If you're not familiar with Football Outsiders, you may want to take a quick tour through their site. I reference things like DVOA and DYAR from time to time (usually with a link back to FO), and over at my old digs, I had a weekly column called "Outsiders Perspective" where I broke down the upcoming game from the point of view of these "Smarter Stats." I plan on doing that this year at MHR! So this is a great opportunity for you to become familiar with FO if you want to read along all season long! Check out their stats explained here.
Editor's note: These questions were asked before the start of training camp
Mile High Report: The Broncos had the top-ranked pass offense but the fifteenth-ranked rush offense by DVOA last year. How do the additions of Wes Welker and Montee Ball affect your expectations heading into this year? Do the pass/rushing additions offset?
Football Outsiders: Both additions make Denver's offense better. As far as how the numbers shake out, that's mostly a function of what looks defenses give Manning. If he sees two-high safeties, he'll run. If it's anything even close to blitz related, he'll throw.
MHR: If Von Miller is indeed suspended four games, how well can Shaun Phillips fill that role for the Broncos?
FO: People forget how effective Phillips was in SD. That said, he can't fill Miller's role. The Broncos would have to do different, more vanilla things tactically. But Phillips is a solid replacement for Dumervil on the other side.
MHR: Rahim Moore and Champ Bailey's postseason struggles in 2012 have been well-covered. How did FO grade these players in 2012 as a whole, as well as Denver's secondary unit? Were they exposed, or was Baltimore a fluke game?
FO: I'd have to defer to Aaron for the specific stats stuff - I'm more of a film guy. But I thought Bailey was great last year and that the BAL game was a case of aberrational plays and some very shrewd route designs by Ravens. Moore, on the other hand, has some bouncing back to do. He indeed made a gaffe on the long TD to Jones and he hasn't been as dynamic of an all-around playmaker as expected.
(FO EIC Aaron Schatz adds: Bailey's charting stats had dropped pretty much every year for five seasons until they rebounded last year significantly, back up to being in the top 20 in both Adjusted Success Rate and Adjusted Yards per Pass. Also, even while his coverage stats declined the last few years, he remained one of the top tackling corners in the game, which is an underrated aspect of his play. I'm still worried that his age could cause a sudden breakdown in the future, though. Moore's charting stats weren't great, but they weren't horrendous. Safety is probably the hardest position on the field to judge with advanced statistics. Of course, it's also the hardest position on the field to judge off film, because more than any other position, you need to know what the coordinator wanted out of his players based on the look the offense gave before the snap in order to judge who may have made an error. Well, most of the time. Not in the playoff game. That was a pretty clear error.)
MHR: In general, how much can you glean on the regular season from the performances of players in the preseason?
FO: Zero. Preseason is irrelevant for that. Everyone is playing vanilla looks.
(FO EIC Aaron Schatz adds: There's some history to indicate that preseason record can be a small indicator for teams coming off seasons close to 8-8, but of course Denver isn't one of those teams.)
MHR: Peyton Manning said he felt like a rookie in 2012, coming back from four neck surgeries on a new team. What do you expect from Peyton Manning as a "sophomore"?
FO: Top 5 in all the major passing categories, putting Denver in Super Bowl contention. The usual Manning stuff, in other words. If you read the Denver chapter, we make it pretty clear, we don't expect any problems with the Denver offense. The issue is likely regression from the defense because they're likely to have more injuries and there's no way they can be as good on third down, given that they were the best third-down defense of any team since the 1991 Saints.