Prime Cuts

Slices of great NFL content from around the web

Roger Goodell: buzzkill

Amendments don't change leagues' stances on marijuana
www.usatoday.com

Though voters in those states approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday legalizing recreational marijuana, the drug remains illegal under the NFL’s and NBA’s substance abuse policies, league spokesmen said. “The NFL’s policy is collectively bargained and will continue to apply in the same manner it has for decades,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told USA TODAY Sports Wednesday morning. “Marijuana remains prohibited under the NFL substance abuse program.”

And here I was hoping the Broncos could use the marijuana angle for player recruitment.

Oh well, you can't win them all.  Take solace in the fact that there's still alcohol (and the ad revenues that come with it indirectly to the NFL).  After all, who wouldn't prefer this to a guy craving Doritos:

Two thumbs up for not vomiting!

Holliday latest Bronco to win weekly performance award

Holliday Earns Weekly Honor
blog.denverbroncos.com

On Wednesday, the NFL named Holliday its AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, marking the first time the second-year player has earned that honor.

Holliday becomes the 23rd all-time AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Broncos history, and the second this season after Matt Prater took home the honor for Week 4.

The award is the fifth individual weekly accolade for the Broncos this season, as following each of the team’s wins, someone on the roster has earned an individual weekly honor.

A Broncos player has now taken one of these awards for each of Denver's five wins this season. Certainly not a bad thing.

Chiefs cut six-million-dollar man; Crennel gives up DC duties

Romeo Crennel removes himself as the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator
www.kansascity.com

In an effort to fix some of the many problems ailing the 1-7 Chiefs, head coach Romeo Crennel announced today that he has giving up his duties as the defensive coordinator, handing them over to linebackers coach Gary Gibbs.

The Chiefs also released starting cornerback Stanford Routt, signed last winter as a free agent, and signed defensive lineman Shaun Smith, a former Chief.

You may recall that Routt got $20M in guarantees from Oakland in February 2011, and the Raiders cut him following the season. This past February, the Chiefs gave Routt $6M in guarantees, and he lasted seven games with Kansas City; that's $26M for 23 games in a year and a half.

FWIW, the eighth-year corner has graded out at minus-5.7 this season according to PFF, which is 87th among corners. Last season, he was 84th at his position with a minus-4.8 grade. As for where Routt will continue his tour of salary-cap destruction, the Chargers and Raiders could each use a cornerback...

Porter sitting out yet again

Broncos rule CB Tracy Porter out for Sunday
www.cbssports.com

Denver Broncos CB Tracy Porter will miss a third consecutive game because of symptoms that in August were a precursor to a seizure…

...“We’re still regulating the medication,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “Not that it was a setback, but there was a little bit of an issue, and we’ll evaluate that moving forward. His safety is what’s the utmost concern right now.”

While this move has to be frustrating for Porter, it's hard to fault the Broncos for playing this one ultra-conversatively.

D.J. Williams wants to retire a Denver Bronco

Broncos LB D.J. Williams Q+A: full interview
milehighsports.com

If there’s one message you have for the fans, what is it?

I’m the ultimate team player and I’m willing to do whatever to win. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing to me. I love playing football. I’ve been playing football since I was seven. I’ve been playing 23 years. I actually played football two years early because I weighed enough. I’ve never had any job but this job. So for somebody to think that football is not important to me, if it wasn’t important – I’m on my second contract, I have money. If football wasn’t important to me, why would I stop playing now and just go live the ‘Dyme Lyfe?’ I think people try to make ‘Dyme Lyfe’ seem like it has been pulling away from my football career. No, it hasn’t. It actually hasn’t, at all.


If it were up to you, would you retire as a Bronco?

Yes. That’s actually my plan, to retire as a Bronco. The crazy thing about it, when I was up for my second contract (in 2008), I spoke to (then-head coach Mike) Shanahan. He said, ‘Hey, I’m going to be honest with you. You’re probably not going to be the highest-paid guy in your position, but we’ll do the best we can to get you as close to that, and we’ll treat you right.’ And since I’ve been here, the Broncos organization – with whatever coach has been here – I’ve been treated fairly and I’ve been treated well. I enjoy the city. I like the fans. I like how the whole organization as a whole treats me, so if it was up to me, I would retire as a Bronco. I’m close friends with Rod Smith, and to see how he went through his career and his life, and the relationships that he built, I want to have the same thing.

In a wide-ranging interview, D.J. Williams opens up on several subjects, including Buddhism, working out, the so-called "Dyme Lyfe," his dislike for some media members, and serving his time for doing his crime.

One topic that wasn't covered by Chris Bianchi, though: D.J.'s non-human urine sample.

Barnwell: Broncos should avoid black cats, walking under ladders

NFL Halftime Report: The Numbers Game
www.grantland.com

The unluckiest team in the league is one you’ll see come up once or twice in this column as a team of extremes. The Broncos saw their luck seemingly bounce back in the second half of their game versus the Chargers, but they still rate out as the most fumble-unlucky team in the league, having recovered just five of the 22 pigskins up for grabs in their games (22.7 percent).

Another team with a notable strength-of-schedule split are those pesky Broncos, who had the league’s toughest projected schedule heading into the season. After going up against the league’s seventh-most-difficult schedule through this past week, no team in the league has an easier slate over the final nine weeks than Peyton Manning’s boys.

Barnwell says Denver is among the league's most fortunate in terms of defensive scores for and against, but have had bad luck relative to their opponents making field goals. Of course, Denver's altitude must factor into that.

Dual-threat formations, no-huddle have Broncos offense humming

Peyton Manning deftly directs explosive Denver Broncos offense
www.nfl.com

After attempting to utilize a conventional approach during the first few games of the season, the Broncos have exclusively featured the no-huddle offense in recent weeks…I believe the switch was intended to make Manning more comfortable as the leader of the offense. By operating at a quicker pace, the Broncos are able to limit defensive substitutions, resulting in fewer exotic schemes and pass-rush packages…

The move to the no-huddle offense also discourages defensive coordinators from blitzing; they’re reluctant to call pressures against hurry-up teams for fear of a cornerback or safety failing to hear the play call and blowing their assignment. This allows Manning to attack a static defense without the threat of a heavy rush. For a pinpoint passer with extraordinary anticipation and awareness, the game transforms into a 7-on-7 contest, with all of the odds tipping in the offense’s favor.

Finally, the Broncos’ utilization of the no-huddle allows Manning to take control of the game at the line of scrimmage. The veteran will step to the line, read the alignment of the defensive front and the coverage and get the Broncos into the proper call to exploit the look. Given Manning’s experience and exceptional football IQ, the Broncos are rarely in a bad play, which leads to fewer negative plays for the offense.

Not to go overboard on tonight's we told you so theme, but for weeks, we'd been calling for John Fox and Mike McCoy to unleash Peyton's no-huddle attack earlier within games, and were thrilled to see them do just that against New Orleans. And, like we'd also stressed, doing so did not swing the pass/run balance in favor of the air attack; as Brooks notes in his excellent piece, Manning is not all about passing - he's about getting his team into the right play call at the LOS.

Denver Peyton > Indy Peyton

Is 2012 Peyton Manning's Best Season Since 2004?
www.advancednflstats.com

Despite one clunker—the Week 2 loss to Atlanta featuring three early interceptions—Manning has been near or above his pre-2012 career averages all year long. He has been excellent with both efficiency and volume, with at least four above average games in all six statistics shown in the above visualization.

At this point, Manning is on pace for 3.29 WPA, 176.3 EPA, 4,848 passing yards, 39 touchdowns and nine intreceptions. The stellar play of Denver’s defense will keep Manning’s WPA below what it was in Indianapolis, when Manning’s play was required to win the inevitable shootouts created by a defense often resembling cheeses from central Europe. But his projected EPA would rank only behind his 2004, 2006 (Super Bowl championship season) and 2009 seasons; his AYPA only behind 2004.

None of us could have expected Peyton to perform at the level he's already reached so far in Denver. As for the reasoning (better talent than he had in Indy), well, we've been telling you about that since before the team even signed Manning.

With that in mind, now would be as good a time as any to revisit Ted's excellent series on the Manning offense. Now that we've all been intently watching Peyton do his thing play after play, week after week, everything Ted discussed there will make even more sense.

Manning not set in his ways

Morning Rush: Peyton Manning as early MVP favorite? Broncos' QB not buying it
sports.yahoo.com

“I really enjoy working with the young receivers,” Manning said. “We’re learning each other and I’m still feeling my way out, but they’re buying in.”

Exhibit A: Manning’s one-yard touchdown pass to Thomas with 9:30 left in the third quarter, which gave the Broncos a 24-7 lead. The play was installed weeks ago by Manning in practice: Thomas, lined up to the left, begins what appears to be a fade route, then abruptly breaks it off and runs a quick out to the side of the end zone.

“When we first ran it in practice, it was against [future Hall of Fame cornerback] Champ Bailey,” Thomas recalled. “He said, ‘Man, that’s an unstoppable route.’ When I hear Champ Bailey say that, it gets my attention.”  Unsurprisingly, Saints cornerback Johnny Patrick couldn’t stop it.

“Hey,” Thomas said, “we had one play that worked that [Manning] put in [during] this game.”

"Hey guys, do you think this is a good play?"

"I don't know. Let's see if Champ can stop it."

"He can't."

"Well, well, well, look what we've got here."

Fullback of the Opera

Singer makes journey from fullback to Figaro
www.khou.com

It began almost by chance in 1994, while still at Colorado, when he took his girlfriend to see a traveling production of the Broadway musical “The Phantom of the Opera.” He was so enthralled that tears rolled down his face. He bought a CD and learned the songs.

Then he got some real opera recordings, singing along in his bass-baritone voice, “kind of like karaoke.”

...In 2001, he was in Fargo, N.D., training for a workout with the Denver Broncos, when he saw a flier announcing an open opera audition for the Pine Mountain Music Festival in Michigan.
On a whim, he showed up.

“I figured, what the heck!” he says, his voice rippling into a low laugh that echoes his rich singing bass.
He performed the only aria he knew, from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” To his surprise, he got the job, plus four other offers…

...He has now sung with the Washington National Opera, the Seattle Opera, and other companies across the country and in Italy, England and Canada, plus the New York Philharmonic and at Carnegie Hall.

Who was that shape in the backfield shadows? Whose is that face in the face mask?