Saturday, December 26, 2009

Strategy & Matchups - DEN


Sorry for the delayed post. My nephews drained every bit of energy I had and I've been a zombie all Saturday. Anyway, I'm finally done. The first test was finishing the post. The second will be to see if it actually makes any sense. If not, I'll just blame my nephews.

Denver is a confusing team. I kept thinking I would figure out the Broncos. Never really happened. The defense has been good all year, but the offense is highly inconsistent. In their eight wins Denver averages more than 25 points per game. In six losses the team averages 12 points per game and hasn’t scored 20 points in any of the contests. The tough thing is trying to figure out what makes them work and not work. Quarterback Kyle Orton has been up and down in wins and losses. Same for rookie runner Knowshon Moreno. Turnovers haven’t been an overwhelming problem. It just seems like in some games there are costly mistakes. How the heck do you plan for that?

Orton was the starter for Chicago last year and led the Bears to a win over us. I’m sure that gives him some confidence. He made some terrific throws in that game. His numbers look good this year (rating is just under 90), but the low point totals in the losses tell you that there are problems. Last week Orton was only 19 of 34 in the loss to Oakland. The Broncos struggled in the red zone and only scored one touchdown all game long. That kept the Raiders in the game and they won with a late score. Had Denver been better than 1-of-4 in the red zone they probably win that game. Going just 4-of-15 on third downs also hurt them a great deal.

The passing attack goes through Brandon Marshall. He has 93 catches. Eddie Royal is next with 37, but he's reportedly going to miss the game. That means Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Stokely should get more PT. It doesn't mean they'll get many passes. Marshall is just as likely to get more touches. One oddball thing caught my attention in checking out the numbers. Marshall had his three highest yardage totals all in losses. Maybe extra yards for him is a good thing for us. The biggest test for us in regard to Marshall isn't coverage, but rather tackling him. He only averages 11.6 ypc. A lot of short throws come his way. We must stop him to limit RAC yards.

I'm curious to see what we do in regard to TE. Daniel Graham is the starter, but Tony Scheffler is the better receiver. I'm sure we'll aim our coverages toward Scheffler. That could mean that Graham has a chance to catch a pass or two in certain situations.

I think the matchup at the LOS favors us. Trent Cole vs Ryan Clady is going to be a fun matchup to watch. Both guys are outstanding players. I think we can get some work done against the RT, rookie Tyler Polumbus. I've seen him get bullrushed in a couple of games. Juqua Parker can be a solid bull rusher. So can Jason Babin. The best fit would be Victor Abiamiri. He’s played very little defensive end in the last couple of months. Abiamiri has the strength and power to drive Polumbus right back into Orton. Will Abiamiri get reps at left end?

As for DT, something occurred to me the other day. Trevor Laws has sat out the last couple of games. The run defense in those games hasn't been good. Clearly Trevor isn't a great run defender, but I wonder if the few snaps he plays help to rest our starters and that makes a difference. Could be just that we've faced good running backs and that is the key to the last 2 weeks. It will be interesting to see if Trevor plays and if that has any affect. I do think Bunk and Patt should control the middle in this game. I'll be disappointed if they stay blocked.

As far as our offense against their defense...I know a lot of people are focused on the Broncos bad ranking in run defense (22nd). That stat is somewhat misleading. They don't give up four or five yards on every run. The Broncos stop the run pretty well most of the time. They do get burned by big plays. Last week Oakland ran for 241 yards. You have to break that down to really understand it. 173 of those yards came on just eight carries. The other 26 runs averaged less than three yards per attempt. Big plays can be had, but you must live with the short gains in order to get to the big plays. That isn't always something that Marty and Big Red are willing to do. Let's hope we have some early success or a big run or two in order to keep the ground game going throughout the game.

I think the key runner will be Leonard Weaver. Last week Michael Bush burned Denver with some good upfield runs. Weaver isn’t as gifted or as big as Bush, but has a downhill running style and good burst. I think quick hitting running plays with Weaver could have some success.

Westy will play on Sunday. He's returning as a role player, not the key offensive weapon. I'm sure Reid and Marty will come up with some smart ways to get Brian involved. Something tells me he'll get at least one screen pass his way. I'd love to see us use him on a wheel route against any Denver LB not named D.J. Williams.

We all know that the Eagles running game isn't just standard tailback runs. Our WRs have 12 carries on the season. We also have had good success with Mike Vick recently. He got hurt early vs SF and left the game. He's not a lock to play Sunday. If he sits out, maybe we use some of his plays with Westy as the QB. We did that vs the Saints and had some success.

I think our vertical passing attack will be important. Denver has some talented veteran DBs, but they don't run as well as they used to. They have some young guys with speed, but those players lack experience. I think the best way to test the secondary is by stretching it wide and deep and making the guys cover a lot of ground. Throwing short lets them cover tightly and come up and whack the receivers.

This is a good game to get back Jeremy Maclin. His deep speed is a good fit for the Broncos. We've just missed on deep balls the last two weeks to Reggie Brown, who was playing Maclin's spot. Denver can roll coverage to DeSean's side, but with Maclin on the field that evens out the situation a bit more.

Let's talk about Dawk for a second. He will be fired up and raring to go. That could work against him early on. Might this be the week we bring back the Flea Flicker? Or go play-action and see if he'll bite up on a simple fake. Or just run a double move right at him and see if you can get him to bite. I'm not here to rip our former hero, but it would be dishonest to act as if he didn't have some holes in his game. Dawk does not have the wheels to run with DeSean (not many Safeties do). That is a matchup we want. I'm sure Marty and Andy will have some plays designed for DJax to face Dawk. Mike Nolan knows this and will have some counter-measures in place. Will Denver play Dawk more like a SS because of that? Will they have him play really deep? Dawk can be a terrific centerfielder, but you hate putting him 15 yards off the ball because he's so good in the box. We all love Dawk, but I hope he is miserable for 3 hours on Sunday.

Our OL should win the matchup with the Broncos front. Jason Peters has the toughest test. He'll be charged with blocking LB Elvis Dumervil, who leads the NFL with 15 sacks. That is almost half of the team's total. No other player has more than 4. I think we can get push in the run game. Jamaal Jackson should be able to block NT Ronnie Fields.

We got a lucky break from the schedule makers. Last week we played San Francisco. They run a 3-4 defense. Mike Singletary is now the head coach, but he took over last year at midseason for Nolan. Both teams run the same scheme and both units were at least partially built by the same guy. That doesn’t mean we’ll know exactly what Denver is doing because we just faced the Niners, but playing them back to back sure can’t hurt. At this time of the season you’re looking for any advantage you can get.

Do you remember what happened last year in the next-to-last game? WAS beat us with great D, 10-3. The offense is playing better now. I would be shocked to see us play a game like that right now. Still, we were hot last year going into that game. None of us saw that game coming. You never know what will happen. This team does seem different. We've handled adversity a lot better than in the past couple of years. We have yet to see the team put up a complete showing. This game would be an okay time to do that.


Tommy Lawlor said...

Couple of points from the last discussion.

@ Cliff...

My choice for best TV show of the decade is "The Wire". 2nd place for me would be "The Shield". I loved that show, but The Wire was greatness on a whole other level.

Tommy Lawlor said...

RE: Mike Shanahan

Funny you guys bring him up. I mentioned to a friend Shanny could go to UF because of his ties to Jeremy Foley. In the end I don't think that will happen. Snyder can outpay any college. I don't fear Shanny going to WAS, but I would prefer they hire someone who is less competent. Dave Campo looks great in red/maroon/burgundy (whatever that shade is).

Cliff said...

Bingo. My pick is The Wire, too. I hate "best of" lists this time of year, but this is one I'd actually get in a fight over.

I will now ask everyone I know this question to judge their worth and determine their place in the rest of my life.

Side note... I never got in to The Shield, but I've never heard a bad thing about it. Guess I just missed that wave.

Myron said...

Why is it so trendy to like "The Wire"? I tried watching that a few times and almost fell asleep because it was so slow and plodding.

Best reality show of the decade: Kitchen Nightmares (UK version)

Best fictional show of the decade: Breaking Bad

Anyway, regarding tomorrow's game: I have a bad feeling that this could turn into a very disappointing loss. I'm kind of worried about their defense forcing turnovers or sacking McNabb and, subsequently, Orton having a great game. I hope we can win, but this is a talented and desperate team.

BTW, Tommy, how does Denver's defense go from one of the worst in the league to one of the best overnight? That can't be solely the result of signing Dawk, can it? What else did they do, or is Dawk really a large part of their improvement?

Tommy Lawlor said...

I turned on The Shield to watch the first episode because the director was Clark Johnson, who had played Detective Meldrick Lewis on Homicide: Life on the Streets. I'm a fanatical Homicide fan. Reed Diamond, also from Homicide, was in the first couple of episodes.

I got hooked pretty quickly on The Shield. Vic Mackey is one of the great characters in TV history. Michael Chiklis' performances in the final handful of episodes are simply brilliant. The final episode of that show was gut-wrenching.

The Wire tended to touch you on an intellectual level. The Shield was mostly about emotions. They mixed in just enough smart writing so that you could appreciate the show for something other than a testosterone rush.

You know Clark Johnson as the editor from the final season of The Wire. He was the guy who suspected the reporter was lying and chased that angle. Clark also directed many episodes.

If we can ever get Frank Pembleton, Vic Mackey, Jimmy McNulty, and Elliot Stabler on the same case I don't see how the criminals have a shot.

Tommy Lawlor said...


They had some miscast players last year that are now much better fits for the 3-4. Dumervil is much better as a rush LB. Kenny Peterson is much better as a 3-4 DE. And so on.

Don't discount the importance of Safety play in the NFL. Dawk is good at cleaning up messes created by those in front of him. His angles, range, and sure tackling are huge.

Tommy Lawlor said...

@ Myron...

Breaking Bad is quite a good show. My only complaint is that every episode is so tough to watch. Jesse and Walt constantly walk a tight rope. That wears me down. I feel a sense of relief at the end of each episode.

I've had a couple of friends who also didn't like The Wire. Honestly, I'm not sure how. Great writing. Great acting. Interesting situations, plots, and characters.

The Wire wasn't a "pleasant" show with a bunch of good looking women and slick characters. Also, it felt very real. Not everyone wants that. Some people want TV to be an escape rather than a reminder of how bad things are in the world.

Stephen said...

I'm with you on the shield, I used to love that show but I lost track of it going into the later seasons. I've never seen the wire, not sure what I think of it.

I tend to like the more "real" shows than the fantasy ones, but I feel like I miss out on a lot because I don't have HBO, I constantly hear about things like The Sopranos or Deadwood or Weeds and they sound like awesome shows but I never get to see them.

I think Desean Jackson on Dawk deep is the matchup we want. Desean Jackson running a crossing route in front of Dawk is not the matchup we want. Thats another concussion waiting to happen.

I will have a warm fuzzy feeling for Dawk before the game, but once that ball is kicked off he's the enemy, and I hope we run circles on him all game.

Dollar Brand said...

You ever check out "The Corner"? Also a David Simon creation about inner city Baltimore. Sean Nelson as young DeAndre turns in a great performance. The Wire is not for everyone. The fourth season on education was very difficult to watch at times. Bubbles is one of my favorite characters in addition to Bunk and McNulty.
You happen to catch the cameo by Steve Earle as Walon at the NA meetings. Good stuff.

Ben said...

Tommy the one thing I can't get over when mentally preparing myself for this game is noticing that the Broncos are 2-6 in their last 8 games. That's terrible. Not to mention, they are no better than a .500 team. Why? Because their week 1 win (last second ball deflection to Stokely's hands) was simply a lucky fluke play.

For those reasons I feel that this is another week of "taking care of business"

The thanksgiving day game was one of their wins. They killed the Giants and looked great. Was that the short week hurting the Gmen? I think that entire team woke up that day and left their swagger in bed (similar to us vs. Oakland). Aside from that they're 1-6 lately. We match up very well against these guys unless Marshall turns into Plax 2.0 (comes w/out a gun).

The only way to get Shady, Westy, and Weaver their carries is to run more... just getting my hopes up...

Prem Prakash said...

I'm so old school I still rate NYPD Blues as my #1 drama, regardless of decade. Stephen, There's a bunch of private web sites that post HBO shows immediately after they are broadcast. Easy to find, but you didn't hear it from me.

Two great ballplayers return today -- Dawk and Westy. As far as I'm concerned, Dawk is the enemy until after the game. He's one of my all-time favorite Philly athletes, but he gets no love before the game. Until the final gun, he's just another dude in a girlie-colored uniform who left the Eagles for a bigger paycheck. Alright, I would likely have done the same thing, and he has handled himself with great class, but he still gets no props until after we win.

I think Westy will have an impact today. I hope Weaver and McCoy continue to be our primary running backs, with Brian being used for screens, drop-offs, and maybe the shuffle pass down by the goal-line. I also think he can be significant in the backfield, picking up Dumervil and blitzing safties like what's his name, #20?

Buck also returns today, a warrior who is having a very productive year. Here's hoping Desean gets his 50 yard td today and breaks the record. Let's hope the Eagles learned from that painful Redskins loss at this point last year and no with no let-down today we should win in workman-like manner.

Cliff said...

What separates The Wire from other shows is how endearing the characters are. That's particularly ironic in Season 5 where the "Baltimore as the main character" and "Dickensian" angles were played up. However, I've never watched a show hoping - yearning - for characters to change, do better, not get hurt, etc., like I did for The Wire.

Favorite character was Bodie. I thought for sure he was going to get out and "turn good." When Chris, Snoop, and Michael took him down on the corner; they took me down with him.

You know what character I always forget about? D'Angelo Barksdale. When I rewatch Season 1, I always find myself going, "Oh yeah, D'Angelo."

Cliff said...

Oh, back to football. What are the chances Washington finds some pride and gives it to the Cowboys tonight?

I hope Dallas is looking past this game. They've listened to a lot of "Super Bowl, playoffs" talk after beating the Saints. Let's hope that goes to their head.

Ben said...

interesting thing i noticed on the vikings..

they play chi tomorrow night. cutlers awfulness becomes exponential in prime time. gotta think the vikings will walk away easy. however, it is a division game, and it'll leave them on a short week for the gmen.

**here's to brett and brad fighting with each other**

Baloophi said...

I think we can all agree that if Dan Snyder hires Lieutenant Daniels as coach we're all in big big trouble.