Welcome back, my friends to the show that never ends
Five, seven, five syllables
Wow, this is easy.
Opening Thoughts: Meet your new master.
Greetings MHR. I am proud to say that John Bena has recently promoted me to be a featured contributor on MHR. I first want to say thanks to him and everyone else here for making this site the awesome place that it is. Jeremy, whose write-ups on the 2008 draftees led me to be a regular MHR reader. Steve, whose awesome MHRU series not only helped me become a more knowledgeable fan, but a better football player when I was still playing. Tim, for all the fun I had beating him twice to win the 2008 MHR Fantasy Football Championship. Brian, Troy, Matt, Sayre, EJ, and Kirk for continuing to produce top-quality Broncos analysis. And old heroes like Emmet Smith, Ted Bartlett, TJ "The Dude" Johnson, and Doug Lee for helping set the precedent for which the content on MHR is to strive. And, of course, John, for creating and cultivating THE best Denver Broncos community that you will find online.
I am humbled and excited, and I promise every one of you that I will strive to meet the quality standards of this site for every column that I write. I will work as hard as I do when I write papers for college. No, wait. I will work harder. I don't work very hard at college. And I won't disappear for five weeks at a time anymore. Or start amphetamines again.
I'm so glad you could attend. Come inside, come inside
I guess I should open by telling you a little about myself. I'm 19 years old and I go to college in a town about an hour from Kansas City. I've lived in the heart of Chiefs country for most of my life, but my dad is from Littleton, CO, and he wouldn't let me be anything other then a Broncos fan. Need proof? I was born blue and orange--literally, and my first words were "Karl Mecklenberg." But my dad stopped being as hardcore a fan after the two Super Bowl victories, so all the Broncos stuff I had to go on for a good decade was ESPN 'analysis' and phone discussions with my 80-plus-year-old grandmother. And then I found MHR... :)
Living in Kansas City means going to Arrowhead Stadium, and I have been many, many times, and I imagine that it is an awesome experience when you're not rooting against the home team. I've seen the Broncos lose there six times in the past ten years in person, and I even got on TV once. I never made it to the old Mile High, but I will be making my first trip to Invesco on Dec. 26 when we play the Texans.
As for personal stuff, I'm an active musician and martial artist, although I don't pretend to be any good in either of those fields. I'm big, big, big into Japanese history and culture, and I will be studying abroad in Osaka for the 2012-2013 school year. I'm a business finance major and I hope to end up as an executive in a large bank someday, so I can make enough money to buy the Broncos. Hey, a guy can dream, can't he? But enough about me. On to the post!
A couple more things before I continue to the actual Broncos stuff. On Sunday, I mentioned that I would be splitting this puppy up into two pieces for the sake of brevity. I thought I'd clear that up a little more here. Sunday night (or, in next week's case, Monday night) will be my "quick hits" post. I decided to do one of those because no one else was doing one and I thought MHR needed it, and also to take the place of the Bullet Points section of the Soapbox that was just kind of wandering around without a purpose.
I hope to follow this up with a cool little idea that I had that will hopefully take place on Saturdays or Sundays before the game. And I also have something very, very special coming for Thursdays or Saturdays. I won't tell you what it is; I don't want to spoil the surprise. You should just know that it is coming, and you will not be able to stop it.
So without further ado, on to some actual Broncos-related content.
Josh McDaniels coached a magnificent game on Sunday. From start to finish (finish being right around halftime) we completely outplayed and downright embarrassed one of the self-proclaimed best teams in the AFC. His gameplans, obviously, were excellent. More importantly, however, was how comfortable we looked up and down the roster. Players one through 45 were on the same page, complementing each other, and playing natural, instinctive football. It was brought up after the 49ers game that maybe Josh and the Broncos were trying too hard earlier on the season and that they often tensed up and got in their own way. That was not the case on Sunday, however, and huge kudos to the coaching staff for getting everyone relaxed and prepared at the same time.
Remember all that stuff I said last week about the amoeba philosophy and playing vanilla in the first quarter? Yeah, we didn't do that against Kansas City. It was discussed in the pressers by McDaniels and Kyle Orton that the Broncos dedicated a lot of time in practice last week to how they were going to start the game, and it definitely showed. We received the ball to start the game and took it right down the field. There was no beating around the bush with regards to our first drive. We took a lot of shots downfield early and supplemented that with some wide receiver screens and draw plays up the middle, and we kept them on edge with some trick plays and odd formations.
The Jedi has taken a lot of flak for all the screens he calls, and much of it is deserved. You can't call a wide receiver screen to jump-start the offense. You run it when you're successfully throwing downfield and have the corners backed off. You throw it when the defense is on their heels and take advantage of them underneath. On Sunday, Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal showed us how effective that can be.
Further complementing our downfield threat was an awesome running game. For the first time all year, our offensive line opened up big holes for Knowshon Moreno and he looked healthy enough to bust through them for big gains. IT is interesting how he picked up those yards though; many of KnowMo's good runs were on zome-blocking plays. Most of his runs in the first half, in fact, along with both of Lance Ball's runs, were zone stretch or zone read plays. It's good to see that McDaniels is willing to look outside his comfort zone to help address a weakness in the team, and I hope we'll see some more zone plays in the future if they can be as effective as they were on Sunday.
This newfound success in the running game opened up even more room for our play-action attack that was already one of the best in the NFL. We exploited their aggressiveness with play-fakes and rocked them even further back on their heels.
On top of all this, we called some really creative plays. Eddie Royal had a nice gain on a reverse. We had a nice flea-flicker that netted a first down. We did a fake handoff, fake toss double play action play that got us our second touchdown. Tim Tebow got in on the action and ran his package perfectly. They had no answer. For anything. You know what that first quarter reminded me of? The 1988 Mike Tyson-Michael Spinks title fight. We were that dominating.
'Course, if we were that good, what are the Eagles? The German occupation of France?
Defensively, we finally were able to go back to a 3-4 because we were healthier that we have been on that front all year long. Big players like Kevin Vickerson, Wesley Woodyard, and Darcel McBath returned, and the likes of Brian Dawkins had an extra week to get healthy. Add that to the impending returns of Robert Ayers and Andre' Goodman (though Mario Haggan and Perrish Cox have played well in their respective steads) and we will soon finally be able to see some consistency on the defensive front.
Just to put into perspective our defensive injury woes: Our starting linebackers in camp were, left to right, Elvis Dumervil, D.J. Williams, Mario Haggan, and Robert Ayers. On Sunday they were Jason Hunter, Wesley Woodyard,Joe Mays, and Mario Haggan. Not one of those guys was starting in the position he played Sunday at the beginning of the season.
We looked much more fluid and comfortable playing out of the 3-4 than the 4-3. I saw a lot less overthinking and a lot more reacting. Add that to the fact that we stayed one step ahead of them with some interesting fronts and some deadly zone blitzes, and we were dominating in every facet of the game. We stoned their running game and crushed Matt Cassel. Well, in the first half at least. I'm not counting the second half prevent defense in my Coaching Points.
We did continue to struggle applying pressure when not blitzing. And that won't stop until we get Elvis Dumervil back. He's our best natural pass rusher, and the attention that he commands with double-and-triple teams will inevitably create openings for our other rushers. It's something we have to look forward to next year.
That whole game was unexpected, wasn't it? We were 2-6, coming off 4 straight losses. We were 0-4 in our last four home division games. We just got blown out by 862 points by the raiders. And we took it to the best team in the division, slapped them, bent them over and took it to them again.
We now stand 3-6 and are only 2 games out of first place in the crappy AFC West. We have four games left against division opponents, including the Chargers, who are expected to come back and be a force in the division again. We have games against mediocre teams like St. Louis and Arizona coming up. And in my opinion, despite all of these opportunities, winning the division should be the last thing on our minds. Allow me to explain:
I think we have proven this weekend that we are the most inconsistent team in the NFL. We've blown out two division leaders, beaten a good Titans team in their house, and took it to the wire against the class of the AFC, the Colts and the Jets. We've also gotten spanked by the Ravens, out-manned by the 49ers, and lost the aforementioned home game to a certain silver and black team 1,552-14.
What we should learn from that is that for the rest of the year we're going to lose some games we shouldn't, win some we shouldn't, and get blown out again at least once this season by three touchdowns. We are a young team with a very inexperienced coaching staff. With youth and inexperience come inconsistency. That is the nature of the beast.
A positive to take out of the Chiefs game is that we're moving in the right direction for sure. The players are responding to the coach, which means that he has not lost control of the locker room. We learned that when we're healthy and we fire on all cylinders, we can beat just about anyone. We saw a glimpse of the potential of Josh McDaniels, and if he continues to progress, we will have many more games like that. In my mind, Josh proved on Sunday that he can be a great NFL coach. And there should be no more doubt as to whether he gets another year to further implement his system. He will get no more questions from me this year, and I will put off my re-evalutaion of him until eight games into 2011.
It remains to be seen how the rest of the season will shake out. We have some tough games ahead; we have some games against similarly-skilled opponents. 7-9 is my optimist's prediction. It is the barometer for the rest of the season that I will use to grade the team. 7-9 would put as at 4-3 over our last seven games, and 5-3 over our last eight. Finish the season on a positive note, with a winning record in the second half, and we will have a very good vibe headed into 2011.
Freeform Jazz Odyssey
"Damn, that blues harp sounds sweet. I knew it would." ~ "I thought you liked jazz?" ~ "Don't be dense. I started wailing the blues when the doctor whacked my bottom on the day I was born." ~ "A baby hipster, now that I'd like to see."
Story of my life: how not to choose a girlfriend
Backstory: I currently attend the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO. I couldn't afford to live in a dorm for my first semester, so instead I'm currently staying with some close family friends... who happen to have a fourteen year old son named Buster. I am the Obi-Wan to Buster's Luke. I help raise this poor kid, and sometimes I give him advice that's good/stupid enough to stand on my soapbox and preach to the masses. Here's Episode One of Raising Buster.
So Buster has this thing about girls. The poor kid falls in love every day, for all the wrong reasons. For example, on one of the first days I moved in here, Buster asked me my views on sex. Here's approximately how the exchange went:
B: Would you have sex with that girl?
J: Excuse me?
B: Like, if she asked you to make out behind a McDonald's in her car with you, would you?
J: Of course not.
B: Why the aytch not?!
J: Because there's no romance behind McDonald's, Buster.
B: Sex doesn't have to have romance!
J: Oh? What does it have to be then, if not romantic?
B: Hot and hard and 200 miles an hour!
Poor little Buster. And now, in the words of Monty Python, for something completely different!
Last week, I talked about martial arts and how Josh McDaniels' offensive philosophy reminds me of techniques employed by Bruce Lee. This week, I will talk about how his team-building philosophy reminds me of the topic discussed above: making sweet, sweet love.
Josh McDaniels came to the Broncos with a vision. He wanted to reshape this team, in his image, backed by his philosophy. He saw old, underwhelming players and dumped them for leaders and playmakers. He saw a defense that was being treated like second-class citizens and re-shaped them to be the heart of the team. He drafted a quarterback in the first round and, instead of throwing him to the wolves like so many in the media wanted him to, he chose instead to sit him and have him learn for a while. Throughout this whole rebuilding process, he knows that mistakes will be made, and that these must be positively corrected rather than blamed on the other party. He knows that it will take time, and luckily Pat Bowlen knows that as well. And most importantly, Josh McDaniels knows that, in the end, we will be better off for it and we will soon have a damn strong team.
Now I'm going to talk about Al Davis. Al Davis is the opposite of Josh McDaniels. He drafts players that he thinks will score touchdowns immediately. He overpays for flawed, overhyped prima donna free agents. He trades for backups, anoints them, and benches them immediately if they don't pan out right away. He unceremoniously fires coaches that were once heralded as saviors. He wants to win, yes, but he wants to do it now. He doesn't understand that building a team takes time and a ton of effort. He wants the easy fix.
Where Josh McDaniels is building a relationship, Al Davis just wants to get laid. Where Josh McDaniels is building for future Super Bowls, Al Davis will end up behind a McDonald's.
Oh, hey! There's that from earlier! I bet you didn't think I could in any way tie that exchange Buster and I had back to the Broncos, did you? Well, I hope you didn't flame me in the comments for being off-topic... ;)
Allow me to play you out...
Today, we close with a simple poll. So I ask you, assuming that you already have the knowledge that Todd Haley is the douchiest head coach in the NFL and that Chad Kroeger is the douchiest person in the music industry... Who wins the douche-off?