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Broncos insist season isn’t lost despite depressing three-game losing skid The Broncos’ final play of the game against the Jets Sunday was the perfect metaphor for this season - so close but yet so far.From the three-yard line Courtland Sutton Jersey , Case Keenum threw an end zone pass to Courtland Sutton in a desperate attempt to score that was just short and instead landed in the hands of Marcus Maye, who returned it 104 yards.Sutton, who was not about to give up the touchdown points to his defender, chased Maye all 104 yards downfield, tackling him at the one and saving a pick-six.“I wasn’t about to let him score,” said the rookie wideout who snagged the Broncos’ first touchdown early in the game. “I did what I thought I had to do. I knew he was closing in on the end zone and had to figure out a way to get him down.”That is now John Elway, Vance Joseph and the rest of the team trying to run down a season that had promise of scoring and now is just hoping to chase one opponent down before it completely gets away.“We didn’t finish well. We didn’t finish well. We have too many long third downs, which stops drives, and once we get into the red zone, we haven’t been good,” said Vance Joseph with the understatement of the day. It’s the only thing the coach can say, of course, after losing in every phase of the game.“So again, we have to coach and play better. Case has to play better, all of us — it’s all of us,” the coach said. “We have to go back and regroup and play our best football next Sunday. That’s all we can do.”He’s not wrong. But it’s hard to believe even the players are buying their promises to play better.A dejected Von Miller knows his play is not up to standard.“I feel like it doesn’t matter what scheme you put me in, I’ll be able to be successful. These last couple of weeks, I just haven’t been able to do it,” said Miller who had a blocked pass and a tackle for a loss - but no sacks and not nearly enough pressures. “I have got to play better. I have to make plays for my teammates. I have to rush the passer better. I have to play the run better. I’m not doing anything too good right now.”Chris Harris Jr., who accounted for two of the defense’s eight blocked passes, is equally frustrated.“I’m a winner, I want to win more than anybody. I’m frustrated. But, it’s football. You have to rally the troops and get back in the win column,” he said. “We have too much talent to score only 16 points and give up 34.” Actually doing that seems to be the problem, but Harris Jr. is ready to play any scheme, any position to turn the defense around. Part of that might be reminding his fellow cornerback, Bradley Roby, how not to get torched while covering a wide receiver.“Too many big plays. We have to rally the troops and start from square one. We have to figure out who wants to be here and who wants to change this. I’m all in. I want to win,” he said. “I don’t care who we play. Whoever I have to guard Phillip Lindsay Jersey , line them up, I’m ready to do my thing.”Derek Wolfe, who watched his first career interception go for naught after Keenum and the offense squandered good field position, did not hold back his frustration. Saying he is tired of “talking about the same shit the last two years,” Wolfe added that he has “already forgotten about this game” and the team won’t have trouble regrouping.“Absolutely we can,” he said, noting great energy last week and to start the game. “We will watch the film and see what we did well, see what we did badly.”Tackling, for one. But coaching for another.While Joseph said the Broncos “are not there yet” for making any defensive coaching changes, there are clearly issues from the head coaches to the coordinators that are impacting the players’ performance.“We have to coach better so they can play better, but we pay our players to play also, so it’s not just coaching, it’s all of us involved,” Joseph said. “So I am not going to stand up here after a loss like that and start blaming our coaches or our players. It starts with me, and we have to coach and play better. Coaches coach and players play.”Again, Joseph is not wrong. But the inability to fix the player problems falls on coaching during the week and scheming during the game. When Roby can’t keep up with his man, something should change. When Case Keenum can’t get a third-down conversion on a pass, quit throwing the ball. The disconnect is costing the Broncos, preventing them from translating success in practice to scores and stops in the game.“Todd Bowles is known for rushing the passer and doing things to confuse quarterbacks and pass protections,” Keenum said about his performance. “There were a few new things, but it’s no excuse. I’ve got to do better identifying that stuff and getting the ball out on time. I pride myself on getting the ball out on time and there’s definitely some instances where I didn’t (today).”Keenum, known for his leadership on field and in the locker room, is going to have only a handful more opportunities to prove to his team that he can handle this role.Otherwise the promises from frustrated players at the podium now will be nothing more than hollow cliches in the near future.Thomas and Sutton still see hope.“You can’t be mad. You can’t be upset because you have a chance to go back and try to fix it, said Thomas, who had a 105-yard reception, two-touchdown game that didn’t matter. “It’s frustration because of the players and the guys you have around and the coaches that you go to work with week in and week out. You know what we can do and what we haven’t been able to do yet. It’s just a little frustration. You try to go out and fix it and be better next week.”For Sutton, it’s never giving up, just like his chasing down of Maye to prevent a meaningless six points for New York but a metaphorically crucial six for Denver.“The ‘Any Given Sunday’ mentality is a real thing. I think as soon as we figure out how to get that first win, we will flip that switch and have a good rest of the season Joe Flacco Jersey ,” he said. “But ultimately, we just have to come in and get back to work and figure out how to flip that switch. We have to switch it fast before it’s too late.”If the Broncos don’t want to watch their season run away down the sideline, they’d better find that “how to play/coach better” manual real quick.Tales from the Tape: Justin Simmons, the do-it-all defensive back, is looking good this preseason Regular season play is nearly here! The time we have been waiting patiently for is almost upon us! But what shall we do to entertain ourselves until then? There’s plenty to talk about from a roster construction standpoint as the fourth preseason game approaches and the bubble players vie for a few final spots on the 53-man roster, but I want to focus on the guys whose roster spots are not only safe, but are poised to make a big impact for the Denver Broncos in 2018. So, I’m slightly altering my usual “Tale of the Tape” series to bring you short, bite-sized breakdowns from the preseason, leading up to the NFL’s Week 1 kickoff.First up is one of my favorite Broncos: Justin Simmons. To me Simmons embodies exactly what you need in a modern NFL defender. He’s athletic, smart, and highly versatile - the last one perhaps being the most important.I have talked for awhile this off-season about how Simmons needs to be moved down to more of a roaming match-up safety, while Darian Stewart needs to go back up high as the traditional free safety. I was a bit disappointed when Simmons played the first two preseason games mostly up high as a free safety.However, in the “dress rehearsal” third preseason game, when the team is actually game-planning and implementing some of the schemes they’ll employ in the regular season, we began to see Denver’s plan for Simmons unfold. They played Simmons exactly where he should be played - everywhere.I dug into the snap count from Friday night’s game and Simmons had 33 total snaps. Here is where he lined up for those:In the Box - 12 snapsSingle high - 11 snapsSlot - 5Two high - 5Simmons had a nearly even split of snaps at the “free safety” and “strong safety” spots and spent some time covering the slot as well. This is a perfect use of his skillset, using him as a Swiss Army knife all over the field as the match-ups dictate.If you’re worried how Simmons held up in the box in run support, don’t be. Simmons is gap sound, a sure tackler, and not afraid to stick his nose in there in the running game. He took on Adrian Peterson, who ran very well Friday night, several times and helped make key stops.Above, he matches up in the hole against a wide receiver who attempts to lead block, and Simmons absolutely blows this play up, forcing Peterson outside into the waiting arms of Bradley Chubb. This one won’t show up on the stat sheet as anything, but this play is made because of Simmons.The next one is Simmons crashing down upon reading run, and making the tackle himself for a one yard gain. We are limited on preseason footage so it’s not the best angle, but you can clearly see Simmons’ decisiveness and tenacity playing around the line scrimmage. If you can’t tell, he’s the guy holding onto the running back after the pile clears.Not bad for a guy who can also kick out and man up in the slot. Speaking of which.This was a look Denver implemented occasionally Von Miller Jersey , and I think we’ll see them go to it quite frequently depending on the match-up.Denver is in their base defense, but Simmons drops down into the slot to man up the receiver. This particular time, the offense is in 21 personnel (2 backs, 1 TE) so Chris Harris is actually free/covering the tight end on the far side, but they have used this against 11 personnel as well. This can be especially effective against teams that like to run out of 11 personnel as it allows Denver to keep their run stoppers on the field and have a full box, but also match-up well across the board against the wide receivers. Wade Phillips ran a version of this a few times with Roby, Talib, and Harris in a base package with only one safety. This is essentially that with Simmons functioning as the slot corner.This play he isn’t lined up in the slot, but he’ll end up covering a crossing receiver. He’s playing essentially as a linebacker here in the box. Simmons shows his play recognition and awareness as he communicates with the secondary, calling out assignments after the ball has been snapped, and then blankets the short crosser on 3rd down.Lastly, my favorite play of the preseason.This play just blew me away and almost deserves its own separate breakdown.Denver’s struggles against tight ends and running backs have been well documented by myself and others here. One of the biggest issues covering backs out of the backfield is that the defender is flat-footed since he is waiting for the back to come to him, and the back also has a two-way go, meaning they can break either direction.Quick outs and flat routes are easy money and easy YAC for offenses, so defenders have to be watching for those all the time. Both Will Parks and Brandon Marshall were burned for touchdowns on these routes last year.As a result, the Texas route, where backs start outside, then break inside is even harder for a linebacker or a safety to stop as they often over-commit to the outside route. We saw Todd Davis give up a touchdown on this very route last year.Which is why Simmons not only stopping this route, but jumping it for a pick is so impressive. Check this out above. He should be beat on this route, which is why the quarterback anticipates and throws it. He goes from running hard towards the numbers to cutoff the outside, to flipping his hips and changing direction in an instant after recognizing the route, and jumping it for an interception. That’s special.It’s actually very reminiscent of Su’a Cravens’ pick on the exact same route in 2016 that I was so impressed with. If Denver can get both of these guys on the field together and continue to unleash Simmons in a variety of ways, they should be much better off not only against running backs and tight ends, but in the passing game in general.I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Simmons can be a top 2 or 3 defender for Denver this coming season.Next up, we’ll take a look at Emmanuel Sanders and where he has been lining up. Stay tuned! Also, let me know in the comments if there’s a player or particular aspect you would like me to look at over the next week leading up to Week 1.



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Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:15 am