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Denver Broncos March Scouting Report
Charles Rives
3/13/2017

Brian Billick said. "You prepare. You study. You lay out just for the interview process itself who is on your staff, what's the schedule going to be like and this, that or the other. You prepare for that. You go through the interview. You get the job. Then, you sit behind your desk for the first time and realize, 'Holy s---, I don't know what I'm doing.' " HC Vance Joseph, has hired an outstanding staff of coaches to assist him in his first head coaching job.

OFFENSE

 

Joseph has tasked OC Mike McCoy and his offensive staff to create an offense that is up-tempo, attacking and scores points. The total quality of an NFL team is four parts offense. McCoy has said the offense will combine power and inside zone and outside zone. So, what is that offense likely to look like? McCoy has two good blue prints: the Patriots Shotgun Spread and the Moore-Manning offense. Both offenses: use two basic personnel groupings to run the vast majority of their play out of: 11 (1rb1te) and 12 (1rb 2te)-- one-back sets with a 2x2 or 3x1 alignments. Using an empty back field (rb &/or te positioned outside) will allow the quarterback to pick apart coverage with precise "dink and dunk" throws (2.25 sec) within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Using tempo, personnel, and packaged plays with constraint based play calling to run the offense, will force the defense into simple defenses and simple defensive personnel. The quarterback will count the defenders in "the box" and decide if he has a favorable match-up either in the running or passing game, and the he will then take what the defense gives him. If the defense is in a defense he does not like the quarterback audibles into a constraint play until they give him what he wants-the "levels" passing concept, outside zone run and the stick/draw (a chain mover) on a consistent basis. Bill Walsh belived that you have to understand the quarterback’s physical attributes, and structure the offense, specifically, the passing game, accordingly. McCoy's pass concepts ( routes that work together to stretch a defense): vertical stretches, horizontal stretches, and man beating routes. Playing up-tempo and installing on a week-to-week basis requires an offense based on simplicity. Combination" or "packaged" plays make things as simple as possible for the players while also keeping defenses off-balance. The packaged plays combine simple plays all the players can execute. Calling these plays with simple, one- or two-word commands facilitates the up-tempo pace. A small number of personnel groups combined with a few plays, should give McCoy an offense in which his players can execute effectively and his quarterbacks are comfortable. The quarterbacks will have to be adept thowing into the space between seams, from 10 to 25 yards out. Taking eight shots (over 20 yards) will open up the running game like nothing else does.The red zone is the most important place on the field to play well. Jumbo formations are the trend, but the smaller Broncos should stick with their usual sets. McCoy has already completed "probably 60 percent" of the offensive scheme. Broncos assistant offensive line coach John Benton has left to become the San Francisco 49ers offensive line coach. The Broncos will not pick up LT Russell Okung's four-year, $48-million option making him a free agent. The Broncos hired Chris Strausser as assistant OL coach.

 

Defense

 

The total quality of an NFL team is three parts defense, but a defense is less consistant from year to year than an offense. DC Joe Woods' primary focus this offseason will be improving the Broncos' run defense. Keeping the team's 3-4 base alignment in place makes it easier to add tweaks, while removing incompatible options from the fold. With the back-end taken care of, Woods can narrow his focus to tackling, gap assignments and perimeter speed -- major reasons for the recent decline. His three point plan/message to his players: 1. Do your job. 2. Make the plays you are supposed to make. 3. Play fast. Free agent, incumbent NT Sylvester Williams, was a key culprit for the Broncos struggles, and is unlikely to return. Replacing him will have more to do with the specific type of 3-4 that the team runs. The Broncos have used the Phillip's 3-4 (1-gap, quick penetration to stop the run and pressure the quarterback). Whether the Broncos remain a one gap or move to a two gap 3-4 will determine what they will look for in a new nose tackle. It typically takes at least a year to develop an effective defensive tackle. Another problem in the run game was the loss of DE Vance Walker and the lack of depth. Walker is a free agent that the Broncos hope to resign. DE Adam Gotsis is a reputable run-stopper at the point of attack but lacks the explosiveness to be a consistent pass rusher/pressure guy. The Broncos would like to re-sign CB Kayvon Webster before he hits unrestricted free agency.

The Broncos have added former Viking defensive back, Charles Gordon, as a quality control assistant.

 

Special Teams

The total quality of an NFL team is one part special teams. STC Brock Olivio has a starting point with two solid players: P Riley Dixon and K Brandon McManus. The major weakness is a lack of consitancy in a return man and the coverage teams. Dixon give the Broncos a good shot at making their opponent start drives inside their own 10, where research shows teams are overly conservative. His punting can help the Broncos to win the field position battle. IMO, there are too few onside kicks because when they are unexpected, the success rate is 60%. McManus is known for his strong leg and being known for sneaky onside kicks will force normal kick return blocking to suffer. Kick-off and kick coverage is the most important way special teams can help the team win.

 

SALARY CAP

 

The NFL and NFL Players Association announced that the base salary cap will be $167 million. The Broncos have $174,243,248 thanks to the carryover of space from last year ($42,064,799 of cap space).

Free Agency

The team that most grossly overestimates a free agent's value will very likely be the team that offers the most and wins the auction. Thus, free agents tend to be signed by the teams that erred the most in predicting their true worth. A player might be of particularly high worth to a team with a single 'missing piece', but, in the end, that value is just as susceptible to overestimation. Once the top free agent is signed in any given year, the market is now 'set' for other lesser players which tends to inflate the price of similar players, and with each inflated signing, all player's prices inch up one more tiny notch, until a market correction comes along. This is why top teams tend to build their teams through the draft and not through free agency-draft picks being better bargins than veteran free-agents with similar expected performance.

The best play to rebuild the offensive line for 2017 is through free agency and the Broncos plan is to secure a starting guard and a tackle in free agency. Their biggest need is at left tackle. LT Andrew Whitworth (35) and RT/LT/G Riley Reiff are the class of the tackle group. There are three very good options at guard: TJ Lang, Kevin Zeitler and Ronald Leary. The Broncos are set at wide recievers one and two, but need a number three and there is decent "three" talent available. Outside of NT Kawann Short ($14-17million a year), free agent nose tackles are two down run stoppers at $6-9 million a year. DE Calais Campbell is the only difference maker at the end position ($10+ million a year). RB Danny Woodhead would come with a $3+ million price for his versatility and experience. RB Rex Burkhead could be a younger, cheaper alternative with a similar skill set.

Tendered: ILB Todd Davis (Restricted); K Brandon McManus (Restricted); C Matt Paradis; ILB Zaire Anderson; OLB Shaquil Barret; C James Ferentz; RB Kapri Bibbs; LS Casey Kreiter; WR Bennie Fowler; and WR Jordan Taylor (Exclusive rights).

Signed: DE Bobby Richardson (24) 6'3, 286. Richardson is a second-year defensive end with first-team experience who will provide additional depth along the defensive line as a 3- and 5-technique end with 34 5/8-inch arms. G Ronald Leary (27) 6'3, 330. Leary is a tough, physical guard with the ability to drive and attack off the snap and helps the running game. T Menelik Watson (28) 6'5, 315. Watson has upside if he can stay healthy for which he is counting on the Broncos' strength and conditioning staff. He's an evolving player who didn't take up American football until 2011. Lost: T Russell Okung; DT Sylvester Williams;

2017 Draft

The Broncos will have four compensatory picks in the 2017 NFL Draft with the two seventh-round selections are the last two picks of the draft. This is the first year in which teams can trade compensatory picks. Denver is going to have to find the best football player they can at No. 20.

1st Round: 20th overall; 2nd round: 50th overall; 3rd round: 83rd overall + 101st overall comp;

4th round: 127th overall; 5th round: 177th overall comp 6th round: 204th overall

7th round: 238th overall; 7th round: 252nd overall comp; 7th round: 253rd overall comp.

The way the Broncos like to build their roster is to use free agents to plug lineup holes with starters and key rotational reserves you can succeed with and then draft for depth and development. The Broncos want a left tackle that can play left tackle, but today's best college tackles frequently take 3 years to develop. The top three left tackles in this year's draft all have question marks: Cam Robinson (G?), off-field issues (drugs, weapons) and lacks the light feet to remain at left tackle; Garett Bolles, lazy fundamentals and inexperience; Ryan Ramczyk, desire and hip surgery. RB Christian McCaffrey's unique athletic traits (and low fumble rate) are perfectly suited to today's up-tempo NFL, but he lacks the size to sustain blocks for long. TE O.J. Howard is far from a finished product (lacks physicality, route running), but he has undeniable potential and perceived upside as a "move" tight end and hybrid slot receiver. However, the tight end class is deep enought to wait until rounds 2-4. The Broncos are working free agency (DE, G, T) to position themselves to pick the best player on their board at #20.

ROSTER

Both G Max Garcia and G Connor McGovern could benefit from a shift to an offensive-line scheme that incorporates more power concepts, while retaining some zone elements. LB Zaire Anderson could push for more playing time at inside linebacker. Expect S Justin Simmons to see plenty of action along with S Will Parks as backups behind SS T.J. Ward and FS Darian Stewart. WR/KR Kalif Raymond could be in the mix for some slot-team repetitions, but the key for him will be on kickoff and punt returns. WRs Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler and Jordan Taylor will battle for the number three spot. TE Vigil Green is the old man of the tight end corp. RBs Anderson, Booker and ?????

ORANGEMAN'S TAKE

I believe the Broncos should take RB Christian McCaffrey at #20 even if he is a reach. McCaffrey would give the Broncos instant offense which they sorely need. He would give Mike McCoy more flexibility on offense with his versatiliy. And, he would give Brock Olivio a much needed return man. Round 2 is early enough to take the best offensive lineman availible and an inside linebacker in Round 3. They can add developmental offensive linemen with college free agents. Rounds 4-7 picks provide ammunition for trading if Elway wants to make opportunistic moves during the draft.

FANTASY OUTLOOK

Defenses, pre and post reads, and coverages can all be learned in time, but it takes a truly dedicated quarterback with a disciplined mind to see the process to its end. The quarterback must get into perfect position to throw and then calmly bounce in place, resetting his feet while remaining in perfect balance, to throw a strike. Being able to take as many offseason reps as possible helps the process.

QUARTERBACKS 1. Trevor Siemian may not be able to practice in full before training camp although he is out of the sling supporting his shoulder after AC joint surgery. He says he will be ready for OTAs, but be concerned if he misses most of the off-season. 2. Paxton Lynch didn't show enough last season to prove he can be the starter. He has great skills, but needs to show more consistancy and prove he is ready to lead the team. 3. Tony Romo is about to be 37 years old and hasn’t been healthy in two years.

RUNNING BACKS 1. C.J. Anderson’s rusty first-halves of the season have become habitual in his three seasons as a regular ball carrier. Anderson needs to start fast and give the Broncos a well-rounded season.

2. Devonte Booker did not show enough last season to challenge Anderson for the number one slot. The rest of the backs can contribute, but are nothing special. Future contract RB Zac Brooks (Clemson) is a sleeper to make the final roster.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Demaryius Thomas carries a well-deserved reputation for disappearing at length, although he typically redeems himself with stretches of superior playmaking. He is a safer pick as a #2 fantasy WR with #1 upside. 2. Emmanuel Sanders is moving into the twilight years of his career, but should be a good #3 fantasy wide receiver. The rest of the wide receivers include #3 candidates: Cody Latimer (make or break year); Jordon Taylor (needs to stay healthy); Bennie Fowler (tendered, but regressed in 2016); Kalif Raymond (best chance is as a kick return man).

TIGHT ENDS

1. Virgil Green, (IMO has never been used effectivly). 2. A.J. Derby (potential) 3. Jeff Huereman (must stay healthy). The rest of the tight ends need to show they belong.

KICKER

Brandon McManus is a #1 fantasy kicker.

DST

A top 5 fantasy defense.

End.

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