This week I took a play-by-play look at two players MHR members had been asking about since week 2, Daniel Graham and Kenny Peterson. Both of these guys have been flying largely under the radar, but really shouldn't. Graham is probably the most versatile guy on the team (even more so than Peyton Hillis), and Peterson was a surprise starter in the mind of many. He has largely been ignored as a integral cog of this defense. I am glad to finally give these two bad asses their due.
I encourage you to watch Graham pre-snap if you can because the Denver running game and Graham's blocking seem to go hand-in-hand. In fact, I don't want to make the outrageous statement that keying on Graham will tell you what Denver is planning on doing, but....if the shoe fits. Just watch him pre-snap and then watch the actual play. Graham's motion (or lack thereof) will tell you a lot. Often, the area to which he motions or the area to which he is motioning is the gap the running back hits. A few other notables:
- His pass blocking is absolutely excellent. Sometimes it's hard to tell him from Ryan Clady when he's on the edge pass blocking the end. And I am saying this with a serious face.
- He just punished the end on the outside 5 or 6 times during the Dallas game. Moreno and/or C Buck just cruised on through the hole between Graham and the tackle.
- Denver must practice sealing backside a lot because Graham (like Harris, Wiegmann, and Clady) does this perfectly.
- Denver motions Graham more than any other player in its formation, often to where the running back is going to end up. Specifically, Denver runs a play in which Graham motions/pulls to the inside and takes out the defender (usually an LB) who is left empty in the middle of the formation. I hope this doesn't become too much of a tendency, because it's noticeable.
- Graham is great at selling run, then sliding to the flat for the TE screen. It's quite deceptive and well played.
- On the Marshall TD, lost in Marshall's play is what Graham does. He makes two critical blocks for Marshall on this play. The way he shields Marshall at the 5-8 yard line from the wall of tacklers is pure hustle and pure smarts by Graham. He deserves a mile high salute for this. Freakin' DG!
- I only saw the famous "Three-TE" set a few times in the game.
Overall Grade: 9.6 out of 10. Graham almost played a perfect game against Dallas. He whiffed on two run blocks and his route running was not crisp on two plays. That's it. He is the most versatile player on Denver's offense. He run blocks every play like he's try to push a tractor trailer through a mountain, he's got the quickness of Ryan Clady when he pass blocks, and he punishes DBs on the TE screens. He's got heart. He's got intelligence. He's motioning all over the play to confuse the defense. If TEs were selected to Pro-Bowls based on their overall importance and skills in both blocking and catching, this cat would be first in line. Quinn and Scheffler are learning from the master.
I've written this before, but a quick way to get into the head of Mike Nolan is to watch Ron Fields. If he's in the game, Nolan thinks it's run. If not, he thinks it's pass. The same can probably be said (although a little less so) for Kenny Peterson. If you see Vonnie Holliday in the game, he's replaced Peterson on what Nolan perceives as a passing down.
- Peterson is a very good run stopper (I did not realize this from watching the 2008 Broncos, but he is). If the ball is run to the middle, he usually getting some good push, or at least taking out a couple of blockers for DJ Williams. So Peterson is doing his job very well.
- Not surprisingly, Peterson's weakness is pass rushing, although in his defense, he often faces a double team.
- Peterson should use his swim move more. Nolan was caught with Peterson in the game on several pass plays and on two occasions, I saw Peterson use a swim move to beat the defender. Specifically on the 2nd to last drive of Dallas, in which Denver needed a stop, Peterson flushed Romo from the pocket with a textbook swim move. He just doesn't do it much.
- It's obvious from the tape that Peterson is very intelligent. He quickly recognized the Dallas screen play and tried to get to the outside to make a play. 3 times he almost made the play. His big frame just couldn't get there quickly enough. On one of the screens he recognized it so fast, he almost caught Barber at the sideline, but Barber just barely got through his outstretched hands for a big gain.
- Is replaced by Vonnie Holliday on clear passing situations.
Overall Grade: 8.5 out of 10. If McDaniels screams "Do your job," he won't have to say it to Kenny Peterson--ever. Peterson does exactly what is expected out of him. He is a run stuffer. He's intelligent, can diagnose what is going on with a lot of traffic in front of him, and hustles to the play backside. You can't ask for more from your DT in the 3-4 (5-2!). I can really only ding him for 2 to 3 tackles he missed against the Cowboys and for overshooting the gap to the inside (non- stunts) twice. I'll give him a little slight also for not using his swim move more than the two times I saw him.
Again taking requests for the spotlight for Week 5. I know there are a few players folks want me to get to, and I will be sure to do it.
Also, let me know if anyone wants to see the entire drive logs posted below with one line analysis play-by-play on each player. I will edit this post and will paste it. They tend to make the post exceedingly long, but if they are useful, I want to put them in.