Shallow Thoughts & Nearsighted Observations

Happy Tuesday, friends.  We're back with another edition of ST&NO, because this train can't be stopped.  Fresh off a weekend full of football, we have a lot to discuss; so read it, ponder it, and share your thoughts.

 1.  Respect.  It's almost as if a whole song could be written about it or something.  Picture Eddie Murphy's dad drunkenly hollering "R-E-C-C-C-T-P, mother-%^$er you know how to spell it."  The 2009 Denver Broncos have gotten no respect, still, after being 2-0.  There have been a tepid acknowledgment or two, but no mea culpas.

From John Clayton at ESPN:

Broncos coach Josh McDaniels is off to an impressive start -- thanks largely to a defense that appears to be much better than last year's version.

From his colleague Bill "Pork Chop" Williamson:

The defense has been a problem area for Denver in recent season. (sic) Yet, the new 3-4 system in Denver seems to be working. If the Broncos can continue to play well, they could have a decent season. So far, it’s been a good start.

Clayton, remember, thought the Broncos would win 3 games this season, that they were in disarray, and that their defense was terrible.  It's all right here and here

DIVISION FINISH: 4  Face it, the Broncos are a mess. They could be a three- or a four-win team if Kyle Orton struggles, the running game gets off to a slow start and Brandon Marshall continues to pout and be immature. To add to things, the defense that gave up 28 points a game is trying a completely new scheme. Ouch.

If you watched any Broncos preseason football, you'd draw a conclusion from all 4 games that the defense was vastly improved, right?  I mean, it didn't take a professional scout to see; it was clear as day.  And, where I am from, when something is completely broken, you throw it out, and start over.  So, I'll take a completely new scheme after giving up 28 points per game, thanks.

No word yet from Adam Schein, Jamie Dukes, or the other disrespectors from the echo chamber.

 

Today, I am going to hypothesize a hypothesis for y'all.  One should never claim to be an NFL expert, because nobody knows it all, or sees it all.  For the first 7 weeks of the 2008 NFL season, I watched every snap of every game played, while also working my full-time job.  I wanted to be an NFL expert, and I figured, if DirecTV is going to provide each full game in 30-minute-or-less blocks, I should watch them all.  I'd been complaining for years that football writers could, and didn't, and hell, I was going to do it.  I was also going to launch a website, attract millions of readers quickly, and make long dollars.  Well, after 7 weeks, I got really burned out from working 9-10 hours per day at my job, and then watching games and writing for 3-4 more, and I didn't really want to do it anymore.  Not too long after that, John Bena approached me about becoming a member of the staff here at MHR, and I decided to do so.  It was a good decision for me, and I still get to focus a lot on league-wide stuff, with the thought being that the Broncos don't play in a vacuum, and that everything which happens around the league ultimately affects our team.
 
The marketplace of football ideas is wide and varied, and you can usually find somebody to take any position on anything.  The internet and Twitter have made it so that anybody can contribute to this marketplace, and those ideas which have merit tend to be taken seriously, while those which don't, don't.  For my free market capitalists out there, this is the way an efficient market is supposed to work.  Consumers are free to judge the quality of the products available, and choose which ones to consume.  Quality rules.
 
Well, this is not a perfectly efficient market, but none of them really are.  While this market's barriers to entry are low, (meaning anybody can start a football blog), getting people to want to read your content is the hard part.  Those who were first to the party have a built-in advantage, the ESPN's and Sports Illustrated's.  If you've always gotten your football opinions from the Boringest Man In America, chances are you will continue to do so, unless some compelling reason to stop emerges.  
 
My view of the football ideas market is this; there are a lot of people shouting, mostly the same, or similar things, and it gets to be the aforementioned echo chamber.  The thing is, many of the echoes start from people who don't really know what they're talking about.  There are a few flavors of football commentators.
 
a.  The Classically Trained Reporter - These people generally went to journalism school, and instinctively, always revert to wanting to report the news.  These are people who cultivate sources, and build relationships with agents, players, coaches, and each other.  SOMETHING is happening, and these people are going to find out what it is, and tell everybody.  There actually doesn't tend to be a lot of writing talent among this group, and they're given to use of a lot of clichés and bad puns.  Also, there is very little real football knowledge, either.  These are the classic repeaters of information, which I reference from time-to-time.  The gathering of information is value-adding to our marketplace of ideas, but these people don't contribute much else.  If you think about it, a sports reporter is to a reporter, as a gym teacher is to a teacher.
 
b.  The Bloviator - I don't have to spell out specifically who I mean, here, right?  Every city has these guys (they're nearly all guys), and after years of paying their dues, beating the bushes for information about who the QB is dating, and what he had for breakfast,  they have graduated from being mere reporters.  They are actually worse than the reporters, because they get far away from the work of actual information gathering, and they just spew their opinions, in as obnoxious and confrontational a manner possible.  Those opinions come from 30,000 feet, and are only designed to get people arguing; they're basically agent provocateurs.  The bloviators tend to be the slightly more talented wordsmiths, coming up from the ranks of the beat writers, but that still isn't saying a whole lot.  Only the local newspapers have these guys, and they're slowly sinking with their papers.  In the era of globalization, local institutions quit mattering when they can't compete anymore.  Living in Cleveland, you see that firsthand, all the time, as you drive by idled steel plants.  These are the people who appear on Around The Horn, and the biggest problem with them is that they work for overtly journalistic enterprises, and act like quasi-journalists, but they make themselves the story.  ESPN encourages a few of their reporters to become Bloviators, but they don't go all-in with it, like the local potentate at the money-hemorrhaging newspaper.
 
c.  The Former Participant - The football ideas marketplace is full of these guys, too - former players, coaches, and executives, mostly in the televised space.  These people have something general to add, but they tend not to work hard enough to know the teams and players at a very detailed level.  They can see how a blitz unfolds, and describe it credibly in general terms, but they think that Todd Lyght is playing Left Tackle for the Patriots.  Many of these people struggle mightily with coherent communication of their thoughts, and they tend to contribute very little in the written space, with the notable exceptions being Bucky Brooks, Matt Bowen, Pat Kirwan and Michael Lombardi.

 

d.  The Radio Idiot - Radio is a really strange medium, because you have to be able to communicate entirely verbally to be successful at it.  Even in the written form, you can use diagrams, but in radio, you have to just keep talking.  It's a rare skill-set, and for the most part, it tends not to accompany great intelligence, knowledge, or command of facts.  Radio people tend to be really antisocial on a person-to-person level, and it's almost like you need to have some psychological problems to be good at radio.  I definitely couldn't be a radio personality, because I don't speak or think in short, simple, easily digestible soundbites.  (For as smart as he is, our fearless leader John Bena does a great job with MHR Radio, which works against my thinking, but no theory is perfect.)

Adam Schein is the classic Radio Idiot, and FOX actually lets him write a lousy column, in which he regurgitates what his Sirius NFL Radio guests told him during the week.  He's an "Insider," you know.  Colin Cowherd, another MHR favorite, also qualifies, though he is thankfully confined to the airwaves.

Into this landscape entered the sports blog, and they're growing and getting better all over the place.  At MHR, we're really lucky to have a tremendous amount of talent and dedication in the community, making the this site a living, self-sustaining thing.  With every game, and every post, MHR asserts itself more and more as the preeminent source of Broncos information, discussion, and commentary. 

As the marketplace of ideas becomes more and more efficient, our position will continue to strengthen, because quality rules.  All members are stakeholders.  If you're a frequent contributor, keep up the great work.  If you comment once in a while, consider writing a FanPost.  If you're a lurker, sign up and join the conversation.  And if you have friends who are Broncos fans, encourage them to check us out, even if they start out as lurkers.

As a community, we'll continue to be all over all things Broncos, together, because we all have a stake in the output.  And, eventually, we'll defeat the echo chamber, even if they never admit to completely misjudging this team, due to a lack of inclination to putting any effort into understanding it.  Who could have seen this coming?  We saw this coming, that's who.

I will finish this diatribe by sharing my approach to being knowledgeable, which I am sure is similar to the approach many of you take.  Step one is to pay attention to everything at a high level, and wonder about something.  Step two is to investigate that specific item I wondered about.  Step three is to consider and evaluate the findings, and what they mean in the larger context of my existing understanding.  I never trust what anybody says, and if I am going to repeat/agree with something smart that I heard somebody say, I attribute the thought to them.  Pretty straightforward, right?  This is not what is largely going on, though, throughout the media landscape, sports and otherwise.  It's a lot easier to repeat some idiot/blowhard's words when they confirm your own assumptions and leanings, than it is to work, and figure out the right answer.  That's not what we do here at MHR, and I am personally proud of that.

2.  Information from my eyes on the Broncos game: (From the live broadcast only, as I was unable to watch a second time yet).

a.  It was great having Chris Kuper back.  He's very underrated and reliable at RG, and the group played much better with him in there.   

b.  Casey Wiegmann had a pretty tough time with Shaun Rogers, which isn't really a major indictment of him, but it's a fact.  Rogers is a great player, and got a lot of penetration Sunday, making him Cleveland's lone bright spot, on either side of the ball.

c.  I wouldn't trade Alphonso Smith for any other nickel CB in the NFL.  His skill-set is tremendous for that role, and it won't be long before he is taking an interception back for 6 points.

d.  I feel a little bad for Matt Prater, because the gusting wind really got a hold of those two missed Field Goals.  I think the criticism he is taking is a little bit unwarranted, at least for the moment.  He needs to be making his kicks, but 40-mph gusts can move anybody's ball.  I was pleased with his kickoff work on Sunday, which was really important, too.

e.  How nice is it to have coverage teams that can tackle a return man?  Josh Cribbs is as good as it gets in the return game, and the Broncos did a fantastic job of containing him.

f.  I would still like to see more of Peyton Hillis with the ball in his hands, on offense.  The only time he got it, he scored, but he has a lot to add in the passing and running games.

g.  Nobody has mentioned this yet, that I have seen, but Tony Scheffler has grown into a very good blocker.  In the second half, particularly, I made a note that the Broncos were motioning him into position to seal the edge of running plays, and he was hitting his man hard, and maintaining his blocks.  That 3-TE package (Scheffler, Daniel Graham and Richard Quinn), which we saw a lot of in the second half, was knocking some heads in the running game.  The local Cleveland media says that the Browns defense collapsed in the second half, but really, the Broncos started dominating up front in the second half.

h.  Knowshon Moreno seems to be a pretty quick study, huh?  I think Bobby Turner spent a good amount of time last week "encouraging" him to take one cut and go.

i.  I wrote this on Twitter Sunday (@TedBartlett905) but it bears repeating. 

Really good things happen when Brian Dawkins blitzes. He made the play, and Dumervil gets the stat.

Elvis Dumervil's first sack was actually caused by Dawkins blitzing, and jumping high into the air in Brady Quinn's throwing lane, which he frequently does.  Quinn couldn't throw it, turned to his left, and met Dumervil for the first time.

j.  Interesting stuff from Eric Mangini, via Steve Beuerlein, the color analyst for the game.  Paraphrasing, he said that he considered it futile to have a good pass rusher try to beat Ryan Clady, because it was practically impossible to do.  We all know Ryan is the best offensive lineman in the NFL, because we pay attention to such things.

Len Pasquarelli, not so much:

Young tackles thriving

Surprisingly, given its perceived difficulty, the position that has produced the most opening-day rookie starters over the past two seasons is offensive tackle, with 11. Even more surprising is that seven of the 11 are left tackles, a position that is among the most difficult to fill and is regarded as the most critical spot on the offense line. There were six rookie opening-day starters at tackle in 2008, and there are five this year, all of whom were selected in the first or second round. Arguably the best of the lot might be Ryan Clady of Denver, a 2008 first-rounder from Boise State who started all 16 games as a rookie. Some pro scouts already rate the relatively unknown Clady among the NFL's top 5 tackles and say he has made more progress than Jake Long of Miami, the top overall pick in 2008.

OK, this is not a news flash, that Clady is good.  I want to talk to the pro scouts who don't rate him among the top 5 at that position, but I doubt there are any, unless there are some unqualified people in that role.  This is what I mean about repeating information.  When you talk to 3 pro scouts, and they all tell you Clady is great, you come to "some pro scouts."

As for Jake Long, he is what he is.  He's athletically limited, but a solid player who is very valuable in the running game.  Against elite pass rushers, he'll always struggle.  I watched Dwight Freeney dominate him in the first half Monday night, bull rushing him to the ground several times.

3.  Information from my eyes from other games:

.a.  The main game I watched in the 1 ET slot was New England against the Jets.  Guru's wife and other Patriots fans ought to be pretty alarmed by the Patriots' inability to protect Tom Brady with any consistency, for the second week in a row.  It really limits their offense, by wrecking their timing, and I saw Brady looking really frustrated on Sunday.

I was all over picking this game correctly, because I was certain that the Patriots couldn't block the Jets' pressure packages.  They are going to need to re-evaluate their protection schemes, and max-protect more often, because what they are doing simply isn't working.

b.  Scheme is really important, and can add as much as value as talent, as we've seen from Mike Nolan this season.  Rex Ryan's scheme is just outstanding for the Jets, and he gets a lot of pressure from the design alone.  It's worth noting that they're doing this without their best pass rusher, Calvin Pace, who is still suspended for two more games.

c.  Darrelle Revis is a fantastic player, much better than the football-watching world knows him to be.  His game has no weaknesses, and he shut down Randy Moss on Sunday, which is obviously no small thing.  He and Lito Sheppard, who is very good on the other side, allow the Jets to blitz so often without worrying too much.

d.  I caught a great deal of the Texans-Titans game, too.  The biggest impression I took from that game was that the Titans defense is really underachieving this season, especially in coverage.  I like Matt Schaub, but he and the Texans shouldn't be slicing up Tennessee like that, especially missing a starting WR (Kevin Walter) and with Steve Slaton continuing to struggle a bit.  With the Titans' record at 0-2 now, you have to wonder how long it takes for new Defensive Coordinator Chuck Cecil to come under a lot of fire.

e.  From Chris Mortensen on Twitter Monday Night:

Packers have me very confused but 1 thing is clear after 2 games - their O-line is a much bigger weakness than they anticipated.

If they hadn't anticipated it would be a problem, then their anticipators are a problem, too.  If Mort means it's a bigger weakness than HE anticipated, okay.  He's more or less a repeater of information, and if nobody told him, he probably wouldn't know.

I have been ripping the Packers O-line for two years now, and I beat them up for taking B.J. Raji instead of Michael Oher.  It was obvious that the Chad Clifton-Mark Tauscher combination at Tackle was terrible last season, and it's even more clear that Clifton and Allen Barbre are even worse.  Clifton got hurt on Sunday, and was replaced by Daryn Colledge, who needs to stick to being an average Guard.

f.  What in the world has gotten into Antwan Odom?  After two sacks last week against the Broncos, he got five against the Packers.  This is a guy who has had a thoroughly average career so far, so it's a little surprising to see this burst of production all of a sudden.  He looks bigger and quicker than in the past, so it will bear watching whether he can keep it up.

g.  I picked the Lions to beat Minnesota this week, and I admittedly missed on that one.  I felt pretty good when the Lions got out to an early lead, though.  I think the Vikings are going to really disappoint this season.  Brett Favre hasn't looked very good to me in the first two weeks, and hasn't thrown the ball downfield.  Going 23-for-27 is good, but 155 yards?  That's really un-Favre-like.  If I were an opposing defensive coordinator, with two games of film now, I'd be having my corners sit on every short route, and force the guy to beat me deep.  I never thought I'd say that about Favre, but I am.

h.  Michael Huff seems like he may finally be putting it all together.  He has now caused turnovers in each of the Raiders' first two games.  He looks much more sure of himself in play diagnosis than in past years.  Maybe he is just a late bloomer, but there was some speculation he could be cut in camp this year, if he didn't improve a lot.

i.  I have been pretty complimentary of JaMarcus Russell lately, but he played terribly on Sunday, until the final game-winning series.  That throw he made on 3rd and 15 is the reason you live with his growing pains.  The Raiders could help him out by giving him some higher-percentage options to throw to, but he needs to make plays, too.

j.  Really nice throw by Matt Cassel and catch by Dwayne Bowe to give the Chiefs the lead against the Raiders.  The Chiefs really dominated the game on offense, but made a lot of mistakes to keep the game close.  They held the ball for 38 minutes and 39 seconds, which really goes to illustrate the sometimes-deceiving nature of the time-of-possession statistic.

k.  The Eagles missed Donovan McNabb, obviously, but I was a little surprised that they didn't do better on defense.  That was a Philly Steamer their defense laid.  Incidentally, it didn't help my fantasy team much, in the official MHR League, this week, either. 

l.  Mario Manningham is really starting to emerge as the best WR for the Giants, and he had a huge game Sunday night against the Cowboys.  He ran a slower-than-expected 40 coming out of college, and had some maturity questions, but the guy was a big-time player at Michigan.  For a team with a lot of 3rd-WR types, the Giants desperately need somebody to emerge, and it looks like Manningham can be that guy.  We'll have to see what happens when teams get some film on him, but for now he is carrying it well.

m.  The Cowboys are not a legitimate contender this season.  Their defense is very suspect, particularly against the pass, and their only legitimate pass rusher is DeMarcus Ware, at this point.  I've never seen anything from Anthony Spencer, either in college or the pros, to convince me that he is the answer on the other side.  They had Greg Ellis, and really erred in letting him get away.  If you can't cover, and the 'Boys can't, you'd better be getting to the QB.  Most teams, other than the Broncos, can't handle Ware one-on-one, but if you double him, you'll almost certainly have time to throw the ball.

n.  Felix Jones is downright scary for the Cowboys.  They pretty much struck out on Mike Jenkins in the first round in 2008, but hit a home run with Jones.  I guess one-for-two isn't that bad, all things considered.

o.  Some fool took me to task on YouTube when I did the pilot program for Lighting Up The Scoreboard.  Apparently, I should have known that "Kevin Payne is really, really good."  Well, this week he got benched in favor of Danieal Manning, and when he did play, he took a really bad angle on Rashard Mendenhall's 39-yard run, which set up a Ben Roethlisberger TD run.  Really, really good, indeed.

p.  Jay Cutler had a good game for the Bears, and didn't throw the ball to the other team, keeping them in it long enough to benefit from a missed Steelers FG.  I think everybody had that impression, and I don't personally care what he does, like the ex-girlfriend I compared him with a few weeks ago.  I think some people have me pegged as an Always-Rip-Cutler guy, though, and I am not.  I am actually pretty indifferent, and I don't miss him.  When he plays well, I will say that he played well.

q.  Matt Forte is another story, entirely.  The Bears offensive line isn't very good, but Forte really didn't show much individually on Sunday.  My brother texted me recently asking me if I'd take Michael Turner, Forte, or Maurice Jones-Drew second overall in a fantasy draft.  I told him Turner, but Forte would be last choice of the three.  Cutler's arm has a way of seducing play-callers into wanting to use it all the time (we sure know this), and he's nowhere near as apt to check down as Kyle Orton was/is.

r.  Circling back to the Green Bay-Cincinnati game, Cedric Benson is extremely talented, and he looks like he is finally coming into his own.  He got a reputation for being soft at Chicago, but his teammates never liked him personally, as he displaced locker-room favorite Thomas Jones.  Benson is in the top 5 in the NFL, in terms of pure talent at the RB position, and the Bengals really made a good move to bring him to town, and then to re-sign him pretty cheaply in the offseason (2 years, $7 Million).

s.  Every week, my glowing reviews of Joe Flacco just look better and better.  I got ripped for that a bit, but I knew and continue to know that I was right.

t.   The Chargers are in big, big trouble on defense.  Losing Jamal Williams was just a killer, even if his play had sharply declined in the last two seasons.  The Chargers aren't pressuring anybody, and without Williams, they aren't terribly stout against the run anymore, either.  Alfonso Boone isn't the answer, in case anybody was wondering.  San Diego can score with anybody, and they're going to need to. 

u.  You know who looks like a really good young player?  Sean Smith for the Dolphins.  Yeah, I was all over that one before the Draft.  The Broncos value ball skills over size at CB, which is why they preferred Alphonso Smith over any CB in the Draft, but I have love for a tall, fluid guy who can play press coverage.  He had Reggie Wayne blanketed on that deep throw near the end of the first half which Gibril Wilson intercepted off of Smith's tip, which seems to have been overturned.  (I left the bar I was at right after that play.)  Anyway, Wayne was targeted 6 times, catching 3 passes for 37 yards.  That's really good work from the RCB position for the Dolphins.

4.  I had a power outage at home on Monday night, and it precluded me from watching any of the DVR'd games I was going to watch, making my other games analysis a little lighter than I wanted.  I will run Between The Lines Tuesday night as a FanPost, since it's not able to be included in this edition.

I am writing from the library, since I have no power, and it's closing soon, as I write this.  If my power has come back when I get home, I will write more.  If not, look for at least Between The Lines Tuesday night.  Have a great week.

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