Broncos football is back! You know what that means; Studs and Duds is back along with it. After finally getting a couple links to where I could watch the game, I witnessed the first Bronco game of the season. It was very exciting, but it was also very sloppy. I saw a lot of good things tonight, but I also saw quite a bit of bad. Let's jump into the first edition of Studs and Duds of the 2011 season
I'm going to start with Brady because I feel he was the best quarterback yesterday. He looked much better then he did last pre season. He looked calm in the pocket, went through his reads well and made some really nice throws. Now, it is important to note that Brady only played in the 3rd and 4th quarters against primarily 3rd string players. Nevertheless, Brady put on a nice performance yesterday throwing 8 for 14 for 120 yards and 1 touchdown. His touchdown throw was a nice pass to WR Eron Riley in the back of the endzone. I would like to see what Brady could do against more difficult competition.
Despite a disastrous 1st drive, Tim rebounded and played pretty decently. I am going to break down the quarterbacks in a more detailed post this weekend, but Tim made some very nice throws. His stats read nicely: 6 for 7 for 91 yards. He did struggle a bit. He made a throw into coverage that turned into an interception, but it was called back because of a passing interference call. He also tucked the ball and ran quickly a couple times, but he also made some nice throws like a 43 yard bomb to Matt Willis (longest completion of any Bronco QB) and a nice pass to David Anderson on 3rd down. It was a mixed bag for Tim, but I cannot stress enough how difficult it is to evaluate Tim when he has an OL that isn't worthy of playing in the CFL. Denver's 2nd team OL could barely even slow down Dallas's 2nd team DL. I would really like to see what Tim could do with the 1st team OL.
After seeing how much our running game struggled the past two years, I was extremely encouraged by how our running backs performed. Knowshon looked good. He ran the ball 4 times for 23 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and also caught a pass for 8 yards. I think this is the kind of thing we can expect from Knowshon. He probably won't have many games where he runs for 100+ yards, but he will get a good amount and contribute in the pass game. I was encouraged by 1 particular run where he bounced off a tackler for extra yardage.
Willis McGahee looked good in his limited carries. He only touched the ball 2 times, but he rushed for 18 yards. He plowed through a couple defenders on one of those carries that got me fired up. He could be quite a weapon this year in both the run game and in goal line situations.
Overall, I was very encouraged. Last year's running game was pitiful, but so far, things seem to be changing in a big way for Denver. Combined, our starters carried the ball 6 times for 41 yards (6.8 yards per carry). Remember when we played the Titans last year and we only got 50 yards on the ground for the entire game? I don't expect us to have a game like that ever again.
Who was the Broncos best pass rusher last year when Dumervil and Ayers were out with injuries? Jason Hunter. With Dumervil and Ayers back, who was Denver's best pass rusher yesterday? Jason Hunter. Granted, Dumervil and Ayers only played one series and one additional play, but that doesn't change the fact that Jason Hunter played great yesterday. Hunter finished the day with 2 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 TFL. Hunter worked his butt of last year to convert to the 3-4 system that we had in place. He was a really nice find then and looks like an even nicer find now that we are back in the 4-3. With Dumervil and Ayers penciled in as the starter, Hunter could solidify himself as the back up with another performance like he had yesterday.
Kyle McCarthy is proof that you can never predict what is going to happen in the NFL. After the Broncos drafted safeties Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter, many assumed that Kyle McCarthy was a lock to be cut. Fast forward a few months and Kyle McCarthy's chances of staying on the roster are actually pretty good. His chances increased even more after yesterday's performance. The Golden Domer finished the day with 3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL and 2 QB hits. He got his sack on a nice safety blitz. On a 3rd down play, he used really nice closing speed to nail a tight end as soon as he got the ball before he could get a 1st down. He wasn't perfect as he missed a couple tackles and was beaten in coverage a couple times, but his performance was better then David Bruton or Darcel McBath's and that is what matters. Kyle could make this roster as a backup safety and ST player. He worked hard all off season with his fellow Broncos at Camp Lundlow and he is a prime example of a player who is playing his way onto the roster.
The Broncos acquired David Anderson after he was cut by the Houston Texans. Many questioned the move at first (myself included), but it is becoming abundantly clear that this was a very very good move by John Elway and Brian Xanders. Anderson is a Brandon Stokley type of player. He will never be a go to guy, but he is a guy who makes tough catches. He reminded me of Brandon Stokley when he caught a 3rd down Tebow pass preserving their drive. He ended the day catching 3 passes (tied for 1st) for 38 yards. Additionally, Anderson works as a punt returner which gives him extra value. As I said in the game threads, I definitely think he is a keeper.
Cassius was making some noise in training camp with strong play. When the first depth chart came out, he was ranked as the starting nickel corner. After seeing his play, it is easy to see why he is getting extensive playing time. Vaughn, an undrafted free agent last year, played very well yesterday. He was physical going up against the Cowboy receivers and he was pretty good in coverage. Vaughn is still raw in a lot of ways, but the had work he put in at Camp Landow (with Kyle McCarthy) is paying off. He was also the 1st team kick returner. At this point, Vaughn has to be considered a near lock to make the roster. I'm intrigued as to just how good he could be.
Matt Willis, Eron Riley, and Mark Dell
These three wide receivers have been consistently making plays during Training Camp. They continue to make plays in the pre season. Matt Willis continues to shine for the Broncos carrying over a strong off season last year and has become a nice target for Tebow. Tebow had a nice rapport with Willis last off season and the two don't appear to have lost that working relationship. Willis caught 2 passes yesterday for 50 yards (team high). Both of his passes were from Tebow. Willis has continued to put in strong performances and if he stays healthy, he could make his presence felt this year.
Eron Riley burst onto the scene today in a big way. After being a free agent pick up last year, he made quite the impact in his first outing in orange and blue. He caught 3 passes for 43 yards and 1 touchdown. The touchdown was particularly impressive as he showed really nice leaping ability when he jumped and got a ball in the back of the end zone. It should be noted that all 3 of Riley's catches were passed by Brady Quinn. Riley is a guy to look out for.
Mark Dell was a free agent pick up this year for us. He had one catch for 26 yards, but it was an impressive one. He ran a post route, used his body to shield the defender from the ball, caught the pass and came down with it. The ball was thrown by Brady Quinn. Unfortunately, Dell suffered a knee sprain late in the 4th quarter. I hope he is okay, but if the injury is bad enough, I think we will likely do the same thing we did with Mario Fannin (waive him and then put him on IR if he isn't claimed)
If you follow Cecil Lammey on twitter, you know all about Jeremiah Johnson. Cecil has been raving about Johnson throughout training camp and it was easy to see why on Thursday. Jeremiah showed impressive burst while carrying the ball 4 times for a team high 28 yards and a touchdown. Jeremiah is fighting hard to make it in a crowded backfield. I like what I saw from him yesterday and I hope we see more of him with the 2nd team offense next week.
Braxton Kelley- The undrafted free agent LB from last year was all over the field yesterday. He had a team high 7 tackles yesterday. He could make the roster as LB depth and a core special teamer
Joe Mays- I might have a slightly large man crush on Joe Mays. I loved the physicality he brought last year and I was encouraged with what I saw yesterday. He wasn't perfect, but Mays made a couple nice plays yesterday including some nice plays in coverage. He did make a few mistakes, but it is becoming very apparent that the MLB job is Mays' job to lose.
Perrish Cox- Cox has been on shaky ground with the Broncos due to his struggles in converting to a nickel corner as well as his legal problems. If he wants to stay with the Broncos, he has to take someones position. He helped his cause yesterday when he intercepted a Stephen McGee pass and nearly returned it for a touchdown. Cox had nice coverage on the play and caught the overthrown pass. If Cox can make a few more plays like that during the pre season, he might have a hope of sticking with this team.
Britton Colquitt- I wanted to make a special shout out to Britton for his play yesterday. He punted the ball 4 times for an average of 47.5 yards per punt. After suffering through Mitch Berger's punting in 2009, I will never overlook the punter ever again. Keep it up Britton.
I don't think I have ever wanted a player cut so much. Allow me to be blunt, I think Nate Jones is awful. We kept him last year because of his versatility to play safety. However, with a plethora of talent and depth at that position, I cannot understand why we would keep Nate Jones. He was repeatedly beat in coverage yesterday. On one Dallas Cowboy touchdown, Nate Jones had his back to the quarterback and had his arms up as if he was doing a jumping jack. I face palm every time I see Nate Jones on the field so I had a major headache after the game yesterday.
2nd Team OL
Herb Taylor, Russ Hochstein, Manny Ramirez, Stanley Daniels, and Chris Clark make up the Denver Broncos 2nd team OL. I can honestly say with complete and total confidence that we have the worst offensive line depth in the entire league. It is so bad that I honestly hope that we pick up 5 offensive line waiver wire players because they would be upgrades over every player on this unit. We need to cut every one of these players because they 100% suck.
10 penalties for 85 yards including 3 penalties that gave the Cowboys a first down. This is to be expected after no OTA's and a limited amount of time in Training Camp. Nevertheless, this has to be cleaned up. Back to back encroachments, off sides penalties, etc. Quite frankly, I'm just surprised that Ryan McBean didn't get a facemask penalty.
Darcel McBath and David Bruton
McBath and Bruton looked pretty bad yesterday. They were both beaten in coverage a couple times including in the 4th quarter against 3rd string players. These two safeties might be coming to their final days as Denver Broncos. Their only hope of staying on this team might be their special teams ability. As Andrew Mason said on twitter, it might come down to the special teams play of Bruton and McBath for the final safety spot.
Julius Thomas Blocking
As great of a receiving tight end Julius Thomas has been in training camp, his blocking is equally as bad. He struggled greatly yesterday in sealing the edge. He totally whiffed on a block in the 1st quarter that nearly got Tebow killed. He has a ton of upside, but he is definitely a work in progress when it comes to blocking.
3rd String Defense Allowing The 4th Quarter Comeback
Denver was in good shape. We looked to come away with a win. However, our 3rd string completely lost this game for us. Not only did they let the 3rd string Cowboys march down the field and score during the final 5 minutes of the game, they also let them score on the 2 point conversion that gave them the lead. We should have won this game, but then again most of these players probably won't even be on the roster come opening day.
Kyle Orton's Drive Stalling At The One
Now, before everyone jumping down my throat. Note that I am NOT criticizing Orton directly. However, the first drive of the game looked a lot like last year. We moved down the field pretty well. Orton threw a nice pass to Eric Decker and we marched down the field to the one yard line. Then we had a 12 men in the huddle penalty, tried an end zone fade route that failed and mis-fired two more times before kicking the field goal. Red zone woes were a problem for the Kyle Orton led Broncos last year and the first Kyle Orton led drive of this year looked very similar to last year.
DT Pass Rush
I'll need to analyze the defensive tackles further when I watch the replay tomorrow, but they didn't offer much of a pass rush. I remember quite a few times when our DE's were getting pressure from the sides, but then Stephen McGee stepped up, escaped and ran for a first down because a lack of a presence up the middle. Our DT's haven't been here two full weeks yet so it's just something to keep your eyes on. Kevin Vickerson was the only starting DT who hit the QB yesterday.
Broncos D vs Screen Passes
The Broncos got killed a couple times yesterday when the Cowboys ran their screen passes. The linebackers didn't react well and it lead to some pretty big gains. It's nothing to major, but our D will need to read and react better to screen passes in future games.
I'm serious. He was so bad I put him in here twice. We need to cut this guy asap.
There we have it. The first Studs and Duds of the season. It was nice to see the boys running around yesterday. Look for another article in a couple days that will break down the quarterback play after I watch the replay tomorrow night. I hope you guys had fun yesterday, I know I did. Bronco football is back baby. Until next time, MHR..