could be interpreted as being about the team as a whole or in general, but since he mentions heart and competitiveness, who do you think he's really talking about? Krieger also checks in with former Buff Kordell Stewart, who thinks Tebow is benefitting from a double standard of sorts in getting a chance to play at this point. Ultimately, Krieger thinks Tebow has to show marked improvement today or be replaced by Brady Quinn next week at KC.

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The Daily Lard 11-5-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! You know how John Fox never says anything at all when he speaks? Well, either this Tebow thing is starting to really get to him, or Sam Farmer of the LA Times has some embarrassing photos of Fox - because the coach was pretty blunt in responding to the recent criticism of Denver's game plans and playcalling (emphasis mine):

As a coach or decision-maker in an NFL building, you don't care what round they're drafted in, you don't care who drafted them. You don't care if they're short, fat, whatever. You just care: Can they play? So all that other stuff is poppycock. The problem is, there's so much misinformation. For people that study it, you'd see that we've probably had more shotgun or spread offense than anybody in the league over the last two weeks. We're up 30% of what we were in the first four games. The goofy thing is, it's almost like if he doesn't have success it will be anybody's fault but his. It's almost that kind of polarizing thing. They'll say it could be his supporting cast, or the type of plays. At the end of the day, we are what we are. We're doing everything we can to win, and we're finding out about a young quarterback, good, bad or indifferent.

Sounds like a coach who's pretty much fed up, perhaps even one who didn't actually want to play Tebow - because wouldn't he be speaking in a more protective manner than he does here, especially after just two weeks with Tebow at QB? Here's Doug Farrar's reaction to these same statements.

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The Daily Lard 11-4-11

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Chris Benson previews Sunday's matchup in Oakland for PFF, and he writes that it's something of a must-win for both teams, as the loser will surely be faced with big questions about its QB in the aftermath. Will Denver stick with Tim Tebow if he doesn't show progress? Did the Raiders overpay for Carson Palmer? Benson also speculates that a loss for Denver could mean a shakeup in the starting lineup, and it's a fair point.

Benson says Oakland's fans likely won't be long on patience for their new QB given the ransom they gave up to acquire him, although he figures Palmer should do well against a pass defense that has struggled for almost the whole season. Unfortunately, Sunday has the potential to be another brutal day for Orlando Franklin, whose assignment will be to fend off yet another top pass rusher - this time LB Kamerion Wimbley, whom he was not able to contain in the opener (six hurries).

Finally, Benson theorizes that the reason for Tebow's success as a starter last year and apparent regression this season is partly a matter of opposing teams having a better idea of how to game plan him - playing him less like a passing threat and focusing more upon keeping him in the pocket. So, can the Broncos manage to run the ball efficiently if they're facing 8 or 9 men in the box? Will Tebow be able to make some throws against man coverage and soften up the Oakland defense? If not, it will be another long Sunday...

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