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Patching the ‘No Fly Zone’ Sieve

The Broncos Fly Zone is front and center as Kansas City looms large.

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Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos
If the Broncos are going to beat the Chiefs, Roby needs to improve his play.
Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Not to beat a dead horse, but we can’t avoid talking about the secondary and pass defense today. I already shared my thoughts on it in last week’s GIF Horse but there’s some numbers to really put the current plight into perspective.

Yards per pass play:

Saints 11.2, Chargers 8.9, Raiders 8.7, Cardinals 8.5, Texans 8.5, Bucs 8.3, Broncos 8.2, Chiefs 8.0

Yes, that means that Kansas City is currently allowing less yards per pass than the “No Fly Zone.”

Going into the Ravens game, the Broncos were among the bottom third of the league at defending the pass per Football Outsiders DVOA stats. They were the worst in the league at defending the middle of the field as well as 3rd worst defending against deep passes and tight ends. They were also weak again primary and tertiary wide receivers.

Opposing offenses flying friendly skies on Denver Broncos' secondary

"Honestly, if you really want to say it, this game, we could have thrown the ball 55 times, and I think it probably would have been to our advantage," Flacco said after the Ravens' 27-14 victory over the Broncos.

The “No Fly Zone” has become the new Northwest Airlines. Everyone flies for cheap.

On to other Broncos news:

Injury Aftermath: Week 3 | Football Outsiders

Broncos cornerback Tramaine Brock suffered a groin strain against the Ravens and is expected to miss some time. His status will be updated following an MRI scan, which was scheduled for Monday morning. Approximately half of groin injuries to defensive backs cause them to miss at least one week, with 20 percent causing major absences of four or more weeks. Typical recovery times are one to four weeks.

Chiefs edge rusher Dee Ford will have an MRI today on the groin strain he suffered against the 49ers. About 45 percent of groin injuries to defensive linemen cause them to miss at least one game, and typical recovery times are one to four weeks.

Elway looking for corner help; Harris wants better scheme
“We’re always looking for somebody out there who can come in and help us,’’ Elway said after his Broncos suffered their first loss of the season, a 27-13 setback to the Baltimore Ravens. “Especially at corner. Everybody wants one and everybody wants one at the right time, but somebody has to be there and someone has to be willing to make a move. So, we’ll continue to look at that. It looks like Adam will be back healthy next week so that’ll help.’’

As an exercise in procrastination Monday, I went over to Spotrac in order to see the best free agent cornerbacks remaining on the market. In no particular order:

Sean Smith: last played for the Raiders.

David Amerson: last played for the Chiefs

Jeremy Lane: remember when his injury in the Seahawks SB loss to the Patriots was completely exploited by Tom Brady? That was 4 seasons ago now.

Darrelle Revis: he didn’t look like he could play dead in a musical last year.

Alterraun Verner: Remember when he was regarded as one of the best zone corners in football? Last year he signed with the Dolphins and couldn’t beat out Bobby McCain for slot work. He did work out for the Giants in August, but with the prominence of Cover 1 in Woods’ defense he seems like an iffy scheme fit.

William Gay: the guy who beat Verner out for that job with the Giants in August, he was cut as New York trimmed their roster. He was looking for a ring when he chose the G-men but perhaps he isn’t as picky now? He is 33 though, so adding him would just give the Fly zone another grey beard.

As you can see, Elway really painted the Broncos into a corner here.

Denver Broncos: Chris Harris says the secondary needs to disguise better
“We gotta move and disguise better,” Harris said. “We’re not tricking anybody right now. They know exactly what’s coming.”

I said this in GIF Horse last week:

“First and foremost Adam Jones and Tramaine Brock will have bad days, and while it seems obvious to say it, Elway clearly chose to weaken the secondary when he traded Aqib Talib to the Rams over the offseason.

The other clear issue facing the Broncos is the coverage calls... Even a year ago Cover 1 didn’t mean a pick play gets a first down while this year it probably will. It is crucial that Vance Joseph and Woods finds a way to mix up the scheme to keep QBs off rhythm so the Orange Rush can get home.”

Broncos at Ravens: 5 things we learned - Mile High Report

"If Roby continue to play like he has in the first three games, I wouldn’t give him another contract; and I have been a pretty strong defender of Roby during his career here."

It’s obviously early in the season so perhaps Roby can find another gear, but so far this season he has been completely exposed as a second corner. Let’s hope he finds a way to elevate his play before Monday’s match up with the Chiefs:

Chiefs vs 49ers: Kareem Hunt gets first rushing TDs of 2018

“We have so many weapons,” Mahomes said. “Today it was Kareem’s day to score the touchdowns. Last week, it was (Travis) Kelce’s. The week before it was Tyreek (Hill’s). That’s just how this offense rolls. Whoever the defense gives the opportunity to make plays, they’re making them. We’re going to try to keep that rolling this entire season.”

As of today Mahomes has thrown 13 TD passes which passes Peyton Manning’s 2013 pace. He’s also thrown a TD to 9 different receivers. 13 is the record, set by the 2016 Atlanta Falcons.

Chiefs vs. 49ers: Making sense of snap counts

Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins all received 89 percent or more of the game’s offensive snaps. The Chiefs came at the 49ers with firepower through the air.

I’ve watched two of the three Chiefs games so far. One of the things that is pretty scary about them is how flexible their personnel groups make them. They can come out with a fullback, Kareem Hunt and the three above and still utilize an empty formation. Andy Reid has done a masterful job of adding players that fit today’s hybrid NFL.

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes’ brilliant TD vs 49ers, analysis

“Working within the system, understanding the reads and progressions and rhythm and timing,” right tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. “That gets lost a bit with how incredible he is on the run. But it’s his ability to be a pocket quarterback that’s driving this offense.”

While everyone knew that Mahomes would come in and add the sandlot style Alex Smith didn’t bring to the table this year, it’s his command of the offense so far that’s blowing the league away.

“I kind of realized everyone else was on the other side,” Mahomes said.

“He kind of Chris Johnson’d it, reversed field,” Hill said.

I’m going to touch on this tomorrow, but as has been the case all year it will be absolutely vital to the Broncos chances for the pass rush to get home and quickly. If Woods doesn’t find a way to mask the coverages Mahomes may throw for 8 next Monday.

MMQB: Mahomes Magic, Wentz’s Return, Bills Stunner—a Week 3 Roller-Coaster

“We get a lot of looks that we didn’t assume we’d get during the week of practice, but he’s able to go out there and adjust and just make the play.”

Taking a look around the rest of the West:

Bolts “Extremely Frustrated” by Defensive Performance

“We have to figure out where to get pressure on the quarterback,” he said. “That’s what’s missing right now.”

Few in the league see their value increase by their absence, but Joey Bosa is proving the exception to that rule.

Chargers' Antonio Gates overcomes vertigo, impacts game with Rams

"This was my 16th season, so I don't know how much I need from a physical standpoint to try and get ready to play," Gates said. "But might I add it's just not easy to do that. I don't want people looking at the situation thinking it's just so easy to come up, step into a game and make plays that try to help your team win."

Costly Miscues Doom Bolts…Yet Philip Rivers is as Encouraged as Ever

“You’re sick about this game because you feel like you just kind of (gave it to them),” he said. “Hats off to them. They won the game, but we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had.”

Denver meets the Chargers in November. As of now both teams look like they’re competing for a wildcard spot out of the AFC West, but things change quick in the NFL. Regardless, neither team looks like they’ll fall to fourth in the standings thanks to Gruden.

Raiders Film Room: Oakland can’t finish

This could be an excuse for another 4th quarter collapse but eventually a team runs out of excuses before the book is out on them.

Jon Gruden deserves most, not all, of blame for Raiders’ 2nd-half woes

“I’ve been a part of years where finishing was easy and the beginnings were the problem,” Derek Carr said after the team’s Week 3 loss. “This is just what we have to deal with right now. I think we need to finish our practices better, finish our lifts better, finish our meetings better, finish everything better, because clearly we’re doing a good at the beginning, right? I think we can finish in all phases better.”

Jon Gruden's scouting system led to divide in Raiders' building

Previously a longtime and respected NFL scout, Razzano rose to prominence as a voice on Twitter with controversial takes that included Von Miller will be a bust and Jake Locker should go No. 1 in the draft. He was dubbed the "rogue scout," but now has an office near Gruden's.

Let me just say that I’ve loved every minute of the Jon Gruden era, least of all because he isn’t announcing games anymore.

A quick peak ahead to the Jets.

Jets can’t force Sam Darnold to do this all by himself

“Going in and watching the schedule, after he won the starting job, I thought this would be his toughest game from a scheme-coverage standpoint because of the things that they do on that side of the ball,” Bowles said. “I thought he handled that well.”

I guess no one told Bowles that the Jaguars are up next. Speaking of the Jets though, it looks like New York is a potential destination for Le’Veon Bell.

Le'Veon Bell trade? 7 NFL teams that might risk deal for Steelers star
The other teams include the entire AFC East outside of Buffalo, the Colts, Eagles, Packers and Buccaneers. The compensation may be a big part in where he winds up as it looks likely he’ll be a rental for 2018.

NFL trade rumors: Should Jets deal for Steelers' Le'Veon Bell? Pros, cons, analysis |

A league source told NJ Advance Media that Pittsburgh is probably looking for a second-round 2019 pick right now, in a potential Bell deal. Or perhaps the Steelers could be trying to get a third-round pick and then something else (like another third-rounder or a lower pick), in order to sweeten the deal beyond just that single third-round compensatory pick that would come their way in 2020.

Speaking of trades:

Market for Earl Thomas includes Raiders, Chiefs and Cowboys

“I need to make sure my body is 100 and I’m invested in myself. If they was invested in me, I’d be out there practicing, but if I feel like anything – I don’t give a damn if it’s small, I got a headache – I’m not practicing.”

God help the Broncos if Kansas City lands Earl Thomas before the October 28th game in Arrowhead.

Earl Thomas: Cowboys coaches asked me if I’m ready for a trade tomorrow

“Yeah, of course, I heard chatter, people were coming up to me and saying a trade might happen,” Thomas said. “Even pregame, a couple Cowboys coaches came up to me, I don’t know if they were playing psychological games, but they were like, ‘You ready for the trade tomorrow?'”

Dallas has to be considered the heavy favorites at this point, but it bears monitoring.

A look around the rest of the league:

Anyone who watched the Browns beat the Jets knew this was coming. I like Tyrod Taylor more than most (enough that I preferred him to Case Keenum this year), but Cleveland looked like a different team with Baker Mayfield.

Kyle Rudolph on loss: 'We've done this once a year'

"Go back a couple of Decembers ago [in 2016], we had a chance of making the playoffs. Then the Indianapolis Colts come in here and kick our butts. Last year in the NFC Championship Game [against the Eagles], everyone knows what happened," Rudolph said.

Does anyone have the heart to tell Kyle or the Vikings that laying an egg against the Buffalo Bills is nothing like losing the NFC Championship?

Josh Rosen named Cardinals starting QB

“Josh is our starter and it’s his job to lose,” Wilks said

Makes sense. The Cardinals look like the heavy favorite to land the first pick in the draft next year. Start Rosen and hope he improves over the course of the year. Of course, Arizona’s offensive line looks like a complete sieve and Mike McCoy hasn’t figured out how to use David Johnson, so it may be a bit much to pray Rosen lasts the season outside the training room.

Steelers CB Mike Hilton Suffered A Significant Elbow Injury Monday Night - Steelers Depot

“Mike Hilton is the only injury to speak of,” Tomlin said. “He had a significant elbow and wasn’t able to come back into the game. He’s being evaluated and I’m sure Ill have more for you tomorrow.”

It’ll be a long while before the Broncos battle the Steelers, but if Hilton’s down for a “significant” amount of time it could be big. Pittsburgh lacks depth across their roster.

Gronk confirms he nixed Lions trade: 'Brady's my QB'

Rob Gronkowski confirmed Sunday night that he resisted a trade this offseason to the Lions. "Yeah, it happened," Gronk said. "Brady's my quarterback. I wasn't going anywhere without Brady."

Can’t say I blame Gronkowski.

Patriots lack urgency once again as questions mount

“We just aren't playing Patriot football,” veteran safety Duron Harmon said. “We aren't doing anything that we are coached to do. We aren't playing with good enough techniques at times. The thing is when we do it, we do it well.It's just consistency."

That defense almost made the Broncos look good by comparison.

Packers Fans Create GoFundMe Campaign To Pay Clay Matthews’ Roughing The Passer Fines

Adam Waraxa from Pewaukee, Wisconsin set up a GoFundMe Campaign on Sunday with a goal of $30,000 that he says will go towards paying the fines from the penalties.

Perhaps it makes me a bad fan, but I would not pay money for a millionaire athlete’s fine. Save it for homeless veterans, cancer research or helping refugees.

NFL Week 3 Analysis: Josh Allen, Mahomes, Garoppolo

Andrew Luck Underthrows Everything: Which worked out with a handful of pass interference calls, but this is becoming concerning. It was Jacoby Brissett who came in to throw the last-ditch Hail Mary.

Not sure if there’s fire behind this smoke but it’s something to keep an eye on. Then again, if Luck can feign some pain he’ll probably get enough calls for the Colts to chase a playoff spot.

In case you missed the fine print, when they changed the QB safety rule they added a clause where it said “Clay Matthews is no longer allowed to rush the passer.”

But remember, it’s in the name of “Player Safety”

The league needs to send out this as an instructional video.