First off, condolences to the McKinley family. Regardless of the circumstances, it is a sad and tragic thing that happened, and one we all wish never did. RIP Kenny.
This time around, it's gonna be the usual. Meandering thoughts that start of small, quickly change in scope and direction, and result in a fairly long and discombobulated publication. I hope you have the time to hang with me...
Rumble with me to Luffabo Land...
Yessir, I'm talking about my new main man, J.D. Walton. What an absolute stud. I've never had a man-crush on a fat guy before, but this mauler might be the first.
Due to an unexpected monsoon in South Texas, I was not able to assume my post at the local Hooters to be able to catch the game (I heard the Hooter Girls were sad I couldn't make it, they love chinchilla buffalo men). I was, however, able to make it to my old man's house where I could try and watch the game via NFL Red Zone (Amazingly awesome, by the way). So, I was only able to catch somewhere around half the game. But thanks to Colby's hard work in his super-duper "Under Review" series, that I sure hope he keeps cranking out to our benefit, I was able to look more closely at some of our guys.
I watched Walton twice over on every running play by Moreno. The conclusion? We have us a center. A really good one. Like, a really really good one. He's got everything you want out of the position: smarts, awareness, speed, strong hands, good push, great anchor, a vicious/mean/crazy/angry streak, and probably some more. I know, I'm gushing too much, but bear with me. I saw a guy who is clearly going to excel in this league. As a rookie on the most cerebral position on the offensive line, Walton held his own and more.
He doesn't go backwards. His anchor is terrific; not once in the 22 plus run plays I watched did he go backwards. He moved laterally by design on several zone stretch plays, but when J.D. Walton locks onto you, you're not going to do much. On the play where Knowshon broke it for 45 on the screen pass, Walton played it to perfection. He made the snap, engaged a defensive linemen to sell the screen to the defense, disengaged with that linemen and got to position to be in front of Moreno when he received the pass, when Knowshon slipped those two tacklers with a serious dose of cat-like balance, Walton went from a stand-still to keeping up with KM and layed down a beautiful diving block on a defender about 15 yards down the field. Gorgeous. The guy can move. He also has great awareness. He recognizes twists and stunts from the defensive linemen and oncoming blitzers, seamlessly allows his man to be picked up by either guard beside him, locates his next target and engages quickly. This might sound trivial and fundamental, but it is much harder than it sounds, and is very impressive coming from a rook in his second game. You can have all the physical talent and size in the world, but if you're not smart/aware/focused enough to capitalize on it, you won't be in this league for too long (Just ask Alex Barron).
Obviously, I'm stoked on this guy. I can't wait to get both Kuper and Harris back, and see Beadles in action in his preferred spot, left guard. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, once the three veterans are healthy, the two rooks really get going, and all 5 develop some continuity, this is going to be one hell of an offensive line.
A few Luff Land meetings ago, right after the draft, I shared my enthusiasm for Demaryius Thomas. To save time, now that we've all had a sampling of him in a game, I am just going to re-post those thoughts below. I was mainly responding to people who called the pick a bad one for the sole reason that he didn't have a ton of experience running routes and was a very raw prospect.
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.
*removed needless jibber-jabber here*
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.
Obviously, I still feel that way. I think we got us an absolute steal in this guy, with the obvious and redundant caveat of him staying healthy.
Again, I'm going to rumble down a random path, please let me know what you think of this little theory in the comments, as goes with everything I write in this space.
Sometimes, when a college prospect is being graded before the draft, some things are listed as a negative, when in fact that same attribute could be looked upon as a positive. Using Demaryius Thomas (is that first name hell to spell, or what?) as an example, draft experts and many among this community looked at the fact that Thomas played in a funky run-heavy program at Georgia Tech and had a limited route tree there as a reason why he would struggle at the next level. He didn't have an extensive array of complicated routes he ran during his college career, and because of that he should struggle initially, and possibly never be capable of picking it up fully, it was said.
When looking at the whole picture, as I believe Xanders and McDaniels did prior to deciding to make DT a Bronco, I see a few things about this guy. Yes, he ran a limited route tree, existed in an offense that only utilized him as an occasional big-play threat as a very dangerous change of pace to a potent running attack. But I look at this another way... wouldn't this just mean that his coaches didn't fully take advantage of his physical gifts as a receiver? We all know that DT has all the physical tools you could ask for in a receiver and more. His type of size-speed-athleticism combo is only matched by a few guys in this league, guys like Randy Moss, Andre Johnson, and Calvin Johnson. Guys like this don't come around often, even though there seem to be a lot of them lately. But what he also possesses is a team-first mentality and a strong intelligencia level as a football player. I've harped on this before, but I think it is an essential quality in a football player. The guy has the physical tools, and he has the smarts to back them up. That combo right there is what made McDaniels and Xanders target a guy with so many question marks. They saw what he can do as an athlete, and they got to know the guy inside the helmet: they knew he was smart enough to pick up our schemes quickly and not be limited in his output. They even felt strongly enough about this fact to take him when he was carrying an injury.
Needless to say, I am still reallyincrebiblymajorpumpedandstoked about this guy. It's fun to imagine the most explosive and feared offensive player in the league being a Bronco, and I think it's a semi-realistic probability that we already have that guy on our roster, we just have to wait for him to get fully healed and developed.
Peyton's Coming. Are we Ready?
The irrational kool-aid guzzling side of me says, "Hell yes we're ready! Let's do this!". The other side, that one who remembers what usually happens when those boys in blue come to town, says "Ruh-roh! We need reinforcements!"
We know what we're up against. Everyone knows what they bring on offense, and it's a scary thought and a tough task for any defense. I don't think it's a stretch to say we're going to struggle to contain Manning, his master of all things offense, and his stable of battle-ready weapons. Everyone does, in one way or another. The best way to slow him down is to get pressure on him, which shouldn't actually need to be said at all, as it's a true generalization that applies to any quarterback, great or not. The more pressure you put on a quarterback, the harder it is going to be for him to do damage.
As we sit as a defense, there are a number of factors that tell me we are going to have a long Sunday, leading to a large number of Hooter's waitresses consoling me whilst I weep into my sub-par plate of hot wings.
1. Of any opponent this season, we need Doom the most in this match-up. If we can't shorten the time he has to find a target, Manning is going to eat us up. Let's hope Ayers has the game of his life this week (I believe in you big guy, just pull a Waterboy and envision Justin Bieber behind the QB's facemask, get all worked up in a primal rage, and wreck shop out there. TAAAAAKE ITTTTTTTTTTTT!)
2. It also wouldn't hurt to not have to start two rookies at cornerback this week (is that a double-negative? Pretty sure it is, but it makes perfect sense to me right now, so I'm leaving it in). We need Champ and Goodman. Have I ever mentioned that injuries are the pits? They are, I'm just not a fan of 'em.
3. Wink. I wrote a while back about how excited I was about Wink being our defensive coordinator this year. Now, I'm not saying I've totally changed my mind about that, I think the man deserves more than two games calling plays for the first time before we give him anything resembling trouble. I'm just surprised at the lack of aggression we have seen so far from the defense as a unit. I think the guys have played fairly well, I just cant say I am very excited about having a "bend, don't break" philosophy in Denver again. All the things I heard about Wink all season were that he is a very aggressive coach. I expected us to bring pressure, bring pressure on top of pressure, relieve pressure on one side whilst cranking it up on the other, and then bringing more pressure if none of those things worked. That's what I thought was coming into town. That's not the way it has been so far, and I hope Wink lets the dogs loose this week, because really, we have nothing to lose.
I understand that blitzing too often is a recipe for disaster, as it always leaves big openings in other parts of the field. But I just can't stand to watch a defense get slowly picked apart all the way down the field, and having to rely on a decent red-zone stand or turnover to keep points from being put on the board. I'm asking a serious question here, when is the last time there was a dominant "bend but don't break defense" out there? I can't think of one, the closest I can remember is our own Denver Broncos in '05. With a pair of good cornerbacks and some speedy linebacking, we could hold teams to nothing but short gains until something good happened in our favor. That concept worked right up until the playoffs, it should be noted. But my point is, all the great defenses in this league find ways to play aggressive, smash-mouth defense, where big play options are squelched early by applying pressure stronger than what Wade Phillips is probably feeling right about now.
I'm rambling, which is par for the course around here, but my point is this: We need to crank up the pressure, definitely in this game against the Colts, but also throughout the rest of the season. I hope Wink has some tricks up his sleeve, has just been letting the boys get their feet wet with him calling the plays early in the season, and is really going to go haywire with the play-calling some time soon. I mean, really, the guy looks like he might spend his off-seasons hunting javelinas with a bowie knife, no shirt on his back, and a huge dip in his lower lip, I expect him to at least let loose a "YEEEEEEEEE HAWWWWW, LET'S DO THIS!" every once in a while and decide to go hog-wild. I hope he does.
On top of this, while I seem to be in the minority, I think that the Colts defense is much better than advertised. Yes, you can pick up yards against them on the ground. But when this defense does what it was built to, which is get after the quarterback, they can be fairly devastating. They have the best pair of defensive ends in the league in Freeney and Mathis. They back them up with some good safety play (even without poor Bob Sanders), and even more solid (and underrated) linebacker play. They are fast, they don't give you a ton of time to throw, and they cover and tackle fairly well. Some people like to look at the Colts as a one-man, offensive juggernaut. I don't think that's the case. You have to come with a game-plan that limits the damage those two demons on the edge do to the quarterback, and try your damndest to not have to play from behind, where they can tee off on you.
Man, I really hate it when I get going like that, I promise I don't intend to meander at length like that. It just... happens.
Now, I've given my reasons why I'm worried. All that said, I still think we have a shot at taking down these bozos. The biggest reason I think we have a chance? Orton. This isn't a new thought around here, I've seen it said several times. But I'm saying it again, just for fun. Neckbeard is playing at an elite level. Right now, at this moment. The only thing that is keeping him from getting more love and exposure from the media is the fact that they live off of past reputations and generalizations, without actually taking a moment to diagnose what is really happening. They see the name "Kyle Orton" next to his stat line from that week, remember everything that has been said about his noodle-arm, his lack of speed, and the fact that we lost a receiver, and spout off about how he's not the answer at quarterback, and that he's just here to fill a spot, and that he's still just going to dink and dunk it all day without doing anything really meaningful in McDaniel's offense. I am still amazed that we read this type of stuff from the "experts". I just read a couple days ago, obviously I didn't bookmark the article (mostly because it sucked), from a nationally recognized sports-writer who actually had the balls to write that Kyle Orton is up to his usual, putting up pedestrian numbers, playing the short game, playing it safe resulting in a high completion rate without much results. Really, you're just going to completely ignore the fact that he has connected on more big passing plays over 25 yards than any other quarterback in football this season? It's mind-boggling that these yahoos still have jobs. I know, I know, let it go. woo-sah, deap breathing, hahmmmmmmmm.... I'm good.
Here's the deal: There aren't many quarterbacks in this league capable of doing the things that Kyle Orton has been doing this year, and what I think he is going to get better and better at throughout the year. He is running this complex and potent offensive scheme at an elite level. The fact that he is still improving, learning, and growing in the offense, along with the young receivers, and doing it with a banged up and barely recognizable offensive line makes it all the more impressive, and the future in Denver that much brighter. Rest assured, it won't be too long before the perception of Kyle Orton changes. It might take a few more mistake free, 300 yard, 2 TD, no interception games for them to get a clue, but it will happen.
What I'm really trying to say is this: It's time to take the ceiling off this guy. When a cerebral QB who is capable of delivering the ball to any spot on the field is coupled with Josh McDaniels' offense, great things happen. I really believe that's where we're headed, call it a gut feeling. I don't think it's going to be too long until Kyle Orton is no longer thought of as a spot-starting league wide laughing stock throwaway player, but as a top-5 quarterback in the NFL. That's right, I said it. Deal with it. I don't even care about Tim Tebow at this point, and I'm tired of hearing about the non-existent QB controversy. A gauntlet was thrown down in his general direction this off-season, Orton upped his game, and is proving that he can be the man on this team. If he continues to improve, and does what I think he is going to this year, he might be our quarterback for the next decade, regardless of who is eagerly waiting behind him.
All that said, in typical Luff rumbling fashion, it boils down to this... We can beat the Colts if:
-Orton can match Peyton's offensive output early on.
-We get some timely plays on defense, turnovers are needed.
-We win the special teams battles, resulting in us winning the "field position" battle.
There it is, my completely uneducated keys to the game. We'll see how it shakes out. Thanks for hanging with me, I cannot believe it took me three days to write this... I guess that's what happens when I'm still waist deep in the working/buying a house/looking for a car mode.
Until next time, gents...