2014 NFL Combine: Denver Broncos GM John Elway Recap

On Friday, Denver Broncos GM John Elway took the podiumto talk about the disappointing Super Bowl loss, but an exciting year for Broncos football.

Here is a bit of his press conference along with some of my thoughts on what he said.

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Pro Football Central Appearence

Hey folks, just got done taping an edition of Pro Football Central’s PFC Live Rapid Fire!

I joined host Brian Harrington and fellow BR guy (and AFC West Lead Writer) Tyson Langland to talk about Thursday night’s surprising Chargers win, whether Peyton Manning is a choke artist, RG3 vs Shanny and much much more.

Check it out below.

Thanks to Brian for having me on and be sure to catch everything they’ve got going on over at PFC.

Make sure you’re reading Langland’s stuff at BR, and follow him on Twitter at @TysonNFL.

 

What We Saw: San Diego Chargers 27, Denver Broncos 20

This is the NFL, which means anything can happen—especially between division foes.

That said, while everyone said the Chargers could win nobody expected it.

Yet they went out and took care of business, beating the Broncos on their field 27-20.

Here’s what we learned last night.

  • It’s hard to say there’s a specific blueprint for beating Denver because “keep the offense off the field” and “play aggressive defense” could work for most teams. Still, the Chargers were content to grind the clock, especially late in the game. They could have kept the pedal to the floor and tried to pile the points on, but didn’t. Most surprisingly, they punted on the Bronco’s 39-yard line when they had mere inches to go. It worked out, but that sort of passivity of play calling can be dodgy in the playoffs. But Thursday night they won time of possession and it made a big difference.
  • That said, you have to look long and hard at the Broncos defense which pressured Rivers a little bit but only hit him twice. They also couldn’t even slow Ryan Mathews down. Yes, Manning had an off night (for him) but the defense also struggled when you didn’t expect it to. If you can’t get past the Chargers offensive line, it’s time to take a hard look at what is going on.

image via TheBigLead.com

  • Keenan Allen is as good as we thought. Maybe better. The touchdown where he leaped over one guy and trucked another should cement his Offensive Rookie of the Year award. There are several offensive rookies worthy of consideration (Eddie Lacy, Zac Stacy, Gio Bernard should all be in the conversation along with others) but Allen is likely to get my vote when the PFWA has its vote later.
  • What Mike McCoy has done in San Diego is impressive and should tell you how bad things were under Norv Turner and AJ Smith. And it puts the lie to the myth that McCoy was only successful in Denver because everyone is successful with Manning. Remember, this is a guy who shaped offenses for three very disparate quarterbacks—Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow and Manning. Along with Marc Trestman in Chicago and Chip Kelly in Philadelphia, McCoy has had an incredible impact on his team’s offense.
  • The Broncos still can win the division, but losing home field to the Patriots should worry them. Not because “Peyton Manning can’t play in the cold” but because it’s very tough to beat New England in New England during the playoffs.  The upside is, with Rob Gronkowski down for the count, Tom Brady is once again down a big weapon. Still, if I’m the Broncos I want that home field. It’s a much better place to be than Gillette Stadium.

image via AP Photo/Joe Mahoney & ESPN.com

  • I wasn’t ready to crown Manning as MVP before the game—though he was the one I was leaning towards—and I’m not calling him out of it. Still, it’s always been a season award so let’s finish the season, shall we? That said if we are talking “Not Peyton” I lean towards Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, not Tom Brady.
  • The Broncos have two games they should win in the next two weeks (Oakland and Houston). The Patriots have Miami, Baltimore and Buffalo. Put Buffalo aside (though you never know). Both Miami and Baltimore are games they should win. But both teams have playoff hopes and will be more desperate than the Raiders or Texans. Home field is still there for the taking.
  • San Diego has a winnable Oakland game and a very, very tough game against Kansas City, though at least it’s at home. They have a good shot at a Wild Card—the AFC is a mess so everyone does—but they will need help.

What did you see last night? Give me your thoughts down in the comments.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter..

3 Questions about: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos

image via NFL.com

In the underwhelming AFC, there are an awful lot of teams still in the hunt for the second Wild Card.

At 6-7, you’d assume the San Diego Chargers weren’t one of them but here we are. Given that Baltimore and Miami both have games they can very well lose (against Detroit and against New England respectively) and with the other 6-7 team (the New York Jets) heading to Carolina, the Chargers have a great shot at getting a leg up for that spot.

They face a Denver Broncos team which, while it has secured a playoff berth, has its sights set on the division title and a bye week—and perhaps home field advantage.

In other words, this is no pushover for either team.

  • Can the Chargers protect Philip Rivers? Last time out, the Chargers offensive line allowed him to be sacked four times, hit five times total and pressured all day long. How will the Chargers avoid this? Will they go no-huddle and up-tempo early? Will they use a lot of short slants and quick passes to negate the rush by getting the ball out quickly? How they handle Von Miller and company will decide if they can keep up with Manning.
  • Without Wes Welker and with a Peyton Manning who is still wrestling with ankle issues, does the Broncos offense change at all? You can bet that the Chargers will try to hit Manning often and disrupt his timing but that’s a tough task. Manning can get the ball out quickly, so it’s a matter of keeping his receivers covered just long enough to get a hand on him. That hasn’t been easy and while Welker is a loss, Eric Decker has been on fire and the return of tight end Julius Thomas bolsters the offense up. Also, will the split between Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball continue?
  • How will the emergence of rookie Keenan Allen play into the Chargers offense? Back in Week 10, Allen wasn’t a big factor with just five targets and four catches for 41 yards. Truth be told, the entire offense played poorly once the Broncos built a 21-6 lead. But Allen was clearly not the playmaker he is now. This will be a tough test for him and the Chargers need him to perform. San Diego will want to try to get an early lead. To do that, they need to protect Rivers. But they’ll also need the rookie receiver to continue to step up.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.

NFL Week 9: What We Learned

It’s all downhill from here.

We’ve moved past the halfway point for the 2013 NFL season and there’s a lot of information to sift through.

One thing is certain: we don’t know as much as we know.

What do I know?

  • It’s going to be a dogfight for the AFC wild cards. Assuming the Bengals, Colts and Patriots hold their divisions and assuming that neither Kansas City no Denver collapses, you’ve got five of six spots pretty well secured. Leaving one spot for the Jets, Dolphins, Browns, Titans and Chargers to go after. The Jets have to cushiest schedule but are the most inconsistent. But anything can happen, so hang on.
  • Given the injuries the Packers and Bears are dealing with, the Lions are the favorite for the NFC North title. It’s going to come down to consistency and getting out of their own may. The Lions have not been penalized as much as they have in years past—57 flags through eight games at a rate of 7 per game puts them just in the top ten for most penalized—and they have to continue to improve if they want to lock this down. They have a chance to beat the Bears and Packers for the title if they play smart football over the second half of the season.
  • Adults can be bullied. As much as we don’t want to believe it (or some don’t), it happens. We shouldn’t be blaming the victim—it’s a bad look.
  • Speaking of Miami specifically, what a disaster. Even taking away the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito mess, this team has looked a bit rudderless. They have a solid running back in Lamar Miller who they have only just started giving more than a dozen carries and still won’t give him a full load—despite a 4.8 yards-per-carry average. The offensive line was a disaster before they lost two of their starters and their big money receiver—Mike Wallace—has been completely ineffective.  If they were winning, the other stuff would seem trivial. Now? It looks symptomatic.
  • The chickens could be coming home to roost in Green Bay. For a long time there have been concerns—primarily among national media but occasionally among fans—that having unproven or just flat out bad backups behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers was a bad idea. The Packers were willing to gamble since Rodgers is one of the tougher guys out there, but now that he’s out with a fractured collarbone, and now that we’ve seen Seneca Wallace play, it has to be a concern. As we’ve discussed when Jay Cutler and other quarterbacks have gone out with injury the pickings are slim in free agency and the trade deadlines are past. We expect GM Ted Thompson to pull some magic out of his bag of tricks, but while the rest of the team seems to be fine with “next-man-up” talent, quarterback is too important a position. If the team collapses it will highlight one of the rare times when Thompson has failed to find talent to develop.
  • Coaching is rough. Media and fans both get on coaches about failings on the field but few people realize how much of a grind the job is. Denver’s John Fox and Houston’s Gary Kubiak both ending up in the hospital in one weekend is a reminder, as was the sad situation with Andy Reid’s son not long ago. Ultimately, criticism comes with the job, but it’s important to remember how much these guys put into their jobs and the toll it takes on them and their family.
  • I don’t know what to make of the Bengals, Jets or Browns. I’m having a hard time buying the Chiefs.  The Panthers are proving to be the contender I thought they might be in preseason.
  • Andrew Luck is a damned fine quarterback. Eddie Lacy should have been the first running back in the 2013 NFL draft. The rookie quarterbacks this year are just as inconsistent and raw as I expected them to be.
  • Everyone says “Wait until Seattle is on the road, then we’ll see how bad they are” but they’re 47-1 on the road. So what are we waiting for?
  • Even the Jacksonville Jaguars look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and say “Oh man, that’s bad.”
  • The last few years have seen some great quarterback classes and all indications are that 2014 will have another stellar crop. This year seems to be the year of the running back though. Eddie Lacy, Giovani Bernard and Zac Stacy are all performing well—Lacy and Stacy especially the last two games, though I suspect if the Bengals gave Bernard 20 carries, he’d be right there with them. That said, it’s going to be the rare back worth a first round pick—with Trent Richardson and David Wilson’s struggles, it doesn’t seem to be worth the risk to grab a back in the first round. Bernard and Lacy were second round picks, Stacy was grabbed in the fifth. Add in Andre Ellington, who is going to have a strong second half of the season and was a sixth round pick and, if you have a good scouting department, you can grab value anywhere.

That’s all for this week. I’ll be back later in the week to highlight the Thursday night matchup as well as break some plays down with the All-22 coach’s tape.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.

Top Fantasy Football Team Defenses for 2013 (Bleacher Report Video)

Again, really wish I could embed these.

Here is my gorgeous face talking about the top fantasy defenses in the NFL this year. Also, there is an accompanying piece about why the Denver Broncos missed the cut.

Enjoy!