I'm really fired up for the 2009 season, and I hope every member of this community also is. I see a lot of reason to be positive, regardless of what people erroneously think of me and my proclivities for Kool-Aid. If I were a Raiders fan, I'd feel negative about the upcoming season, but I am a Broncos fan, so I do the other thing. Welcome to the new season, friends. Let's make it a great one. Ready.... BEGIN!!!
1. I attempt to have a certain week-to-week coherence and consistency between editions of this column. Regular readers know things about me, actually, even some really personal things, so to avoid being too "inside," I thought I should re-introduce myself in a couple of paragraphs, and let everybody know where I am coming from, and what they can expect from me, by choosing to read my content.
My name is Ted Bartlett, which you probably guessed. I grew up in Norwich, CT, and I presently live in Lakewood, OH, the first suburb west of Cleveland, along Lake Erie. I just turned 32, and I work as a Senior Financial Analyst for a Fortune 500 company. I've been a Broncos fan for more than 22 years, and I get a lot of grief about it, living in Cleveland. I always tell the people here that it hurts a lot worse to lose a Super Bowl than it does to lose an AFC Championship game, but they won't understand that until they've been through it.
I make no claims to being a journalist; I will actually explicitly state that I am nothing of the sort. I am a guy who watches a lot of football, and evaluates and describes what I see. I participated in a survey of sports bloggers a few months ago, with students of Penn State's Center for Sports Journalism, (the results are here, if you're interested,) and the guy asked me where I get my information. I didn't even think about it for a second, and I told him I get it from my eyes. I watch, I take notes, and I try to be coherent in the presentation of those observations.
What I don't do, and what I'll never do, is repeat what other people say, or steal their thoughts without attribution. I am known for being a little snarky, so if you think I might be saying something in a tongue-in-cheek way, I probably am. I meander some around pop culture, history, other sports, and whatever else seems germane in a given moment, but I always come back to football. My primary area of football expertise is offense, and I am proud to say that I have trained myself over the years to be able to watch football without watching the ball. I also always say, I am not in the arguing business, I am in the saying what I think business, so don't ever expect me to argue in the comments very much. I'm now (grudgingly) on Twitter @TedBartlett905, so if you like my work, follow me, and I might be encouraged to throw an ST&NO snippet up here and there during the week.
The key point is that I am a loyal Broncos fan, and I always will be, and my purpose in investing the many hours which I invest in this is to add value to the fan experience of every community member, and every Broncos fan. I hope you enjoy my work, and that of the many people who contribute to the site, and make MHR what it is.
2. Expect ST&NO to run at 8:30 AM on Tuesday mornings, going forward. During football season, it will definitely include thoughts about the Broncos, and their most recent game, since this is a Broncos blog. I have kind of settled into the niche of being the around-the-league guy of this site, and I will definitely also include thoughts about other games I watched, because I think knowing things about the whole league is a good thing. I am pretty sure I am the only guy who writes for a Broncos-centric outlet who focuses a lot on other teams and games, and I hope you find value in it.
A new weekly feature will include analysis of the line play (both offensive and defensive) in the Broncos game, as well as another selected game. I will watch the whole game, and focus on the lines, so you can learn interesting things like what terrible football players "Pro Bowlers" Flozell Adams and Matt Light are. This is an area which isn't being well-served by anybody, anywhere, so I am excited to bring it to you. I would call it "In The Trenches" but Firstfan writes a terrific feature by that name, before each game. I am working on a section title for it, but I don't have it yet. If you have any ideas, I'd love to see them.
3. On to current events. Isn't it great that we have current events to talk about again?
a. Big up our fearless leader, John Bena, and all of our terrific community reporters who have been able to visit training camp, and report back the real story, in an unfiltered way. Nobody is covering training camp better than MHR, and I will go on record as saying I'd like to take a shift next year (maybe a week?) I wonder if we can't cover the whole duration of camp with staggered visits and good planning.
b. I'm very happy to see Robert Ayers sign today, and if I have to choose, I'd rather have him in camp before Knowshon Moreno. I think Ayers is very well-suited for the OLB/DE position, particularly when it comes to setting the edge in the running game.
On that topic, I want to talk about that role, and how I envision them being used in the new defense. Their primary purpose will be to be physical, and maintain their gap assignments in the running game. I think Ayers, Darrell Reid, and Tim Crowder are very well-suited to that task, and Jarvis Moss and Elvis Dumervil, maybe not so much.
On passing downs, I would expect a guy like Ayers or Dumervil to line up with his hand on the ground as a 4th lineman, maybe with the other guy right outside him standing up. Jim Johnson passed this week, but his concepts of overload blitzing will surely live on. To me, it's the best way of generating a strong pass rush, if you've got defensive coaches who can identify and attack teams' tendencies with their protection schemes.
c. I'm very excited for the prospect of Peyton Hillis getting a lot of use this year. I wouldn't be surprised if he catches a lot of passes, as outstanding a receiver as he is, and as geared to high-percentage passing as the McDaniels offensive ethic has been. Don't be surprised to see Peyton carry the ball 80-100 times, catch 75-80 passes, and have 1,000 combined scrimmage yards, and 10-12 TDs. There's no reason he shouldn't be the best FB in the NFL, because he is the most talented.
d. I like everything I've heard about how the secondary looks. I've probably been the biggest cheerleader for the offseason acquisitions of Andre' Goodman and Alphonso Smith. The ever-illuminating Monday Morning QB column from Peter King filled us in on a nugget which surely hadn't occurred to anybody yet.
d. Assuming that Brian Dawkins, Champ Bailey, Renaldo Hill and Andre' Goodman make it to opening week without injury, Denver will have the oldest starting secondary of any team in this decade.
I'll be damned. They're pretty old. Of course, two of them are all-time greats who will be in the Hall of Fame someday, while Goodman is underrated and terrific, and Hill is underrated and very solid. The players who excite me more are Smith, Darcel McBath, David Bruton, Josh Barrett, and Jack Williams. Three rookies, and two second-year guys to go along with all the graybeards. It kinda sounds like what we call "succession-planning" in the Fortune 500 world. I must just be imagining that there could possibly be a plan - right, John Clayton?
e. I was watching a Patriots-Cardinals game not too long ago, on NFLN, from Week 16 of the 2008 season. For those who don't remember this game, the Patriots won 47-7. They ran the ball 42 times for 183 yards, and 2 TDs, and threw the ball only 38 times. The compelling thing is that they didn't do their running from any kind of spread-out look. They just ran it down the Cardinals' throats. It was a reminder of how flexible we can expect the Broncos to be on offense. They'll pound the ball against teams who struggle to stop the run, and they'll throw it against teams which struggle to stop the pass. Every week, the offensive game plan will be geared toward best attacking the weaknesses of the opposing defense. We're used to that from Mike Shanahan, but expect even more creativity from the McDaniels regime, if not all of the wisdom that comes from experience.
4. I really hate cliches. Every time a guy like Len Pasquarelli says that a pass rusher "gives tackles fits," I ask myself, "Really? Honest-to-goodness fits?" I don't even like it when sportswriters refer to a football game as a contest. It's a damn game, which has no particularly good synonyms, even if you have to be a little redundant and say the word "game" a lot. A limbo contest at a crappy bar is a "contest."
Here are a list of stupid football cliches that I hate:
a. Wildcat offense - A modern-era take on the Single Wing, there is nothing terribly fresh or creative about the so-called "Wildcat."
b. Red Zone - This is John Madden's fault. He shared on TV that some coach called the 20-to-Goal area the red zone, and now it's become a quasi-official term, if you listen to football commentators. It's always funny to hear an actual coach call it something other than that.
c. Spread offense - said as if it's standardized and universal like the veer series or something. The only real commonality is the the use of a lot of split receivers. Beyond that, there is WILD variation, way too much to consider everything that is called a spread offense to be part of one monolithic concept.
d. H-back - This isn't so much a cliche, as it is a misused term. Nowadays, the average John Clayton or Len Pasquarelli calls a lighter, more receiving-focused TE an H-back. Actually, when the Redskins invented the concept in the 80s, it was for one purpose: getting a strong blocker into the body of Lawrence Taylor immediately. The players they used as H-backs caught very few passes. Nobody uses this concept in 2009, so the widespread use of the term H-back is not correct.
e. Quarterback Of The Future - This is always used about a guy who wasn't a premium pick, and who may or may not be talented enough to start in the NFL, but the incumbent is considered replaceable by media members who would use this term. Think Kellen Clemens, when Chad Pennington was still the starter for the Jets. He was drafted to be the Quarterback of The Future, and his future seems to have somehow gone by the wayside.
f. Icing The Kicker - Really? Calling a timeout is going to make a difference whether a kicker makes it or not? I always thought it was interesting that Jason Elam said he preferred to have the time to focus on the task at hand. This concept is idiotic.
g. Circus catch - Does anybody go to circuses anymore? While we're at it, has anybody ever made a living catching poorly thrown footballs at them? That's a job I want.
h. Literally - As in, "The QB was literally run over by a freight train." No, he really wasn't. I think you meant figuratively, there, Bob Papa.
i. Intestinal fortitude - I think we have professional wrestling to blame for this. It's like when a commentator uses the word "patented" about the horse-collar tackle. Come on, guys. It's football, not the WWE.
i. Jamie Dukes - He's a walking cliche, and he just flat-out sucks. May God have mercy on his soul.
5. Living in Cleveland, I hear a lot about the Browns. I think they'll mess up if they don't choose Brady Quinn as their QB. He doesn't have the big arm of Derek Anderson, but he's better in every other way. The best thing about Quinn is how quickly and decisively he gets the ball out of his hands.
6. I guess I should weigh in on Michael Vick and Brett Favre, right? Vick shouldn't be suspended, but I don't expect him to resurface as a good every-down NFL QB. He never really was one, and 2 years in prison can't be good for your quick-twitch muscle memory.
As for Favre, I just hope the media lets this die. He left open the possibility of a Week 9 or 10 return, and we just don't need anymore of that.
7. Retired for John Elway.
8. I can't wait for the first preseason game. Having some actual football to evaluate will just make me so much happier. I'm fired up for this Broncos season, and I hope everybody else is too. Whether you're a Kool-Aid drinker or a more measured optimist, there's a lot of reason to feel good. I'll see you next Tuesday, with more ST&NO.