Thursday, May 28, 2015

Peyton Manning Needs the Stephen Strasburg Treatment

Reach back in that memory bank, many of which have decreased due to age, drinking and/or the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, and go back to a time long ago to September 2012.  The Washington Nationals had one of the most well rounded starting rotations and a solid team that nearly won 100 regular season games.  No one with over 80 at bats hit over 0.300 but the team had amazing pitching with the 5 main starters getting 10+ wins and the 4 main guys of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg amassing 21, 12 and 15 wins with Gonzalez and Strasburg with 207 and 197 Strikeouts respectively.  From the beginning of the season, the Nationals KNEW Strasburg only had so many innings he could pitch and was on a pitch/inning count for the year.  The Nationals did not have Strasburg skip a couple starts here and there or alter their rotation to have him pitch ever 6-7 games instead of every 5.  The Nationals made the postseason but Strasburg had reached his inning limit during the regular season.  Many had the main question I myself had, why not do some of the things noted above and limit his pitch count so by the time the postseason came around you could lean on him?  The Nationals got trounced in Game 3 when one of their Top 3 guys (Strasburg) would have pitched and lost two close games in Games 4 and 5 of the post season after an amazing regular season.  The Broncos need to learn from this history and apply it to Peyton Manning.

Peyton Manning is 39 years old.  By the time the post season comes around for the 2015 NFL season, he will only be a couple months from his 40th birthday.  Broncos fans should know from their football savior, John Elway that going past the age of 38, no NFL QB has been to a Super Bowl past that age.  But many Broncos fans orange and blue glasses haven't been cleaned off in a long time and just expect to be back at the Super Bowl for SB50.  The NFL changes yearly, but two guarantees are the Tom Brady and the Patriots and Peyton Manning making the AFC playoffs.  Both are in jeopardy this year, but the Patriots talk can wait for another blog, this is about OUR Broncos and #18-Manning.

The Broncos schedule in 2015 is similar to last year, difficult and a tough road to the Super Bowl but the playoffs are still within site and once there anything can happen if you get rolling.  For the 2014 NFL season/2015 playoffs, the Broncos got there and while most of the blame has fallen on the departed staff, a huge blame goes to allowing Manning to act like he is in his mid-20s to early 30s.  A quarterback in the NFL is usually at their best from about age 26-34.  After that, injuries, age, speed, everything diminishes.  However, Manning set a precedent of 679 pass attempts in 2010 with the Colts and the Broncos have allowed him to keep acting like he is a young man throwing 583, 659 and 597 attempts in his 3 seasons as a Bronco.  These are his 5th, 2nd and 3rd highest attempt totals in his career.  This is utter madness to allow a quarterback in his late 30s to attempt that many passes.  This is not on the coaches alone, but for Manning's desire to win the game with his arm.  Unfortunately, it bit the Broncos and Manning in the ass and he looked like a wounded horse trying to win a race against a group of healthy horses.  Maybe you don't remember the screen shot of him having 20 yards to run and the first down only 5 yards away and he instead fired an incomplete pass.  Manning will never be considered a running threat, but a healthy Manning gives you that first down with his legs and brings confidence to the team.  The Broncos looked completely beat from the get go last postseason and it wasn't just their coaches bringing them down, but Uncle Peyton not being able to move like he used to when you'd go play and he was a young 20 something and you were in middle school in awe.  Now it's like, awwww poor old guy!

So how does this tie into Stephen Strasburg's 2012 season you ask?  I have your long awaited answer, Peyton Manning needs to be on a pitch/attempt/playing time count from the get go.  Not before it is too late like it was completely obvious in 2014 when he hobble around the field in the playoff like my 12 year old dog does after thinking he can still jump off my bed like he was half his age.  Time to grow up and reflect and realize something has to change.  And learn from the Nationals that you can't wait until it is too late in the season to shut him down, but come up with a plan before the season.  In 2013 and 2014, Peyton played the majority of meaningless Week 17 football games against the Oakland Raiders to pad his stats (or set records like he did in 2013).  Here are some key stats of 2014 that make you scratch your head and wonder what the hell was he and the Broncos thinking?

  • Through 10 weeks, Peyton Manning average nearly 41 pass attempts a week.  That was only outdone by Drew Brees for the entire 2014 season.
  • Against St. Louis, New England and Seattle he threw 54, 57 and 49 attempts.  These were his 3 highest passing totals and all three were losses.  His 4th highest total came twice with 44 attempts against Oakland in the first game against Oakland and the second the Broncos only other loss of the season against Cincinatti.
  • Manning threw 9 of his 15 INTs in those four losses.
  • Manning threw 3, 4th quarter interceptions against Cincy looking completely out of sorts, when the Broncos should have been running the football
  • Against the Raiders he played nearly 50 of the 60 minutes in the last game of the season with the outcome of the game firmly in hand and the Broncos not being affected in the standings by the outcome of the game.
  • Manning played the final series in a game that was already decided against the Arizona Cardinals.  He was still attempting passes with the team up by 21 points.
  • With the Broncos up by 24, and the 3rd quarter winding down, the Broncos let Manning play another series and score another touchdown against the lowly Raiders in Oakland.  The end of the quarter led to national joke of Brock Osweiler running to grab his helmet and finish the 3rd quarter and play the rest of the game but Manning trotted on the field and had to finish out the 3rd, not relinquishing control.

Relinquishing control is the key to all the above.  John Fox and a pushover offensive coordinator in Adam Gase allowed Peyton Manning to run freely.  Fortunately a new sheriff is in town with Offensive minded Gary Kubiak and with him a different philosophy.  Part of his philosophy has to be, how do we keep Peyton healthy since love it or hate it, Peyton Manning is the best option for Quarterback in 2015.  That said, the Broncos can also use 2015 to see if Brock Osweiler is the best option for 2016 and beyond while allowing Manning to get the rest he needs.  So how do the Broncos accomplish keeping Manning healthy enough to finish the 2015 NFL season and be ready for the 2016 postseason you ask?  With the following criteria:

  • Manning does not play more than a quarter of preseason games 1,2 and 4 and no more than a half of Game 3.  He is not allowed to throw extra passes and keep his helmet on, but must wear a baseball cap and watch the game.
  • Manning can not make more than 40 passing attempts in a game with the ideal goal being 30-35 attempts max.  His attempt totals can not exceed 500 which would only be the 3rd time in his career that has happened.
  • He is to sit on the bench if the Broncos are up by more than 18 points with 20 minutes or less remaining in ANY game.
  • He has scheduled rest games against the Vikings, Raiders and Browns in Weeks 4-6 where he can not play more than 8 quarters in those 3 games.  This is allowed to give him some extra rest headed into the Week 7 Bye.
  • He can not play in Week 14 against Oakland AT ALL.  The Raiders, at home, after playing six straight weeks and facing the three toughest opponents on the schedule during that timeframe, Manning must be rested for the last 3 weeks of a tough ending to the season with Pittsburgh, Cincinatti and San Diego.  Brock Osweiler and the talent around him could have beat the 2014 Raiders.  The year has changed, the Raiders still suck and the Broncos can win with a back-up.
These changes allow the Broncos to accomplish a few key things; keeping Manning healthy, taking control away from him and allow them to see if the future at QB is on the roster or will need to be acquired in some other way.  The Denver Broncos Super Bowl 50 aspirations hinge on learning from their and the Indianapolis Colts history with Peyton Manning and from the mistakes of the 2012 Washington Nationals and how they handled a young pitcher they knew they needed to observe to keep healthy.  The Broncos must hold Manning back early to allow him to direct the Broncos to another Super Bowl this season.  Otherwise, it's just more about Peyton Manning setting records but missing out on the rings that make a Hall-of-Fame quarterback be argued amongst the greatest ever.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mile High Sports Radio Off-Air Again...

Once again listeners to Denver's Mile High Sports Radio have to deal with not hearing their regularly scheduled programing.  Without adequate warning, former 94.1 FM/1550 AM (and previously 93.7 FMand 1510 AM, that's a whole other story highlighted HERE) Mile High Sports Radio radio signal got sold off and they are moving again.  Their return date is scheduled to be June 1st but we have heard a similar song and dance when they went away after the 93.7/1510 fiasco where it dragged out and then after it did come up the signal was down repeatedly and the static was similar to listening to the tune dial in the 1985 Ford Escort, 1980s Orange Pinto or 1980s Ford LTD I rolled around in the backseat of hung out in the front as a small child pressing or rolling through the stations. 

Let's be honest, Mile High Sports is to Denver Sports Radio what the Rockies are to Professional Denver Sports Teams.  They have local programming on more often than the other guys in town, like the Rockies play more games than anyone else.  They are ran by a couple local guys while 105.5 ESPN and 104.3 The Fan have been run by deep pockets.  Monforts vs Billionaire Stan Kroenke and Billionaire Bowlen conglomerate.  MHS has some big guns in their line-up but if you ask people under 40 the guys they know in Denver Sports they will name people from The Fan most likely (doesn't necessarily mean they are better since idiots still tune-in to Big Al and D-Mac and mind numbing numbers with the best man in sports Nate Krecman on 105.5 ESPN at that time or Fan Morning Show when legends, well folk heroes Danny Williams and Cello Romano are on in the morning) so Tulo and Cargo while Arenado is the best player and often overlooked.  And they continue to have loyal listeners stick around even with all the crap they have gone through with them, because they enjoy that local talk and enjoy something different like Rockies "fans" show up to support a broken franchise that continues to make mistakes.

Okay, that comparison may be a little harsh but to just not be on-air for 10 days is absolutely ridiculous and to not give notice of it over the course of a week or so is another snafu.  Mile High Sports has been a guilty pleasure, as any regular reader knows and any listener knowing my Angry Andy fame, but sooner or later you have to say ENOUGH!  Angry Andy has had enough and this listener is going to stick with Nate Kreckman full time in the afternoons and is going to be all Howard Stern in the times between.  Well, until June 1st where I will probably say, let's give them another try and check out this new and improved signal.  Damn you Rockies, I mean Mile High Sports.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Denver Broncos 2015 NFL Draft Recap

The Denver Broncos 2015 NFL Draft started with a bang on Thursday night with a big trade that got one of the most talented players in the draft in speed rush Outside Linebacker Shane Ray but over the next two days caused a lot of head scratching and further question marks.  The Broncos went into the draft with the main questions being Offensive Line, Nose Tackle and Inside Linebacker.  So, let's break down the players selected, their impact on the team and what the Broncos may have not addressed.

Round 1-Pick 23: Shane Ray, OLB, Missouri (Shane Ray-NFL Draft Profile)
Shane Ray is a pass rush demon with a burst off the line of scrimmage and turning the corner/edge that will remind a lot of Denver Broncos fans of Von Miller.  Ray was seen as a potential Top 10 draft pick since mid-season when he had already amassed over double digit sacks in early November.

Shane Ray's draft stock took a slight hit when an injury during the bowl weeks caused him to miss the scouting combine and prevented him from working out for teams.  Still, his draft status seemed to stand no further than mid-round just a week before the draft.  Unfortunately, Ray broke a cardinal rule for draft prospects, don't do anything stupid the last two weeks leading up to the draft, and got busted for marijuana possession.  Ray's draft stock went down with some believing he may not get selected in the first round, over half of the mock drafts had him going in the early 20s at worse.  With the Pittsburgh Steelers taking Bud Dupree, also an OLB, at Pick 22 and a linebacker hungry Carolina Panthers waiting at Pick 25, the Broncos struck fast and traded from Pick 28 to select Shane Ray at 23.

While Ray does not necessarily fill an immediate need with Demarcus Ware being 33 and on his last legs (and likely being cut or contract restructured after 2016) and Von Miller being in the last season of his rookie contract with the continued concern another failed drug test they made the right pick by getting the most talented player left on the board. 

The Ray pick gets an A+ grade for his potential and the fact he could have been a Top 5-10 pick if he had stayed healthy and not made a boneheaded mistake. 

Round 2-Pick 59: Ty Sambrailo, Tackle, Colorado State
While Tackle was a large hole for the Broncos and a bad roll of duct tape, the Sambrailo pick reminds me of past Broncos picks, settling and reaching too early for a guy.  Before I get too far, yes I am a CU Buffaloes football fan and strongly dislike the CSU Rams, but I have a respect for the career Sambarilo put at CSU.  But let's get real, no one had Sambrailo going anywhere earlier than the 3rd and many had him going 4th-5th round.  He is tubby and lacks strength for an offensive lineman.  His technique is solid and he is a solid all-around tackle, but he reminds me a lot of former CSU offensive lineman that have made the pros, a career back-up/6th Offensive Lineman. 

There was a group of lineman much like Sambrailo that went at Picks 72, 91, 102 and 110.  Pick 110 was TJ Clemmings who appeared to be all over the map from GMs but was rated a 1st or 2nd round guy by many draft guys.  He is very comparable to Sambrailo in strength and ability, but seems to have a little more upside.  Sambrailo appears to be at his ceiling and the Broncos picked him 51 picks before Clemmings was drafted. 

I believe Sambarilo had a lot of local ties and the Broncos got over infatuated being able to have an eye and ear on him.  If they liked him, the fact is they probably could have traded back 15 picks and got him or even waited until Round 3.  While Tackle is a position of great need, the depth at Nose Tackle and Inside Linebacker in the new 3-4 defensive scheme were a concern headed into the draft, but we will get to that later.

I give this pick a C-.  Passing barely because it fits a need on the roster but they drafted a potential starting Right Tackle last year in Michael Schofield.

Round 3-Pick 92: Jeff Heuerman, Tight End, Ohio State

The Broncos offensive scheme under Head Coach Gary Kubiak is an athletic tight end that can help block and pass protect while puncturing the middle of the defense with pass catching.  Heuerman fits this bill but again, he seems more like a depth pick-up.  The Broncos have Virgil Green and Owen Daniels and got a clone.  Yes, Daniels is only a one or two year guy but again, Nose Tackle and Inside Linebacker seem like more immediate needs.

I like Heuerman and the team first coaching he got under Urban Meyer at OSU and how he fits the Kubiak system so I will say C.

Round 4-Pick 133: Max Garcia, Center, Florida
Center was another need for the Broncos.  They have had spotty play at the position for the last couple years and they have been trying the plug and pray approach that works poorly in the NFL.  They traded for Geno Gradkowski who was a back-up in all of 2014 and ranked lower by many football people than who the Broncos had tried to play.  Matt Paradis of Boise State was the Broncos 6th round pick in 2014 so obviously there were questions, but this pick brought more.  Why pick a power blocking Center, in Garcia, for a zone scheme that relies on being athletic and requiring movement. 

Grade is a D-, fits a need but I am baffled at how a power guy fits into Gary Kubiak's scheme.  It also really frustrates me considering Grady Jarrett and Michael Bennett who could play the 5/DE or pass down at 1/NT were still on the board

Round 5-Pick 164: Lorenzo Doss, Cornerback, Tulane
Doss is shorter than the coveted 6'-0" but is sized similar to Chris Harris Jr.  This pick is very good in value.  The unfortunate part is with Bradley Roby, Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, the best we may see is Doss in the dime package and that is if he beats out Kayvon Webster.  I can't knock this pick if you are picking best available player.

Round 6-Pick 203: Darius Kilgo, Nose Tackle, Maryland
A nose tackle in the 3-4 is a 2-gap player.  Kilgo is not athletic and a poor fit for a 3-4 NT.  He makes sense as a 1-gap 4-3 NT.  Kilgo will need to change his style of play and ability which is a lot to ask but with his size and strength, the Broncos had to take the biggest and best available Nose on the board.  C- is the grade.

Round 7-Picks 250, 251 and 252 (all compensatory): Trevor Siemian, QB, Northwestern; Taurean Nixon, CB, Tulane; Josh Furman, S, Oklahoma State
Why a QB?  Siemian is coming off a knee injury and has an almost 1:1 TD to INT ratio.  You can not turn the ball over in the NFL.  They could have just got some Undrafted Free Agent QB that provides similar ability.  Nixon appears to be intriguing with track speed and a teammate to Doss.  Maybe the package deal was something in order to Practice Squad Nixon and pair with Doss.   Furman got into the backfield at Okie State after finding limited success at Michigan.  He is the type of prospect you like to see in a secondary that has depth but not much upside and a lot of special teams ability.  Still he will be moving from Linebacker to strong safety in a team with Free Safety needs.  C- for the 7th round.

Overall, the Broncos draft gets a C- from me and reading many other draft analysis, they feel the same way.    The Broncos got great value in Shane Ray but reached on picks and/or missed position of needs often.  So, you ask, who could they have got at the picks they drafted and what did they miss? 

Pick 28 to 23: No arguments here, Shane Ray was a great move by Broncos front office.
Pick 59: Randy Gregory went at Pick 60 and while Shane Ray is the same exact position, if you are taking the best available guy, you go here and maybe find yourself with great trade bait after the draft in Von Miller.  I hate the thought with Von being my favorite player but his maturity is still in question and a season long suspension is still concerning.  Still, this would have been crazy to think this way so I would have traded back and taken Hroniss Grasu from Oregon since Center was a need and he fits more in line with the system.  Ali Marpet of Division III Hobart was intriguing enough here as well, but I take AJ Cann of South Carolina and convert to Center.  The Broncos missed on the three best Inside Linebackers going picks 43-48.  I would have traded my 2nd and 3rd for this pick and got either Benardrick McKinney, Erick Kendricks or Denzel Perryman if possible.  If I can't trade back I take
Pick 92: Broncos don't NEED a Tight End, so I would have gone TJ Clemmings since we picked Center in Round 2.  My other picks would have been strengthening defensive line and they get Henry Anderson from Stanford.  He fits the 3-4 DE and goes the very next pick to Indy.  A pick I hope we don't regret not making.  Xavier Cooper of Washington State would have been another intriguing prospect here. 
Pick 133: With this compensatory pick the Broncos could have already addressed OL in Clemmings and Grasu.  This would have afforded them getting Grady Jarrett.  ILB was thin here and a lot of quality guys came off the board unfortunately. 
Pick 164: I like the pick
Pick 203: I pick up Hayes Pullard from USC here or Amarlo Herrera of Georgia.
Pick 250-252: These picks should be best players available and risk.  I am sorry, but until La'el Collins is found guilty and arrested I take him with one of these 3 picks and say it's so we can own his rights if aquitted.  If not, then it's our mistake but a likely cut candidate.  Ellis McCarthy of UCLA and Joey Mbu are big DT that could have been a high upside pick.  Mike Hull of Penn State and LBU was a great ILB prospect along with a handful of other guys.  I see the Broncos signed NONE of the top Undrafted Free Agents at these positions.

John Elway, as your mom may say, "I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed."  The Broncos have serious depth concerns in fitting into this new 3-4 scheme depending on Sylvester Williams to center the NT and depend on off-injured Danny Trevathan and a multitude of other LBs that were late round or undrafted picks.  The Broncos improved with the Shane Ray pick but remained stagnant in areas lacking depth.  While the Broncos should have a great offense once again and solid secondary, they lack the interior strength of the 3-4 unless Williams takes a huge leap with a move to the 3-4 and they get a healthy Trevathan and Brandon Marshall.  The Broncos are again playing with fire by playing thin at LB for what seems like has been the case since Al Wilson left years ago.  John Elway will not find himself on the hot seat but he should feel his seat warmers in his ridiculously high priced vehicles overheating with only one pro bowler in his five drafts and only 2 players remaining from his draft of 2011 and his 2013 draft looking to be a complete bust to date with little contributions in two seasons.  One last chance with Peyton Manning, so we will see how it all plays out.

Up Next: Why Peyton Manning should be on a snap count in 2015.