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2012 Denver Broncos - There will be balls

Denver Broncos

As John Fox said to me, “We are eager to learn from Peyton.”...Now Peyton is the coach on the field and young wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are about to explode. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two guys who caught 76 passes between them last year combine for 150 receptions this year…

...Manning likes 12 personnel (1RB, 2TE, 2WR) and a no-huddle attack. His former teammate Jacob Tamme told me he takes on the Dallas Clark role which he did for the Colts when Clark got hurt. Joel Dreessen, former Titan and jack-of-all-trades gives the Broncos the flexibility to build a spread set or a two-back set or any other formation in their attack package. There will be a lot of pressure on center J.D. Walton, who will have to learn to check protections constantly as Manning makes multiple changes at the line of scrimmage. Manning is used to Jeff Saturday, who had 13 years of experience in that role. Walton has two years and has never played with the likes of a Peyton Manning.

Don’t think the Broncos will ignore the run game. As Bill Cowher said to me, “Peyton likes the stretch zone run game to set up his play-action pass and he sees so much two high safety coverages he has to take the run.”

You know that ass clown in your fantasy league (it's okay to admit that you play fantasy football, you loser) that, instead of drafting for need or production, drafts all his players from the same team? Well if you've ever thought about playing village idiot yourself and taking all Broncos, this would be the year.  I don't recommend the strategy, but when Jacob Tamme blows up, you can at least take credit for being ahead of the curve.

I threw in Cowher's quote because it's excellent.  If Manning is even close to his form of 2010, teams will often play this high-safety, war-of-attrition defense to simply stay in the game.  If you go into 2012 remembering one thing, you'd do a lot worse than Cowher's quote.  

File under: Things you probably didn’t want to know about Denver’s new fullback

Rob Gronkowski Crossed Swords With His Brothers, And Two Other Fantastic Gronk Stories From The ESPYs

“Gronkowski is in line for the bathroom. There’s a line, two urinals and a stall. They’re all waiting. Gronkowski is with his two brothers, who just looked awesome. He goes into the stall and he turns around to one of his brothers and says, ‘Crossys?’ The second brother goes in, the third brother goes in, and then there’s some guy who’s waiting — some small guy — and they say, ‘Let’s get him too.’ They grab this guy and pull him in, and they all pee in the bathroom together, in the stall.”

Yikes, the poor fourth man in on that Schwartz-crossing episode is likely scarred for life. And unless he was several beverages into his evening, one would have to think he had a bit of that Public Restroom Performance Anxiety that strikes all of us at some point in our lives.

For those who missed it, Gronk's older brother Chris is Denver's new fullback.

Dumervil charged with aggravated assault (maybe?)

Broncos' Elvis Dumervil in Miami arrested on felony weapons charge

Broncos star defensive end Elvis Dumervil was arrested in Miami and charged with aggravated assault with a firearm, according to court records in Miami-Dade County. The charge is a third-degree felony.

KCNC, CBS’s Denver affiliate, first reported the arrest, and the station reports that Dumervil was arrested Saturday night. The station reported Dumervil was held on $7,500 bail. Dumervil was released from the Dade County jail on Saturday, according to jail records. Details of what led to the arrest are not yet available, and calls to the Dade County sheriff’s offense have not been returned.

UPDATE: According to ESPN, Dumervil's lawyer, Harvey Steinberg, refutes this account:

No charges have been filed. No aggravated assault or assault took place. And it is likely that once the full investigation is complete, no charges will be filed against Mr. Dumervil.

Until all the facts are in, it's difficult to intelligently comment on this story. It's unlikely Dumervil sees any jail time regardless of the outcome, but let's just get it out of the way: this is probably going to cost Mr. Dumervil (and the Denver Broncos) on the football side. Roger Goodell had this report at 3:05 a.m. Dumervil was released at 3:00 a.m.

In case you were wondering, here's the legal definition of aggravated assault in the State of Florida:

An "assault" is an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.   An "aggravated assault" is an assault: (a) With a deadly weapon without intent to kill; or (b) With an intent to commit a felony...

Brees’s deal tops Manning’s

Brees deal sets new bars for average, guarantee

The whopping $60 million in guaranteed money includes $40 million fully guaranteed, and $20 million in guarantees presumably based only on injury until 2013, a function of the NFL’s outdated and unrealistic “funding” rule, which requires a team to put in escrow now any fully guaranteed money due in the future.

To review, only the $18M 2012 salary of Peyton's five-year, $96M deal in Denver is fully guaranteed. If he's on the roster on the last day of the 2012 league year, his $20M salaries in 2013 and 2014 will be guaranteed, with the team holding an out for the 2014 salary in the event of a reinjury to Peyton's neck.

Essentially, barring another neck injury, Manning is guaranteed $58M in his deal over three years, while Brees is due $60M in guarantees over three years, also barring injury. In terms of average annual value, Brees's $20M comes in just ahead of Manning's $19.2M/year.

Isn’t KC supposed to have the most supportive fans?

Big shot: Bill Self homers — yes, homers — in losing cause

Fans booed K.C. Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel during introductions, but gave him polite applause during his at-bats.

At least Broncos fans don't boo their own players - amirite Kyle Orton? Can't wait for the Brady Quinn billboards to go up in Chiefsland. (via PFT)

Chargers would rather fill Qualcomm with Chiefs fans than lower blackout threshold

Chargers Now Actively Trying To Sell Tickets To Chiefs Fans

To head off embarrassment, yesterday the Chargers sent out an email blast to a number of Chiefs blogs, including Arrowhead Addict.

The good news is, that Chiefs game will be on NFL Network, so with any cable game, it’ll be shown on local TV no matter the attendance, so Chargers fans will be able to watch the game. With the Chargers seemingly on the downswing, that might also be bad news.

This is quite the pathetic aftermath to the story we noted on Tuesday regarding the Chargers' understandable reluctance to lower their blackout threshold. You stay classy, San Diego.

ESPN: It helps to have great young players

Young and (better be) ready in the NFL

The 32 players picked in the first round of the 2011 draft played an average of 13 games in the 2011 NFL season. And that counts those who missed time because of injury, such as Prince Amukamara, and project quarterback Jake Locker, who played sparingly in only five games. Half of those 32 players started at least 14 games as rookies and 10 started all 16.

What this tells you is that now, when you evaluate a player you’re considering taking in the first round, you’re asking yourself all of the normal questions about whether he can play, learn, behave and lead, and you’re also asking whether he can do it right away.

We were originally sharing this for the sake of the quotes at the end from Foxy regarding Von Miller. But upon further review, we have to file this column under Everything We Write Must Unearth a Trend, Even if We Make It Up from the John Clayton School of Football Journalism.

Yeah, amazing that so many first-rounders played last year - and that Cam Newton and Von Miller were so incredible must mean that the times, they are a-changin'. To see how well that holds up, let's randomly go back 20 years to the 1991 Draft and see how much those first-rounders were coddled, because surely that was a different era of pro football.

Hmm, those 27 players averaged 13.1 games played as rookies, despite Dan McGwire and Todd Marinovich being among the worst first-round QBs in NFL history (each of them played in just one game that year). This is totally different from 2011 in that...well, it isn't. We'll grant that last year's rookies did start more games than did the 1991 rookies (only five guys started 14 or more games). But we'd need snaps data to truly know how much everyone played.

Just wait until Andrew Luck and RGIII are struggling come Week 4 of this season, and Clayton & Co. pronounce that the trend of playing rookie QBs is a foolish one.

Matt Prater: Livin’ it up at the Hotel Ca-La Quinta

Broncos Kicker Matt Prater Inks Four-Year Deal, Preps to Move Out of Hotel

What are you going to do to celebrate your new deal?: “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. I’m looking forward to, I’m actually in the process of looking for a condo or townhouse, because I’ve actually lived in a hotel for the last five years. So I’m excited about moving out of the hotel.”

Why were you living in a hotel for five years?: “Because I bought a house in Florida a couple years ago and just out here, it was real convenient for me. I was going two years in a row on a one-year deal so I didn’t want to buy a place and have to move.”

I think it's safe to say Matt Prater likes hotels a lot more than the average bear:

The incident started just before 3 a.m. on Aug. 2. Police were called to the scene of a hit-and-run accident at 9280 E. Costilla Ave., just outside the Hyatt Summerfield Suites...The witnesses said the driver fled into the hotel's lobby...After the accident, she and the man went into the hotel to get a room, but the hotel was full...Police ultimately found Prater at the nearby La Quinta hotel.

Although it's not clear if Prater has made La Quinta his hotel of choice during the last five years, I think we can all sleep better knowing their corporate slogan: "La Quinta takes care of everything, so you can take care of business kickoffs and extra points."

We can only imagine Prater's vigor were he to stay at a Holiday Inn Express the night before a game.

Barnwell: Broncos should be going Moneyball route with its kickers

NFL's Frequent-Flier Phenomenon

But it’s not entirely clear that Matt Prater was an above-average kicker in 2011, and Denver’s decision to lock him up represents one of the many ways in which organizations fool themselves into spending money in the wrong places…he’s now hit 78.4 percent of his field goals across five pro seasons. That ranks 37th out of 44 regular kickers over that time frame, so it’s safe to say that Prater’s not known for his accuracy.

As for the walkoffs, while they were valuable, they’re far more indicative of opportunity than skill…Consider that Prater had three game-winners in overtime this past season and just one over his previous four years in the league.

Denver’s thin air allows them to get more out of average kickers than anyone else in football. They should use that to their advantage and exploit a built-in market inefficiency by being thrifty at kicker and applying the savings elsewhere. Instead, the Broncos have handcuffed themselves to a known mediocrity for years to come.

As noted yesterday, I'm glad the Broncos didn't give as much of a guarantee to Prater as had been speculated. But his accuracy issues from 40-49 yards remains a serious concern, and one to keep an eye on going forward.

BTW, I've updated the distance splits on the prior columns, because PFR is oddly missing that data from 2009. So, Prater is actually 20 of 33 from 40-49 yards - not 12 of 23 - as I'd written yesterday and prior. This is a more palatable success rate, but still a very poor one, especially for a kicker with a reputation of a strong leg and a contract to match.

Legendary Broncos return man Rick Upchurch battling leukemia

Former Bronco Rick Upchurch embraced warmly by Puebloans

“I am not the first and I won’t be the last (to have cancer), so for all the cancer survivors and everybody that is going through it right now, we are all going through it together and we can defeat this,” Upchurch said.

Former Broncos offensive tackle Dave Studdard was at the event supporting his best friend. “Rick and I have known each other since 1979. He took an offensive lineman under his wing and we’ve been buddies ever since,” Studdard said.

Studdard, a cancer survivor himself, said if anyone can beat the disease, it’s Upchurch. “Anything I can do to be there for Rick, I will do it. He’s like a brother to me and I have five brothers. You could never have enough brothers,” Studdard said with a laugh. “Rick right now is just understanding what is going on in his life and it sucks. He will deal with this and he already is doing a good job of it. I will love him until we both die.”

Our thoughts go out to Upchurch, the Broncos' all-time franchise leader in punt returns, punt return yards, and punt return touchdowns. During nine seasons with Denver, Upchurch was named to four Pro Bowls, was a three-time first-team All-Pro, and dated someone who would later become far more famous than he. (via PFT)