|09-06-2007, 03:56 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Offense, Defense, and Special Teams Preview
Keeping opponents at arm's length is a specialty of new Broncos feature back Travis Henry.
In fact, he'll go so far as to say the stiff arm he uses to extricate himself from opposing defenders is the best in the NFL.
"It's lethal, now," he said. "It's just something I use a lot of times to get out of tough situations where it doesn't look like there's going to be any gain. And I turn it into a plus play."
It's also something that has become so much a part of his game he'll use it in practices without thinking.
Of course, the force he uses differs in game action.
Former teammate Bo Scaife recalled during the offseason Henry once lifted an opponent off the ground with the stiff arm.
Henry smiled at the memory of the play against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He then explained the art of the maneuver:
"When they come up on you quick, you just wait until the last minute, just before they're going to make the tackle. I try to time it. Because sometimes you can stick it out there and they'll knock it down. You've got to know when to bring it up. And I'm really good at timing it."
He said it
"Jake (Plummer) had been proven here, won games, was in the AFC Championship, so I didn't know how it was going to work. I knew I'd get my opportunity sooner or later because of where they drafted me and what they were paying me. But I'm happy to be here now. And here we are."
Jay Cutler, Broncos quarterback, on ascending to full-time starter in his second NFL season
Jake Plummer was called many things during his tenure with the Broncos elusive being one of them.
Whether Jay Cutler can slither like "Jake the Snake" as the successor at quarterback is unlikely, even if the second-year player has some mobility.
That change, and perhaps a more pocket-based approach to the passing game, might put extra pressure on the offensive line to hold up just a tick longer to allow the second-year quarterback time to get rid of the ball.
"Last year, I was just fighting for my life," said tackle Erik Pears, who filled in for the injured Matt Lepsis on the left side in 2006 but is back at his more natural spot on the right this year. "I'm not thinking if the quarterback's going to bail me out. I just wanted to get my hands on that guy and hang on as long as I can."
Cutler was sacked 14 times in his five late-season starts in 2006. Overall, Broncos quarterbacks were sacked 31 times, well above previous totals in 2003 (25), 2004 (15) and 2005 (23).
Personnel changes might help up front. They'll have to, given the Broncos won't fully abandon play-action bootleg passes and keepers that are offensive staples. But the coaching staff also has worked with Cutler extensively on going through his progressions quickly and getting rid of the ball or dumping down to check-down targets instead of waiting for receivers to break loose.
"There won't be quite as much scrambling around," Lepsis said. "It's going to be drop back, you've got to hold on. But even when Jake was back there, he couldn't get out of everything."
Among the big boys
Broncos receiver Javon Walker is among the league leaders in yards per game since 2004 for players with at least 30 games played.
He hopes to pad his 75.5-yard average over a full season, with Jay Cutler's big arm and his own downfield speed seemingly a match. The two hooked up on touchdown passes of 54 and 39 yards in back-to-back weeks in December.
"It feels like we've played 16 games already," Walker said after going through an entire offseason and training camp with Cutler. "The timing's there. Now we just have to stay consistent with it."
Comments about how he was used early last season seemingly have Walker reticent to make any bold claims about his role . But his confidence is evident.
"Plays were made last year, or even before I got here. It's about how you use everybody's talents," Walker said. "(Jay) does have a strong arm. It's how the coaches let him utilize that and I think they will."
Leaders in yards per game since 2004
Player, team G No. Yds Avg.
Steve Smith, Car 31 192 2789 90.0
Terrell Owens, Dal 37 209 3143 84.9
Chad Johnson, Cin 48 279 4075 84.9
Torry Holt, StL 46 289 3891 84.6
Anquan Boldin, Ari 40 241 3228 80.7
Donald Driver, GB 48 262 3724 77.6
Marvin Harrison, Ind 47 263 3625 77.1
Javon Walker, Den 33 162 2493 75.5
Broncos defense preview
By Lee Rasizer, Rocky Mountain News
September 5, 2007
18 interceptions by cornerback Champ Bailey, right, during the past two seasons. It's the highest two-year total in the NFL since Everson Walls had 18 for Dallas in 1981 and 1982.
Blaze of glory
Even the stars get star-struck, sometimes.
Last year, John Lynch scored backstage passes through a business associate to Bon Jovi at the Pepsi Center. He met the band before the show and compared notes on family afterward.
But Lynch really was blown away, not at the post-show party in the VIP room, but the encore, when Jon Bon Jovi emerged wearing Lynch's No. 47 jersey without telling him beforehand.
"I was floored," he recalled.
Lynch equally was awestruck several years earlier, during his playing days in Tampa Bay. He's friendly with Doug Collins, a TNT analyst and former NBA coach. And after a Washington Wizards-Orlando Magic game, Lynch and teammates Ronde Barber and Brad Johnson went to dinner with Michael Jordan.
"The whole time Ronde's in my ear, 'Take a picture . . . ' "
But Lynch didn't want to impose, thinking it's the last thing Jordan would want to do.
Another time, an intermediary former Seahawks quarterback Rick Mirer hooked Lynch up with backstage passes to Pearl Jam in San Diego during that group's heyday.
No apparent record of that meeting exists, either.
"I've got all these old memories," he said.
"But they have to be in my head."
Something to shoot for
The Broncos drafted Jarvis Moss in the first round in an effort to bolster their pass rush after finishing tied for 15th in the league with 35 sacks. The top five rookie individual performances in Broncos history:
Player Position Year No.
Rulon Jones Defensive end 1980 11 1/2
Mike Croel Linebacker 1991 10
Elvis Dumervil Defensive end 2006 8 1/2
Lyle Alzado Defensive end 1971 8
Shane Dronett Defensive end 1992 6 1/2
He said it
"One thing I can say is everybody has been an All-Pro within this scheme. (Former Dolphins defensive tackle) Tim Bowens has been All-Pro. Our defensive ends have been All-Pro; our linebacker, corners and safeties. It's not like one position is sacrificing making plays. The tackles, if anything else, have to be the most unselfish in the system."
Jim Bates, assistant head coach/defense
An early training camp practice was unexpectedly interrupted when Drι Bly was beaten for a long touchdown and a fan screamed, "Go back to Detroit."
Bly should be entrenched as a Broncos starter at cornerback for several seasons.
And he's in no hurry to return to a Lions scheme that he thought underplayed his skills.
"In cover 2, it's like being a linebacker," Bly said of the Lions' defensive scheme last season. "I ain't a linebacker. I'm a defensive back who makes plays. I really feel like the guys who want to play cover 2 are the ones who really can't cover."
The Broncos play a two-deep zone at times, but more often Bly and fellow cornerback Champ Bailey will be in man coverage or a matchup zone.
Bly ranks fourth in the NFL in interceptions since 1999 with 33. Bailey tops the list with 47, making them the most prolific tandem in the NFL during that span.
"I'm human, and I'm entitled to give up a pass here and there even though the fans might be disappointed," Bly said. "But I tell you what you won't make a living doing that on me."
Beyond X's and O's
One of the biggest differences in approach Scott O'Brien will bring to special teams not only is a variance in scheme but a precise breakdown to his players of individual skills and mannerisms of opponents to attack.
"So you're not going out there just kind of playing a position," safety Curome Cox said. "You know exactly the guy you're going against and what to expect.
"So each week you can know how to attack a guy."
It's more along the lines of offensive and defensive game-planning, where the goal is to exploit man-to-man matchups.
"He'll tell you how you're going to be successful. It's like giving you the ins and outs of every player," Cox said.
O'Brien also worked hard this summer trying to make sure he had the body types needed to compete against the best special-teams units the league had to offer.
"And I believe we've got them now," O'Brien said. "To me, it's really hard if you can't match up physically in this league."
112-game span, regular-season and playoffs, since the Broncos returned a kickoff for a touchdown. The last time it occurred: Deltha O'Neal ran back an 87-yarder on Oct. 1, 2000, against the New England Patriots. There have been only two returns exceeding 56 yards during that span an 83-yarder by Adrian Madise in 2003 and a 64-yarder by Quincy Morgan last season.
Broncos kicker Jason Elam has a chance to put himself into a statistical league of his own this season. Elam already has the most consecutive 100-point seasons to start a career (14). He can hold the career record of most 100-point seasons by a place-kicker with another similar performance this season. The top five NFL career leaders in 100-point seasons:
No. Player Career
14 Jason Elam 1993 to 2006
14 Morten Andersen 1982 to 2004, 2006
14 Gary Anderson 1982 to 2004
11 Adam Vinatieri 1996 to 2006
11 Nick Lowery 1980 to 1996
He said it
"It gives us that option you're looking for, where, when he's on, there's no question this guy can really control field position for you. And the players know that, too. He's been in big games, punted in every stadium. He's not intimidated by weather. He's had the experience now where he's learned to use the weather to his advantage and not worry about the weather. That's a big difference."
Scott O'Brien, Broncos special-teams coordinator, on bringing three-time Pro Bowl punter Todd Sauerbrun, above, back to Denver after a one-year absence.
Getting to know . . . linebacker Louis Green
What's on your iPod right now? "I have a lot of R&B, a lot of gospel, a little bit of rap, just the old classic stuff, Tupac, Biggie, things like that. When I try to get upbeat, I listen to that. But when I'm chillin' at the house, I'm more tuned to something like gospel."
DirecTV or cable? "DirecTV. I have just the HBOs. I love The Sopranos. I'm in the process of getting sets of all the seasons, since I'm kind of a late starter on it."
What kind of outdoors activities do you favor? "I wish I could go elk hunting. If there's anyone who elk hunts who would like to take a Bronco . . . "
How did you get into bow hunting? It was just something to do in my off time to keep me busy. . . . I used to watch people do it and just by watching, I did what they did and that put me right on line."