Prater still not worth the dough Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! We've been highly critical of John Elway & Co. for having made the strong-legged but inaccurate Matt Prater one of the league's highest paid kickers this season.

After using their franchise tag to retain the restricted free agent last off-season, Denver gave the sixth-year kicker $4.25M in guarantees as part of a four-year, $13M deal. Those guarantees amount to his 2012 compensation, and he's due salaries of $2.5M, $3M, and $3.25M over the next three seasons.

Has Prater lived up to the tag, or the contract? So far, he absolutely has not.

At 23/29 (79.3%) on the season, the UCF alum ranks 26th out of 31 kickers who have attempted at least 15 field goals.

Unfortunately, that he's been so inaccurate is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, his success rate is a tick higher than his pre-2012 figure, which was 78.4%.

What about the strength of Prater's leg and the resultant touchbacks? Two factors go a long way in negating that advantage: Denver's altitude, and the NFL's having moved kickoffs to the 35-yard line.

Taking a quick look at kickoffs at SAF@MH this season, Prater's strong leg has resulted in 34 touchbacks on 35 kicks, with opponents' average starting field position being the 20.03-yard line.

Impressive, for sure.

Opponents have only achieved touchbacks on 16 of 24 kickoffs, which would appear to speak in defense of Prater. But much of this is attributable to the overzealous rookie Omar Bolden, who's taken out deep kickoffs three times, with poor results (an average start of the 11-yard line).

As a result, Denver's average starting field position on kickoffs at SAF@MH has been their 19.25-yard line, which is 0.78 yards worse than they've allowed their opponents. (We'll examine road kickoffs at a later juncture.)

Back to field goals, Prater got off to a hot start by making his first 11 attempts, and he looked the part of a confident kicker who might even justify his bloated contract (the thinking here is that no kicker deserves such a salary). But since the second quarter of the Week 10 win at Carolina, it's all fallen apart for the 28-year-old, who has missed at least one FG attempt in five of Denver's last six games, going a putrid 12/18 (67%) over that stretch.

Kicks between 40 and 49 yards continue to be a particular problem spot - four of his six misses have come from that range - and his career success rate there is just 55.8%. Sure, he's done better in his career from 50 and beyond (15/20, 75%), but in all, that means Prater is just a 61.9% kicker (39/63) for his career on kicks of 40 yards and longer.

In each of the 2011 and 2012 seasons, he's now been 3/7 from 40-49 yards, and 3/4 from 50+, for a total of 12/22 (54.5%) over two seasons from 40 and out.

A deeper statistical look, via Chase Stuart, suggests that Prater has been the 31st best kicker out of 37 this season, whether measured by success rate, or by distance.

These numbers are not of a quality that should result in a kicker landing one of the league's biggest contracts at his position.

Rather, they're the sort that usually result in him getting cut.

Broncos

As detailed by Mike Klis, there are plenty of tiny factors that went into Chris Harris having become a Bronco, and without any single one of them, who knows where the team would be right now. For as much as we praise Elway, Fox, & Co. for having signed him, there's also quite a bit of luck involved, as in all things.

Tracy Porter tells the DP that being benched has been a frustrating but humbling experience.

Andrew Mason says the Broncos will be focused on stopping Trent Richardson today, and he predicts a 31-13 win; Jeff Legwold says they need to keep an eye on Josh Cribbs in the return game, and he gives Denver the edge in every facet.

Woody Paige considers all the angles of a second Broncos Revenge Tour championship.

Typical of a guy who used to cover baseball, Mike Klis cannot see how ADP could possibly be voted MVP if his team misses the playoffs. Lame. That's not to suggest that Peterson should be MVP over Peyton, but that is some weak-assed reasoning.

Browns

Terry Pluto thinks it doesn't make sense for Nick Saban to end up in Cleveland, and his prediction for today matches Mason's.

Mary Kay Cabot could see Browns owner Jimmy Haslam hiring his friend Peyton Manning someday, and she answers questions from Browns fans.

Unlike the DP, the Plain Dealer apparently still has room in its budge for a graphical look at gameday matchups, albeit an illustrated one.

News

Atlanta (13-2) clinched home-field advantage in the NFC with their 31-18 win over  Detroit (4-11), during which Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rices's single-season receiving yardage record. But as Brian Burke rightly notes, this achievement is a matter of trivia, and not of statistics.

Chris Mortensen says the lefty who throws like he's a righty (who is a healthy scratch today) is a "virtual certainty" to end up with the Jaguars next season, but only because their owner is infatuated with the idea. Of course, the current football people do not share that feeling, and whatever poor soul is hired next by Shad Khan to run his football operations - only to be overruled at the most important position of all - won't be pleased either. Writes Mike Freeman,

The main takeaways have been that Jets coaches were shocked at how poorly Tebow throws the ball in practice and his lack of accuracy was far worse than they knew. Why his accuracy issues were a shock is in itself a shock. The Jets also are saying privately that Tebow has difficulty digesting more complex offensive schemes and lingo.

Aside from his accuracy issues, Jets officials have privately been telling teams Tebow was too slow to play receiver, too slow to be a running back and doesn't possess the height or athleticism to be a tight end.

There was also the fact that defenses, unlike when Tebow shocked the NFL as a quarterback in Denver, have adapted to how he plays. They've studied enough film on Tebow to know his tendencies. And Tebow is not accurate or fast enough to overcome what those defenses know.

"You can see on film whenever he's in the game, teams just play the run," one scout said.

Meanwhile, the few quarterback teachers who haven't yet tried to fix the throwing mechanics of the UT™ are lining up to do so, because what do they have to lose? There's no shame in failing at what everyone before you has been unable to accomplish, right?

Turns out Ray Lewis is not ready, and will not return for the Ravens until the playoffs, if at all.

Former Lions tackle Lomas Brown, who somehow works for ESPN despite being a terrible speaker, admits he intentionally allowed Scott Mitchell to get injured during a 1994 game against the Packers, because he wanted a QB change. How's that for a teammate?

Analysis

While we know A.J. Smith and Norv Turner are done in San Diego, it's not at all clear what awaits Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel in Kansas City.

Doug Farrar and Greg Cosell discuss the week's matchups in their latest podcast.

Matt Bowen studies the Seahawks' use of pick routes in their passing game and says he expects to see them tonight against San Francisco.

Dan Pompei thinks the race for Executive of the Year comes down to Colts GM Ryan Grigson and John Elway.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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