First off, I want to make a shout out to everyone who participates in the game threads. All of you make the game that much more enjoyable. Every time a player makes a great play, I can expect his name to be posted 30 times in the course of 5 seconds. I love watching these games with you. Imagine if we were all in the same house watching these games....oh man. Anyway, before I get into the game, there is something I want to talk about.
More after the jump.
The pre season is a time for 3 things. 1. It's a time for players to get back in the swing of playing live football. There is no practice that will capture what a live game brings. 2. It is a time for players to prove their worth. Pre-season is a bubble player's favorite time of year. They play for long periods of time and get a ton of reps so the coaches can evaluate the progress they have made. Most rookies play a significant amount in the pre season. 3. It is a time for coaches to test what they have. They use different players in different positions. It's a simulation. What happens if I play this player at this spot and so on and so forth. That is why it is best to not put too much stock into the pre season. The majority of the pre season is junk ball. The starters go in for a couple series, but are quickly pulled to give the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th string players a chance to prove themselves.
Now, there are certain things you can and should criticize. For instance, if a particular offensive lineman keeps getting false start penalties, then that player should be criticized. There is no excuse for that. Pre season or regular season, a lineman should not get false start penalties. If a DB is routinely beat by wide receivers, then he should be criticized. If a starting RB runs 6 times for 12 yards, that is not something to criticize about. The running backs (1st team especially) are getting their feet wet. They are playing to get synced with the offense and get back into the motions of lining up, waiting for the snap, etc. If a RB runs 6 times for 120 yards, the response he is going to get is "It's only pre season, let's see him do that in the regular season". I say all of this because it's important that we keep our assessments in check, especially with the Broncos.
The Denver Broncos played the 2nd pre season game without 16 players. Champ Bailey, Tim Tebow, D.J. Williams, Chris Kuper, Richard Quinn, Demaryius Thomas, Ryan Clady, Daniel Graham, Elvis Dumervil, Darrell Reid, Brandon Stokley, LenDale White, Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter, Darcel McBath, Spencer Larsen
Of these players, 10 are starters (Champ Bailey, D.J. Williams, Chris Kuper, Richard Quinn, Demayrius Thomas, Ryan Clady, Daniel Graham, Elvis Dumervil, Knowhson Moreno, Spencer Larsen)
The rest of the inactive players are expected to make the final roster and contribute this year (Tim Tebow, Darrel Reid, Brandon Stokley, LenDale White, Correll Buckhalter, Darcel McBath) What this means is that 16 players that likely won't make the roster were filling in for 16 people who will make the roster. Keep that in mind before you make statements like "How could we lose to the Lions?!" The team you are looking at now is not the team you will be looking at week 1.
With that being said, here are my Top 10 Studs and Duds from Pre-Season Week 2
I never thought I would say this sentence: The Denver Broncos are lucky to have Kyle Orton as their QB. Kyle looks fantastic. Not only is he his typical, accurate self, but he is doing things that I didn't think he could even do. Against the Lions, routinely he was tasked with scrambling away from the pass rush and making a play. One play in particular caught my eye. Kyle was forced out of the pocket. He dodged a tackle and brushed off another before finding Jabar Gaffney downfield. Kyle is playing beautiful football. Without Kyle Orton, we will be picking top 5 in 2011. I will say that 1 more time. Without Kyle Orton, we will be picking top 5 in 2011.
If you haven't had a fantasy football draft yet, sign up and draft this guy. He is primed for a monstrous season. Many people questioned if Gaffney is a legit # 1 since he had never been one prior to this season. Today, he made me a believer. Gaffney is great at getting open. He finds the holes in the defense. Once he gets open, he catches everything that is thrown to him. Today, he caught 6 passes for 98 yards. This is all in 1 half of play. Gaffney is showing Bronco Country that week 17 of last season, was no fluke. The boy is going to be huge for us.
If I had to make 1 complaint about Ayers this week, it was that he still only used the bull rush. I have no other complaints. In the time that he was in, he was once again a disruptive force. He got his first sack of his NFL career on Saturday. The stat books will show .5 of a sack because Bannan helped take the QB down. However, Ayers has been impressive for 2 weeks now. He may only use the bull rush, but he is so strong that it doesn't matter. He pushes his blocker 3 feet every backwards every time he rushes. I can't wait to see him paired with Jarvis. Speaking of Jarvis..
Remember when I said "I never thought I would say this sentence: the Broncos are lucky to have Kyle Orton as their QB"? A year ago, I would have bet my life I would never thought I would say this: Jarvis Moss could be the x-factor for our defense this year. Jarvis broke his hand 1 day after Doom was lost for the season. He is back just 2 weeks later with a cast on and leaving one heck of an impression. Jarvis was drafted due to his athleticism and potential. It's too early to say he is finally ready to be a starter and a solid contributor, but he is a thousand times improved from what we are used to seeing. Jarvis' quickness is what got him drafted. But It wasn't just his quickness that got Jarvis a sack and a forced fumble on Saturday. One play in particular, Moss went to the outside, the tackles had to over shift and Moss utilized by spinning back inside. He had a clear lane to the QB and boom. We got ourselves a sack and forced fumble. I rubbed my eyes after I saw that play to make sure I wasn't dreaming. With Doom out, we are going to need our pass rush from somewhere. Ayers is doing a good job of applying pressure, but he needs help. Moss primarily played tonight in the 2nd and 3rd string. So I want to see him play against 1st team talent next week. But if Moss plays consistently in 2010 the way he played tonight, he is getting 7+ sacks. He could be a difference maker in 2010.
I don't recall hearing Perrish Cox name once during his time with the 1st team. That is actually a good thing more then a bad thing. When it comes to DB's, if you don't hear there name, it usually means they are doing their job. Last week against Cincy, Cox had his name called a couple of times due to some blown assignments. Cox started in place of Champ this week. He was much improved from last week. He didn't look lost and made few mistakes. Additionally, he returned a punt for 65 yards. If you weren't watching the game, you missed a treat. Perrish Cox FLEW down the field. I don't know who said Cox was slow at the combine, but they need a new watch. Cox was as fast as a bullet on that return.
I told you last week I really liked what I saw from this kid. This game only solidified that statement for me. I wanted to see more and he certainly showed more. Branson worked extensively in the H-Back and Tight End positions. He was very solid. He caught 3 passes for 20 yards and 1 touchdown. On his touchdown reception, he ran an out route, caught the ball, and jumped into the end zone. If you watch the play closely, you can see the defense wasn't zoned in on Branson. They were too busy focusing on the player on the outside. Who was that player? It's hard to tell by the camera angles, but I'm pretty sure it was Jabar Gaffney. This proves another point I made last week, Branson is going to be an underrated contributor. Teams will focus in on Gaffney, Royal, Lloyd, and Lloyd and will forget all about Branson. It is at those times he will route his routes and catch those clutch passes. I really like what I am seeing out of Branson. We might not need to draft a TE in the 2010 draft if he keeps this up.
I mentioned him last week and here he is again. Vaughn ended up with 2 tackles, both were special teams plays. This kid is a special teams stud. Not only is he a talented returner, but he is also a good special team gunner. Watch the game and look for Vaughn on Special Teams. He is easy to find. He is usually the 1st player to get to the ball. I haven't seen much out of Vaughn on defense, but his special teams play is enough to move him above Tony Carter and possibly Syd'Quan Thompson.
I've read 2 extremes on Phonz' play Saturday. 1 side says he had a pretty good game. He was active, didn't make many mistakes and was a stand out on 2nd and 3rd team. The other side said he was terrible, made plenty of mistakes and has a chance to get cut this year. My opinion is everyone is going to have their opinion. I firmly believe that people are going to be harder of Phonz due to the trade and his bad year last year. I think he had a pretty good game on Saturday. He missed a tackle or 2 but he was always near the ball. He didn't give up any big plays from the DB position like he did against Cincy. He progressed from Cincy to Detroit IMO. Now let's see if he progresses from Detroit to Pittsburgh.
Oh boy, It's good to have him back. Decker played extensively against Detroit. Decker caught 5 passes for 66 yards. He was targeted 7 times. This is all great news. Decker was drafted to help ease the loss of Brandon Marshall. Saturday was his 1st game in over 9 months. He looked good. He was smooth on his routes, and displayed soft hands. He dropped 1 pass, but that is to be expected from a player who is still working his way back into game shape. Our first game with Decker has left me with nothing but smiles. This kid is 100% solid.
Bruce Hall did nothing in his 1st game against Cincy's 2nd and 3rd stringers. He ran 5 times for -3 yards. Saturday was a total flip from a week ago. Hall ran the ball 5 times for 43 yards for an 8.6 average. Now, those are 2 extremes. Hall can't be given all the credit because the lanes he was running through were huge. However, he ran the ball tough. He had a good burst. I was left with a much higher opinion of Hall. IMO Hall and Ball are competing for a roster spot. Ball got the best of Hall last week. Hall got the best this week. I'm hoping Week 3 has another contestant in the race.
Brady, Brady, Brady. If I had to sum up Brady's performance on Saturday in one sentence, it would be "Get rid of the freaking ball!" Brady needs work with his mental clock. He stands in the pocket way too long. He was sacked 3 times on Saturday. All of them could have been avoided if he would have thrown the ball away. He is so busy looking for an open receiver, he doesn't see the 3 pass rushers in his face. Additionally, his medium to deep ball passing is poor. Pretty much every throw that Brady threw was a check down throw or a short route. He threw one medium ball to Britt Davis that was good and 1 deep ball to Eric Decker who was wide open, but other then that, his throws were largely short distances. I will give Brady some credit. He got into a groove at one point and was rolling well with the offense. However, he has yet to throw a touchdown pass. He is unable to finish his drives. The end of the game came when he stood in the pocket too long and was stripped of the ball. Brady looked better then he did against Cincy, but he has A LOT of work to do....Like I said earlier, Thank God for Kyle Orton.
Our offensive line was plain terrible. We couldn't stop the rush for the life of us. Now, Detroit d-line is very good. At one point, Ndomakung Suh powered over Ryan Harris and forced him on his back. In the words of Andrew Mason "Suh just made my jaw drop." Kyle Orton is going to have a huge year, but he needs time in the pocket. The offensive line left me with a very bad feeling after watching their performance on Saturday. The weakest spot on the line is LT. Both Batiste and Polumbus were constantly beat on the outside. We Need Ryan Clady. NEED him back.
Last week, I said "I want to see Eddie make explosive plays before I am ready to say 08 Eddie is back". Well on Saturday, he responded by catching 1 pass for 8 yards. He was targeted just twice. This is discouraging to say the least. Eddie is talented. 08 is proof of that. But he has yet to find a rhythm with Orton. Jabar Gaffney has gotten into a rhythm with Orton. He was targeted 7 times on Saturday. How is it possible that Gaffney was targeted 7 times while Eddie was targeted just 2 times? Eddie was the least targeted player of all the starters. This isn't a good start to the 10 campaign of Eddie Royal. He is a dynamic, exciting player. If we are going to be successful this year, we need him involved. Right now, he is not.
Last week, the Broncos 1st teamers were largely successful shutting down Cedric Benson except for 1 big run. This week, the Broncos were absolutely torched on the ground. Rookie RB Jahvid Best ran the ball 8 times for 49 yards. That is an 8.1 ypc average. The Broncos just weren't able to keep up with the speed of Best. This is a problem to monitor. Our schedule faces some of the best runners in the league: Maurice Jones Drew, Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, etc. Even our division has exciting running backs Ryan Matthews, Jamaal Charles, and Michael Bush. I don't know why our run defense wasn't working on Saturday, but we better figure out why soon. We can't afford a bottom 10 run defense with our schedule.
Fargas was brought in to help with depth since we lost starters Knowshon Moreno and Correl Buckhalter early. He played his first game today and he was not impressive. I dare say that he was bad. Justin ran the ball 9 times for 13 yards. He also had a run of 6 yards. So if you are good at math, you will understand how bad those stats are. In 8 attempts, he ran the ball 7 yards. You can blame the offensive line or the Detroit d-line, but the fact is that Fargas was not effective. Based on what I saw, he probably shouldn't make the team. I understand it was just 1 game, but I would rather keep a young guy like Lance Ball or Bruce Hall then give one to Fargas if he is going to perform like he did on Saturday. Keep your eye on him next week, he is definitely fighting for a roster spot.
His signing was controversial. Many people questioned the move, but in his limited time in Training Camp, White was solid. Reports said he looked in shape and was running smoothly, but his mystery injury is threatening his roster spot. I believe that White could be a great 3rd down guy. However, he can't make an impact on the side. There is no word on what his injury is. I've read reports that say he has just suffered from cramps. All we know is that he is suffering from a "leg injury". White needs to be playing against Pittsburgh next week. He has to show what he can do or he is going to get cut.
How many people heard Jammie Kirlew's name mentioned on Saturday? I'm guessing nobody. He failed to make an impact of any kind. He didn't record a single tackle and wasn't effective in the pass rush. Not being mentioned at all is a terrible way to fight for a roster spot.
Mays had 5 tackles on Saturday. So why is he a dud? He struggles in pass coverage. 2 times I saw him fail to be in the right spot. The knock on him from Philly is that he struggled in pass coverage. He is a strong, physical player, but he needs to work on his pass coverage. He won't start when the season comes around, but I wouldn't be comfortable if he was to take over as a starter.
3rd Down Defense
We won't win games if we can't stop teams on 3rd down. The Lions went 7-14 on 3rd downs. We can't afford to let teams have a 50% 3rd down efficiency rating. We won't win that way. Now, 3 times our defense stopped their offense in the goal line causing field goals. That is good. However, they wouldn't have had to make goal line stands if they could stop them on 3rd down.
Alphonso Smith on Kickoff
On the kickoff before the last drive of the game, Alphonso Smith was in the 1st line of defense. Instead of running back towards the ball, he ran straight and jumped off sides before going horizontal across the field. It was the stupidest play I've seen all pre season. There is no excuse for that. That is just stupid penalties that will kill a team. The ball bounced out of bounds and we would have started at the 40. Instead, we get that stupid penalty and the ball is rekicked. We end up downing it in the end zone. Starting at the 40 would have been huge considering we were going for a game winning drive. As the ESPN analysts would say, "C'mon Man!"
There you have it. 10 studs and 10 duds from the 2nd pre season game against the Detroit Lions. It wasn't the best game we have played, but there were certainly some positives. Now, we have a full week to prepare for the Steelers. Next week, I expect to see the starters play a little more. The players I hope to see in uniform next week: LenDale White, D.J. Williams, Darcel McBath, and of course Tim Tebow. Let's go make a statement on national T.V. Let's start getting some momentum heading into the season.