Let me kick this post off by droppin' some knowledge like VonDoom droppin’ quarterbacks. Statistics can be twisted and turned to fit any desire the writer might have. Pow! Most of you knew that already - the rest of you should. If I want to sell you on Atlanta’s run defense, for example, I’d tell you they ranked in the top-ten last year. But if I was going at it with one of their fans, I’d tell him his run defense was junk and carried a 25th place ranking. So which one’s true? Well both are true you silly rabbit. Sheesh… I’m not gonna just to just make stuff up.
The Dirty Birds ranked 10th in total rushing yards allowed last year, but they ranked 25th in yards per rush. So why the huge discrepancy? I guess I could probably answer that, but you know you don’t care. I certainly don’t. Point is, just because I tell you that you can see Russia from Alaska… it doesn’t mean you should rush out to buy Rosetta Stone before moving to Juneau. Wait, did I lose ya with that one?OK, let me underline one more subtle little nugget here. Anyone notice how I originally said the Falcons were a top-ten rushing team? Pretty vague, right? Chances are, 95% of readers aren’t going to look it up. So by being vague, I pretty much just mind forked the reader into thinking the Falcons were maybe ranked around 7th. See how that works? Half the readers probably walk into tomorrow thinking the Birds ranked like 7th defending the run last year, when in fact, they more closely resembled our down and out Broncos (past tense, of course).
So here's the Cliff Notes on that somewhat irrelevant opening. Statistics can be useful, but always be aware of the writer’s goal and what he’s trying to sell you. If something doesn’t pass what I like to call the common sense test, throw out his stats, look up your own and go wrestle him with your keyboard.
A Little More Mud on the Foundation.
Preseason statistics aren't meaningless, but don’t be a homer either. First thing to do is to throw out the win/loss record. Because that, my friends, is about as useful as binoculars while her curtain is closed. Wait, what?
Just like that square little wrapper in your wallet that you’ve been carrying around since high school, this is what you should keep with you: What did your One’s do against their One’s. That's the golden nugget of preseason information. Stupid websites don’t break it down like that, but have no fear as I’ve done it for the lazy talking heads. In addition to looking at what the 1's do against the opposing 1's, the unit’s overall performance (1st, 2nd and 3rd string combined) can also be useful. Not as much, but that's still where we're going to start.
Well now that I told you all my dirty little tricks, let me just tell you to forget what you just read at the top. I can’t guarantee you that I won’t molest any facts and stats to suit my point, but I will tell you that all of this passes my common sense test. The stats support what our eyes are telling us.
The Broncos were 1-3 in last year’s preseason. So that tells us a little bit of absolutely nothing. Yeah, tricked you there. I thought I already told you to throw the whole preseason win/loss thing out with those stained undies you don’t want your girlfriend to find. Here’s something useful, though: The Broncos gave up 106 points in last year’s preseason. Putting that in context, our three divisional foes all gave up points that registered in the 70’s. So there. That was a predictor of a bad Broncos defense. Most of us just didn't listen.
Just three teams in the 2010 preseason ranked worse than the Broncos in points allowed. Two of those teams were the Bills and the Bengals. See where I'm going with that? Those three B-Squads (Broncos, Bills and Bunglas) had crap defenses in the preseason and then asked for a 2nd helping in the regular season. The other team that ranked in the bottom four in scoring defense was the Colts. But don’t think of them as the Colts because we’re talking about defense here. In the regular season, Indy's defense followed the same train to suck town that they were on in the preseason.
Cliff Notes: The worst four teams in scoring defense during the 2010 preseason also sucked in the same category during the regular season. Indy ranked best of the four at 23rd in the league, followed by Cinci at 24th, then the Bills (28) and Broncos.(32). In other words, if your team gives up a crap ton of points in the preseason, you’ll probably be in the same stank river, in the same sinking boat - no paddles of course - all miserable season long.
Alright, so there’s that. But what about those twisted stats, you ask? Nope, not the case here. You want more proof of a correlation between preseason statistics and regular season statistics, eh? Well let me bring it a little closer to home for ya…
Broncos in the 2010 preseason: 27th in yards allowed
Broncos in the 2010 regular season: 32nd in yards allowed
Broncos in the 2010 preseason: 30th in points allowed
Broncos in the 2010 regular season: 32nd in points allowed
Broncos in the 2010 preseason: 8th in passing yards allowed
Broncos in the 2010 regular season: 25th in passing yards allowed
Broncos in the 2010 preseason: 32nd in rushing yards allowed
Broncos in the 2010 regular season: 31st in rushing yards allowed
Broncos in the 2010 preseason: 21st in sacks
Broncos in the 2010 regular season: 32nd in sacks
Denver's passing game between the preseason and regular season has a wider discrepancy, but the rest of that fits nice and neat right into a stinky suck hole. I mean those preseason rankings carried surprisingly well into the regular season. And not in a good way.
Now that we've accepted that preseason statistics and performaces often do carry over to the regular season...
Here’s where the Broncos currently rank defensively: 7th in yards given up and 14th in points given up. We’re 8th against the pass, 9th against the run and 7th in sacks.
Pretty good, no? Now bear in mind, that’s the entire defense - but I’ll speak on the first-stringers here in a minute. Until then, let me point out a couple of those stats that I think might be a little stupid. First, the scoring defense. Our starters gave up just nine points all preseason. That should speak for itself. Next, we’ve played better than our 7th place sack ranking. Six of our nine sacks came while our first-stringers were in. And our eyes should remind us that for every sack there were probably about two more times that a QB was put on his arse. On the negative side, the statistic on run defense tells us it’s all gum drops and daisies - but it hasn’t been. That prick Felix Jones ran just three times and still busted one off against our One’s for 18 yards (and also had a 16 yard check down pass). The next week, ugly face Freddy Jackson stole a 20 yard run in just four attempts, and his speedy sidekick Spilled off another 14 yard run in just six attempts. Translation: Drink the koolaid on passing downs, but have some whiskey ready against running teams because we’re not out of the woods just yet.
Starters v Starters.
Now I want to just quickly break down what our first-string defenders did against the opposing starters - and I'll try to put that in context by comparing them to last year's first three games when the starters were also in. I’m not going to waste your time or mine by going into the run defense because there’s been no consistency or cohesion - I really just don’t see how it would be even a moderate predictor of what’s to come. And our thoughts on the run defense won’t really change anyway. So let’s just sum that part of it up like this: Our run defense will change and get better as defensive tackles get healthy and get comfortable. It’s seems unlikely that opposing running backs will continue to laugh at us like they have over the past few years, but a couple of them could still giggle a little bit, especially early on. So, pass defense...
In week-one of last year’s preseason, Carson Palmer lit up our One’s going 11 of 15 for 105 and a TD. We didn’t notch a sack or a takeaway against him. In week two, young Matty Stafford punked us too, going 13 of 18 for 130 yards and a TD. We didn’t grab an interception, but we notched our first and only first-team sack of the presesaon. Yeah, just one sack last preseason from the 1’s. Next up, Rothlisberger played just one quarter, burning us on his first play for a 47 yard pass, finishing with 4 of 6 for 67 yards (no Tds, no INTs, no sacks). So that was last year's pathetic preseason defense that turned into a pathetic regular defense.
Those first string quarterbacks went 28 of 39 for 302 yards against us, with no interceptions and just one sack. Through the same time this year, though - and get ready for this - opposing starters went just 17 of 38 for 133 yards, one interception and six sacks. Rub your eyes, and rub that in again.
First-string opposing QBs pretty much had their hand up our skirts last year, as our starting defense was piss poor before the season, and it kept that same humpty dupmty vibe all throughout the regular season, too. But this year, Bronco starting defenders got pay back, reducing first-string QBs to scared little school boys. Will that trend continue into the regular season? I think history suggests it will.
1. I guess I don’t know where to look for QB hits, because I just took my numbers from the play by play on nfl.com. I know Von Miller had four hits on T-Jack to go along with his two sacks in the Seattle game. So just in sacks and the hits by Miller - leaving Doom and everyone else’s QB hits out - Jackson was hit or sacked more times than he completed passes
2. Tony Romo completed 60% of his five throws (teenie sample size), but it's important to note that the defense gave that hack Ryan Fitzpatrick three completions in his first drive, also. Since I can’t make you do what I tell you, I guess you can take what you want from that. Maybe Romo was the only good QB we’ve played and maybe that’s why he never got sacked and didn’t look so pathetic against us. If you want my opinion - and I certainly want to give it - I’d say the Broncos defense is new and has improved every week. Romo got lucky by meeting us as early as he did. If he met us last week instead - or God forbid, three weeks from now - we’d be VonDoomin' him so hard and so often he’d probably go to sleep on the turf and wake up thinking he’s still dating the skinny version of Jessica Simpson.
3. Overall, starting Qbs have completed less than 50% of their passes against our One’s and they actually end up on their back about as many times as they’ve completed passes. Longest pass play to a Wideout was just 12 yards... and that was on a 3rd and 18.
4. Von Miller’s role in that third game just can’t be over sold. His name comes up everywhere in the play-by-play. He had four tackles, four QB hits and two sacks. That’s ten plays he impacted to a substantial degree in just his third meaningless game on the grid iron. His name was also listed a couple times on incomplete passes. Saying he’d have been rookie of the week had it been a regular season game is like saying Tim Tebow is popular. Miller would have been named our MVP, been given the game ball, and he would have been defensive player of the week on pretty much every sporting list in the country (even while competing with veterans). Miller has already shown to be an all around footballer, which is very welcome news considering many folks had worried about his overall abilities and considered him a potential one-trick pony. Von is easily the odds on favorite to be DROY and it’s pretty easy to imagine him in the pro-bowl as a rookie and with double digit sacks.
The Cliff Noted Cliff Notes.
So, what have we learned here today boys? My guess is that we probably learned whatever we came into this wanting to see. Still, it all pretty much passes the common sense test. I mean don’t it? Our defense and even our team overall is getting better every week, as is customary with a young team and a new coach.
The pass rush and pass defense are pretty much like conjoined twins- when one has his hand in the cookie jar, the other is probably right there with him. So with VonDoom completely owning the backfield, the secondary is going to look like its filled with all-pros. Teams can’t pass on us in the preseason and that's likely to continue into the real world of football. Our starting secondary hasn’t been burned even once and I think both those units (pass rush and pass defense) likely rank in the top-five this year - in my own humble (yeah, right) opinion, of course. The run defense is still a question mark, but teams can’t run on 3rd and 8. So, I think even with giggling running backs between the 20’s every now and again, it’s a pretty long field for them to march without ever having their QB sacked - putting them into long down-and distance situations prior to scoring. I think bend-don't-break is what we might be looking at with the run defense early on.
Von. Doom. Pow!
UPDATE: Looks like Intelanalyst placed the preseason into context on the front page, and although I haven't read it yet, it looks like either great minds think alike, or else he must've stolen my idea. Yep, I'm pretty sure he stoleded it somehow =) Obviously I'm kidding, but sorry if it's now kind of a redundant post.