Good Morning, Broncos fans! Been forgetting all week to mention a couple of points that came up in our game chat last Sunday.
For one, it was very encouraging to see the extra gear of speed provided by Ronnie Hillman on offense and Trindon Holliday returning punts. It's been a long time since the Broncos have regularly put the ball into the hands of anyone with as much pure speed as either of these guys - a quick look during the game at recent Denver rosters took us all the way back to 2006, for Tatum Bell's first (pre-mobile phone salesman/Lions baggage thief) stint with the team.
Each has some learning ahead of them - Hillman has Willis McGahee to show him better reads and the proper balance between decisiveness and patience with the ball, and Holliday could stand to gain a better understanding from Jim Leonhard of how/when to fair catch a ball. Both have time on their side - Hillman is the youngest player in the NFL, and Holliday has only returned 23 punts in his brief NFL career.
But even with those shortcomings, the element of speed Hillman and Holliday bring to the field makes them extremely dangerous threats to either bust a long gain or score every time they touch the ball. Denver had been lacking in this area for so long, that many of us (especially me) were far too excited by the prospect of adding Jeremiah Johnson to the offense during the 2011 preseason. And that's a guy who ran a 4.62-second forty at the combine.
The other thing that came up on Sunday was that Denver's front office deserves a heap of credit for having re-signed Wesley Woodyard. Wesley was an unrestricted free agent, and after four years without a real chance to start, nobody could have been upset with him leaving for greener pastures.
Of course, it's likely that the opportunity just didn't present itself. But between D.J. Williams's looming suspension, and the respectable contract Denver offered (two years, $3.5M) to a part-time player, Woodyard did have some healthy incentive to return. Whether Jack Del Rio and Co. envisioned the success Wesley has had this season, and especially last week, we may never know.
Greg Cosell had the following to say about Wesley and Chris Harris in his weekly podcast with Doug Farrar:
He's so critical, and it's funny you mentioned him, because when he came out of Kentucky, I was really high on him in a given role, and that's the role he's played in the NFL. His game fits today's NFL, because he's an undersized linebacker who can run and blitz and cover. Twenty years ago, nobody would have looked at that guy -- he wouldn't have played. They would have asked, 'Can you play safety,' because he's 220 pounds. But now, with multiple personnel packages, and tight ends who are really wide receivers, he fits this league perfectly.
The other player on that defense I really like is Chris Harris. I think he's one of the best slot corners in the league, and nobody talks about him. Those two players, given that you play your sub packages so often in the NFL now -- and certainly when you play teams like the Saints -- those players are so critical to the success of this defense. And I think it's a defense that will continue to get better as their offense gets better. They're playing sub packages more, because Peyton Manning will get you a lead now, those two players are essential to what the Broncos do.
We can talk about Denver's draft choices and the veteran free agents they've signed from other teams, but any discussion of the job done by John Elway, Matt Russell and Co. has to heavily feature mention of the re-signing of Woodyard and acquisition of Harris after he went uninvited to combine and undrafted. And of course, John Fox and his staff likewise deserve credit for putting these guys on the field into such significant roles.
With so many early kickoffs looming, it's extremely encouraging to see Fox taking the initiative of flying the team out on Friday to allow players to get acclimated. One has to wonder how many more of these early games Shanny & Co. would have won back in the day with this strategy. Of course, getting into town late didn't hurt the 1997 team in Buffalo, but that was the exception.
Herm Edwards says that part of the learning process for Denver's receivers is trusting that the placement of every throw from Peyton Manning has a reason behind it. TYJE.
Andrew Mason predicts a Denver blowout, but notes they've lost 10 of their last 11 trips to the Eastern time zone.
The 2013 season will bring the first visit from Mike Shanahan to his former home digs, plus road matchups at Indy, Houston, Dallas, and against the Giants, so a homecoming for Peyton and a matchup with his brother (I may have to go to that one, we'll see). Other home games will be against the Jags, Titans, and Eagles.
Efficiency figures suggest the Broncos have a 95% chance of winning the AFCW, and a 56% chance at a first-round bye in the playoffs.
WR Marvin Jones was ruled out for Cincy, while LB Dontay Moch was placed on IR due to severe migraines. DT Pat Sims was removed from the PUP list but will not play tomorrow.
Paul Dehner points to the Bengals' third-down ineptitude on offense and predicts a big Denver win.
Lions RB Jahvid Best will not play this season as he continues to fight post-concussion symptoms; Dr. Robert Cantu is continuing to call for children under the age of 14 to avoid sports that have high concussion rates.
Romeo Crennel remains the coach in Kansas City, while Norv Turner's job was apparently never in jeopardy. As much as that seems worthy of celebration, three games for the Broncos against interim coaches would be even better.
The Broncos have allowed two unblocked sacks (not great) but have gotten four of them on defense (among the best).
Clark Judge cautions that tomorrow could be a trap game for Denver, but is there such a thing for a PM-led team?
Chase Stuart's trivia for the day involves matchups of QBs with multiple SB rings.
Bucky Brooks lists some NFL prospects he'll be paying attention to today.
Here's a recipe for Maple Black Pepper Pork Chops that I made last night and highly recommend.