Unlike a lot of Tales, this time I ran into several good stories and couldn't choose between them. I thought that I'd start the day with our rivals down the street from me - San Diego.
Who are the Chargers Targeting in the First Round?
A lot of press has been given to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, who covers the Chargers for that paper. Acee has predicted that SD will take a running back at the 16th slot in this year's draft. His belief is that SD will go for the larger Beanie Wells over the lighter and more mobile Knowshon Moreno, although predictions have gone back and forth. There is reason to wonder about this, however. Tell me if this makes sense to you.
First, we have this from Peter King:
"Norv Turner just might run LaDainian Tomlinson until the wheels fall off.
Of all the conversations I had at the league meetings, the one with San Diego coach Norv Turner surprised me the most. "I think LT's got a hell of a chance to win the rushing title,'' Turner told me. He said Tomlinson had "fluky injuries'' last year, and he expects him to get well over the number of carries -- 292 -- he had last year. "Maybe in the 320, 330 range,'' Turner said.
Well, Tomlinson, who struggled to a 3.9-yards-per-carry average last year, would have to put his career in overdrive at age 30 this fall to compete for a rushing title with 320 carries. Last year, Adrian Petersen won the title with 1,760 yards on 363 carries. Michael Turner of the Falcons was second with 1,699 yards on 376 carries. For Tomlinson to hit 1,760 yards on 320 carries, he'd have to rush for 5.5 yards per carry, which is seven-tenths of a yard better than the terrific Peterson managed last year.
I don't see it. No one does. But if that's going to be Turner's attitude with Tomlinson, it's obviously being done to tell Tomlinson: We don't see you in a steep decline, and we don't see you in a time-share with Darren Sproles. You're still our guy. Now, we'll see if Tomlinson has it in him."
I'd agree that wanting 300 carries a game is a stretch. There is a lot of statistical evidence that after 300 carries the injury rate goes way up and the production down, so it might not make sense anyway. But that is why they have Sproles, who could take on 10 carries a game. Next, Kevin Acee reported this one:
Norv Turner does not believe LaDainian Tomlinson necessarily needs a caddy, but he thinks slightly expanding Darren Sproles' role will help the future Hall of Famer.
"If you talk about being around the great backs, they're at their comfort level when they get 22, 23, 25 carries," Turner said. "(Tomlinson) had 290 carries last season. I'd expect him to have more. I'd expect him to be in the 320s. That's what he does. He can handle it, and he'll be prepared to handle it. We have a luxury. We have a very good player in Darren Sproles. When it fits, we're going to use Darren. Over an entire season I think he can help LT carry that load."
Tomlinson is coming off a season in which he suffered serious injuries in the first game (toe) and last game (groin) of the regular season. He rushed for a career-low 1,110 yards in 2008, and the final three seasons on Tomlinson's contract were restructured this month.
Tomlinson, who in 2009 will make $6.725 million to Sproles' $6.61 million, is closing in on his 30th birthday in June. And coming off the most trying physical and emotional period in his career, there is much anticipation over how he will perform.
"I really believe that he'll have one of his better years this year," Turner said. "I believe he can be a 1,500-yard rusher and a guy who catches 50 balls."
All in all, the Bolts are currently putting 13+million into their top two at the RB position, not counting the FB(s) and any back-ups, if Sproles signs his all-important franchise tender. Will they still add a 1st-round RB at that point? With Norv telling everyone how important that LDT will be this year, and all the carries that he's going to get, I've begun to wonder. Do you pay a 1st-round RB that kind of scratch and let them sit for a year or two behind Sproles and LDT?
The Bolts are looking seriously at the abilities that LDT has shown in the past, the fact that he is apparently recovered from his injuries and have publicly come to the conclusion that he is still the back they want. That's not a draft strategy - you don't pay a draft strategy 6.75 million dollars. That's what you pay the guy that you think can solve your team's issues at the position. It's top-of-the-line money. Next year is next year, and there will be good backs available again.
I understand that Turner might be telling people what great things they expect from LDT to throw them off the scent as regards to draft day, but it just doesn't make enough sense. There is still the issue of paying money to players that won't play for (hopefully) two years or more. This seems too far out. Acee suggests that it's just a one-year deal for LDT, and while they could cut him after one year, the terms are for more. LDT has always run better when used more and if, and I admit that this is a big "if" for a 30-year-old RB, if he can stay healthy, he can still do the job. A diminished LDT is better than most starting RBs in the league, and Sproles is a monster change-of-pace weapon to spell him.
With gaps at safety, OL, DE and a potential problem at WR, and needed depth at CB the Chargers probably have bigger needs. They could also use another top LB to match with the returning Shawne Merriman, who assures them and us that he will be 100%. Realistically, you can't know that until he has gone through at least training camp. If he is less effective, or if problems with the surgery arise, the Bolts saw last year how tough it is without that kind of talent manning their Phillips 3-4 variant. Maualuga, if he's there, could be a very effective upgrade over their current LB players.
The Bolts weren't the same team after Merriman was injured and they have some financial issues regarding their top 5 players and which they will sign. I'm guessing that they keep Merriman after what they saw of themselves last year, but a top-LB draft pick could make that less of a concern.
WR is also a possibility, and there are several good ones that will be available at the 16th pick: Vincent Jackson notched his second DUI last year and has partially fallen out of favor, although certainly no one denies his skill. Chris Chambers both delighted and infuriated and Craig ‘Buster' Davis has done not a thing. Norv Turner was blunt in discussing him.
"This is a big year for him," Turner said recently. "He needs to have a great offseason."
A case could be made for not having enough need anywhere else to avoid taking another RB. Certainly Wells and Moreno are enticing options. But this one still seems less than well thought-out. The question will probably be this: Do the Chargers feel that either Wells or Moreno is sufficiently a once-in-a-decade talent that they need to take them now? They have bigger needs at safety and DE (some would say at the O-Line) and perhaps at LB. Tomlinson and Sproles are both looking for more carries. But they have a decent, middle of the pack 1st-round pick and they currently pick ahead of the Broncos in the 2nd round, although that could yet change. The Chargers are said to be looking to obtain another 2nd-round pick, and one faction in their front office feels that Donald Brown is their best value, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
A poll of SD fans (both of them) found that they favored using the pick on the Defensive line, although it was close between offensive line, defensive line and linebacker. Sadly, fans don't get to pick, but it was interesting nonetheless.
One thing that could change the balance in favor of a running back: young running back Darren Sproles hasn't signed his franchise tag yet. He will probably stay away from team activities that involve contact until that is resolved - the team and Sproles' agent are said to be locked in negotiations. Stay tuned.
What made this interesting is that each of the picks that the Chargers are supposedly considering - Moreno, Wells, Maualuga and Jackson - are picks that the Broncos supposedly have an interest in (The Broncos will not take Wells due to his missing their meeting). Of the remaining three, the odds are that Denver will take two of them and SD will take the other. That lends a side to the draft that we didn't have before The Trade - We can control, in part, who SD will take. Would we like to face Moreno twice a year? How about Jackson - Williams has aged, and may be nearing the end of his career, but he says (as he would) that the surgeries went well and he's ready to go. Do we let them fill out their line with Castillo, Jackson and Williams?
How about Maualuga? With the return of Merriman, the Chargers LB corps has risen a notch. How good is Rey? Is it in our best interest to take Moreno with the 12th pick and let them decide who we will have left at 18? It's getting more interesting by the day.
Perhaps we should remember the Book of the Five Rings. Musashi once said that if you try only to counter your opponent, you are letting him control the fight, and you have already lost. Perhaps, in this case, we need to figure out what best takes the fight to them.
Excitement and Mentoring
For those who wondered what the locker room was thinking lately, I bring you a blog from Elvis Dumervil. He isn't the first player to comment on this, but he said it a lot better than I could...
Right now I can tell you the attitude in the locker room is definitely excited. We've got some changing faces and changing packages, and we've got some new coaches we can really get behind. The direction they're taking us is a direction that I feel will be very successful. We have the pieces, now we're ready to put the puzzle together and make things happen this season.
One of those pieces is Andra Davis - he's a natural leader. He's ready to motivate guys and he's right there working as hard as anybody. He's a vocal linebacker and a vocal leader - traits that we can definitely use in the locker room and on the field. The same can be said about Brian Dawkins at the safety position. It seems like that secondary will be pretty tough this season.
On "The Trade":
It really wasn't as much of a distraction in the locker room as it was maybe in the media and on TV. That just kind of shows the maturity that guys have in there - people weren't talking about it much, we were just getting to work.
Andra Davis is also unassuming, humble, hard-working and motivated, and he's a very good guy. I love what he's instilling in the locker room. I would like to say up front how much like him and would like to see him continue to teach and train the Broncos' younger players. I have no doubt that young men like Dumervil, Larsen and Woodyard will benefit greatly from his presence.
Davis is slow on the field. Cleveland had serious problems which included the LB corps, and they were a team that had more than enough problems already. I will continue to hope that the scheme can provide him with a role that he can fulfill on the field as well as off, but I'm going to wait and see on that.
However, with a lot of players - most of them in fact, there are weaknesses to overcome as well as strengths to benefit from. Davis is certainly one of those. If his ability to train and motivate the other players overcomes his diminishing physical skills, his presence will be well worth it. In my view, it's not a knock on the man to notice that he is physically slower. He's no less a teacher, and a teammate, for that.
How good is Goodman?
From K.C. Joyner at the NYT:
Prior success notwithstanding, I must admit to being perplexed by the way the Dolphins are rebuilding their secondary. At the end of the 2008 season, Miami's secondary consisted of Will Allen at LCB, Andre Goodman at RCB, Renaldo Hill at FS, Yeremiah Bell at SS and a trio of potential nickel cornerbacks in Jason Allen, Nathan Jones and Joey Thomas.
The player with the best metrics of this group last year was Goodman (6.7 YPA, 51.2% success rate), and he signed a free-agent deal with Denver. I can see why Miami would let him go; he will be 31 this season and the Broncos gave him a reported $10 million in guarantees. Hill's situation was identical to Goodman's in many ways, as he garnered $3 million from Denver and will also be 31 this year.
Those moves left the Dolphins two secondary members short of a full deck, and it is how they approached filling these spots that have me scratching my head.
He's not the only one. It's easy to say that the Broncos are overpaying for a bunch of old players that are only stopgaps. It's easy, and it might be partly true, but it avoids looking at how McDaniels is rebuilding (though many have an aversion to that term) this team.
Look at what Joyner is really saying. Goodman was the best secondary player on a pretty good Miami defense. Hill was right up there with him. Are they older? You bet. Are they old? Not yet. Will they get old? Sure - but that doesn't matter this year. And it's far more than a stopgap.
If the Broncos want to have a shot at winning next season, they need players, not projects. Goodman is playing the best football of his life. Hill is a very solid man who is used to working with Goodman. Dawkins we've covered - he's a great player and a force on a team that was in dire need of leadership. These three men will set a tone in the Broncos locker room and on the field.
If you couple them with Andra Davis, you have a tremendous chance to teach the players that you are going to groom. The younger players are going to learn how to prepare, how to handle game situations and how to win. If Denver wants to be competitive, week in and week out, this is clearly the way to go.
RIP for Allen Iverson?
At the risk of offending the AI enthusiasts, there is a good article here from Jason Whitlock over on FoxSports. He wrote an "obituary" for Allen Iverson's career, suggesting that it died of self-inflicted wounds. After years of watching Iverson play in Denver and in contemplating the ‘What were they thinking?' of placing Carmelo Anthony and him on the same court, I think that Whitlock has the right idea.
Iverson was and still is a player with a truly singular talent, age notwithstanding. I loved watching him. Night after night, he created impossible shots - and made them. His forays through the upper key were other-worldly. His shooting ability was incredible. It was a lot of fun to watch, as long as I didn't want to watch the playoffs. His dribbling, shot-making and shot-creation were just unbelievable. And, he was also a lousy player, at least for Denver ,but maybe for anyone.
He was lousy even when he was great, because like a lot of self-involved talent, he didn't know how to make the other guys on the floor with him any better. He was a gifted shooting guard in a smaller-than-average point guard's body. His defense was constantly suspect and usually non-existent. He would garner 10 assists in one game and then go 10 games more without sniffing anything near that total - or trying to. Even when he had 10, he didn't make the passes that let anyone else get any.
He would dribble the ball, slowly, over and over until your jaw hurt from clenching your teeth, gazing flat-eyed and cold, stoically at the defense and then, eventually, exploding - taking it into the key; twist and turn, slash and carve until he had a shot. Or didn't, but he almost always took it anyway. The fact that a lot of them went down didn't do the Nuggets that much good. He'd make last-second wild passes that went awry. The rest of the team would stand around and watch him.
On the rare occasions that he passed to Carmelo, the rest of the team would stand around and watch him, too. They didn't know how to play any defense because that wasn't part of Iverson's persona. He was busy being incredible, when he should have been busy being incredibly good and helping his teammates become incredibly good as well.
Since Iverson left and the Nuggets got one of the all-time solid point guards in Chauncey Billups, they've gone from a good team with some talent to a very good team with a lot of talent - all without that much of a change in personnel. Carmelo is near personal bests for rebounds, steals, and assists. He didn't make the All-Star team, but who really cares? He's getting fewer headlines and the Nuggets are getting more wins. They are playing some pretty good defense and playing much more like a team. They've gone from the bottom of the 8-team playoff conference list to #2. It's the power of playing like a team versus being a star.
By the way, Since Iverson left, Carmelo has become a very different player. His rebound numbers have been growing each season, but his selflessness has come light years. Case in point - in the Sacramento game this week, JR Smith got so hot that he said that he could have bounced it off the floor and it would have gone in. Melo notched 9 rebounds and 9 assists while having fun supporting his friend. He also tossed in 21 of his own while blocking 2 shots and stealing 3 balls. It's nice to see him grow up. The Nuggies aren't going to beat the Lakers this year, but they have grown up.
The comparisons aren't exact, and this isn't anything that I didn't say last season, but Cutler should take a long look at that. He's an incredible talent. He could eventually be one of the best, in time. But he's got to stop with the need to show off his incredible arm and learn to make the plays that his team needs. A lot of fans have talked about how much fun it is to watch a big-play team, and it is. They talk about how watching a cerebral team cut another team up, one play at a time, isn't that much fun. Well, it was a lot of fun watching Iverson play every night, too, but I'd rather be in there for a championship run. To me, that's where the real fun is.
Billups isn't in Iverson's league in a lot of areas, but he knows how to make his teammates great and how to put winning before himself. It's a lesson that's worth learning for us all.
Who Handles it Around Here?
I have to/get to spend a couple of hours each day in a whirlpool or soaking tub. It's a nice part of my life - gives me lots of time for contemplation. One thing that came up for me was a comment made to me by a guy on the Windy City Gridiron site. Here's what happened. It started with a comment posted after one of their articles:
"..the broncos are gonna run the spread style offense, same thing Orton ran in college, and he's throwing to Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. Now, granting McD is going to overhaul the whole offensive scheme, it eliminates the cheap "cut blocking" scheme the bronco's o-line used to run, which will probably result in a slight drop off, but they have good young tackles."
I know - you hear this kind of thing about our line and our blocking all the time, and the folks who say it don't understand the realities of the situation at all. I wondered if I could nicely correct the misunderstanding. GeauxBears was a nice, high-class guy when he came here to MHR, and he posted some good things (and, I hope, will in the future), so I didn't think that there would be a problem if I posted a reply comment. I did:
Mind a comment?
Grew up in Chi, still love the city.
The Broncos don't, and never have, run a ‘cheap cut blocking' scheme. This is a media based myth that's been around for years. What the Broncos do run is a zone-blocking scheme, and they run it better, IMHO, than anyone. Their running game for the past 10 years reflects that, and McDaniels kept the only coaches (Rick Dennison, O line and Bobby Turner, RBs) that have been involved with it. It was originally put in place by Alex Gibb and Dennison has been running it for a long time.
The Broncos also use a ‘gap' (sometimes called a ‘regular') blocking scheme. This occurs when the guards pull. New England was fond of it and McD has said that Denver will use it a bit more, but the essential scheme will stay in place.
What the media misspoke was the idea that the blocking is in any way illegal. That's incorrect. The blockers cannot engage a player both above and below the waist (one player on each). That is, and always has been illegal. We've never done that. It's an immediate penalty, and that's a good rule. It's called a ‘chop' block. A cut block is legal; Chicago uses it as well, as do nearly every team in football. This is a common mistake.
Zone blocking involves using lighter, more athletic players on the O line. The players have a predetermined scheme in which two linemen engage a D lineman. They attempt to redirect him, and the running back has a split second to choose a lane, cut once, and go. It requires a different skillset for both the O line and the RBs, hence keeping both coaches.
I thought that I'd offer a link discussing the RB side of the ZB scheme, here. I also wanted to offer one to the zone-blocking scheme, written by a very good, well trained coach who goes by the moniker of HT or hoosierteacher. You'll like him - great guy, and very knowledgeable.
I think that both teams have done well on the trade, and wish both he and the Bears all the best this coming year.
I got an immediate reply, the only one:
I handle that around here? That got me to contemplating the nature of this site.
I handle my own kinds of stuff. I like organizing info and writing. I find biography interesting, and since I get to pick the subjects, I write about things that I find interesting. I can give a little help on medical issues, and I ask my friends and grads if there's stuff I don't know, which there always is.
Without Doug/NYC's work involving accumulating, organizing and breaking down statistics, as well as his work on editing for all of us, I couldn't do half as well on the things that we're putting out right now. Styg started out to write about 100 draft analyses, and he's about to break 150, not to mention how his perspective and aid to us all, including his comments, make us better fans. Styg has also taught me so much with his writing regarding how to watch the game and how to break down the play that it's beyond the telling.
HT/Steve gives us the incredible MHR University articles that are in a class by themselves, and he's considering putting them into a book at some point (he should). The University articles were the first thing that brought me here, and the members kept me coming back. John's direction on the site makes it possible and I appreciate his work with all my heart, but it's mostly that our members are second to none. SWG's perspective as an active coach, the Aussies and their enthusiasm and knowledge from rugby, as well as their work in writing....etc, etc......And if there's anyone in particular that I've left out, and there is due only to space limitations, I apologize. I would have to append a list of all our members to be fair, because all of them bring so much to the site.
I can't imagine what we would have lost had John or one of the other long-term staff or founders decided to say, "Thanks, but I handle that around here." What a waste that would have been. There is a subtle and unintended arrogance to a man believing that he even COULD know enough to 'handle it' all. He was very polite, and this isn't intended as a personal criticism but there is something so terribly limited to that belief and to the vibration that lies behind it. Wow. It makes me appreciate the MHR even more.
I appreciate it when anyone comes onto our site in a polite manner and adds information that we can use, as GeauxBears did, and more recently, NESilver. I can't imagine anyone here suggesting that they could possibly know enough to limit the exchange of information. That's just one more thing that makes the Mile High Report special.
Thanks - that's all for right now. I'll be doing a Tales on Moreno soon - those of you who love the guy deserve a little equal time.