|10-29-2010, 04:10 PM||#1|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Apr 2001
Kush & Irsay
USA Today: Denver Broncos Team Report
Denver Broncos Team Report
Posted 13h 31m ago
The Broncos have two choices as they head to London to face the 49ers, not only sporting a 2-5 record but coming off an embarrassing 45-point loss.
They can stay on the mat and begin playing out the string, or take out their frustrations out on San Francisco on the field.
It's not surprising that players and coaches would suggest the latter is coming. But the Broncos have been here before and failed miserably.
Denver opened 2009 with a 6-0 record. Its first loss turned into four straight and eventually eight of 10. Actions will speak louder than words.
"Anytime you are coming off a game where you don't feel good about what you did, the six days leading up to the next game take forever," coach Josh McDaniels said. "I think everybody was kind of excited that we were starting on Tuesday instead of Wednesday this week (because of trip logistics). They have a great energy about them and the right attitude about this preparation.
"I think they're looking forward to going over there, getting acclimated and then getting ready to go for Sunday. The mindset that we have received from our players this week has been exactly what you would hope it would be."
Defensively, the team will get two starters back in cornerback Andre' Goodman and safety Brian Dawkins. That should help stabilize the back end and avert the kind of communications issues made by their less experienced counterparts.
Denver also will play the same offensive line for a third straight week, perhaps meaning added continuity to a run game that has shown flashes that it can at least provide a legitimate threat, though still unable to carry the team.
Perhaps getting away will do the Broncos good, too. Negativity has surrounded the team from outside team headquarters since the 59-14 stunner against Oakland last Sunday.
"I believe we have the right mindset to do what we're supposed to do. That last game was unlike any other game we played this year. And we don't want anything like that to continue to be a part of who we are, because that's not us," Dawkins said. "And the way we can prove that's not us is doing our jobs this week, learning from our mistakes from last week — both mental mistakes, because we made a lot of those, and physical — and putting out what we're supposed to on the football field for one another."
—If the Broncos need any reminders that a backup quarterback can be just as dangerous as the starter, they shouldn't.
See: Jason Campbell, Oakland.
Campbell — helped by a devastating run-game performance — had a career-best passer rating against the Broncos last week, just days after a career-worst showing against San Francisco.
With Alex Smith already declared out with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, San Francisco has installed Troy Smith as the starter vs. Denver on Sunday in London.
Coach Mike Singletary cited Smith's leadership as one critical reason behind the decision.
"Talking about Troy Smith, he was the starter in Baltimore until he was sick, and I don't want anyone to forget that. He is a pro football quarterback," said Denver defensive coordinator Don Martindale, alluding to the player's bout with tonsillitis late in the 2008 preseason that eventually led to Joe Flacco earning the No. 1 job with the Ravens.
"He sits back in the pocket, he's strong, he's' got a good arm; he's accurate. What his plus is is that after all that, if things break you down, he can hurt you (on the ground). He's not a scrambling quarterback; he's a pro quarterback that reads coverages and does a nice job and is accurate with his balls that he throws. Then you add on the fact that if things break down, he can run with it."
One positive for Denver is that it should have the core of its secondary Sunday to defend Smith. Both safety Brian Dawkins and cornerback Andre' Goodman will be back, which allows Nate Jones to slide back to his normal nickel role.
The only absence on the back end should be rookie Perrish Cox, who was starting in Goodman's place but suffered a concussion against the Raiders.
"He's competitive and a damn good quarterback," said Broncos defensive lineman Justin Bannan, a former teammate of Smith's in Baltimore. "People are going to start seeing what he's all about pretty soon."
The first comparison that comes to mind among Denver's previous opponents that rival Smith is Tennessee's Vince Young, for his dual-threat abilities.
But Bannan feels Smith is "a lot better thrower ... He's got a cannon for an arm and can put it anywhere all over the field."
Still, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State last started a game in 2007. He played in only four games last season, completing five of nine passes for 24 yards and an interception. He signed with San Francisco in early September and was selected over David Carr, who mopped up for Smith last week in a loss to Carolina.
Given that layoff, expect the Broncos to mix up their coverages and try to disguise them to the last possible second to make the quarterback think quickly and perhaps bait him into mistakes on obvious passing downs.
Denver studied tape of Smith's Ravens' days to get a feel for the player but believe San Francisco won't alter its offensive approach much to compensate for Smith's absence. San Francisco has tried to push the ball more to receivers like Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan under new coordinator Mike Johnson.
At the same time, Denver has to be cognizant of Smith's mobility in scheming against the 49ers.
"We're going to have to defend him a little differently than some other people that we play," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said.
SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 6-5. Teams last met in 2006, when the 49ers knocked the Broncos out of the playoffs with a Week 17 win at Invesco Field at Mile High, 26-23.
NOTES, QUOTES —Rookie cornerback Perrish Cox didn't pay much mind to the league-wide discussion on concussions before experiencing his first debilitating headshot last Sunday.
Wearing dark shades this week to help with the migraines he'd been experiencing, Cox talked about remembering nothing from last Sunday's Oakland game — even the plays prior to his third-quarter injury on a collision with the Raiders' Louis Murphy.
"I don't remember none of it, even the plays I was in the game," he said.
It wasn't until he watched a tape of the Raiders loss at home that he could see the play he was hurt.
"It didn't look like it was that major where I'd end up in the locker room. It was the doctor that told me what happened, 'Bang, a shake to the brain.'"
Needless to say, Cox's outlook on concussions is much different now that he's joined the NFL fraternity that's experienced such a condition.
"Big time," he said. "I've got to walk around with shades on and catching headaches. It's like my life is at a standstill, where I've got to listen to everybody telling me about everything and go off that."
Cox still needs clearance to return to the practice field. His status for the 49ers is extremely questionable due to the long plane flight to London from Denver and a bye week looming afterward.
"I think I'm all right. I've still got tests to come, but in my opinion, I'm all right," Cox said. "I just don't remember what happened that day."
—Most of the Broncos' players haven't been overseas and have visions of rain and windy conditions for Sunday's game. That may be just what they get, too.
Early weather reports call for a 60 percent chance of rain with temperatures in the low 50s.
No one is more affected by conditions than kicker Matt Prater, who's gotten the chance over the last two days at team headquarters to work out with wind gusts touching 25 mph.
"If it is windy, we've had a good week of practice for it," Prater said.
Prater previously has talked to current Cardinals kicker Jay Feely about kicking in London, with Feely having done so at Wembley Stadium in blustery, rainy and cold conditions.
Prater will bring several pairs of cleats to test the notoriously poor footing at Wembley, but otherwise is unfazed about the task at hand.
"I'm used to wind and rain, coming from Florida," Prater said. "I really don't care that much."
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 — Games played outside of the United States by Denver, all exhibitions until Sunday. San Francisco (nine) has the most appearances, followed by Dallas (eight) and Pittsburgh (eight). Buffalo and Oakland also have seven such trips.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Don't eat anything messing you up for the game. Nothing
new." — RB Laurence Maroney, who previously played in London with the Patriots, on some advice he's given his teammates this week for the game in England.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Denver has been mixing defensive fronts the last two weeks but perhaps will consider settling into more of a conventional base 3-4 alignment to prevent some of the confusion that may have arisen bouncing between the 4-3 and 3-4 fronts.
One reason Denver did go more to the four-man alignment was that the linebacking corps has been thinned by injuries, but with DE Kevin Vickerson (groin) likely out and DE Kevin Smith signed off the street to re-enter the line rotation, it's a pick-your-poison scenario.
If it is more 3-4 oriented, players like Jarvis Moss and Kevin Alexander will have to play more and ILB Joe Mays needs to perform better, since backup ILB Wesley Woodyard already has been ruled out for the game.
—RB Knowshon Moreno was back on the field for a second straight day practicing despite a very public grab of his hamstring Wednesday. Coach Josh McDaniels said Moreno's "fine" and the player wasn't listed on the injury report.
—CB Perrish Cox (concussion) won't make the trip to London. Cox has been experiencing migraine headaches this week and with Denver's bye after the San Francisco game, the cautious route was taken.
—WR Eddie Royal (groin) practiced Thursday before the team departed for London. McDaniels said he wasn't going to take anyone on the trip that he believed couldn't play. But Royal's official designation likely will be questionable.
—DL Kevin Vickerson (groin) has been ruled out Sunday. Denver signed Le Kevin Smith earlier in the week and since he spent the entire summer with the Broncos needed only to learn the game plan for San Francisco and not assimilate the entire defense. Smith will be part of the line rotation.
—OLB Robert Ayers, according to previous reports, would miss 2-3 months with a foot injury. But asked Thursday why the team wouldn't just put Ayers on injured reserve if that was the case, McDaniels called the information "likely incorrect" and said he was looking forward to having Ayers back in the "near future."
GAME PLAN: Denver has scored only seven points in the first quarter this season and it's critical that the team gets off to a fast start to prevent any flashbacks to the Oakland game, which was over just six minutes in. In doing so, the Broncos must also get away somewhat from the heavy reliance on its passing attack and be able to run effectively. The Broncos have made modest strides with the run in recent weeks and, playing with the same offensive line for a third straight week, must be even more committed to carrying the ball to effectively set up play action.
The ability to remain committed, however, could depend on Knowshon Moreno's full health, since his backups haven't demonstrated the ability to effectively carry the load.
Defensively, the challenge is simple. Denver will be back to full strength in the secondary and should be better prepared to hold up in coverage. But after allowing Oakland to run roughshod, and San Francisco playing a backup QB in Troy Smith, the Broncos are guaranteed to see plenty of Frank Gore. Denver's coaches and players have talked about Gore being better than perhaps any other NFL back at finding vacated gaps. That discipline has been badly lacking for much of the last three weeks as the Broncos have fallen to 30th vs. the run.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Broncos S Brian Dawkins and CB Champ Bailey vs. 49ers TE Vernon Davis. Denver has only sparingly used Bailey to shadow an opposing wide receiver, so the notion of him latching on in coverage to Davis may seem far-fetched. But it shouldn't be a surprise. Denver considers Davis the most dangerous offensive player in the 49ers' passing game, and there's been a precedent before, with Bailey going one-on-one in the past with both Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. If not, responsibility should fall on Dawkins, who may not have the foot speed to stay with Davis but will be aggressive with him at the line of scrimmage. Both Dustin Keller and Zach Miller have had success against the Broncos linebackers and safety/corner Nate Jones in Dawkins' absence.
Broncos defensive edge vs. 49ers RB Frank Gore. Denver's biggest issues when they've had monster rushing games against them in recent seasons has been when it fails to control the outside. Last week, Darren McFadden behind a six-man offensive line ran virtually unfettered outside the tackles, as Denver OLBs Jason Hunter and Mario Haggan were consistently blocked out of plays, and the safeties behind them were unable to provide much support once McFadden hit daylight. Injuries have sapped Denver's ability to put their best lineup on the field to contain the run, particularly with Robert Ayers gone. Having Brian Dawkins back as an eighth defender in the box should help some. But the main issue is gap control. Denver's linemen and linebackers can't freelance in an effort to make big plays and must instead keep lane integrity for the benefit of the overall run scheme. Having a mobile quarterback like Smith makes edge containment even more paramount. Denver could approach the game like they did Chris Johnson, Vince Young and Tennessee, crashing down hard with their ends and being fundamentally sound tacklers on the inside.
INJURY IMPACT: RB Knowshon Moreno was seen grabbing his right hamstring near the bend of the knee at the end of the open media period. Moreno has had problems with both of his hamstrings dating back to the first day of training camp. Coach Josh McDaniels a couple hours prior had talked up Moreno in an expanded role but that may be affected by the latest news, meaning more snaps for Laurence Maroney.
—CB Andre' Goodman practiced fully for a second straight day and pronounced himself ready to return to the lineup after missing four of the last five games with a quadriceps pull. S Brian Dawkins (knee) was working with the first-team defense in the open media period and appears on track to return after a two-game absence, meaning Denver's starting secondary should finally be intact.
—If WR Eddie Royal can't play, Denver could plug Eric Decker into the slot in his place. Decker is the main backup, but the Broncos also could roll with some four-wide sets to ensure that Demaryius Thomas gets on the field.
|10-29-2010, 04:37 PM||#2|
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Twixt Hell & Highwater
I would like to see the Broncos get a win this Sunday, but what I really want is the Broncos to put an ass-whipping on the Chiefs in two weeks. If they beat SF and then lose to the Chiefs, it doesn't mean ****.
|10-29-2010, 04:41 PM||#3|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Apr 2001
Kush & Irsay
|10-29-2010, 05:18 PM||#4|
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
|10-29-2010, 05:25 PM||#5|
I WANT DEFENSE!
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Always Hoping
As far as Cox, if it's that bad I don't know that he'll be returning this year. At least he shouldn't as a safety precaution. That's awful.