Posts Tagged ‘Denver Broncos’

AFC West: Preseason Grades and Analysis

DENVER BRONCOS

Key Acquisitions: QB Case Keenum, OLB Bradley Chubb, OT Jared Veldheer, S Su’a Cravens, RB Royce Freeman, CB Tramaine Brock, P Marquette King, DT Clinton McDonald, WR Courtland Sutton, WR Dae’Sean Hamilton

Key Losses: CB Aqib Talib, RB C.J. Anderson, QB Trevor Siemian, TE Virgil Green, OG Allen Barbre,

DENVER BRONCOS

Key Acquisitions: QB Case Keenum, OLB Bradley Chubb, OT Jared Veldheer, S Su’a Cravens, RB Royce Freeman, CB Tramaine Brock, P Marquette King, DT Clinton McDonald, WR Courtland Sutton, WR Dae’Sean Hamilton

Key Losses: CB Aqib Talib, RB C.J. Anderson, QB Trevor Siemian, TE Virgil Green, OG Allen Barbre, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Cody Latimer, WR Bennie Fowler, OT Donald Stephenson

You can argue the Broncos should have reset and drafted a top quarterback prospect, but if you think the team’s Super Bowl window remains open, GM John Elway did an excellent job trying to maximize it.

Rather than breaking the bank for Kirk Cousins ($84 million guaranteed), the Broncos bet far less on Case Keenum ($25 million), who proved last season he can steer a team that relies on its running game and defense. Keenum’s short-term deal also buys more development time for Paxton Lynch, although the 2016 first-rounder has shown no indication of being a long-term answer.

C.J. Anderson was released and Virgil Green left in free agency, but the offense should be better at several spots. Helping protect Keenum will be Jared Veldheer, who arrived via trade to plug Denver’s gaping hole at right tackle. The draft brought three weapons who could contribute early, with Royce Freeman looking like the starting running back and Courtland Sutton and Dae’Sean Hamilton impressing during spring practices.

The defense has a void to fill after the release of cornerback Aqib Talib, which put pressure on Bradley Roby and Tramaine Brock, but the pass rush might be good enough to compensate after Bradley Chubb fell in Denver’s lap at No. 5 overall in the draft. The rest of the unit remains intact, keeping hopes of a 2015 repeat alive.

FLM Take: Denver might have regrets if Josh Rosen becomes a star in Arizona, but it’s hard to quibble with much else. — B+

 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Key Acquisitions: WR Sammy Watkins, CB Kendall Fuller, LB Anthony Hitchens, CB David Amerson, DT Xavier Williams, DE/LB Breeland Speaks, RB Damien Williams, DT Derrick Nnadi

Key Losses: QB Alex Smith, CB Marcus Peters, LB Derrick Johnson, OG Zach Fulton, WR Albert Wilson, OLB Tamba Hali, CB Darrelle Revis, DT Bennie Logan, S Ron Parker, CB Phillip Gaines

The Chiefs made no bones about it this offseason: They are all in on 2017 first-round pick Patrick Mahomes. The team’s faith is a promising sign for the youngster, but betting so heavily on a signal-caller with one career start is risky.

Not only did Kansas City ship off Alex Smith, but it gave a monster contract (three years, $48 million) to Sammy Watkins, who has the talent to thrive in an aggressive, downfield attack but has struggled with durability and consistency throughout his career. The rest of the offense returns intact, but it’s fair to expect growing pains as Mahomes settles in as the starter.

On defense, the Chiefs turned their cornerback depth chart upside down, most prominently with the trade of Marcus Peters due to personality concerns. Kendall Fuller (part of the return for Smith) and David Amerson (signed after he was released by the Raiders) have flashed ability, but they’ll have a hard time replacing Peters, who might have been the team’s best player. The position then went unaddressed until Round 6 in the draft, although GM Brett Veach did find help for a shaky run defense in Breeland Speaks and Derrick Nnadi. That duo, along with pricey signee Anthony Hitchens (five years, $45 million), will be counted on early with Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Bennie Logan gone.

FLM Take: The Chiefs traded two of their best players, gave out a pair eyebrow-raising contracts and still have major holes on defense. Some decline should be expected, even if Mahomes impresses. — D+

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Key Acquisitions: C Mike Pouncey, S Derwin James, TE Virgil Green, K Caleb Sturgis, OLB/DE Uchenna Nwosu, DT Justin Jones, QB Geno Smith

Key Losses: S Tre Boston, TE Antonio Gates, OG Matt Slauson, OG Kenny Wiggins, DE Jeremiah Attaochu K Nick Novak, DE Chris McCain

Considering upheaval elsewhere in the division, the Chargers might have claimed AFC West pole position despite doing little this offseason. After missing the playoffs with a plus-83 point differential (ninth in NFL), the Bolts again tried to solve the kicking woes that have haunted them for years, signing Caleb Sturgis and taking a flier on 2016 second-rounder Roberto Aguayo. If one can be merely average, Los Angeles will be in much better shape.

The Chargers let a few offensive linemen walk in favor of 2017 draftees Forrest Lamp — returning from an ACL tear after missing his rookie campaign — and Dan Feeney. Centering those two will be three-time Pro Bowler Mike Pouncey, who joined on a reasonable deal (two years, $15 million). Toss in the signing of Virgil Green, and the team’s blocking could be excellent. Unfortunately for L.A., the injury bug already bit Hunter Henry (torn ACL), perhaps paving the way for Antonio Gates’ return.

The defense didn’t need much work, but the few moves GM Tom Telesco made were excellent, starting with a very reasonable extension (three years, $33.3 million) for stalwart corner Casey Hayward. He pounced when Derwin James slid to No. 17 in the draft, giving defensive coordinator Gus Bradley an ideal roving safety. The biggest remaining concern is a leaky run defense, putting pressure on third-rounder Justin Jones after the team failed to upgrade at linebacker this spring.

FLM Take: The Chargers’ deep and talented roster didn’t need much, but the group clearly got better. — B+

 

OAKLAND RAIDERS

Key Acquisitions: WR Jordy Nelson, WR Martavis Bryant, LB Tahir Whitehead, CB Rashaan Melvin, S Marcus Gilchrist, RB Doug Martin, OT Breno Giacomini, OT Kolton Miller, LB Derrick Johnson, DT Maurice Hurst, CB Shareece Wright, WR Ryan Switzer, DT P.J. Hall, DE Arden Key, DE Tank Carradine; DT Ahtyba Rubin, DT Frostee Rucker

Key Losses: WR Michael Crabtree, DT Denico Autry, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, LB NaVorro Bowman, CB Sean Smith, CB David Amerson, P Marquette King, K Sebastian Janikowski, OT Marshall Newhouse, CB T.J. Carrie, DT Jihad Ward

Oakland’s offseason was an absolute blur. It started with Jon Gruden’s (re)hiring — just 11 months after Jack Del Rio signed an extension — on a decade-long, $100 million deal, which led to a remarkable roster churn. With several players walking out the door, the Raiders added about two dozen from other teams, the vast majority being veterans on one-year deals worth $4 million or less.

The effects were relatively muted on offense. Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant — if he can stay on the field — might provide an upgrade over released wideout Michael Crabtree, but both had down 2017 seasons. Doug Martin is a complete wild card, and Breno Giacomini doesn’t move the needle much at right tackle.

More change came on defense, where Tahir Whitehead and Derrick Johnson were tabbed to steady a shaky linebacker group, but plenty of questions remain at cornerback. Rashaan Melvin (one year, $5.5 million) was a nice bargain, but the rest of the group is filled with questions, even if 2017 first-rounder Gareon Conley steps up. A Khalil Mack sized cloud still hangs over the defense as the star defensive end still doesn’t have a contract on the table.

The Raiders’ draft was one of the league’s strangest, as they repeatedly took boom-or-bust prospects, including athletic-but-raw types (Kolton Miller, P.J. Hill, Brandon Parker) and players with character (Arden Key, Azeem Victor) and health (Nick Nelson, Maurice Hurst) concerns. When the dust settled, the linebacker and cornerback depth charts still looked shaky.

FLM Take: Few tried harder to upgrade than Oakland, but is this team much better? Remember: Those who play with fire eventually get burned. — D

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John Elway Rolls Dice With Quarterback

The Denver Broncos sent off Peyton Manning in a grand fashion by capping off his storied career off with a Super Bowl victory. Manning was a shell of himself in the game, throwing for 0 touchdowns and only 141 yards. However, a win's a win and Manning will go down as one of top quarterbacks

The Denver Broncos sent off Peyton Manning in a grand fashion by capping off his storied career off with a Super Bowl victory. Manning was a shell of himself in the game, throwing for 0 touchdowns and only 141 yards. However, a win’s a win and Manning will go down as one of top quarterbacks of all-time and ended his career with a storybook ending.

It’s no secret that the Broncos won with a fantastic defense, great game planning, and playing mistake free football. When Peyton retired, it opened the door for the next Broncos quarterback to help lead the team back to the Super Bowl. There were a few candidates available: Brock Osweiler, Colin Kaepernick, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Instead, John Elway chose to sign Mark Sanchez and draft project quarterback Paxton Lynch.

The Broncos may have the biggest drop off in quarterback for a Super Bowl defending champion, since – well – the Broncos. History has a funny way of repeating itself. John Elway carried the Denver Broncos to a 14-2 record and beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII in his final season. How did they fare the next year? Brian Griese was at the helm for 6-10 record for the Broncos that year.

The Broncos clearly thought Osweiler was a good enough quarterback to play for them since they offered him a contract. The Broncos reportedly offered their former quarterback a contract worth $45 million, with about $15-16 million paid per year, and a guaranteed $30 million. The biggest offer of $72 million over four years, with $37 million guaranteed came from the Texans. Since they did offer a contract, John Elway clearly wanted to bring the young quarterback back, but had a set price and wasn’t going to go over it.

Trade talks between the Broncos and 49ers picked up this offseason for Kaepernick, but talks died down before the draft. Again, this indicates that Elway was interested in bringing quarterbacks in. Ryan Fitzpatrick also was in search for a new home this season and an already-made team like the Broncos would have been a perfect fit, but the two never were reportedly talking.

John Elway must have great confidence in his defense again since he decided to defend his title with either Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian, or Paxton Lynch. Sanchez is the most experienced of the three, having bright spots with the Jets early in his career, but on Monday Coach Gary kubiak named Siemian the starter

Is John Elway trying to outsmart himself? Does he think any quarterback can just come and play with this Broncos team and they will still win? It’s a risk and storyline that will play out this entire season. Osweiler and Kaepernick aren’t All-Pro quarterbacks, but there was a reason why Elway was interested. Instead, he is rolling his dice with Siemian, and Sanchez if that doesn’t work out. It will be a very interesting year in Denver.

 

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Did Denver Give The NFL The Key To Stop Cam and The Panthers?

Cam Newton

Up until last year's Super Bowl, it appeared that nobody had an answer to Cam Newton. He was running and passing all over the best defenses in the NFL, making them look inept. Then along came The Super Bowl, and frankly, they made it look easy.  The Denver formula went something like this.

Up until last year’s Super Bowl, it appeared that nobody had an answer to Cam Newton. He was running and passing all over the best defenses in the NFL, making them look inept. Then along came The Super Bowl, and frankly, they made it look easy.  The Denver formula went something like this. Stop the run on first down, putting the Panthers in second and long. Bring everybody up on second down and stuff the run or the short pass. Then put pressure on Newton on third down, not letting him scramble out of the pocket.

 

The Broncos defense had another component as well. They went conservative on offense and played the field position game. Denver did not try to stay with the Panthers, score for score. They did not try to take chances on offense. They were quite to punt, put the Panthers back deep in their own territory, play great defense and dare Cam to drive the Panthers down the field. A taunt that ended up working out very well, they just could not do it.

 

Last year, the Panthers formula for winning was to cause turnovers and turn the ball over to Cam and the offense with a short field. Denver made sure that did not happen, even if it meant handing the ball off on third and long.

 

To pull this off, a team needs a stout defense and a good amount of patience. If your defense can’t stuff the Panthers run game, then third won’t work. If the Panthers can keep the defense guessing on whether they will run or pass, then they won’t be able to sell out on the pass rush or they will be susceptible to the screen pass, draw, or Cam taking off on a run.  But if there are teams who feel they can stop the Panthers run game on first down, then the Panthers will have to come up with something to combat this.

 

Having Kelvin Benjamin back for this season will surely be a big help. Somehow Newton managed to throw 3,837 yards and 35 TD’s without the physically gifted deep threat last year, as he was out all season with an ACL injury suffered early in the preseason; nonetheless, having him back is surely a huge benefit.  If Cam can hit him on some big passes, this might make the Denver blueprint a little bit tougher to follow. It’s tough to load the box if you can’t cover Benjamin one on one.

 

What Denver did show the rest of the league in last year’s Super Bowl is that Cam is not Superman. He is just like every other quarterback in the game. If you put pressure on him and keep him from getting outside the pocket, he will be pretty useless.

 

The defense will also have a little bit tougher time giving Cam a short field this year without one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks in Josh Norman, who signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent in the offseason. In his time with the Panthers Norman was able to shut down the opposition’s top wide receivers, leaving the safeties free to ball hunt. Now those safeties may have to help try to cover the number ones on the other side which means they can’t sit back and play center field, picking off passes and running them back into their territory.

 

All this adds up to the Panthers having a bit tougher time this season. Does this mean they are not a serious Super Bowl contender again? No. Does this mean they will not go 15-1 again this year. Yes, it almost certainly does.   

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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3 Rookies Everyone Should Be Excited to See

Melvin Gordon

Now that the OTAs are in full swing, teams are starting to get a look at how their rookies play. By no means does this compare to what an actual game will be like, but it does give them a taste of what they can expect from their long-term investments. There are several rookies in

Now that the OTAs are in full swing, teams are starting to get a look at how their rookies play. By no means does this compare to what an actual game will be like, but it does give them a taste of what they can expect from their long-term investments. There are several rookies in this year’s draft class that everyone who is in love with football, should be anxious to see.

Shane Ray, EDGE, Denver Broncos

Shane Ray made the headlines prior to the NFL Draft after being busted for possession of pot, plus there was some concern for a turf toe injury he suffered late last season which took longer than expected to heal. Ray was never really liked by most draft-niks because of his smaller build. When scouting Ray, I was never concerned with his size, because I felt he played bigger than what his measurements said. Ray is an extremely quick and powerful edge rusher; I was consistently impressed with his play game after game. If you need a sack on third down, he is going to be the one who you can expect a sack to come from. The only issue I have with Ray is his poor run defense; that is where the smaller size bites him in the butt. It is hard for him to penetrate through the inside of the O-Line and get to the ball carrier. I like the group that Ray is surrounded with at Denver. He will be trained and helped along by one of the best EDGE/D-Linemen to play the game, Demarcus Ware, and a talented pass rusher by the name of Von Miller. In Denver, Ray is set up for success and I can see him being the eventual replacement for the aging Ware.

Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers

Melvin Gordon is one of the most accomplished RBs to come out of Wisconsin University. Setting records last season, he was arguably one of the best backs to go in the Draft. I loved watching Gordon in my time scouting him. He was very quick and he had the home run potential on every single handoff. The main downgrade I gave him was I didn’t feel, in college, that he caught the ball enough. So that is something he will need to get used to in his transition to the pros. I feel Gordon will do very well in his rookie season. He is set up with some veteran help. Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown have both been in the league for some time now and can give him some help. He also has a decent O-Line blocking for him and some guy named Philip Rivers, a five time Pro-Bowler, leading the offense. I have to wonder with Gordon coming from a team known for using their running backs a great deal, if he is a short term answer to a problem in San Diego.

Phillip Dorsett, WR, Indianapolis Colts

Until the Combine, no one had really heard of a guy named Phillip Dorsett out of Miami (FL). Then, he ran the 40 yard dash and his Draft stock started rising. Dorsett was a very fast player at Miami who was known for out-running defenses on the deep ball and getting excellent yards after the catch, particularly on screen plays. There is some issue with his size, seeing as he is only 5”9” (5’10” if you round up) and 185 pounds, and there are problems with too many dropped passes. As of right now, it seems that Dorsett will not be a starting WR the first week. Instead, it looks as if his main role will be the number one punt return and kickoff return man. It is a smart move by the Colts to give him some time to develop until there is a spot for him as backup receiver. As of now, Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton, and Donte Moncrief are the main receivers for the Colts and will be for several more seasons. In the meantime, Dorsett will have a chance to learn from veterans Johnson and Hilton (who is slowly turning into a top notch receiver himself). To me, nothing is more exciting than watching a game where an extremely fast return man is about to work his magic. Seeing guys like Devin Hester, Patrick Peterson, and Tavon Austin do their stuff is a thrill to watch and they bring excitement back into the usually boring and drab Special Teams. I expect to see a few returns by Dorsett to be on the highlight reels on Sunday and Monday nights.

Austin Morris is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. He can be reached at amorris3585@scc.stanly.edu

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Broncos sign Will Pericak, Cody Larsen

<p> The Denver Broncos signed a pair of former Baltimore Ravens defensive linemen: Cody Larsen and Will Pericak.</p> <p> Pericak played collegiately at Colorado.</p> <p> Pericak was on the San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars' practice squads last season after being released by the Ravens.</p> <p> Larsen spent last season on the Ravens' practice squad.</p>

<p> The Denver Broncos signed a pair of former Baltimore Ravens defensive linemen: Cody Larsen and Will Pericak.</p> <p> Pericak played collegiately at Colorado.</p> <p> Pericak was on the San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squads last season after being released by the Ravens.</p> <p> Larsen spent last season on the Ravens’ practice squad.</p> <p> He played collegiately at Southern Utah.</p> <p> Follow me on Twitter: <a href=”http://www.twitter.com/RavensInsider”>@RavensInsider</a></p> <p> Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun</p>

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post, his second stint at the Post. He has previously written for Pro Football Talk and FOX Sports-Scout. Entering his 13th year covering the Baltimore Ravens, he’s a beat writer for The Baltimore Sun. Wilson has also covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.

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