Prime Cuts

Slices of great NFL content from around the web

Mays: New positions are a lot to ask of Vasquez, Ramirez

Mile High Protection Issues: Is Denver’s Offensive Line Up for Another Super Bowl Run?
grantland.com

While Manning always gets rid of the ball quicker than most quarterbacks, even his process is being rushed this year. And it doesn’t help that Wes Welker — his short-yardage, middle-of-the-field target from last year — has severely fallen off.

If Clady-Franklin-Montgomery-Ramirez-Vasquez is the line the Broncos are going with, is there enough time to develop the chemistry and familiarity with new positions that they'll need? Denver's next three opponents all feature terrific pass rushers, so time isn't on the Broncos' side.

Stink: Denver offensive line flat out sucks

"Stink" knows — Mark Schlereth says Broncos' O-line stinks
www.denverpost.com

“I mean, if it’s not penetration, they’re horrible from an athletic standpoint at getting to the second level. So they lose the line of scrimmage, getting shoved in the backfield, and then at the second level, half the time three guys are shoved back a yard or two and two guys have to completely spin around because they’ve missed their guys and they’re watching the action, lantern-holding, like: ‘Be careful in there, it’s really nasty!’

Schlereth's solution: signing Richie Incognito and inserting him at left guard, moving Orlando Franklin back to right tackle, and shifting Louis Vasquez back inside.

Franklin and John Fox dismissed Stink's comments, but it doesn't take an insider to know the line has been terrible.

Benoit: Broncos will face NFL’s best defense in Dolphins

Miami Dolphins defense is NFL's best; more film-study notes
mmqb.si.com

Coyle brought over many double-A-gap concepts from Cincinnati, where he spent four of his 11 years there under Mike Zimmer, the trailblazer of modern 4-3 double-A-gap concepts. Those blitz looks—and its amoeba front cousins—often compel offenses to block a defensive end one-on-one (see “Impressive Coaching” graphics below).

Double-A-gap blitzes? One-on-one blocking outside? This reads like a recipe for another Denver disaster. Time for Adam Gase and Dave Magazu to cook up something good, and for John Fox to stop making decisions out of fear (we're not holding our breath on the latter).

AFA's efficiency rankings say Miami has the #1 defense and is just behind Denver overall; Brian Burke and Will Leitch predict a narrow Broncos win.

PFF: Is Peyton Manning in decline?

Signs of decline for Peyton, Denver
insider.espn.go.com

He’s never had anything but a positively graded performance when blitzed. That has changed this season; he currently has a minus-6.0 grade against extra rushers. That’s 36th in the league, in the territory of Vick, Manuel, Chad Henne, Blake Bortles, Zach Mettenberger and Jake Locker.

Of course, the PFF guys declared earlier in the year that Tom Brady was no longer a top-five quarterback (Insider). They seem to be offering a lot of hot takes now that they're aligned with The Worldwide Leader.

Only a few weeks ago, it was widely written (laughably) that Manning was better than ever. Now he's in decline? Peyton's overcome plenty of lackluster line play over the years, but this year's lack of continuity is something else.

How about a Shanny and Cutty reunion in Chi-Town?

Why not Shanahan as next Bears coach?
profootballtalk.nbcsports.com

Why not Shanahan?  He’s an Oak Park, Illinois native who played at Eastern Illinois.  He led the Broncos to a pair of Super Bowl wins.  And he somehow managed to take an inherently dysfunctional Washington franchise to the postseason in 2012.

For all of our laughs at Cutler's expense over the years, it would be pretty awesome to see these two reunite and succeed.

Fitzgerald: Monster deal for Demaryius Thomas not a foregone conclusion

Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green may not catch big, new contracts
www.sportingnews.com

The NFL is a league that adjusts itself after a few years of data becomes evident…The first warning sign in the wide receiver market began last season when Eric Decker and DeSean Jackson, both coming off seasons close to 1,300 yards, failed to exceed $8 million per year on their new contracts.

As usual, some good points from Fitzgerald. Even if Demaryius is of a similar caliber to Calvin Johnson, doesn't mean he'll get paid comparably, especially if the league views Johnson as overpaid.

However, the salary cap figures to explode again next year, and Megatron never reached free agency, like Thomas will. What if a team with a ton of cap space like, say, the Raiders ($54.8M), makes a big run at Demaryius?

Have Broncos’ pick plays been officiated out of the game?

The Problem Facing Peyton Manning
online.wsj.com

The play has a target on its back, and whether through coincidence or strategy, the Broncos’ production off that and similar plays has plummeted. Last season, Denver led the league in yards after catch. This season, the Broncos are 18th in that category, and only three teams have a fewer percentage of their receiving yards coming after the catch.

Hard to say, really. The thing is, the upgrade in athleticism from Eric Decker to Emmanuel Sanders means Denver doesn't need to scheme their guys open as much as in the past. To wit, Sanders has been catching the ball significantly further downfield than Decker did for Denver. (h/t Wes)

Bill Belichick confused Peyton Manning by mixing coverages all day long

How the Patriots kept Peyton Manning guessing
www.bostonglobe.com

Belichick and his staff kept Peyton Manning and the Broncos guessing throughout the entirety of the Patriots’ 43-21 win. It was like six game plans within a game plan; they did a masterful job of mixing up their coverages from series to series, and even play to play.
...
On certain series, Revis played only the left side. Sometimes he shadowed Sanders. Sometimes he shadowed Demaryius Thomas. Sometimes Browner played deep off the ball, almost like a safety. Sometimes he played the slot. Sometimes he played press-man.

Belichick is usually a step ahead of everyone, Manning included. If these teams meet again, Denver may very well need home field advantage to pull off the win, and they'll definitely need Peyton and Adam Gase to cook up something new. (h/t Wes)

Bedard: It was the Patriots who were banged up last January

Big Ben’s System, Lack of Kelce, Browns Run In Place
mmqb.si.com

If the Broncos continue to be relatively healthy and don’t win it all this season, there is going to be a lot of negative attention on defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. He was owned (again) by Tom Brady and the Patriots on Sunday. (The only time he’s beaten them was in last year’s AFC title game when half the Patriots’ roster was out with injuries). Broncos fans have to hope they were just holding back the real gameplan for the rematch, because allowing Rob Gronkowski a free release off the line is not much of a plan at all.

The reality is that both teams were decimated by injuries (Von Miller, Chris Harris, Derek Wolfe, Rahim Moore, Kevin Vickerson). But when you're too busy sucking at the Belichick teat to maintain journalistic objectivity...

Fat Man: NFL has passed Jon Gruden by

Surrounded by family, John Madden has new look on NFL
www.usatoday.com

And he can’t envision former Raiders coach Jon Gruden, ESPN’s Monday Night Football analyst, returning to Oakland…

“The game that Jon Gruden coached isn’t the game they’re playing now.”

Funny, we thought that happened eight years ago.