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View Full Version : Special Team: a cause for concern?


DeuceOfClub
10-16-2009, 11:31 AM
Winning cures everything! As our Broncos continue to win I read many posts over the last few weeks praising our defense, offense and special team. And while our defense has been great so far and the offense is not far behind (and getting better) I see glaring issues in our special team units.
Last week the 2 punt coverage penalties on the same drive could easily had led to a Patriots score and maybe our first L, but the problems are IMO bigger than that.

In the offseason many of us wondered about the ST coach hire of Mike Priefer coming of 3 very mediocre years in Kansas City, and although we all agreed that a change need to be made, I still question the hire.

Before I lay out few numbers, few points to consider:
In recent years our kick off and punts has always been in the top 5 if not 1st as far as distance. (playing half our games in Denver is definitely the leading factor)
Usually, 3-4 teams have a better ST units, as they carry more active Lbs than Dls, players that are more suitable to ST play.


Kickoffs:
The Broncos are 2nd in Kickoff yards average (70.2) and 2nd in Touchback percentage(39.1%)
Kickoff off coverage:
Tied 16th on average kickoff-return against the Broncos (22.8), and getting worse every week.

Punts:
23 total punts: 12 were returned, 2 OOB, 2 downed, 4 Touchbacks and 3 Fair catches.
8 punts pinned the opposition inside their own 20.
10th in yards average (46.3)
but only Tied 20th on NET yards average (37.8).
Punts coverage:
24th in average punt-return against the Broncos (9.8)

Kickoff returns:
30th on yards average (18.7) with our best return of 30 yards (Tied 28th).
We already fumbled twice on KO returns (lost one).

Punt return:
Tied 14th on yards average (7.4) with our best return of 17 yards (24th).
1 fumble on punt return.

Field Goals:
Prater made 10/13 FGs 77% (24th)

For those who follow “Football outsiders” The Broncos are ranked 29th on Special team DVOA -5.6% (http://footballoutsiders.com/dvoa-ratings/2009/week-5-dvoa-ratings).



After 13 years with Shanahan I am used to hope that our punts and KO will not be returned and we won't fumble, but if McD is preaching for smart, aggressive and discipline football, I expect better overall results. Not only have I not seen any, but now I don't even trust Prater to score those 40+ yarders.

Hopefully we can hold our water against SD (who usually fields a very good ST) and get the fix the problems in the bye week.

2KBack
10-16-2009, 11:43 AM
What's funny is that with all that, I still feel like they are slowly improving.

gtown
10-16-2009, 11:48 AM
We just need to get a good KR/PR back there. It's clear that McD is not comfortable with any of the current choices he has for the job. I did like what I saw out of McKinley out there during the preseason. He seems to be a more natural returner than Royal and Smith and whoever we throw back there.

Too bad the Cleveland ****stains won't let Cribbs go. I would trade a mid-round pick for him.

Killericon
10-16-2009, 11:50 AM
McDaniels will sort them out.

Popps
10-16-2009, 11:54 AM
Our special teams have been significantly better than last season. It seemed almost a regular even that teams would run back kickoffs to the 45 on us, and in two plays... were in scoring position.

We've had a few penalties that hurt us, and our return-game absolutely has to improve. But, our coverage has been much better, and overall... the units feel much more like they know what they're doing out there.

Keep in mind, as well... this is a fairly young STs group. Lots of rookies, so things should only get better.

BroncoBuff
10-16-2009, 12:00 PM
Our kick and coverage teams are damn good, yes.

But the return teams, not so much. Khan is right, get Royal outta there. I'd prefer McKinley.

broncocalijohn
10-16-2009, 12:08 PM
Also, we had 2 fumbles but one is on Hillis who would never be in that area in most circumstances. If there was ever to be a problem in the 3 areas of football, I am glad it is Special Teams. Returns have got to be better as it lessens the chances of offensive mistakes and can get us one less first down that we need. I dont think we have had one breakout run on ST this year.

gyldenlove
10-16-2009, 12:09 PM
Our special teams have been significantly better than last season. It seemed almost a regular even that teams would run back kickoffs to the 45 on us, and in two plays... were in scoring position.

We've had a few penalties that hurt us, and our return-game absolutely has to improve. But, our coverage has been much better, and overall... the units feel much more like they know what they're doing out there.

Keep in mind, as well... this is a fairly young STs group. Lots of rookies, so things should only get better.

Our coverage units have been much improved this year. Opponent average starting position is still good, which is an indicator that we are doing well, last year we ranked stone dead last in opponent starting position.

Our return units are still pathetic, we are not setting up our blocks well enough and we are not creating creases for our returners, it hasn't helped that we haven't found a returner who can take the ball back directly without dancing around first though.

outdoor_miner
10-16-2009, 12:10 PM
Kickoff off coverage:
24th in average return against the Broncos (9.8), and getting worse every week.

Punts coverage:
Tied 16th on average Punt-return against the Broncos (22.8)


Did you get those backwards? That doesn't look right to me (unless I'm mis-reading what the stat means).

All I can say is that (to me) the coverage units looks worlds beyond what they were the previous couple years, which is the most important thing to me. We are not getting gashed for huge chunks of yardage. I have not been sitting back with a sense of dread on every single return. There is definitely room for improvement, but I've been pretty happy with our coverage units.

Elsewhere - our return units have been awful, and I'm not sure why... This is the unit I have the least amount of confidence in, and from what I'm seeing, it won't be fixed this year. They just haven't show anything to give me any hope.

Lastly - I'm actually really happy with Prater. He missed 2 against Cleveland in ridiculous winds... His miss in New England was just one of those things. 48 yarders (or whatever it was) are not gimmies. However, he came up huge in Cinci, and made a high-pressure kick against New England. I'll take his performance so far, especially for a young guy that will hopefully continue to improve.

DeuceOfClub
10-16-2009, 12:30 PM
We just need to get a good KR/PR back there. It's clear that McD is not comfortable with any of the current choices he has for the job. I did like what I saw out of McKinley out there during the preseason. He seems to be a more natural returner than Royal and Smith and whoever we throw back there.

I, respectfully disagree. This was Shanahan approach, every draft it seems we will pick a WR/CB who is a "return Specialist" and still we haven't scored a Kickoff return TD since 98 (Longest drought in the league (http://forums.denverbroncos.com/showthread.php?t=68771))
Meanwhile 3 different Chicago Bears returners scored in the last 2.5 seasons alone.

DeuceOfClub
10-16-2009, 12:57 PM
I agree that our coverage unit looks better than last years, but there are too many mistakes and problems:

Stupid penalties:
Offside on punt return.
Blocking after Fair-catch signal

Ball Security:
3 fumbles after 5 games.

Confusion:
Who's fielding the punt (NE game)
We almost had a disaster on a punt we tried to stop from reaching the endzone, handing the Raiders return man the ball with all our coverage team behind him (stopped by the ref's)
returning kickoff 8-yards inside our endzone (also NE game)

Several of our punts were to close to being blocked.

And so on.


This must be addressed or it will bite us later!

BroncoMan4ever
10-16-2009, 12:58 PM
What's funny is that with all that, I still feel like they are slowly improving.

when Larsen returns we will improve

NFLBRONCO
10-16-2009, 02:06 PM
Impossible to cure all phases completely in one year geez. A great ST guy is needed to return kicks we'll have to wait til next year to address that issue.

Rohirrim
10-16-2009, 02:13 PM
I, respectfully disagree. This was Shanahan approach, every draft it seems we will pick a WR/CB who is a "return Specialist" and still we haven't scored a Kickoff return TD since 98 (Longest drought in the league (http://forums.denverbroncos.com/showthread.php?t=68771))
Meanwhile 3 different Chicago Bears returners scored in the last 2.5 seasons alone.

It's been that long? Holy ****! Yikes!

Kaylore
10-16-2009, 02:40 PM
I am concerned about ST. The coverage has been better but our return game sucks and I am still not sold on Priefer.

SonOfLe-loLang
10-16-2009, 02:45 PM
It's been that long? Holy ****! Yikes!

Yeah Hebron against Miami right? I think Deltha O'Neal had one after a safety if i call.

atomicbloke
10-16-2009, 03:36 PM
I have a feeling its not the return man on thats holding us back, but the blocking schemes. That is all on coaching.

Bronco Yoda
10-16-2009, 03:47 PM
I, respectfully disagree. This was Shanahan approach, every draft it seems we will pick a WR/CB who is a "return Specialist" and still we haven't scored a Kickoff return TD since 98 (Longest drought in the league (http://forums.denverbroncos.com/showthread.php?t=68771))
Meanwhile 3 different Chicago Bears returners scored in the last 2.5 seasons alone.

Good gawd...it's been that long? I knew it was a drought but that's just crazy long. We'd be better off with Upchurch in a walker than what we've been doing for the last decade.

cutthemdown
10-16-2009, 05:02 PM
Also it just sort of seems punters hit ball well against Broncos. It's not like our returners have a lot of room and just are failing. They seem to be making moves very early on.

They need to have Rod Smith work with some of them. He had a knack of taking the ball upthefield quickly and getting his 9 yrds etc. Then if the hole was there he would go for more. Sometimes I get feeling Broncos returners always looking to break it, that makes them want to try and dance around too much.

Bronco Yoda
10-16-2009, 10:57 PM
I'd say it's more a cause for ENVY.

Now if our coverage team was as bad as our return game... then I'd change that to concern.

ludo21
10-17-2009, 10:21 AM
As long as our coverage team is ok, I wont be too worried.

But in saying that, I really think we need more production from Royal, or McKinley, or Smith..

I just hope one of these guys can step up and give us a boost. If we get better field position we could get our offense going even more.

BroncoBuff
10-17-2009, 10:24 AM
As long as our coverage team is ok, I wont be too worried.

But in saying that, I really think we need more production from Royal, or McKinley, or Smith.
Agreed ... coverage teams are much more important than return teams.

outdoor_miner
10-17-2009, 01:24 PM
I have a feeling its not the return man on thats holding us back, but the blocking schemes. That is all on coaching.

This is the absolute truth. Some teams seem like they can put anyone back there and get a good return (ie. Chicago). I'm sure Royal has the talent to succeed. It's either the blocking or what Royal is being coached to do that is lacking.

80smith
10-19-2009, 11:10 PM
OOOoooo Snap.

ward63
10-19-2009, 11:19 PM
Man am I already tired about this pigeon crap on special teams...

DeuceOfClub
10-20-2009, 06:52 AM
Wow, I'm speechless, Two TD return in one game against San Diego.
Should have started the thread in the offseason...
Hats off!


Whould have been perfect if not for the Sproles' return, but I can't complain with straight face right now. (Prater, Do your job)

BroncoBuff
10-20-2009, 10:17 AM
Khan is right, get Royal outta there. I'd prefer McKinley.

When you're right, you're right ;D