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Tag:John Fox
Posted on: November 9, 2011 4:32 pm
 

Could option make Denver the Georgia Tech of NFL?

For the first time in his two seasons as a Denver Bronco, Tim Tebow was allowed to function in the spread option offense that he helped make famous while at the University of Florida.

The result was a surprisingly dominant running game (299 rushing yards, two touchdowns) against the Oakland Raiders Sunday. The victory made Tebow 2-1 in his three starts this season and shockingly enough put the Broncos only a game behind first place in the AFC West.

Coaches have long argued that the option offense would not work in the NFL as defensive players at the professional level are simply too fast. The same, however, was said about the spread offense and while I'm not about to suggest that June Jones or Steve Spurrier's current schemes would work against the Baltimore Ravens' defense, the proliferation of a shotgun-based offense has helped make the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots (to name a few) some of the league's most lethal passing attacks.

Quite frankly, I am among those who do not believe the option (or spread option, in this case) is going to be consistently effective against NFL teams. However, I do believe that whatever time and effort a team can force an opponent to specifically game-plan against them is energy well spent.

After all, this is the primary reason why many have suggested that Paul Johnson's triple-option offense has been successful at Georgia Tech (and previously at Navy, Georgia Southern). It isn't that his Yellow Jackets boast elite talent. Since he took over at Georgia Tech, only wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (ironically enough, also a Bronco) has been taken higher than the fourth round after playing on the offensive side of the ball for Johnson. Simply put, few NCAA teams are capable of mastering defense of the option with only one week in which to prepare for it.

The same could wind up being true for the Denver Broncos.

One thing is certain. The Kansas City Chiefs will have prepared for Tebow and the spread option much more than the Oakland Raiders had. Whether Denver is successful running this offense or not, the fact that they've forced the Chiefs to devote time to game-planning for their unique attack gives Denver an advantage (albeit maybe only a slight one) heading into a key divisional game.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 9:06 am
 

Veterans worth more than late round draft picks

Today is the NFL's trade deadline. All deals must be reported to the league offices by 4 pm Eastern.

Some believe there will be a small flurry of trades. Most likely, this  year there will be few, if any, last minute deals.

It isn't difficult to understand why.

Besides the complexities of today's salaries and contracts, teams simply are unwilling to package draft picks for veteran players -- even for those with a proven track record in the league.

Yesterday's deal between the St. Louis Rams and the Denver Broncos is a prime example. The Rams, desperately in need of a reliable set of hands to help young quarterback Sam Bradford, sent a conditional late round pick (officially a sixth, which can be escalated to a fifth) for the rights to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd, 30, led the league last year with 1,448 receiving yards in a Pro Bowl effort. He had the same quarterback this season (at least early on) in Kyle Orton (another veteran rumored to be on the move), but clearly wasn't the same wideout in Denver's current run-oriented offense. Last season, the veteran journeyman receiver enjoyed career highs in receptions, yardage and touchdowns. In St. Louis, he'll get Bradford and, more importantly, be reunited with former head coach and aggressive pass-caller Josh McDaniels.

For a late round pick, the Rams would appear to have found a player that can provide immediate dividends.

Now I ask you, what are the odds that St. Louis' 2012 sixth (or fifth, for that matter) would do the same?

Certainly I have to concede that at 30 years old Lloyd may not have as many years in the league left in him as whatever rookie the Rams would have selected. However, given that the average NFL career spans only three seasons that may not be true.

Also, what makes Lloyd an effective receiver -- his savviness as a route-runner, body control and sticky hands -- aren't the characteristics likely to suddenly be lost due to age, like speed or explosiveness.

The deal makes sense for both clubs. The Rams needed help. The Broncos are clearly moving in a different direction and would love to acquire the draft picks needed to aid them in doing so.

But a late round pick for a Pro Bowl receiver who, not surprisingly, is "excited for the move," should prove once again the NFL continues to overvalue its draft picks in relation to proven veterans.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 7:17 pm
 

Don't underestimate spark Tebow provides


About two months ago, as news broke that 2010 first round pick Tim Tebow had slipped to No. 3 on the Denver Broncos' depth chart, a national writer who I respect very much essentially asked me to explain what went wrong.

I argued that nothing had gone wrong, which was counter to what virtually everyone else was saying -- and probably why my comments weren't part of his article.

Now that Tebow has given an opportunity to start for Denver again, I fully expect critics to again rise up and bash the move. And again, I will preach patience.

I have never considered myself to be a Tim Tebow apologist. If I were running an NFL franchise I would not have selected him in the first round. That said, he does possess some extraordinary skills that can, if complimented correctly, lead to success as a quarterback in the NFL. I believed it then. And I stand behind my 2nd round grade for Tebow now.

Anyone who watched any of the second half of Denver's game Sunday against the Chargers saw the immediate spark Tebow provided. The fans were more excited. Teammates were more excited. Had Brandon Lloyd not dropped what was a very accurate pass from Tebow for the tying two-point conversion in the closing minutes, the Broncos' coaching staff would have no choice but to be excited.

Instead, today feels as though the Broncos' staff are throwing their collective hands up in the air and saying, "Ah, what the hell, let's give this Tebow guy a try."

Tebow serves as a classic example of how the high expectations of a spectacular collegiate career can quickly turn to disappointment when similar success isn't immediately gained in the NFL.

Tebow started three games as a rookie, leading the Broncos to one of their four victories (Houston) last year. He threw for 651 yards in those three contests, including passing for four touchdowns against three interceptions. He also ran in a touchdown in each of the three games. Were his name not Tim Tebow, one might argue that a rookie quarterback scoring seven touchdowns against four turnovers (he fumbled against Houston) and leading his team to 25% of his team's victories despite only starting 5% of the season might have done enough to earn more playing time.

Instead, because of the fact that he'll never be the prototypical spread passer so en vogue in today's NFL, he's already being characterized by some as failure whose only chance at NFL success is at a different position.

In reality, Tebow's size, ability to throw on the run and intangibles continue to make him a fit in an offense geared around the running game -- which is precisely what Denver is attempting to do with John Fox.

Fox, and team president John Elway, clearly would not have picked Tebow had they been with the Broncos in April of 2010. The fact that they are giving him an opportunity, however, is acknowledgment that he did bring a spark to this team on Sunday.

My job as a talent evaluator asks me to grade the measureables. Heights, weights, 40-times, completion percentages, they are all part of the gig. Tebow, perhaps more than any other quarterback I've scouted (though Jake Locker is close) has a toughness and competitive spirit about him that defies a numerical grade.

I've watched too many quarterback with marginal accuracy, arm strength and mobility have success in the NFL when an offense is tailored around their individual skill-set. Under Fox, the Carolina Panthers did precisely this for Jake Delhomme, recognizing that his ability to lead his teammates could result in wins, despite his lack of ideal tools.

Thus far this season, Denver's starter, Kyle Orton, has completed 58.7% of his passes 979 yards, eight touchdowns, seven interceptions and two fumbles lost.

Orton's numbers aren't impressive. Even less so is Denver's record (1-4) during that time. I am not claiming that Tebow's touchdowns or completion percentage will be better.

But give Tebow five games. Don't be surprised when the team "miraculously" has a higher winning percentage with him at quarterback -- just like it did last year.

Posted on: August 29, 2011 11:39 am
 

Von Miller -- 2011 Defensive Rookie of the Year

At less than 6-3 (6025) and 246 pounds, Von Miller looks too small to remain at defensive end in the 4-3 defense John Fox is implementing in Denver.

Technically speaking, he is... and therefore plays strongside linebacker for the Broncos, but the No. 2 overall pick often drops his hand into the dirt to rush the quarterback from the traditional three-point stance and it is in this position in which Miller is his most dangerous.

Miller only registered one tackle in the Broncos' preseason opening game against Dallas. He was able to flush Cowboy quarterbacks out of the pocket, however, creating playmaking opportunities for his teammates. Two weeks ago, against Buffalo, Miller was better, registering two tackles, including a sack. Saturday, he registered two of Denver's five sacks, alternately confounding Seattle's first round pick James Carpenter with blinding speed around the edge and surprising strength for the bull rush. Miller essentially took over Seattle's first offensive series of the second half. On first down he sidestepped the blocker, showing good hands to shed and brought quick-footed running back Justin Forsett down for a two yard gain (play was wiped out due to a holding penalty on Seattle). The next play, Miller showed his ability to change directions and close quickly on the football, pursuing and tackling Forsett from behind for a gain of five. On the next snap, Miller jab-stepped outside to get Carpenter on his heels and then simply bull-rushed the 321 pound Carpenter before slipping off to sack Tarvaris Jackson for a three-yard sack.

Miller, despite being pulled in the third quarter, led the Broncos in solo tackles (4), total tackles (4) sacks (2), and quarterback pressures (4) in this game.

Some will take this game as one example of a defensive rookie being ahead of an offensive rookie. I see the physical traits, instincts and technique that is going to make Miller an absolute terror for the Broncos... and I mean, immediately.

The combination of Miller and the healthy return of 2009 NFL sack leader Elvis Dumervil will give the Broncos the elite pass rushing duo in all of the NFL this season. If that prediction isn't bold enough for you (considering that Denver finished dead last in the NFL with 32 sacks in 2010), how about this one.

Not only does Miller appear poised to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, I think he may be capable of doing so as emphatically as Ndamukong Suh did it for the Detroit Lions last year, perhaps even challenging Jevon Kearse's rookie sack title (14.5 for Tennessee in 1999).

Posted on: July 30, 2011 1:01 pm
 

Von Miller limps off practice field in Denver

The Denver Broncos and their fans can take a deep sigh of relief that Von Miller, the team's first round pick and the second overall selection of the 2011 draft, was diagnosed with a bruise to his right quadriceps.

Miller, according to Lindsay H. Jones of The Denver Post, limped off the practice field yesterday. Miller signed his deal with the Broncos on Thursday.

"It will be day to day," Fox said when answering questions about Miller. "It's not a pull or anything like that, so we'll evaluate it."

Miller, 6-3 and 246 pounds, the reigning Butkus Award winner was a star defensive end for Texas A&M, racking up 68 tackles, including 17.5 behind the line of scrimmage and 10.5 sacks. He also forced three fumbles. Miller started slowly in 2010. As a junior Miller recorded 48 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss and led the nation with 17 sacks.

Most scouts felt that Miller would best fit in the NFL as a rush linebacker off the edge in the 3-4 scheme. Denver will operate in a 4-3 alignment under John Fox. In this defense, Miller is slated to play strongside linebacker, though he'll have plenty of opportunities to line up opposite former NFL sack king Elvis Dumervil, potentially giving the Broncos as lethal a 1-2 punch of pass-rushers as there is in the league.

Miller was NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior prospect.

In addition to Miller, the Broncos' 4th round pick, former Oklahoma safety Quinton Carter, was carted off the field with what Fox described as heat stress.

Fortunately, neither player is expected to be off the field for long.

Posted on: February 24, 2011 11:41 am
 

Did John Fox leak Broncos plan for No. 2 overall?

Denver Broncos head coach John Fox may have unintentionally leaked the direction his team will be going with the No. 2 overall pick.

The Broncos need help on the defensive line. Ranking dead last in the NFL in total defense, including 31st against the run will do that to a club. The team is also transitioning back to a 4-3 defense.

Fox sound excited about the impending healthy return of pass rusher Elvis Dumervil. He twice cited the fact that Dumervil "had 17 sacks" and erased any doubt that Dumervil would be returning back to defensive end, as he had played prior to former head coach Josh McDaniels' switching the Broncos to a 3-4 defense.

The surprise came moments later when he described his feelings about Broncos' 2009 first round pick Robert Ayers, a defensive end at the University of Tennessee, who struggled the past two seasons as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Fox, when asked what he thought of Ayers and how he fit in with his defensive scheme, "I saw him [Ayers] as a 4-3 defensive end. We've got him penciled in as a defensive end. I have the utmost confidence that he'll be a productive player for us this season."

If Fox does, indeed, have the "utmost confidence" in Ayers and is comfortable with Dumervil's return after a torn pectoral muscle sidelined him all of last year, the Broncos will likely be looking at defensive tackle with the No. 2 overall pick rather than defensive end Da'Quan Bowers from Clemson or Robert Quinn from North Carolina.

Fox wouldn't go into specifics about this year's defensive tackle group, but seemed less than enthusiastic about his team's current defensive tackles.

Auburn's Nick Fairley and Alabama's Marcell Dareus are considered by most scouts to be top five prospects. Both have the size and physicality to be an immediate upgrade inside for the Broncos.
Posted on: February 19, 2011 1:01 pm
 

Fox makes it official, Denver switching to 4-3

Once the Denver Broncos hired John Fox to be their head coach many of us presumed he'd be bringing along his 4-3 defensive front to the AFC West.

On Friday, he made it official, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post.

"We're going to be a multiple-front defense, but I think we'll make the commitment to the 4-3. The transition from the 3-4 to 4-3 is much easier than going from the 4-3 to 3-4, I will say that. So we feel pretty confident about that switch."

The Broncos had long run the 4-3 alignment under Mike Shanahan, but switched to the 3-4 under Josh McDaniels. Under the tutelage of then-defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, the Broncos appeared to make early strides in the odd man front in 2009, but the team dropped from the No. 7 ranked overall defense two years ago to dead last this past season.

Fox is fortunate in his timing. Not only are the Broncos in prime position to add a defensive star with the No. 2 overall pick of the draft, they'll also be getting former NFL sacks champion Elvis Dumervil back this season. He missed all of last year with a torn pectoral muscle.

I currently project the Broncos to select defensive tackle Nick Fairley in the first round. My fellow senior analyst Chad Reuter also has them taking the Auburn star.

Fairley, Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers each possess the size and strength to provide immediate help in Denver. The possibility also exists that the Broncos may have to consider LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson should they allow Champ Bailey to leave via free agency.

As always for the very best in NFL draft coverage, be sure to keep the page refreshed at NFLDraftScout.com


Posted on: January 12, 2011 12:01 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2011 12:03 pm
 

Rivera provides clues in introductory presser

I'm a firm believer that watching the video (or attending live) the introductory press conferences for new NFL coaches can give us a sense of where a team might be going with their roster.

This isn't always the case and I believe it is lessened when the head coach is taking over his second or third team. Rookie head coaches, however, perhaps because of their inexperience or enthusiasm, do sometimes let things slip in meeting and answering the local media's questions for the first time.

After viewing new Carolina head coach Ron Rivera's press conference (available on the Panthers' official website ), I came away with several thoughts on the direction he'll lead this team.

While most of the impressions I gleaned from the press conference deal with scheme and Rivera's early evaluation of the team's current talent, perhaps the most important one came from Rivera's personality. As stated, I've watched many introductory press conferences during my ten years in this business. Rivera's passion, drive and leadership stood out. I believe the Carolina Panthers are going from one very good head coach in John Fox to another very good one in Rivera. Considering how different the two coaches' personalities are, that's a rare feat.

 In a previous blog post I cited Rivera's experience in the 3-4 scheme as a reason why Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley -- who I believe to be best suited to the 4-3 -- would not be the first overall pick. While Rivera was hired away from San Diego, which ran the 3-4 scheme, he is actually more experienced in the 4-3 having played (and coached) this style with the Chicago Bears and coached with the Philadelphia Eagles, as well.

Rivera took little time in addressing which style of defense Carolina would be running.

"As far as the scheme is concerned, we are a 4-3 defense," Rivera said. "That's what this team is, I think the personnel is set up for that. I think that the personnel is set up that if we can make a couple of additions to it we can be a solid unit and have success early."

Could one of those "additions" be Fairley, Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus or LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson? Perhaps. All four are being graded as top five picks from a number of teams I've spoken to. Most cite Peterson as the best player in the draft.

Rivera left the door open for the No. 1 pick to be a quarterback, as well, but I don't believe he'll be

"I think we you look at it, that the one position we have to find answers for [is quarterback] - and I think he has some athletic ability and comes from a pretty solid foundation and that is Jimmy Clausen - to see if Jimmy or if there is a quarterback on this roster who can become that franchise guy you need," Rivera said. "Because if there is one thing I've been fortunate to be around my last four years is a franchise quarterback in Philip Rivers, who is very solid. That's one of the things that we need to take a look at on the offensive side and that is going to be a big influence and impact when we sit down with the offensive coordinator candidates and the quarterback coach is to find out exactly what their approach is going to be with the guys on this roster , okay, and the potential candidates that are out there in the draft or free agency."

I put "on this roster" in italics because Rivera stressed it. This is what I am referring to in actually viewing the press conference. Rivera's words, by transcription only, may lead you to believe that the Panthers will consider drafting a quarterback with the first pick - and, of course, they will. But, the fact that Rivera wants to know "exactly" what prospective offensive coordinators and quarterback coaches thought of Clausen and the Panthers "other" quarterbacks -- Matt Moore, Brian St. Pierre and Tony Pike -- could be an indication that he'd rather use the pick elsewhere.

An unexpected nugget came from Rivera when discussing the tight end position. While complimentary about virtually every other position, the new head coach sounded like a man expecting significant improvement from this position. Rivera, of course, is coming from a San Diego team that boasts All-Pro Antonio Gates - and players like that don't exactly grow on trees - but the fact that he highlighted the position is interesting.

This is pure speculation, but it leads me to wonder if Rivera thought that perhaps better play from the tight end position would have significantly aided Clausen's development as a rookie.

"Tight end is by committee," Rivera said. "There is [sic] three guys there that I like and that I think each have a quality of their own, but if there is a guy out there - whether it be through the draft or free agency or on our roster that does it all the time, we have to find him. I think that will help us as an offense."

The Panthers featured Jeff King, Dante Rosario and Gary Barnidge. The trio combined for 51 catches for 385 yards and two touchdowns.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com