Archive for the ‘Scott O’Brien’ Category

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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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TRAINING CAMP: DAY 3

July 31, 2007

NOTES AND NEWS FROM DAY THREE OF TRAINING CAMP:

Domenik Hixon InjuredWe’re at Day Three at Dove Valley, boys and girls!

And the biggest news from the morning practice is Domenik Hixon’s shoulder injury. The speedy receiver landed on it during the later part of the morning session.

“I just came out and tried to make a play and landed on my shoulder. That’s football.” — Domenik Hixon 7/31/07

The injury is thought to be ‘slight,’ although he will not be returning to the field for the rest of the day. Mike Shanahan discribed the injury as a 1st degree shoulder separation. They will have a MRI done tomorrow to determine the exact injury and recovery time.

Hixon’s absence left room for David Kircus to show off his skills. He had some very acrobatic catches, but he also dropped or bobbled several passes leading Shanahan to mention his consistancy in his post-practice presser.

“He’s a little inconsistent. He drops the ball a few too many times, but he does come up with the big play. That consistency dictates whether or not you get a chance to play come game time. But David does show flashes and hopefully that consistency will improve and if it does improve he will have a chance to be on the football team.”

— Mike Shanahan 7/31/07

However, the ray of hope for Day 3 was seeing Rod Smith running (well, jogging) on the field after the second practice! Go Rod — we NEED ya buddy! 🙂

* Image provide by Erik Lars Bakke and Andrew Mason *

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ONE-A-DAY GROUP

Veteran Players on one-a-day status included: Champ Bailey, John Lynch, Nick Ferguson, Tom Nalen, Matt Lepsis, Ebenezer Ekuban, Sam Adams and Stephen Alexander. Brandon Stokley and Adam Meadows both practiced after sitting out the morning session. Travis Henry also got the afternoon practice off.

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OFFENSIVE LINE UPS: TUESDAY

den-logo.jpg Wide Outs:
With Hixon out and Brandon Stokley only practicing in the evening, David Kircus ran with the 1st Team and Brian Clark was the #3 WR.

den-logo.jpg Tight Ends:
No real change, Nate Jackson and Chad Mustard were also on the 1st Team for kick off returns.

den-logo.jpg Running Backs:
Again, no change. Travis Henry with Cecil Sapp running second. 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. AFTERNOON: With Lepsis and Nalen sitting out the practice, Chris Myers took over at center, RT Erik Pears shifted over to the left side and Adam Meadows took Pears’ spot at RT.

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DEFENSIVE LINE UPS: TUESDAY

den-logo.jpg D-line:
* 1st Team D-line stayed the same as the last couple of days: DE’s Ebenezer Ekuban and John Engelberger, DT’s Gerard Warren and Sam Adams. AFTERNOON: Elvis Dumervil lined up at right DE with Ekuban on one-a-days.

DIME PACKAGE NOTE: Ekuban and Warren were the tackles with ends Jarvis Moss and Elvis Dumervil.

den-logo.jpg Linebackers:
* With Ian Gold out with back spasms, the 1st Team LB’s were: D.D. Lewis at SAM, D.J. Williams at MIKE and Louis Green at WILL.

den-logo.jpg Secondary:
No changes 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. Rookie Roderick Rogers did seem 2nd Team action late in the morning practice. AFTERNOON: Domonique Foxworth and Curome Cox filled in for Lynch and Ferguson in the afternoon and Karl Paymah filled in for Champ.

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SPECIAL TEAMS LINE UPS: TUESDAY

den-logo.jpg Kick-Off Return Team:
On Special Teams the 1st kick-off return team looked like this: Safeties Steve Cargile & Hamza Abdullah, RB Cecil Sapp, LB’s Warrick Holdman & D.D. Lewis, TE’s Nate Jackson & Chad Mustard, DE Tim Crowder and O-lineman Chris Myers.

Returners consisted of WR Quincy Morgan and RB Mike Bell, with Kircus and WR Glenn Martinez each fielded some kicks as well. Morgan’s lead blocking was handled by Kyle Johnson, while Troy Fleming worked with Bell.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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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.

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Off-Season Recap

June 27, 2007

In an attempt to put our busy off-season into perspective, I’ve organized most of our moves and notable news this off-season into one timeline.  I did add two items from 2006 (Jay Cutler’s starting at QB and Al Wilson injuring his neck).  I’ve also added this timeline to a page under the Information.

Let me know if I missed anything.

2007 OFFSEASON TIMELINE

  • 11/27/06 — Cutler is named the starting QB. 
  • 12/3/06 — Al Wilson injures his neck during the Seattle game.
  • 1/01/07 — Shooting death of starting CB Darrent Williams.
  • 1/02/07 — Denver signs ten players for the 2007 season: FB Troy Fleming, QB Darrell Hackney, DE Carlos Hall, LB T.J. Hollowell, P Eddie Johnson, TE Teyo Johnson, G Kevin McAlmont, CB Lamont Reid, T Jacob Rogers and LB Cameron Vaughn.
  • 1/04/07 — Denver signs FB Thump Belton, CB Eric Hill, WR Glenn Martinez and G Doug Nienhius for the 2007 season.
  • 1/05/07 — Denver signs RB Andre Hall and CB Jeff Shoate for the 2007 season.
  • 1/09/07 — Denver fires Defensive Coordinator Larry Coyer.
  • 1/10/07 — Denver cuts loose defensive line/tackles coach Andre Patterson.
  • 1/11/07 — Jim Bates is is named Denver’s assistant head coach/defense and Bob Slowik is promoted from secondary coach to defensive coordinator.
  • 1/12/07 — Denver allocates five to NFL Europa: C Greg Eslinger, TE Teyo Johnson, G Kevin McAlmont, T Doug Nienhuis and CB Lamont Reid.
  • 1/16/07 — Denver’s TE coach, Tim Brewster, accepts the head coaching job at the University of Minnesota.
  • 1/17/07 — Bill Johnson is hired as the teams defensive line coach.
  • 1/28/07 — The Broncos hire Scott O’Brien as special-teams coach, Joe Baker as linebackers coach and moving former special-teams coach Ronnie Bradford to assistant defensive backs coach.
  • 2/11/07 — John Lynch and Champ Bailey help the AFC win the Pro Bowl.
  • 2/25/07 — RB Damien Nash passes away after a charity basketball event. 
  • 2/26/07 — Rod Smith undergoes hip surgery.
  • 3/02/07 — Denver trades with Detroit: CB Dre Bly for RB Tatum Bell, George Foster and a 5th-round pick in the draft.
  • 3/03/07 — Jake Plummer retires as the Broncos trade him to the Bucs for a conditional draft pick in 2008.  Denver also trade their 6th-round pick to Miami for a DT Dan Wilkinson.
  • 3/05/07 — Denver signs RB Travis Henry, G Montrae Holland and RB Paul Smith.
  • 3/09/07 — Denver signs TE Daniel Graham.
  • 3/12/07 — Denver re-signs WR Quincy Morgan.
  • 3/13/07 — Denver re-signs DE Kenny Peterson.
  • 3/19/07 — DE Courtney Brown is released.  Denver signs QB Patrick Ramsey.
  • 3/20/07 — Denver signs DT Alvin McKinley.
  • 3/22/07 — Denver signs WR Brandon Stokley.
  • 3/24/07 — Denver hires defensive assistant Charlie Jackson.
  • 3/28/07 — CB Dre Bly and the Broncos agree to a contract extention.
  • 3/31/07 — Denver’s trade with Miami for Dan Wilkinson is voided when Wilkinson doesn’t showup for his physical.
  • 4/03/07 — Off-season workouts begin.
  • 4/09/07 — Mike Shanahan agrees to a contract extention.
  • 4/12/07 — Denver signs WR David Terrell. 2007-08 NFL schedule is released.
  • 4/20/07 — Denver signs kicker Todd Sauerbrun.
  • 4/26/07 — Denver releases LB Al Wilson and signs LB Warrick Holdman and LB D.D. Lewis.
  • 4/28/07 — Denver moves up to draft DE Jarvis Moss.  They also draft DE Tim Crowder and OT Ryan Harris. 
  • 4/29/07 — Denver again moves up and drafts DT Marcus Thomas.
  • 5/01/07 — Denver waives RB Cedric Cobbs.
  • 5/02/07 — Denver signs five college free agents: G Tim Duckworth, DT Steven Harris, WR Marquay McDaniel, S Roderick Rogers and RB Selvin Young.
  • 5/07/07 — Denver signs college free agents C Mark Fenton and kicker Brandon Pace.  They release Tim Duckworth.
  • 5/14/07 — Denver waives TE Landon Trusty.
  • 5/16/07 — OTA days start with QB Camp.
  • 5/21/07 — TE Tony Scheffler breaks his left foot during practice. 
  • 5/29/07 — OTA days continue as Team Camp begins.
  • 6/04/07 — Denver signs DT Sam Adams.
  • 6/07/07 — Denver trades with St. Louis for DT Jimmy Kennedy.  They release CB Eric Hill.
  • 6/21/07 — C Greg Eslinger is named to the All-NFL Europa Team for his performance with the Cologne Centurions. 
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Kick Off Coverage Needed… Badly.

June 15, 2007

THIS POST HAS BEEN MOVED TO BRONCOTALK.NET:  REDIRECT

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