Neil’s NFL Daily: July 26, 2013

With the first stop of the 2013 camp tour in the book, Neil shares his notes from a day with the Broncos.

| 4 years ago

Neil’s NFL Daily: July 26, 2013

Thursday, July 25 – Broncos Camp (Englewood)

After flying into Denver on Wednesday afternoon, and taking in the Marlins game at the Rockies, the training camp tour started in anger yesterday with the Broncos’ practice at Englewood.

It was an uncharacteristically sloppy affair from Peyton Manning, and the second- and third-string offenses too, as ball after ball hit the ground or was intercepted. However, just as following their equally slovenly late post season, with two player personnel guys suspended and Von Miller facing up to four games out of uniform, this team will endure with a degree of calm assurance born of demonstrated ability.

They know they are a very good team (particularly on offense), indeed many people’s favorites for a Super Bowl berth and without undue arrogance accept that mantle. One of the reasons for this is a very settled roster; it’s difficult to see many “battles” for starting roles and most on the conjecture relates to depth. However, there were some items to note, so let’s explore them in a bit more detail now:


Ramirez Starts at Center

I guess I was mildly surprised to see Manny Ramirez with the starting group and Dan Koppen with the second string. While Ramirez had filled in for J.D. Walton during OTA’s, when Walton was ruled out for the year and Koppen signed, I assumed given his relatively strong performance in that role last year, the ex-Patriot would take over. After taking his time to get settled, Koppen played well late and Ramirez’s demotion in favor of Chris Kuper in the postseason (a disaster of a decision with Kuper grading -7.4 in the Divisional Playoff including three penalties) suggested it may be Koppen again.

However, examining the analysis more closely, Ramirez was having a similarly strong finish himself and looked to have overcome his earlier struggles, where up until week 15 he had graded -9.5 as a run blocker. My guess is that this job is now his to lose and he’ll be the starter in week one.

[NB: Chris Clark was the starting left tackle yesterday but this is only a temporary measure while Ryan Clady rehabs from shoulder surgery. He’s expected to back in mid-August.]


Rotational Runners

It’s been common knowledge for a while that the Broncos intend to rotate their backs situationally (and perhaps otherwise) with Ronnie Hillman the nominal starter. That’s how things looked today as well with nothing to dispel that view. Well, nothing other than last year’s actual performances, that is. In 2012 Hillman looked what he’s been called: a change-of-pace back without the power to make things happen consistently against base defenses. He fumbled twice and averaged a league second-worst 1.8 yards after contact.

In principle Montee Ball on early downs with Knowshon Moreno brought in for his pass protection on third downs, seems the most pragmatic solution but that is not how things currently stand.


Pressure from the Line

Regardless of Von Miller’s recent problems Denver’s most pressing team issue was always going to be where else is the pressure coming from? Whether it’s as a 4-3 end or hybrid, stand-up role, Robert Ayers seems the most likely to take up the slack. In the last eight games of the season, he graded “green” as a pass rusher in five and notched a creditable two sacks, seven hits and 10 hurries in 130 attempts to get to the QB.

He’s currently joined on the line by Terrance Knighton, Kevin Vickerson and Derek Wolfe but none of them have “form” when it comes to terrorizing the passer.

Obviously there is Shaun Phillips and a return to form from him, while welcome, would be unexpected.

This leaves us with one Quanterus Smith. It’s unusual for a fifth-round player, coming off an ACL and sporting a leg brace so large it looked like he had a small child hanging off his leg, to garner much attention. However, such is the dearth of options in Denver, sans Miller, that’s the case.

[NB: First round pick Sylvester Williams signed today but not in time to participate in practice]


Other Notes

– Mike Adams and David Bruton both lined up as the first team strong safety on occasion. Maybe this is one of the few starting roles up for grabs.
– It appears the dime role, filled by Jim Leonard last year, is in the hands of Quentin Jammer. Leonard played 271 regular season snaps last year o expect a similar number for Jammer.

NB: I’ve amended the Denver depth chart accordingly, added in the position battles in purple and the update is below:


Other editions of Neil’s NFL Daily can be found HERE


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Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • RyanHennigan

    I have a ton of respect for you guys and the grading you do is unparalleled but somehow, it seems that you are slighting Denver here. Ayers as a DT? I think that you should have big Vick in the middle and slide Ayers to RDE. Phillips is a backup and not a starter.

    • Dartridge MacTanion

      Isn’t Ayers just in at DT because it’s the nickel package?

      • deflated

        I don’t think that is the nickel package you will see from Denver. I’m guessing Ayers splitting time at RDE, Williams or Vick in the middle and Trevathan getting some snaps at LB paired with Woodyard is closer to what we’ll see in the season.

      • Ryan Hennigan

        Ayers is always a DE. On the other side wolfe is DE in base and DT in nickle. Von is an OLB in base and a DE in nickle. My guess is Irving is base MLB and you will see more from travathan in nickle. Phillips is Miller’s backup.

        Tony carter is a great player but he is the 4th CB on this roster. Also, in nickle I would guess that Jammer is the nickle SS

      • PFF_Neil

        I think both Ryan and Deflated make good points. I didn’t see enough of their nickel DL to say for sure what will happen but everything mentioned is not unreasonable.

  • LightsOut85

    Will it be announced when someone wins the free-subscription contest or is it a “if you’re not notified, you didn’t win” situation?

    • PFF_Neil

      Doing that Sunday. I’ll announce the winner in the comments section. Apologies but hectic schedule has delayed.

  • Broncobet

    He’s showing us the nickel and it looks pretty accurate,they’ll be lots of rotation on the line,as the season goes on I’d hope DRC would show more green.

  • Mr. Lewis

    Why is Tony Carter getting black balled, I’m confused??

  • Nelsonx24x

    Why is Chris Harris no long elite blue chip?

  • Mason.s

    Nickel defense will see Ayers at DE if he’s showing he can bring pressure from that spot. He played a ton at DT in the nickel last year and has shown he can get pressure from the inside. Pass rush from the middle was why they drafted Sylvester Williams so watch for them to bring him along and see heavy use in pass-rush situations as the season goes on. Mitch Unrein also saw his share of pass-rush snaps last year. They’ll mix it up.

    As to the LBs, Trevathan was most heavily used in this formation when he saw the field last year and matched up well against opposing TEs. He’ll most likely be lined up with Woodyard in this package. In the Dime, he’ll come off and Jammer will come on (just like Jim Leonard last year).

    Also, Neil, you haven’t yet answered as to why the downgrades for Clady and Harris. Harris, by all reports has been giving Wes Welker the best challenge of his life and vice-versa. Harris, as PFF well knows, is the NFL’s best kept secret.

    • 5aiah

      Because neither of them are truly elite yet.

  • mark

    champ bailey is living off his reputation now. average