Archive for the ‘Jim Bates’ Category

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The Game vs Dallas

August 20, 2007

I did well on my self-imposed internet ban from Saturday 8pm until the re-airing of the Denver/Dallas game on the NFL Network 5pm (Eastern) Sunday. It was pretty easy, all things considering, as I stayed very busy.

I worked a bit more on clearing the half-acre of woodland behind my house, went to church, took my wife and our 5-year-old foster daughter to a nice Chinese restaurant for lunch, visited a gun & craft show (don’t ask) and continued working on a chainmaille coif (for those of you in Oakland, that’s medieval armor for your head). All in all a pretty full day!

So, I was ‘all ready’ for the game Sunday evening! My wife made chilli and I promised not to jump around and shout too loudly — it is only preseason after all (and I did a pretty good job keeping it quite while the little-one slept during the 49ers game).

However, I broke my promise almost immediately after the re-broadcast started. Not more than two minutes into the game the NFL Network scrolled the following news along the bottom of the screen: DEN Travis Henry to undergo MRI on injured knee.

All that preperation and effort went to piss within two minutes of the game. Oh, well. 🙂

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My thoughts on Denver’s MNF Skirmish

August 14, 2007

Things you wait eight months for can seem somewhat disappointing when they actually come around. Admittedly, I have been more involved this off-season than ever before. I started this blog, became active in several forums (I actually Mod over at TSZ), found several awesome Bronco blogs and generally spent hours each day researching all available info on my favorite NFL team.

With all that hype, I guess I should have been prepared for a little let-down after the first preseason game on Monday night. However, when the game was done I felt VERY down and out.

At first I thought that my post-game depression was due to the inevitable let-down after looking forward to something for so long. However, as I got up this morning I was still feeling rather icky about that game last night. Which makes me think that it has less to do with my emotional state, and much more to do with the performance of the team.

Now, I don’t want to say that there weren’t some very good moments last night! When we started the game with a 67 yard drive for an easy TD, I was whooping like a mad-man. Seeing Henry tear through defenders to find yardage was a beautiful thing.

But when our Broncos kick-off coverage allowed the 49ers to gain 31 yards on the following play I was fuming. As I’ve said over and over this off-season, our kick-off coverage was 31st in the league last year and Scott O’Brien was brought in to turn this around. I know this was only one play, but if first impressions really do count, I wasn’t impressed.

Then our 1st Team defense took the field, and it only took a few plays for my stomach to turn and my palms to start sweating. Our D-line seemed to have NO run stopping ability and the 49ers picked us apart with short-yardage passes that fell right between the LB’s and DB’s. Gains of 8,9,6 and 18 yards happened before we were able to get our first sack (thank you Engelberger) and force them to settle for three.

And that’s the way it seemed to go all night. We got an early lead and then let the 49ers take over in the time of possession and third down conversion battles. Yes, our 3rd and 4th stringer were good enough to prevent them from taking the lead back, but it was the sheer lack of stopping-power our Defense displayed that really caused my heart to sink.

Our Defense can not give up 144 yards on the ground and expect to win games. The 49ers gained a total of 386 yards to our 270 yards. The 49ers owned us in Time of Possession (by almost 10 minutes – that’s nearly a full quarter). They also converted WAY too many 3rd downs (7 of 16 while Denver was 3 of 9). We need to find a way to get our defense OFF THE FIELD!

The thing that shocked me the most was how eerily familiar this game was to our games last year. We only scored 17 points — that’s what we averaged under Jake Plummer in 2006. We won by holding on to a tiny lead. And the most scare fact is that our Defense looked just like the ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ system we seem to have fallen into each of the last few years.

Every year we have a DC that talks about how aggressive the new Defense is going to be, but then we get killed when our opponents begin tearing us up with those short passes. You can’t give away 5.2 yards per play and expect us to win 10-12 games.

Rationally, I do understand that our guys are still learning Bate’s new scheme. I know that there will be an adjustment period and that we still haven’t ironed out our starters along the D-line. I just hope that last night’s problem was the players’ learning curves rather than any inherent flaw in Bates’ system.
POSITIVE NOTE:

I was impressed with some of what I saw. On offense I loved seeing Henry and Cutler get to work. Walker made a nice catch and Hixon played bigger than his numbers show. I was also surprised by how well our O-line played considering the missing starters.

EDIT: You all need to check out BroncoTalk’s breakdown of that first Offensive drive. It’s great work by Kmonty (as always!): CHECK IT OUT!


On Defense I was impressed with Webster and Green at LB. Engelberger has many haters among the fans for some reason, but he played good ball on Monday. Dumervil also had a good night. But I loved what I saw from our Safeties; and not just our starters – but Abdullah, Cargile, Cox and (of course) Foxworth. Of the rookies, Crowder seemed to be the most active.

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Things I’m looking forward to tonight

August 13, 2007

“We don’t pay much attention to the first preseason game… I hate to say that, but it’s the truth.” 

— Mike Shanahan 8/10/07

Mike Shanahan doesn’t care about the rematch against the team who knocked the Broncos out of the playoff less than a year ago.  He hasn’t broken down the 49ers offense or defense.  He hasn’t spent hours preparing a special game plan or scripting the plays for Cutler’s first drive.  He just doesn’t care.

OK… more correctly, he cares — just not about the term ‘game.’

Mike Shanahan and his coaches view the coming Monday night skirmish as an extended practice, not a full football game.

Yes, it will be under the glaring lights of ESPN’s Monday Night Football cameras.  Yes, a football hungry nation will be watching, as tonight symbolizes the beginning of the season to many fans.  But just because millions of viewers will be tuning in won’t mean that the Bronco’s Head Coach will take his eyes off the prize.

And the ‘prize’ is a championship season in 2007.

From that perspective, the only thing that matters tonight is evaluating his personnel under game-play situations.

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That’s why I love the preseason, really.  I look forward to seeing all the fresh faces and lesser known players give 110% effort as they fight for a roster spot.  These preseason games can bring more energy and emotion than playoff games sometimes (just ask TD about Tokyo).

So, here is a list of things I’m looking forward to seeing tonight (mostly in order of importance to my personal entertainment):

1.  Jim Bates sideline manner – Oh, PLEASE get him a mic ESPN!!!!!

Bates and his coaches have been very vocal during camp and I can’t wait to see his sideline coaching style in his first game as a Bronco!

2.  Pass Rush – Blow ‘em up boys!
With all the attention the Broncos have placed on the D-line, I want to see even our 3rd and 4th teams terrorizing the 49ers tonight.  We will also get to see our rookies playing for the first time in orange and blue, which should be fun… And, heck, a little bit of payback is a good thing!

3.  Patrick Ramsey and Darrell Hackney – Let’s see your fastball guys!

Patrick Ramsey has shown great strides in learning Shanahan’s offensive system, so I’m looking forward to seeing him tonight.  I know there will be some struggling (especially early on) as this is his first game with the new unit, but the coaches have been impressed with his intelligence and the speed at which he’s picked up the scheme.  Darrell Hackney has also had a very good camp.  Tonight will give him a chance to show off his talents (not the least of which is his arm strength).

4.  Our young WR’s – who’s left?
We have some talented guys with not a lot of starting experience (and some with none).  However, players like Kircus, Hixon, Morgan and Clark have all done very well at camp.  It will be interesting to see how they do during tonight’s skirmish.

5.  Ground Assualt – Let’s see ‘em roll!
While I look forward to seeing our RB’s take the field, I have my doubts about their production this evening due to the missing starters along the O-line.  Lepsis and Hamilton will sit this one out.   That will cause the rest of the line to shuffle (all but Tom Nalen that is).  However, I think we should still be able to see flashes from our backs well into the 3rd and 4th teams tonight.  Of course, my favorite lesser known Bronco RB is Andre Hall and I can’t wait to see what he makes of his chances when the lights are on.

6.  What about SAM – who’s going to make the big play on the Strong Side?
Well, the reps have been split between Nate Webster and D.D. Lewis throughout camp.  Holdman and Moore are out and Green (listed as the starter) is battling a knee injury.  So, will it be Webster or Lewis that stands out this evening?


OTHER AREAS TO WATCH:

Broncos Logo   Strong Secondary – With the starters not getting many reps we’ll have to wait to see much of the Champ & Bly show for at least another week.  Still… We have some good backups, and it will be fun to see how well they do.

Broncos Logo   Full Backs – Watch the FB’s tonights carefully.  Kyle has been leading the work, but Paul Smith, Tony Fleming and even Cecil Sapp may get some reps.

Broncos Logo   Depth at O-line – Backup and rookie O-linemen should be fun to watch tonight.  This will be a great chance to see how they’re coming along.

Broncos Logo   D.J. in the Middle – Again, the starters won’t be in very long, but while they are D.J. Williams will likely make some big plays.

Broncos Logo   TE’s catching & blocking – We should see some of both from our TE’s this evening – it should be fun to watch!

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DT Gerard Warren may become trade bait

August 13, 2007

While many of my fan brethren are claiming they saw this one coming for nearly a year, I have to say I’m pretty shocked. I knew there would be turn over on our D-line when Bates came in, but Warren fit the Bates model better than most of our returning linemen and we just gave him a nice deal in the off-season. So, when the Denver Post reported today that Gerard Warren wasn’t traveling with the Broncos to San Francisco because Denver was attempting to shop him for a trade I was a rather surprised.

The Post is reporting that two different sources have confirmed Denver is looking to trade the defensive tackle (most likely for a 2008 draft pick). Now, I don’t know how much of this I’m buying because they also claim Warren wasn’t a “fit” for Jim Bates’ system. That’s simply hog-wash. Warren is 6’4″ and 325lbs. If Jimmy Kennedy is filling Warren’s slot, it’s not because he’s a bigger Bates run stuffer (officially they’re listed at the same height and weight).

More than likely this is a case where the broncos feel they have good depth at DT; and more importantly, no considerable drop-off between 1st Team and 2nd Team talent. In that situation, they might be able to get a draft pick in 08 by trading the best known name on the D-line without hurting the team.

I mean, we can’t keep ALL of the DT’s we have on the roster right now, and if they cut from the bottom, they don’t get any draft picks at all. And while I like Warren, he might not have shown enough difference between himself and players like Kennedy to justify keeping him over his cheaper counterparts.

Jimmy Kennedy will start in Warren’s 1st Team spot tonight. We also have Sam Adams, Alvin McKinley, Amon Gordon, Antwon Burton and rookie Marcus Thomas.

Denver Post: FULL STORY

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TRAINING CAMP: DAY 2

July 30, 2007

NOTES AND NEWS FROM DAY TWO OF TRAINING CAMP:

“That long arm’s going to be home for you baby, home! That’s the leverage we’ve got to have, gentlemen!”

— Jim Bates, in reference to a great play by Elvis Dumervil

So, Day #2 is in the books.

The Broncos had another great day of practice. The morning practice was with shoulder pads and shorts, and the afternoon practice was a shortened Special Teams session. Highlights included Brandon Stokley’s impressive work as he competes for the #2 WR spot. Jarvis Moss showing some great improvement today and Elvis Dumervil proving to his new coach that a short man with long arms can still bust up a play (see above quote)!

On to the notes…

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OFFENSIVE LINE UPS: MONDAY

den-logo.jpg Wide Outs:
Brandon Stokley and Hixon both had time with the first team, but Stokley seemed to impress the most.

den-logo.jpg Tight Ends:
No real change, although Nate Jackson had a good practice. Daniel Graham remained the primary TE with Stephen Alexander and Nate Jackson both getting some reps on the 1st Team. Teyo Johnson worked exclusively with the 2nd and 3rd Teams.

den-logo.jpg Running Backs:
Travis Henry began to pull away seriously from the pack as the rest of the roster followed. Cecil Sapp was running second with Mike Bell, Andre Hall and Young following behind.

den-logo.jpg O-line:
* 1st Team O-line was unchanged from yesterday: LT Matt Lepsis, LG Ben Hamilton, C Tom Nalen, RG Chris Kuper and RT Erik Pears.

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DEFENSIVE LINE UPS: MONDAY

den-logo.jpg D-line:
* 1st Team D-line stayed the same as Sunday: DE’s Ebenezer Ekuban and John Engelberger, DT’s Gerard Warren and Sam Adams.

NICKLE PACKAGE NOTE: Amon Gordon replaced Adams in this package.

den-logo.jpg Linebackers:
* 1st Team LB’s saw D.D. Lewis rotate in for his turn with the unit: SAM D.D. Lewis, WILL Ian Gold, MIKE D.J. Williams

den-logo.jpg Secondary:
No surprises here as CB’s Champ Bailey and Dre’ Bly and Safeties Nick Ferguson and John Lynch played on the 1st Team. Foxworth was their Nickel back and Cox joined the 1st Team during work on the Dime Package.

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Jim Bates: face-to-face with his players

July 27, 2007

I thought this was an interesting tidbit in the Rocky Mountain News…

Jim Bates has announced that he plans to stroll the sidelines during the games instead of working from the booth (as both Larry Coyer and Ray Rhodes did). This doesn’t give him the bird’s eye view of the field, but it will allow him to be face-to-face with his players.

“Just the feel of the players, the body language of the players, seeing their eyes. You can’t see that in the box. You don’t know the feeling of the players. On the field, you get a different feel for where your players are at and direct communication with them — I like that.”

— Jim Bates 7/25/07

My respect for Bates just went up quite a bit. I like the idea that he believes it is better to read his players than to see the unfolding of the play from on high. He fell in love with this perspective after he came down from the booth when he took over as the interim head coach in Miami.

I might also add that I’m not the only one that believes that the leader of our Defense should be among his men on the sidelines. My understanding is that Mike Shanahan didn’t like Ray Rhodes move to the booth, and even threatened to force him to the sideline if his unit didn’t preform well. Now, I never heard anything like that when Coyer was the DC, but I can easily see Shanahan being pleased that his new Defensive Guru has decided to join him on the field. Mike Shanahan hasn’t had that kind of sideline company since Greg Robinson left the team at the end of 2000.

Not that we won’t have annalists in the booth. In fact now days, with advanced communication between the booth and the field, most coaches have access to photos and other info from the booth almost instantly. In 2007, Bates plans to have his Defensive Coordinator, Bob Slowik, lead his eyes in the sky team. That should free Bates to motivate his troops face-to-face.

And one possible motivation for the players this year will be avoiding returning to the sideline after missing a tackle to face the wraith of Bates!

Rocky Mountain News Article: FULL STORY

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My Training Camp Questions

July 24, 2007

Everyone has their list of top Training Camp questions. The Denver Post, ESPN, FOX Sports even this complete dolt over at Yahoo! Sports. Jason Cole actually thinks our biggest training camp issue is that we will be abandoning our traditional Zone Blocking Scheme:

“For the first time in more than a decade, the Broncos are getting away from their traditional cut-blocking scheme in favor of a more traditional style featuring heavier linemen. The timing is unfortunate, as new RB Travis Henry would have been perfect in the old scheme. But because second-year QB Jay Cutler isn’t suited for the movement of the old system, change was essential. It will be interesting to see how it works out.”

— Jason Cole on Yahoo! Sports

Of course this is complete absurdity and Cole should be fired for writing such unresearched garbage — I would surely get sacked if I did my job this piss poorly.

Cole’s idiotic ramblings aside, most of the Training Camp questions poised on these lists are valid areas of concern. And narrowing it down to a set number (like a top five) is fairly difficult. And prioritizing that list is even more complicated. However, I have undertaken this daring feat and am reasonably certain that I haven’t embarrassed myself too badly — well, at least not as badly as Jason Cole did. 🙂

 

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Jon’s Top Five Training Camp Questions:

#5 O-line Work:

Matt Lepsis’ return is a big boost for the O-line that tended to struggle last year. However, I think for the first time in a long time, there is serious competition along the line as we rebuild the Right side. It looks like Pears and Meadow will be duking it out for the Right Tackle spot, while Chris Kuper and Montrae Holland will lead the fight at the Right Guard position.

However, my concern stems from the fact that at the same time we’re working on figuring out our new Right side for the O-line, Travis Henry is attempting to develop chemistry with the personnel upfront to maximize our ZBS. This could delay the development of that chemistry and might even mean a slower start to Henry’s ground game dominance (which I have no doubt about at all).

SUMMARY:

I would like to see a couple of guys step up early and maintain their lead along the Right side, so that Henry can begin getting used to their blocking styles and gap creation. I’d like to see Pears and Kuper excel. I’d also like to see our young rookies in Ryan Harris and Greg Eslinger develop into quality backups and/or practice squad projects.

#4 Overhaul on the D-line:

Many lists include adjusting to Bates new defensive scheme. Or D.J.’s move to the middle, but I don’t think either one is the highest Defensive concern. That honor going to our D-line. And while our new line will not be decided during Training Camp, I think we might get a highlight or two from a couple of players that could play into the coaches final decision. However, don’t expect to see anything significant until the preseason. At that point it will become obvious to both coaches and fans what rotations and combinations work the best.

SUMMARY:

We will get to see a heavy rotation during camp of all the D-linemen. I’m very interested in how our new linemen compete relative to the old pros we acquired. Look for Thomas to be the first of the rookies to see first team work. I think Bates & Johnson will give him a shot early to see what he can do.

#3 Making Special Teams Special:

Ok, I know I’ve harped on this quite a bit, but gosh darn it we stank last year in our coverage of kick off and punt coverage. We ranked 31st in the league in yards allowed on kick offs, and THAT has to change. We allowed almost 5 extra yards per return than the average kick off coverage teams last year. And when you multiply that by the 55 kick returns we faced last year, it means that we gave up 275 yards more than the average NFL team in 2006.

This year we have a new Special Teams Guru, Scott O’Brien. He has a great track record, so we’re all hoping that what we see on the field this year is much, MUCH better than 2006. Camp (and the preseason) is a place when players can make a name for themselves by excelling on Special Teams. We have several ST standouts who have made a place for themselves due to their contribution on Special Teams.

SUMMARY:

Look for most of the media to focus on the heated battle for kick off and punt returners. Those are glamorous positions with lots of attention given them. However, the coaches will be watching Special Teams practices for that one or two players that lay it all on the line (think Terrell Davis in Tokyo his rookie year). Those usually unsung warriors of Special Teams will be the ones O’Brien is trying to find to make his unit something truly special this year.

#2 Wide Open Wideout Competition:

We have several questions at play in the area of WR. Javon Walker is a clear starter. Much has been made regarding his mental state after Darrent Williams’ death, but I think Walker will turn those emotions into on-field drive and dedicate (even if not verbally) the season to D-will. After Walker the picture gets cloudy.

Every Bronco fan wants to see Brandon Marshall come into his own. We all want to see the true star he showed signs of becoming last year. And although Marshall has spent the off-season practicing and working on strength and conditioning, he still seems prone to injury. He was hampered at Team Camp and, again, was injured during Mini-Camp. He needs to stay health to make the #2 spot we all know he can fill. After Marshall, there is a slew of receivers waiting their turn.

Leading the pack (IMHO) is Brandon Stokley. He is ahead of schedule and was working on 7-on-7’s at Mini-Camp. If there are no set backs I would surprised if he doesn’t score the 3rd WR spot. Then there’s Kircus, whom I really like from last year. Domenik Hixon and Quincy Morgan, who have a good shot at the Special Teams returner position. We also have Brian Clarke, Marquay McDaniel and David Terrell.

And the widecard is Rod Smith. In my opinion, the question is not if he will return. The question is if he can return in time. Mike Shanahan will give Smith all the time he can, but I’m not sure how long that is. If Smith isn’t able to practice at Camp and then doesn’t get into any games in the preseason, Shanahan will be up against roster cut deadlines and he will be looking at this undesirable choice: Keep Rod or someone else that is needed elsewhere on the roster. That will be a terrible choice and my only hope is that Rod can make a meaningful appearance prior to those cut deadlines. That will give him some stock value and possibly give him time to fully recover before becoming a necessary casualty.

SUMMARY:

In Camp we should get a good feel for who Cutler is comfortable throwing to, and who is learning the system quickest. We won’t know who will be cut at the conclusion of camp as Shanahan always weights preseason play heavily into his final roster decisions. However, Camp should provide our first clues as the each player’s direction.

#1 Cutler’s Development:

My number one question leading into Camp still revolves around Cutler. I truly think that this team will go as far as #6 will take us and his development is critical to the success of our whole team. We’ve heard some great things from players and coaches about Cutler’s awesome work habits and desire to learn and grow this off-season. Camp is where we will get our first serious look at what he’s really picked up.

SUMMARY:

Many people have mentioned that Cutler has a great advantage working against our top notch secondary. And while I’m sure Cutler throws against Champ and Bly on occasion, the bulk of the first team offensive practices are against the second team defense. That being said, we have SO many players fighting for a spot on the D-line, that Cutler and his O-line will get plenty of pocket pressure experience. This will test both our repaired and rebuilt O-line, but also Cutler’s ability to complete reads and feel pressure in the pocket. And I would argue, we’ll also see some pretty good footwork from Cutler as he gets out and runs the ball when his protection breaks down. I think some people under estimate Cutler’s scrabbling ability. And after having the Snake behind Center, it might seem like that. But don’t think our new QB isn’t mobile. He’ll scrabble when necessary — you’ll see.

 

 

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That pretty much sums up my biggest concerns or questions heading into Camp. There are some other areas that will be great to watch for during Camp and the preseason. So, I’ll work up a list of interesting positions battle and other areas/players to watch this Camp tomorrow.