So it's a tough loss this week, the toughest for me since Oakland last season. But underneath this game, like all games, there are things that are forgotten or overlooked. Some of these are bad, like the game itself, some are good, these might be rarer for this week. But the point remains, while obviously everyone is talking about Tebow, and it should be discussed, I wanted to dig a little.
I'm hoping this might become a weekly series, along with getting MHR Poll of the Week and MHR Roundtable back as well so we have three series running on Monday (Let's Not Forget), MHR Roundtable (Thurday) and MHR Poll of the Week (Saturday).
Now please remember this is taken from game film and stats put together, so this isn't a rush job, I did my best to give each topic deep coverage. Now I want this to be different than a normal Stud's or Dud's or Winner's or Loser's, so while I will categories them under similar labeling, I'm hoping to highlight things that won't be brought up in other game recap posts. With that in mind, let's try this idea out. Oh should I do good news first or bad news? Eh I think I'll go bad first so we finish on a high note. So with that in mind, remember to finish the bad news and read the good news before commenting. And remember these aren't final judgements on players saying they will 100% succeed or 100% fail.
Some Bad Things I Noted:
DT and Not That DT:
So Demaryius Thomas, we all know his injury history so I won't talk about that. What I want to discuss is his play, since his return to health he's been regulated behind Eddie Royal, has only been targeted 13 times and has only caught four passes, earning him our teams worse catch rate. Watching him play is a bit sad, he's a big guy, and coming into the draft, he was fast, like really fast, but so far these past two games he's been slow and avoiding contact. Now a lot may have to do with coming back from injury, but it's something that needs to be noted, that while I hope DT returns to his form he showed against Seattle last season, at this point in the season, he's been hesitant and slow, and I'm not a huge fan of that.
Now the ups and downs of our offensive line, and that is something that is well discussed at this point, to differing ends, but with all this going on, the play of Ryan Clady is largely going unnoticed. I won't deny Clady is our best player, but for a player who is close to free agency and was playing at an All-Pro level just a short time ago, Clady might be in trouble. I'm beginning to believe that his recent injuries may be taking a larger toll on him than many of us thought. He's still playing solidly, but he's not playing nearly to where he was, and I do wonder what that may do to our long term plans for that left side of the line, we'll see.
I hate talking about Tebow because he's such a focus in almost every other post, but I do feel a few notes need to be said. The first is Tebow is looking to his first read only, and if he's not open, he rolls out or runs. Now that is partly due to inexperience, but at this point he should be able to go through his progressions better. At this point the biggest thing I'm looking for that's not a physical thing, like accuracy or footwork, is being able to work through his reads. This is a fixable thing, but he's going to have to really get into the playbook and get it into his mind not to run when the first read isn't there.
The other thing about Tebow I wanted to note is that he lacks pocket presence. Now this is kind of chicken-or-the-egg situation. Many coaches speculate that mobile quarterbacks become mobile because they lack pocket presence while others say mobile quarterbacks lack pocket presence because they have the ability to move around. Now either way, most mobile quarterbacks lack a presence in the pocket, though there are exceptions, Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers, but modern mobile-heavy quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb and Ben Rothlisberger struggle with recognizing pressure. Now not every quarterback will be like Marino, Manning or Brady in the pocket, but it is something Tebow lacks. And like Tebow's many intangibles, pocket presence seems to be something that really isn't something that can be taught.
This one is huge, and a big issue, our starters in the secondary are slow, like really slow. Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey are smart players, and Bailey is still playing at a high level, but both are playing slow. Andre Goodman, who is the same age as Champ is also playing slow. Add in our young guys are the opposite, they aren't very good in coverage but are lightning fast. Cassius Vaughn is a good example of this, he's possibly the fastest guy on the team, yet consistently gets beat due to lack of skill similar to Goodman or Champ. So we have old, slow, and experienced players and young, fast, poor players. That's not a good combo. Add in if you look at our remaining schedule, we face some pretty great, and fast, wide receivers, I'm more than a little scared.
Some Good Things I Noted:
Since the season starter Spencer Larsen has hit his blocks on almost every play. Though he is still struggling to get used to the new run blocking system, he's starting to hit his stride there, and is doing a fine job in pass blocking. He also has zero dropped passes and was a key cog in the offense early, though he hasn't been used as often since the quarterback change. Throw in his exceptional effort on every play he takes part in, from hustling down field on passes getting fired up during the game. Larsen may never be a great full back, but he's playing his heart out, and it's paying off.
One of the biggest issues with the benching of Orton was that he wouldn't help Tebow or mentor him. While that would be fine, but many people were worried about that splitting the locker room. But since Orton's benching, that has been the opposite of what's happening. According to a number of sources, Orton and Tebow enter the locker room together and watch film together. Orton, it's been reported, spends more time with Tebow than quarterback coach Adam Gase. Add in almost ever shot to the sideline with Tim Tebow, we see him talking, or looking at plays with him. While we all know Orton is gone next season, it can only be a good sign for the locker room, and Tebow, that things are working out between him and Kyle Orton. I noticed this last week and wanted to confirm it this week and it was true, so I'm pretty happy about this.
After this game I can tell you almost certainly that Von Miller is the best player on this team. I'm not talking about potential, I'm saying that at their current level, Miller is the best player on the field for the Broncos. Miller leads all rookies in sacks, pressures and hits on quarterbacks. He also leads all outside linebackers in Pro Football Focus's rankings, and is our leading defensive player according to Advanced NFL Stats. He's just playing lights out, pure and simple, and I hope he's going to be good for a long time.
Many people suspected Ayers would improve with the move to defensive end from outside linebacker, but I don't think many people have noticed how much he has made an impact. With three sacks, five quarterback hits, and 13 pressures, he's improved in the pass rush. But it's against the run he really shines. He's doing a fantastic job setting the edge, he's playing more snaps than any other lineman, and is our leading defensive end against the run according to Pro Football Focus and Advanced NFL Stats. Overall, he's developed into a solid starter, able to pressure the quarterback and stop the run.
Moreno and Ball, Who Knew:
So possibly the biggest concern going into this week was how the Broncos run game would look, and without Willis McGahee, it looked pretty well. Take out Tebow's running, Lance Ball and Knowshon Moreno racked up 132 yards. Moreno had 69 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry and Ball had 63 yards and 10.5 yards per carry. Now I'm not saying McGahee should be losing his job, but we are proving we can run well without him. Add in that the biggest concern of Moreno's play was he couldn't run between the tackles. Well today he proved he could. Actually the middle of our line did a good job in general blocking. Were they great, no, but they were the best part of our offense by a long shot against the Lions easily. Oh and don't look now, but we are the 9th ranked rushing offense, averaging 126 yards per game, so with McGahee, Moreno and Ball I think we might be set, at least in the short term.
Colquitt's Kicking It, Really Well Actually:
If anyone was paying attention to our punter, many people don't so it's okay if you weren't, but Britton Colquitt is silently having a Pro Bowl season. He's the 4th ranked punter in yards per punt, tied for 9th with punts into within the 20 and longest punt. He's also the 2nd highest ranked punter according to Pro Football Focus' film review. So while it's not largely important, like the title says, let's not forget Britton Colquitt.