Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Know Your Enemy - DEN


The Broncos started off 6-0. They were the toast of the NFL. Coach Josh McDaniels was a genius. QB Kyle Orton was doing his best Tom Brady impression. The defense was playing lights out. Elvis Dumervil was averaging more than a sack a game. It was darn near impossible to score on Denver in the 2nd half. Life was good. And then the clock struck midnight.

Denver has gone 2-6 since then. McDaniels is just another young coach. Orton is back to being Kyle Orton. The defense has holes. Dumervil is playing well, but he's clearly mortal. And the defense isn't stopping people in the 4th Qtr. Life ain't so good.

This isn't exactly the Titanic. This is more like the USS Yorktown after the first wave of Japanese attacks at Midway. The ship is hurting, but might make it. Our job is to now be the next wave of planes from the Hiryu that goes in to finish off the Yorktown, I mean Broncos.

The Broncos offense is relatively balanced run/pass. Rookie Knowshon Moreno is the feature back. He does have 879 yards, but only averages 3.9 per carry. Correll Buckhalter is having a good year as part of the rotation, but has battled some injuries. The passing attack feeds the ball to Brandon Marshall. He's got 93 catches. The next 3 guys in terms of receptions (WR, WR, TE) have 100 combined. Marshall has 10 TDs. The rest of the team has 7 TD catches. That part of the offense is unbalanced. The OL has one star, LT Ryan Clady. He's big and athletic. Very talented player. The other guys are all workman-like blockers.

The passing game is somewhat ball control. They're 17th in the league in pass plays of 25 or more yards. I know several of them have come due to short passes and long RAC gains. They are 13th in the league in RAC yards. The Broncos have some guys with speed and athleticism, but you don't regularly see them attacking on offense. Denver is 17th in yards and 20th in scoring. They have Red Zone problems. Maybe they need to trade for Mike Vick in March.

The defense uses a 3-4 scheme. Mike Nolan is the DC and he's good. Denver is 3rd in fewest yards allowed. They're tied for 6th in fewest points. They are only 22nd in run defense, though. Despite a ton of change this unit is playing well.

None of the DL are impact players. NT Ronnie Fields is probably the key guy. He has to have some control of the middle for the edge attacks and creative blitzes to work. The LB unit has some players. The force off the edge is Elvis Dumervil. He leads the NFL with 15 sacks. Check out this stat. Dumervil only has 0.5 TFLs on the year. He's not making plays in the backfield, but he is getting to the QB. Weird. Does that mean he gets a bunch of coverage sacks? I haven't watched a ton of Denver in the last month or so. The other star LB is DJ Williams. He plays on the inside. DJ leads the team in tackles. He also has 3.5 sacks, 4 TFLs, 7 PDs, and 3 FFs. He can get to the ball or make plays. The secondary is led by CB Champ Bailey. He's still one of the best in the business. Champ can cover, hit, tackle, and play the run. The addition of Dawk at FS has been very important. He gives them a good player in the middle of the field and a high character leader.

Couple of quick numbers. They are 4-3 on the road. They are 2-1 vs NFC East. No Denver team has ever beaten the combination of Donovan McNabb, Joe Mays, and Dimitri Patterson. Denver is on a 2-game losing streak since beating the Giants on Thanksgiving night. I'll leave it up to you to figure which trend is most important.


QB KYLE ORTON - Too good to be "average". Too inconsistent to be "good". When he's on, Kyle is very effective. He beat us last year as QB of the Bears. Orton can be deadly accurate at times. He puts good touch on his throws.

RB KNOWSHON MORENO - Energetic rookie. Runs with a lot of emotion. Has a good burst. Should develop into a very good runner as he gets experience. Won't go down on first contact, but he's a big step down from Frank Gore. Has 22 catches on the year, but only averages 7 yards per reception.

TEs - Daniel Graham is the blocker, but also has 22 catches. Tony Scheffler is the tall, athletic receiver. He's got 30 grabs and 2 TDs. Scheffler is a good downfield receiver. He also has good RAC skills.

WRs - Eddie Royal exploded on the scene last year, but his production is way off. Last year he caught 91 passes. He's only got 37 this year. Eddie runs good routes. Has plenty of speed. I don't know if he's the problem or it is Orton or the coaches. Royal only averages 9.3 yards a catch. Crazy. Brandon Stokely is the slot guy that doesn't get used much. Only 24 passes have come his way. He is a tough, clutch receiver. He's only got 14 catches, but 3 went for TDs.

OL - Clady is the stud. Russ Hochstein is the LG. He came over from the Pats. Casey Wiegmann is the C. He is best known from his days with the Chiefs. The last time he missed a start Bobby Bowden was considered the best coach in college football and Duce Staley was our best playmaker. Chris Kuper is the RG. Tough, tenacious, overachiever type. Rookie Tyler Polumbus is the RT for now. He has okay feet, but is light in the saddle. He can be bullrushed and pushed around. He has 6 starts on the year and he's allowed 5 sacks.

DL - Kenny Peterson is the RDE. He's got 1 sack and 2.5 TFLs. He does have 37 tackles. Vonnie Holliday is a backup, but has 4 sacks, 2 TFLs and 2 FFs. He still has talent. Ryan McBean is the other starter. None of these guys is a big time playmaker. The 3-4 calls for DL to do the dirty work while the LBs get all the glory.

LB - Mario Haggan is the SAM. He was a STs demon for Buffalo in the past. He is tough and physical. He plays the run well. Lacks the burst off the edge to be a good pass rusher. He does have 8 TFLs. Dumervil is the pass rusher from the weakside. The ILBs are Williams and Andra Davis. Andra is a good tackler and run defender, but isn't strong in coverage. He is an effective blitzer (3.5 sacks, 8 TFLs). Top backups are Wesley Woodyard and Robert Ayers. Woodyard is a high motor type. Ayers is a talented rookie adjusting to LB.

S BRIAN DAWKINS - I haven't had a chance to closely watch our old friend each week, but he's pretty much the same old Dawk. Very good around the LOS. Good centerfielder. Occasionally struggles in coverage. Doesn't run the way he used to. I've seen him miss a couple of tackles. He had an easy shot at Michael Bush last week, but basically whiffed and that turned into about a 23-yard TD. I wanted Sean Jones to emulate Dawk, not the other way around. Dawk is 2nd in tackles. He got a couple of picks recently, both on tipped balls. He's having a solid season for the Broncos.

CB - Bailey is the star. Andre Goodman is the other starter. He leads the team in INTs and PDs. Goodman is a quality player. Rookie Tony Carter was the #3 guy last week and played okay. Granted he wasn't facing a daunting passing attack, but Carter held his own. For the season Denver CBs have a total of 6 INTs. They don't get beat a lot, but don't make a ton of plays. I remember those days.

STs - Mitch Berger was an Eagles draft pick in 1994...under Rich Kotite. Do punters last forever or what? Berger is having an okay year. Matt Prater is a solid PK. Eddie Royal and rookie Kenny McKinley have split time at RS. Royal is the more dangerous player.

Some Links of interest:

DEN stats

DEN depth chart

Last gamebook


Stephen said...

A beatable opponent, I think they provide an excellent challenge for us. They are good but not dominant on both sides of the ball, I clearly think considering their run defense and the fact that they have champ bailey should dictate a strong rushing attack, I'd love to see more power football running with Weaver and mixing in Mccoy.

I'd love to try and get Desean Jackson matched up on Dawkins on a deep route, I know Dawk doesn't have the speed to keep up with him.

Trent Cole should have his hands full working against Clady, he's a new wave stud LT.

Could Victor Abiamiri have a big game at LDE tommy? VA plays with a lot of power so if this RT is susceptible to bull rushes I could see VA having a lot of success against him.

The Old Buffoon said...

I'd never paid much attention to it before, but you're right, the Donovan/Joe/Dimitri factor will be huge this week.

I am a little concerned about how their OL might win some battles on the edges in the run game. Hopefully, we won't see our D being gashed like the Giants game.

Otherwise, if we play a solid, balanced game, I don't see how our O doesn't just simply put up more points than Denver. My vision for this game is seeing BWest take a screen for 20ish yards, get run out of bounds by BDawk, and then see the two embrace and talk trash as they return to the field. It's going to be very, very strange seeing BDawk tackling (& whiffing!) the green guys.

Myron said...

Why do I have this fear that DeSean is going to get hurt in this game?

Please Dawk, take it easy on our star receiver. No big hits!

I know he can't catch him in the open field, but I'm sure if McNabb hits DeSean on some crossing route and DeSean has to stand and wait to make the catch, Dawk could come screaming up the middle and flatten him a la London Fletcher in the Skins game. That would just be... horribly ironic, and not in a good way.

Cliff said...

This is another game where tackling will be paramount. Both Moreno and Marshall don't go down
after first contact. Asante won't be able to just high-five Marshall after the catch.

This game also features two players I badly wanted on draft day (2008 & 2009) but - ironically - I'm glad we drafted other guys instead. First, I badly wanted Eddie Royal in 2008. He's a high character person (sister was student leader of Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech, a big deal). He also has above-average return skills, something we needed in 2008 after the Mahe-debacle. We drafted DeSean, didn't need Eddie.

In 2009, I wanted Moreno like a Christmas carroler wants figgy pudding. We needed a franchise back to replace B-West and Moreno fits that bill. Ultimately, we got out replacement in McCoy, but managed to get a great WR in addition.

rick said...

I wanna see da Birds keep developing as a team - dispatching opponents like the Broncos with a workman-like efficiency. It would be all too easy to look past this game to next week when the division title will likely be up for grabs. Loss of focus and overconfidence can do a team in quicker than an opponent. Let's focus on this week and keep the steamroller moving along.

Boyboy said...

One thing that we definitely have over the rest of the NFC playoff field is the experience factor. It's this time of year when Reid, McNabb, and company are cool, calm and collected. While other teams have mental errors and slip-ups, we just go about our business in workman-like fashion.

I think that will show up this week in Denver and hopefully, next week in Dallas. This team knows it can go on the road and win a game in the post season. There will be more pressure on Denver (just to survive) and Dallas (to clinch the East) than there will be on the Eagles.

It's strange that every year Reid's team steps up in December and January. It makes you wonder why they can't be so consistent the rest of the year. It really makes me think that Andy spends two-thirds of the season tinkering with personnel and packages and finally settles on the team's identity late in the year.

With all that being said, our post season success will ultimately come down to the defense. If you look at the NFC field, it features a bunch of teams that can score points, but who can also be scored on. Whoever makes it from the conference is going to be one hell of a matchup for the Colts or Chargers in the Superbowl.

* I know, let's see how it plays out...but I really can't see anyone else in that conference knocking those teams off.