Mile High Report blogger TJ "The Dude" Johnson posts The Dude's Mail Sack on Thursdays, in which he takes your questions about the state of the Denver Broncos. Got a burning question? Drop it into the The Dude's "Sack" or visit the homepage of Mile High Report.
TJ, So much has been made of Eddie Royal's sophomore slump. Recently, Josh McDaniels said that Eddie is smiling again at the thought of becoming more involved in the offense in 2010. And all of this because he's going to be playing slot receiver? I have a hard time buying it. Do you have any definitive statistical evidence that switching to the slot will really help him?
--Wesley Reklew, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Wesley: Honestly, with all of the work I've been doing at the JaMarcus Russell Center For Kids Who Can't Read A PlayBook Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too, I've not had much time for stats. But I've looked and can't find anything that breaks things down by wide receiver position. And even if I were to provide you with stats from a guy like Wes Welker, it would be difficult to say how many were accumulated out of the slot. Welker plays a variety of positions for the Pats, although he's primarily used in the slot.
What I can tell you is that Eddie is smiling because instead of playing the split end (X) spot as he did almost exclusively last year, he'll be be much more frequently featured in both the slot (Y) and the flanker (Z). This is important because the slot and flanker often line up off the line of scrimmage. This creates an immediate space between defender and receiver. It's this additional space that will allow Royal to utilize his exceptional quickness.
NFL rules require at least 7 players line up at the line of scrimmage. Last year, as a split end, Royal often had to be one of those 7. Defenders had an easier time getting their hands on him and giving him the "Royal Treatment." The thinking is that in 2010, Royal won't be so easy a target with this additional space already built into his routes.
Here is a quick highlight reel from Wes Welker that will give you an idea of how this this additional space allows Welker to get into his routes without a lot of contact from defenders. Probably the only defender that could stop Welker would have to be the size of AJ Smith's titanic head. As you can see, he's been quite successful (warning: turn down the volume if you hate loud music):
Wes Welker Highlights (via Mirrrrred)
Notice how Welker often starts (whether slot or flanked) off the line of scrimmage. And notice how he's already into his rout well before a defender can get to him, often hitting the 5-yard contact barrier before even being touched. If Royal can do this again and again, the Broncos will not miss Brandon Marshall--as much!
TJ, I saw your recent post on Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeil not signing their 1-year tenders. You really think this will hurt the Chargers that much? We really don't need those guys. We've got Denver's number every year. Perhaps you've heard of Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers, who is probably the best QB in the league behind Peyton Manning. And we've unloaded our aging DT tackle on you. Good luck, Fools!
--SoCalBlindAJSmithFollowerAndPotSmoker, Chula Vista, California
Keanu: In the words of glam-metal poet Rob Halford (Judas Priest), you got another thing comin', bra. Listen, AJ "The Head" Smith's ego can't even fit into the building anymore. I wouldn't be surprised if the guy keeps a LaDainian Tomlinson bobble-head doll in his office, just so he can practice mocking players every morning without having to face them.
Since 2003, when Smith took over, his teams have played in 1 AFC Championship, which, of course, they lost. His drafts have been hit-or-miss. And, if he let the truth emerge from behind his gargantuan head, he's still bitter that Eli Manning wouldn't play for him (or his astronomic head). It appears, in retrospect, Manning knew what he was doing all along. In fact, former Chargers quarterbacks seem to do a lot of winning once they get away from Smith and his mountainous head. Perhaps Philip Rivers should demand a trade.
Gates and Rivers can take you only so far, unfortunately. You're not making the playoffs this year. Besides, too many passes of Rivers' passes get deflected by AJ Smith's ginormous head.
Lebowski, I bet the rest of my 4th-grade class that you would know for sure who used to do backflips for the Broncos after they scored a touchdown. My dad said you wouldn't let me down.
--David, Denver Public Schools, Denver Colorado
David: First, why is your dad is letting you read this column each week? You better tell your mom about it. And be sure to tell him about the hot girl at the top of this page. Oh, and if you take a vacation to Sea World, watch out for AJ Smith's copious head.
Now, on to your question. I do indeed have the answer for you. His name was Gerald Whillhite. And his back flips were as awesome as the Mile High Salute. Here's a great article on him and how he would block for John Elway in the "old days." Tell your dad that means 1987. My favorite quote from the article was this:
''I've been doing flips since I was 9 or 10 years old,'' he says. ''I never had any gymnastic training. I started doing it because everyone was doing something and I felt stupid because I wasn't doing nothing. I said, what can I do? And nobody was doing the flip.''
This is a good lesson for you, young David. Instead of playing Xbox or Playstation, you should go out to your back yard and just start doing backflips, like Whillhite. Or, I guess you can simply play the 1987 Broncos and have Whillhite do the backflip on the game. Your choice.
Oh, and David, show some respect to your elders. Call me Mr. Dude, please. What is the public school system coming to?
TJ, I appreciate your stats, but...there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Football is just too complex for your stats to mean anything. And stats can be made or bent to say anything you choose. Anyone can have a good QB Rating if their line is All-Pro, but where is the stat for the linemen? All of your articles are a classic textbook misapplications of stats. The sample sizes are too small and correlation doesn't equal causation, TJ!
-- Eric Mono, El Paso, Texas
Eric: First, thanks for the solid. Second, the stats don't lie regarding the size of AJ Smith's cyclopean head. It's large. Finally, I ran some numbers on this. When I get these kinds of comments, usually:
a: 60% are from drunk Raiders fans
b: 32% are from drunk Raiders fans who like to sound smart by quoting Mark Twain.
c: 7.5% are from drunk Raiders fans who know who Mark Twain is .
d: .5% are from drunk Raiders fans who can read Mark Twain.
Dude, who was the greater Bronco, Eddie McCaffrey or Rod Smith? I personally would go with Shannon Sharpe, just because he was more entertaining.
--Sterling, Culver City, California
Sterling: My god, man, can you give me a harder question? That's like choosing between Batman and Superman. Or asking me if I'd rather punch Al Davis or Al Davis' clone. A very difficult question.
Smith has him beat statistically. And you have to absolutely love what Smith does with Denver's young receivers. If you haven't heard, he's already helped Demaryius Thomas learn to run better routes. Smith just keeps giving and giving to this organization, whether it be with Eddie Royal, Brandon Marshall, or Thomas. But McCaffrey was no slouch, setting a record for receptions in a year (at the time) and posting a career 13.1 yards-per-reception average, on par with Smith's 13.4.
If you had to push me, I'd lean towards Smith, but I'm not choosing. I can tell you both guys were greater than Marcus Nash. That much, I'm sure of. And probably great than AJ Smith's cetacean head.
Tell you what, I'll put it to a vote. Should be interesting.
This Week's Glam-Rock 80's Song/Video: Rock You LIke A Hurricane
Why It's So Bad It's Good: 1) Panthers and Leopards; 2) A Cage That Literally "Rocks"; 3) Sufficient Use of Girls Gyrating Like Wild Animals Who Can Also Bend Metal! 4) No sighting of AJ Smith's elephantine head.
Best Existential Lyric: "Here I Am, Rock You Like a Hurricane."