In the first edition of Luff Rumblings, I harped on some Haggan, blogged on some Branson, threw down a snippet on Samoans, and dabbled in some other random stuff too. In this edition, you're going to get exactly the same thing.
Rumble with me to Luffabo Land, once again...
A Flawed Talent?
There is a popular sentiment floating around this site of ours that our first pick in this draft, Demaryius Thomas, is a "project pick". The story goes that he played in a funky run-heavy offense in college that never asked for him to run a route during his career at Georgia Tech. This is a semi-fair assessment actually: the route tree that Thomas was asked to run was indeed very limited. Because of this, Thomas is way too green and was a hugely risky pickup with our #1 draft pick, and a guy who is certainly going to take a long time to groom to be effective on the pitch.
According to these rumors, I half expect that if Thomas were asked to run a post, he'd crap himself right before he tripped over his own feet and his brain exploded. If you haven't guessed by now, I vehemently disagree, and I'm going to lend my opinions on why.
First off, his strengths, along with his weaknesses, are just about a perfect fit for our offensive system. The reason? Our wideouts are not asked to be precise route runners. Our receivers are expected to get to a spot on the field. Their job is to get into a zone and be ready to catch a pass. We saw this about 528 times during the Brandon Marshall era. Brandon Marshall is not an exceptional route runner by any stretch, he was a beast who couldn't be help back at the line of scrimmage by press coverage and was very good at getting open in his zone and making the catch. That's exactly what Thomas is going to be able to do for us, while also bringing a Randy Moss type deep threat along with him. This line of thought is further backed by the performance of Eddie Royal last year. Obviously, he struggled. Eddie is a terrific route runner, one of the best, in my humble opinion. So why did he struggle if he's so good? Because he struggled to beat press coverage and couldn't get to his spot, simple as that, and his route running skills couldn't help him when he failed to beat the press.
If you put Demaryius Thomas into a system that relied on precise route-running, where quick strides, low hips that result in a quick change of direction, and great stop and go ability are valued over all else, he would no doubt have a long way to go. Our system doesn't roll like that, so Thomas' biggest weakness really isn't a weakness for us at all.
Thomas is 6'3'' and around 230 pounds. He is a long strider (he doesn't have terrific short area quickness) who gets up to speed pretty quickly and is capable of leaving corners in his dust. He ran a confirmed 4.38 40 yard dash, which is phenomenal for a guy of his size. He's not quite as fast as Randy Moss, who once ran a 4.25 40, but he's close enough to that speed to be a similar deep threat for us. He also possesses very good balance, and the ability to out jump his defenders, locate the ball, and make the catch. He has solid hands. He has roughly 20 pounds on Moss, so he's probably more similar to his fellow Georgia Tech receiver, Calvin Johnson, if we're searching for a comparison. If asked to, he probably possesses the skill set to be a beastly possession receiver in the mold of Brandon Marshall. My uneducated guess is that Thomas will be used more as a stretch-the-field type, while Decker will fill the role of the big, possession receiver that was just vacated by Marshall.
To sum it up, we got a guy who is entirely too big and strong to be jammed at the line by a cornerback, is an elite run-blocking receiver, has the speed and skill to be a serious deep threat, is a constant team first character, and who's biggest weakness coming out of college is partially negated by our offensive system. I almost forgot, he's a monster in the screen game as a receiver. If Josh McDaniels could put on a white coat, a pair of goggles, and get all Mad Scientist on us, with the goal of making the perfect receiver for his offense, the end result would be eerily similar to Demaryius Thomas, aka McDaniels' Monster.
Now, that's not to say he won't have his rookie struggles, or that he's going to be a perennial pro-bowler. I'm not going there. I'm just calling it like I see it at this point, and I love what I see. The fact that Josh McDaniels and Brian Xanders targeted him with our first pick before moving back up into the first to get Tebow, tells me they feel the same way about him that I do. Let's hope everyone is right.
If you feel "funny" after watching that video, don't worry about it. I'm pretty sure it happened to the rest of us as well. Just grab a glass of water and an ice pack, cool down a little, and get back over here to finish reading this thang.
Yeah, they're smart. So what?
We've been talking about the "McDaniels mold" in regards to what type of player he craves for quite a while now. We've come to the conclusion that he requires players who are smart, tough, versatile, and willing to do whatever it takes to win. I think we're all in agreement on this. That seems to be his goal, whether it is ever fully achieved or not.
But what does this really mean? My jumbled Luffabo mind got to some serious pondering over this the other day. It said to me, "we accept that our team is chock full of these "smart" guys, but what does that really mean, really? How does having all these intelligent guys translate to the football field, and ultimately help us there?" I brooded, I deliberated, I consulted the experts (read: stuffed animals), and I ended with some thoughts, whilst managing to keep my little brain intact and undamaged, amongst all the heavy thought. It might not be new to you, maybe you've already had these thoughts, but I haven't seen it talked about in depth and not in this way, so I'm going after it, caution be damned.
Sidebar: I wrote an epic personal story in this space earlier, where I related a personal story that was relevant to the subject at hand. After a re-reading, I realized it was more epically boring than epic. It was even more yawn-inducing and uneventful than the movie "Titanic". Don't even try to defend it, that movie sucked on the largest scale possible. The only eventual good thing was the poetic justice portion, or when the ship sank. I remember cheering loudly in the theaters when the ship went down. I was 13 and had been dragged to the movie by my family, they were not entertained, I even got punched by my sister. The only part I enjoyed was the "drawing scene", know what I'm talking about? Anyways, here's the cliff notes of that story: I used to play competitive soccer, we played against a physically freakish monster guy who scored tons of goals, I was tasked with defending him. He tried to use his beastliness to beat me, I outsmarted him and outworked him, he didn't score and we won the game. Phew, I'm glad I went with the cliff notes, and you should be too. I just saved about 1,100 words, be thankful!
OK, stay on target... stay on targettt! (Luff points given out to whoever gets that one). We give a lot of lip service to the "smart" label around here, I think it is a trait that can be hard to define sometimes, and something that can be brushed aside as an unimportant quality at times. I find it to be an entirely tangible, and highly important asset for an athlete to have. What I'm saying is, and I've seen it on this site numerous times, people tend to have this reaction when smarts are talked about regarding a certain player: "He's smart, that's great. He'll probably pick up on the playbook quickly and be able to get on the field quicker than a dumb guy could. But what is his 40 time? Can he lift a VW with one arm and sack a QB with the other at the same time?". It's a semi-reasonable viewpoint, physical characteristics are much easier to recognize, it can be seen and critiqued much easier than something like football intelligence.
However, football intelligence is something that is perfectly tangible, it isn't a mythical unicorn, it can be seen, it can be felt, and it can be the difference between a talented football club who is perennially on the fringes of the playoff picture, and one who is a perennial Super Bowl contender. Let's look at football intelligence on a micro-level to start, looking at how these traits can affect a single players career...
A smart football player is one who uses his physical talents and abilities to their greatest potential. He uses his instincts, and invariably the hard work he has put in in the film room, to constantly have himself in the right place at the right time. This can't be overlooked, and we all know this around here by now, but putting yourself in the right position on the field isn't always the easiest thing, and if you aren't getting there, you could be Superman and still be a liability to your team. A smart player anticipates what is happening on the field at all times, and reacts accordingly, usually in a quicker fashion than his counterpart who isn't thinking at the same high level as himself.
My theory on how smarts can affect a player's career are this: If you have a player who has marginal physical talents in relation to the rest of the league, and those marginal talents are coupled with a marginal intelligence for the game, that player will never excel, he will either be out of the league quickly or destined to be a backup. If you have a player with marginal physical talents, but who has a high intelligence for the game, he can turn himself into a player with a long career, a decent starter or a solid backup. If a player has above average physical talents and marginal intelligence, he can be a solid player in the league because of those talents, he may start and he may play a long time, but he will never be a truly impact player, he will most likely coast through his career, one where he may have not lived up to the talent he flashed at different points in his career. If we talk about a player with above average physical talents and a high intelligence for the game, that's when we start getting somewhere. This will be a player you want on your team, a guy who is an impact player, one who plays and excels in the league for a long time, most likely directly contributing to a lot of wins. Now, when we're talking about elite physical talents, you can see where this goes. We have a guy with elite physical talents, but with a marginal football intelligence. Most of the times these guys will stick in the league and be starters for their teams, they do some good things based on their superior physical gifts, but fail to make the impact expected of them by their coaches, teammates, and fanbase. Their career arc usually includes a number of trades, some good moments, but sometimes ends with disastrous results (cough, JaMarcus the Hutt, cough). Now, when things get really special is when you have a player with elite physical talent along with elite intelligence. These are your hall-of-famers, your unstoppables, your Peyton Mannings, your Jerry Rices, your Tim Tebows (I'm joking, settle down, totally and completely a joke)...
That got rather long-winded, but my point stands. Talent cannot be truly realized without proper intelligence and the desire to succeed. In every position on the team, Josh McDaniels is trying to bring in two of the above types of players. The guys with above average talent and high intelligence, and the guys with elite talent and high intelligence. Now, on a macro level, how does having a team full of high intelligence characters turn into a bear of a football team?
When we have a team full of smart, driven, like-minded players, I think the results will be impressive. These guys will all be well studied, they will act as one cohesive unit, they will all be in the right places at the right time the majority of the time, and they will expect their fellow man to be doing the same. This team will never be an easy out, they will always bring it. They will lose some games, there is always a better team out there on any given Sunday, but the other team will damn sure know they were in a fight. When everything comes together for a team of this stature, they will be a force to be reckoned with, one who does the little things right, works their butt off to get it done, and ultimately does just that.
You guessed it, this is exactly where I think this iteration of the Denver Broncos are heading. Led by the guy who truly believes in the importance of football intelligence, Josh McDaniels. It may take some more time for us to get there, for our young guys to mature... but rest assured, it's going to happen, and it's going to be glorious to be a part of.
El Derecha side of our D
In the first Luff Rumblings, I talked about our new SILB, Mario Haggan. During that portion, as often happens to my poor soul, I got simultaneously sidetracked and carried away, and went into a visualization of the left side of our defense. I detailed how good I think that side of the defense is going to be against the run, and why. This time around, I'm going to chat about the right side of our D. The "Green Doom" side.
Interestingly enough, the conclusion I have come to is that the right side of the defense is pretty much the polar opposite of the left side. The left side is chock full of our strongest run defenders, while the right side is full of our best pass rushers (I say that, but really we have 2 of them). The strength of this side of our defense lies in it's pass rushing ability, also know as, Elvis Dumervil. However, as Elvis was primarily all by his lonesome last year, we brought in a player to help him in that aspect, and a guy I'm pretty excited to see get into the fold, Jarvis Green.
Green will be a solid veteran presence for us from day one. He is a guy who has had very good success over the years getting pressure on the passer from the right defensive end position, something that should help our man Doom be even more of a demon when chasing the dudes in the red jersey's. I tried to find us a clip of Jarvis Green doing work on the field, but was unable to do so. Really interwebz? This guy has been in the league for around a decade and I can't even get one highlight of him? I blame it on lazy Boston fans. Where are the Bostonian pimply faced teenagers over the years making highlight clips accompanied by bad techno music? I guess that's what happens when you're a situational pass rusher from a non-glam position and your fellow linemates like Wilfork and Seymour gobble up all the glory.
So, we know we have Jamal Williams eating folks in the middle at nose tackle, and Green next to him primarily on passing downs at RDE. I have a hunch (again, as always, an uneducated one) that Ryan McBean is going to play RDE on obvious rushing downs, with Green stepping in to rush the passer on passing downs. Although, it could also be a rotation of Green, Fields, and Thomas out there as well. Moving to the linebackers, we have well known DJ Williams, who by this point, I think we know what we get. Solid, not spectacular. I've been on his case lately, I'm not his biggest fan, but I won't get into it here. This system is designed to keep the middle linebackers clean and allow them to make the tackles, and Williams will get his tackles. My biggest hope is that the improved defensive line allows him to primarily keep clean (ie, not be blocked) where he can use his impressive athleticism to make plays. The secondary features the very good Andre Goodman who is a terrific cover corner, in my opinion. To go along with the theme, tackling is not his strong suit, and he struggles in the run game because of it. The safety we will most likely see on this side of the field is Renaldo Hill. I love Hill, he is a very smart player who does everything that is asked of him and generally gets the job done. He isn't the flashiest player out there, or the most insanely athletic, but has flashed some good playmaking ability in his short time with us. I have seen no evidence that he has struggles in the run game, he seems to be a sure tackler, from what I've seen. He's no Weapon X in this regard, but he gets it done.
I culled some stats from the world wide wackiness, that brought me to some interesting conclusions. I wish I was talented enough to make a fancy table here, but I'm not, so you're just going to have to deal with my freestyle work.
To set these stats up, the reason I spent the time to do a little research on the stats of our defensive line was spurred on by a discussion that has been taking place frequently on MHR. We've been curious as to whether or not the switch from Mike Nolan to Don "Wink" Martindale will lead to a change in the way our defensive line attacks. Basically, the question is, will we switch from a primarily 2-gap defensive line scheme to a more aggressive 1-gap scheme? I won't pretend to know all the intricacies of these two approaches to making your fat guys beat their fat guys, but I'll throw in my feelings about the matter as I understand it, please feel free to correct me in the comments. In a 2-gap approach, which is what we used the majority of the time last year, the defensive lineman are responsible for 2 gaps on every play. It tends to be a more conservative approach, because they have to wait and see what unfolds from the offense before they can choose which gap they are going to attack. In a 1-gap scheme, the play is called and the defensive linemen already knows which gap he is going to attack. It is generally more aggressive than the 2-gap, because there is no thinking involved, they know where they're going at the snap, and they simply explode and go when they hear "Hut!".
The general thought around here is that Wink is going to be more aggressive than Nolan was, and therefore we are switching to a 1-Gap scheme on the defensive line.
OK, here are the stats that I found.
Jamal Williams - 13 career sacks - Peak of 4 sacks in 2004 season - Averages 47 tackles per year (I removed years he didn't play, like last year) - High of 69 total tackles in 2006
Justin Bannan - 5.5 career sacks - avg. of 37 tackles per season last 3 years (only seasons where he had significant playing time) - high of 45 tackles in 2008
Jarvis Green - 28 career sacks - High of 7.5 sacks in 2006, only 3 sacks since 2008, avg. of 35 tackles per season over last 5 years.
Ryan McBean - 0 Career sacks, 25 tackles last year.
Ronnie Fields - 1 career sack in 2007. 37 tackles last year.
What these stats tell me:
Outside of Jarvis Green, none of our defensive linemen have a great history of rushing the passer. Again, all these guys have played in 3-4 schemes, where they are not expected to put up impressive sack numbers. So, these stats may not be too important. Jarvis Green put up decent tackle stats in his role as a situational pass rusher with NE, he might be a pleasant surprise in the run game for us because of this, as we have only talked about him being a pass-rush threat for us up to this point. However, the worrying thing about Green is he clearly had his worst years the last 2 years, in 2008 and 2009. He totaled 3 sacks in those 2 seasons, we have to hope he can turn back the clock and get back to the years where he put up terrific sack numbers from the RDE position. Jamal Williams makes a lot of tackles for a 3-4 Nose, that's why he's the best. Obviously, his best years are behind him, but if he plays anywhere close to the way he did in his prime, we'll be very happy about it. Justin Bannan has pretty solid and consistent numbers for a situational player on what has been a great defensive line over the years in Baltimore.
It looks to me like we feature only one pass rush specialist on the defensive line in Jarvis Green. Now, whether that means we will still lean towards a 2-gap approach, or that the improved nature of the line will mean we will play a more attacking 1-gap approach, is beyond me.
My ending thoughts on the right side of our defense are this; I feel like it is the weaker side of our defense. I think we might see some struggles against the run on this side, once again. I think Jamal Williams might have a thing or two to say about that though, and I sure hope he does. Doom will bring the pressure again, but I hope he can improve his skills in the run game in his second year as an outside linebacker. I don't worry about the secondary, those guys are good. Overall, I think our defense has improved, and I don't think it's a reach to say we will be a top-5 unit in the league this year. I expect no less.
Really, I haven't come to any conclusion as to what kind of approach the defensive line is going to take this year. I put the numbers up for discussion purposes, so... DISCUSS!
A Case for Quinn
To be traded.
Whammy! Didn't see that one coming, did you?!?
Yeah, yeah, I know I said in my last post that I was going to kick back, consume alcoholic beverages, and just wait to see what happens with the quarterbacks, but I straight up lied about that. What I didn't lie about was the fact that I'm not worried about the quarterback situation, that part still stands. However this works out, I'll be happy. I just want to share my thoughts on what makes the most sense to me regarding the QB situation for the Denver Broncos, and exactly what I would try to do if the Denver Broncos were smart enough to hire a man/buffalo/chinchilla to run things. Not only would I make terrific personnel decisions, but I would make cool things happen. Things like a water slide from the locker room to the practice field, just for fun's sake. Karaoke before and after practice. Team dances to be executed before games for intimidation purposes (the Haka would be choice #1). OK, I got off track again, on to why I think Brady Quinn should, and will, be traded.
Brady Quinn wants to start. I don't think he will ever get that opportunity. This season, Kyle Orton is going to be the man. Not too far after that, Tim Tebow is going to take the reigns as QB of the Denver Broncos, and that won't change for a very long time. So, where does that leave Quinn? It means he would a backup his whole career, and he wouldn't be happy about that.
Ideally, the best situation would be to keep Kyle Orton this year where he would start, keep Brady Quinn as a backup/possible starter, and let Tebow get to the point where he's ready, with Brandstater being the guy who is cut. However, there are reasons why this doesn't work. First, Orton would probably choose to move on in this scenario, so next season we're whittled down to Quinn and Tebow, we've lost our most experienced QB and our long-term project in Brandstater. No bueno.
Here's my thought. Keep Kyle Orton this year (we will), keep Tebow, and keep Tom Brandstater as the continued long-term project and backup extraordinaire, and trade Brady Quinn. Why this approach makes all kind of sense: Between Quinn and Brandstater, Quinn has the most value in trade. His washboard abs make him even more desirable to another team. We already know that other teams have interest in him, we could formulate some pretty good leverage for him, I believe. From a football standpoint, this would be just about perfect. Orton starts until Tebow is ready, with Brandy perennially waiting in the wings. The sticking point would be Orton's contract at the end of this season. Orton is a smart fella, he also happens to like Josh McDaniels, who's system is a near perfect fit for his game. Orton knows this. Josh also likes Orton, he values what he brings to the table. He just saw a bigger talent in Tebow and made the move to get him, feeling that Orton wasn't ultimately the answer at QB for us, or a guy who would lead us to the Super Bowl. Now, these good vibes between Orton could (possibly) end like this: Orton signs a contract at the end of the season that makes him the highest paid backup in the league, but he signs it knowing full well he is going to be the backup quarterback to Tim Tebow at some point in the future. Would that not be awesome? He would certainly be the best backup quarterback in the league, and an absolutely amazing insurance policy for if Tebow decides to try and run through Ray Lewis at some point down the road. And the cool thing is, I can totally see it happening.
So, we would end up with a future look of Tebow starting, backed by Orton, with Brandstater sticking around just for fun. Terrific! I think we would also end up with a better pick than what we gave up for Brady Quinn, call that one a hunch as well. I really don't think McDaniels views Quinn as a starting quality QB, I think he was brought in primarily to replace Simms. Josh was ready to roll with Orton going into this season and into the future. However, curiosity got the better of him, and he brought in Tebow for a look. He fell in love, and the rest is history. Now, we have 4 guys on the roster, and one has to go, I think that guy is going to be Quinn.
So, there it is. Edition 2 of Luff Rumblings in the books, Phew! I'm tired, hungry, and need a backrub. See y'all again next time, in Luff Land.