The Broncos 31-17 win over the Jets last weekend came in spite of a throng of holding penalties by the offensive line and two sacks on Peyton Manning.
But don't get ready to throw this group under the bus, says MHR's own O-line coach, CH74.
Film review proves this O-Line isn't perfect but also isn't pathetic. In fact, given its opponents, CH74 believes this line is showing some admirable play. But being the coach he is, CH74 isn't satisfied - and the Broncos players shouldn't be either.
The Jumbo-Heavy Set: Broncos' use of a sixth O-Lineman vs. The Jets
Anon76returns asked that I take a look at how Paul Cornick was used as an extra blocker in the run game vs. the Jets. Never one to turn down a challenge or a reader, I obliged! Here is what I discovered tracking Cornick's 21 snaps as the sixth lineman:
Against the Jets, the Broncos utilized a jumbo-heavy set for 21 plays. Cornick lined up on the right side 10 times and 11 times on the left. The Broncos ran the ball 16 times while Cornick was in the game, eight while he was on the right side, and eight while he was on the left. The Broncos passed out of this heavy formation five times.
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When Cornick lined up on the left side, the Broncos ran eight times for a whopping seven yards - or a .875 yard average. The Broncos' best play while Cornick was on the left was nullified by a Ramirez holding penalty. The run would have been good for 10 yards, and the penalty had no real bearing on the play.
When Cornick was lined up on the right side, the Broncos ran the ball eight times for 45 yards - or a 5.625 yard average. Not bad results! The Broncos almost always ran away from the side that Cornick was lined up on, which tells me Cornick was a decoy on most occasions to exploit the weak side of the defense. The nearly even split tells me that the Broncos were not using Cornick to bolster one side of the line or the other.
When the Broncos passed out of the heavy set, they picked up 12 yards on five passes for a 2.4 yards per pass average. The Broncos were looking to connect on short or intermediate routes and only completed two passes out of the heavy set. This was a departure from how Cornick was used as an extra blocker in the Cardinals game. In that game, he was used in a limited capacity and as an extra pass blocker.
I didn't get an accurate count, but Virgil Green was also in the lineup during several of the plays in which Cornick lined up. This jumbo-heavy set could prove to be a valuable tool in the Broncos bag of tricks going forward. We'll see if they refine it and add new wrinkles in the future.
On to the review!
The good news is that while this game looked horrible as I was watching live, I wasn't nearly as horrified after viewing through the All-22. The guys had some difficulties and gave up some ridiculous penalties, but they could have played a lot worse! (Consider the Rams O-Line against the Niners on Monday Night Football as reference.) The Jets have a very talented front seven, and they were bound to win some one-on-ones in this game. The Broncos made some adjustments and shored up the pass protection in the second half.
Some folks here wanted to tar and feather Manny Ramirez for yet another flubbed snap. After further review, this one wasn't even close to being Manny's fault. I am a pretty fierce defender of the Big Uglies, but there is no bias whatsoever in me placing the blame on Peyton Freaking Manning himself for that flub.
The Broncos were running a silent count for the entire game and up until that point there were no issues. Since Manny was often covered up by the nose tackle, Louis Vasquez was watching Manning for the signal to snap the ball and giving Manny a tap for the snap. This is done for one simple reason - so Ramirez can snap the ball and focus on his get-off.
On that particular play, Manning called for the ball, but saw something at the last minute and decided to change the play. Too late, upon seeing the signal, Vasquez taps Manny and Ramirez let it fly. There is an easy fix for this. Peyton, if you aren't ready for the ball, don't signal for it. The Broncos reverted to having Manny watch Manning for the signals after that play, and Ramirez starting having issues with his blocking. The Broncos need to find a way to simplify their silent count.
As Bronco Mike pointed out in his Play-of-the-Game piece, the Jets were flexing their OLBs out to bump the Broncos outside receivers, creating favorable numbers in the box to run the football. This was a ballsy move by Rex Ryan that ultimately backfired. This tactic is not sustainable for an entire game, and the Broncos still found success running the ball against a normal Jets front.
Julius Thomas had a much better day blocking in the run, so he is out of my doghouse this week. I am still noticing some scheme issues where the play design allows a free runner at the ball carrier.
Zone blocking seemed to be more effective this week, and I didn't see a lot of the man concepts that were prevalent against the Cardinals. Both Vasquez and Franklin missed pull blocks, but both were consistent getting downhill into the second level on the Jets ILBs. Ronnie Hillman missed a couple cutback opportunities, but he is still hitting the hole decisively and appears to have better vision than Montee Ball.
LT Ryan Clady (#78): Clady had a rough outing and logged two holding penalties on the day with the Jets declining one. Clady was beat on a nice inside swim move by Jason Babin to give up a pressure in the third quarter. Ryan followed that up with a weak attempt at a backside cut block on the following play.
Ryan's lone bright spot in the game came on a nice down block with 11: 03 that sprung Hillman for 26 yards. Thank you for covering the ball, Bubba! I have to wonder where Clady's dominance has gone? Let's go, big man, the team needs you!
CH74's Grade: RB (=) PB (=) HD (=) LV (=) FT (=) PL/T () PNT (-)
LG Orlando Franklin (#74): Big O quietly had a nice game. He is still a little inconsistent when he pulls but managed to get a nice pull out on a screen play early in the first quarter. He was slow getting out on a power sweep and missed his target, but I love seeing Franklin get down hill on a LB!
Orlando did have a whiff at 1:54 in the fourth quarter and it looked like he was all but spent on the play. There have been a lot of rumblings about Franklin's move inside, but right now, he is the most consistent performer of the unit.
CH74's Grade: RB (=) PB (=) HD (=) LV (=) FT (=) PL/T (=) PNT (=)
C Manny Ramirez (#66): Manny has been getting beat up by the fans and PFF this week. Some of it is warranted. Like I mentioned earlier, Ramirez has been the unjustifiable fall guy for yet another flubbed snap. Manny, I absolve you of all sin in this instance, but you still had some issues.
Manny was fine up until that snap. After that, he was focused on getting the signal from Manning and his blocking suffered for it. On the following play, he gave up a sack on Manning. The play was a result of a well designed stunt ran by the DE which occupied Franklin, and a powerful move by Muhammad Wilkerson that caught Ramirez flat footed. Manny also logged a holding penalty to start the second quarter.
CH74's Grade: RB (=) PB (=) HD (=) LV (=) FT (-) PL/T (=) PNT (-)
RT Louis Vasquez (#65): Louie played a decent game on Sunday, but he did miss badly on a trap block late in the first quarter. Vasquez bounced back and had a number of plays where he got downhill into the second level. Louie had a nice block into the second level with 8:44 left in the second quarter that allowed Hillman a nice pickup of eleven yards.
CH74's Grade: RB (+) PB (=) HD (=) LV (=) FT (=) PL/T (-) PNT (=)
RT Chris Clark (#75): Chris quietly had his best game of the season. He was the only player in the unit not to log a penalty on the day. Clark had a nice second level block on a LB with 4:16 left in the first quarter that allowed Hillman to go for 12 yards. Clark was beat by a strong inside move by Leger Douzable early in the second quarter. CHRIS, move your feet and maintain leverage, big fella, and build on that performance!
CH74's Grade: RB (=) PB (=) HD (=) LV (=) FT (=) PL/T () PNT (=)
EXT Paul Cornick (#71): I was able to get a better look at Cornick in this game. The one time the Broncos ran to Paul's side, Cornick was beat at the point of attack because he lost leverage and failed to move his feet. These game time snaps should help with Cornick's development though. Clark got his start back in the Tebow days playing the sixth man, but Cornick has a long way to go. He seems to still be relying on his brute strength. I am curious to see if Paul's technique can be polished with these limited reps.
CH74's Grade: RB (=) PB (=) HD (=) LV (-) FT (-) PL/T () PNT (=)
CH74's Coach-up of the Week
Alright guys, everybody in! We have to clean up the silly penalties. No more holding. Rely on your technique and move your damn feet! I better not see any more hands outside of the frame of the body!! Focus and watch the ball on the silent count. Don't flinch when they flinch, fire off on the ball and put a hat on someone. Now hit the showers, gents!!
What to look for against the Forty-Niners
I would like to see the Broncos build on their success running the ball against the Jets with a solid performance against another tough front seven. I doubt we'll see the same desperate tactics employed by Rex's defense. The Niner's secondary doesn't need the help.
Please clean up the schemes and quit letting free runners loose at our running-backs. Ronnie, keep running hard, and Juwan, maximize your reps.