Archive for the ‘Denver Broncos’ Category

#83 Brandon Myers - some shrewd business for the New York Giants

#83 Brandon Myers – some shrewd business for the New York Giants

With NFL Free Agency 2013 calming down somewhat (unless you are the Baltimore Ravens) it’s time to reflect on some of the key moves.

Now most pundits will focus on the impact of Wes Welker moving from the New England Patriots to the Denver Broncos or the ‘Fax-Gate’ scandal that saw the Baltimore Ravens snag Elvis Dumervil.

Myself, having played a season in England for the Crawley Raiders II as a tight-end, I want to spend some time looking at some of the Free Agency movement involving this position, and look at some very early projections for those who have moved and those who have inked deals in the past month to remain with their current team.

Before looking at some of the deck shuffling it’s worth reflecting on the rise of the importance of the tight-end.

We have witnessed the evolution of a two tight-end set from the old-school two tight-end set of five or so years ago when the Kansas City Chiefs would deploy Tony Gonzales as a real weapon and Jason Dunn as essentially a sixth offensive lineman to the almost unstoppable combination of New England Patriots duo Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (when both are fit).

I’m unable to do more than guess here but it sure feels that proportionally the number of catches made by the tight-end position on all 32 NFL teams has risen over the past five years. The majority of NFL teams have factored in the tight-end as a core offensive weapon and not a secondary or dump-off target for a quarterback looking for a cheap completion on a busted play.

So here are my top five tight-end free agency moves (in no particular order):

#1 – Brandon Myers – Oakland Raiders to New York Giants

I had the privilege of seeing Myers play live against the Dolphins just six months ago and despite not being anywhere near a household name he was the most reliable target for Carson Palmer. Myers deserves a bigger, brighter stage and there is no better place than the Big Apple to show what you are made of. After 32 catches in his first three seasons Myers pretty much exploded onto the scene in 2012 with 79 catches for 806 yards. Big Blue fans love a hard working reliable tight-end – names like Mark Bavaro and Jeremy Shockey are pretty hard to live up to, but Myers has the skills to settle in immediately. Eli Manning will be happy that he has a safe pair of hands to throw to as he looks to get the Giants back into the postseason.

2013 prediction – 75 catches for 750 yards and 7 tds

#2 – James Casey – Houston Texans to Philadelphia Eagles

Casey was woefully misused by the Houston Texans as a hybrid fullback and despite only 66 career catches, and similar to Myers, he enters his fifth NFL season with a huge opportunity to make a big impact with his new team. That team, the Philadelphia Eagles has a new coach, a new philosophy and a quarterback who is returning for his fifth season in the home of Rocky Balboa. this equates to the ‘land of opportunity’ for Casey, much like the ‘line’ given to Rocky by that greasy haired promoter.

2013 prediction – 57 catches 520 yards and 5 tds

#3 – Delanie Walker – San Francisco 49ers to Tennessee Titans

Without doubt an unsung hero on his old team, Walker had a habit of coming up with big catches in big situations. Having spent seven seasons on the West Coast, Walker never had a real chance to shine, providing a support role to Vernon Davies over every one of the past seven seasons. With Jared Cook’s locker not even emptied Walker will be hoping to slot in as a starter. It’s quite a rare situation to be a backup tight-end for seven seasons before moving into a starting role. Walker is the kind of player you root for, but Jake Locker is a significant downgrade on Colin Kaepernick. Walker will not be going back to a Super Bowl anytime soon with the Titans, but he should have his best career statistical output in 2013.

2013 prediction – 48 catches for 580 yards and 3 tds

#4 – Dustin Keller – New York Jets to Miami Dolphins

When you are being targeted by Mark Sanchez, and have a backup who is better known for kneeling down than throwing a forward pass then being able to escape that situation must be like a breath of sweet Florida sunshine air. Talking of Florida sunshine that is exactly where Keller is now plying his trade as a Miami Dolphins starter. Keller will replace, and upgrade the play of Anthony Fasano. Now Keller was injured for half of 2012, but he is not known as injury prone. He has averaged 48 catches a season over five years, but he has been held back by average to poor quarterback play. In Miami Ryan Tannehill was the forgotten man as other 2012 rookie quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck commanded the headlines. Keller and Tannehill need to set up a strong bond in camp, and if they do it could mean very good news for Fish fans.

2013 prediction – 66 catches for 670 yards and 5 tds

#5 – Jared Cook – Tennessee Titans to St Louis Rams 

Potential is a funny old word. To me its a way of saying expectations being unfulfilled. A bit like the career so far of Jared Cook, all 6 ft 5 inches of him. Cook has again been let down by some average quarterback play and some bad play-calling. In St Louis he will need to work alongside Lance Kendricks. Both had almost identical stats in 2012, so something will have to give. I think Cook will get around 65% to 70% of the tight end targets from Sam Bradford. The Rams are going to be intriguing to watch in 2013 with a new look backfield and the marauding Cook exploiting any safety coverage mismatches.

2013 prediction – 65 catches for 740 yards and 4 touchdowns

Other notable moves include Tony Gonzales remaining at the Atlanta Falcons for one more shot at a Super Bowl, and Martellus Bennett (Giants to Chicago Bears) which could work if Jay Cutler realises that there is actually another offensive target aside Brandon Marshall.

There is also the rather low-key saga of where current Washington Redskins tight-end Fred Davis will end up in 2013 – Buffalo, New York or back in D.C being the three main contenders.

How do you rate your teams tight-end depth and would you have liked to have seen one of my top five free-agent tight-ends joining your team?

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JJ Watt will be one eager beaver (well badger maybe) this weekend

JJ Watt will be one eager beaver (well badger maybe) this weekend

Eight to four this weekend, simple maths but the likelihood I predict all four NFL Divisional Playoff games correctly is the same as me solving a Rubix Cube in 3.98 seconds.

This weekend is the equivalent of   a Shakespeare Festival, full of comedy and tragedy, different acts, highlights and lowlights, but above all chock-a-block with awe-inspiring drama.

On the surface the eight remaining teams cannot look beyond this weekend, but the likes of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ray Lewis will be thinking two more wins and we are back in the final, the big dance, the Super Bowl.

Four contests and four mini previews below…

Texans @ Patriots

Fact #1 – the last time the New England Patriots won a Super Bowl was eight years ago. It doesn’t sound right but it is fact. For all their dominance the last time they picked up a Vince Lombardi Trophy was against Donovan McNabb’s Philadelphia Eagles in 2005. Fact #2 the Houston Texans have never played in a conference championship. The time is right for the Texans to cause a major upset in New England and this time around the Texans have a veteran starting quarterback and a fit number one wideout in Andre Johnson. The Pats have done what they always d0 – blow out the water about half the teams they play. They have also lost to the Cardinals, barely topped the Jaguars and were beaten by two current  NFC playoff teams (49ers and Seahawks). JJ Watt the Texans defensive end has been playing like a man possessed all season long, and will be after Tom Brady all day long. This game will come down to the team that can best run the ball. Both teams have quality passing games and lots of targets, but without a running game, any of the play action will be ineffective. Tight-ends will play a big part in this game, and I would not be surprised to see three tight-ends score Sunday (Hernandez, Gronkowski and Owen Daniels).

Texans to win 31-28 on a come-from-behind Arian Foster rushing touchdown.

Ravens @ Broncos

Fact #1 If I had a £1 for every column inch written about Peyton Manning’s neck I would have enough to buy one expensive scarf. Fact #2 this could be the last professional football game that Ray Lewis ever plays in. There is a distinctly eerie feeling that we could see a Manning Brothers consecutive Super Bowl win streak like we did in 2007-2008. Peyton has been Peyton all season – leading the Broncos from the front with accurate swift passing and a low number of turnovers. The Ravens are riding on the emotional wave that is Ray Lewis and his peacock display dance. Baltimore’s team has itself been peacock like, spending most of the season quietly winning where it needed to and then on occasion making big noise. Thing is a peacock is not a bird of prey, it uses its feathers to make a grand gesture that ultimately flatters to deceive. Too many times I have seen Ray Lewis amped up at the start of a big game only for his rallying cry magic to last about a quarter of football. Second chances may be the theme for this game, but the team to take home the bacon will be Denver. Knowshon Moreno has taken his second chance by the horns and will have a big game pounding the rock in between Manning dismantling a Baltimore secondary that simply is not a stud unit (Ed Reed is of course a legend but he cannot defend an offense on his own).

Broncos to win 33-19 on the back of Manning throwing three touchdowns.

Packers @ 49ers

We have a Super Bowl winning quarterback against a second year passer, who for all concerned is playing in his first real NFL season. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has already got a ring. San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick has never played in the NFL playoffs before. This game is a case of momentum, and that belongs to the team from Wisconsin. The Packers have all of their wide receivers fit (Jennings, Jones, Nelson and Cobb) and even their tight-end Jermichael Finley is coming up with big plays after a sub-par regular season. The Niners can run the ball and play solid football behind the ever-reliable Frank Gore, and in the last few weeks we have seen glimpses of the rookie tailback LaMichael James who can return kicks and be a spark on offense. 49ers defense will play hard but without a fully fit defensive tackle Justin Smith the team will not be able to cope with a razor-sharp Aaron Rodgers. I expect this to be low scoring, and to some extent a scrappy game.

Packers 24-19 with James Jones getting two touchdown catches and Randall Cobb tormenting the Niners linebackers all game.

Seahawks @ Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons finished the regular season with the best record in the NFC, and have had a week to rest weary limbs, but due to their disappointing playoff pedigree in recent years they are listed as the upset special by many prediction prognosticators. The Seahawks are already playoff winners this season, but they fought against a Redskins team that had an injured quarterback and a very average defense. Atlanta have the rather huge monkey, well gorilla, to shake off their backs that equates to the fact their future Hall of Fame tight-end Tony Gonzales has never won a playoff game in his illustrious NFL playing career. It’s one of those statistics that seems completely bonkers, but is true. It is also a statistic I believe that will finally vanish on Sunday afternoon. The Falcons know what they have in front of them, a possible two home wins leading to a Super Bowl appearance. Big ol’ Michael Turner has slowed to a crawl but he still manages to collect six point bonuses (10 this season).  Roddy White and Julio Jones will be the difference in this game as they may be able to be man marked if one is on the field, but having both on the field has been near enough impossible to stop, even for the hulk like cornerbacks in Seattle. It will take a superhero effort from Matt Ryan and a relatively low-key Falcons defense but it will be possible.

Falcons to win 30-20 with Matt Bryant kicking three field goals – all when the mattered.

So I have a Texans @ Broncos and Packers @ Falcons conference championship round next week. Back before the season started I predicted the Packers and the Texans to be in the last four. Lets see if my ball gazing is any good……..(crystal variety only mind you!)

My own picture of Tim Tebow at the Wembley Stadium player entrance - Halloween 2010

It’s not every day that you come face to face with a Heisman Trophy winner, let alone a NCAA National Champion.

So to do this in England was one event I will never forget for the rest of my life.

This guy may be 13 years my junior but meeting a College legend (and hopefully a future NFL legend) was my personal highlight from attending the San Francisco 49ers v Denver Broncos game at Wembley Stadium.

Having sprinted through about five blocks of seats to try and meet Tim after he had completed his own pre-game warm up I was very pleased to find Tim engaging warmly with both US based fans who had travelled thousands of miles as well as UK fans, who like me, were in awe of this legend of College football standing about one metre away from us all.

Wearing my rather faded Washington Redskins hat I quickly whipped it of my rather sweaty forehead and thrust in in front of the unflappable Tebow. He did say that he had to get back to the locker room for his pre-game team talk, but he made sure all of us fans who were holding out hats, programs or NFL trading cards were all signed with a black Sharpie.

I think a few of the younger UK fans I stood next to were not quite sure who Tim Tebow was, but regardless he was a gentleman to all fans and looked genuinely happy to be shaking hands and signing items for us mere mortals.

My rather old Redskins hat has shot up in value now it has been signed by former Florida Gator Tim Tebow

My snap of Tim Tebow after his second warm up session at Wembley Stadium in Halloween

Tebow and his twin guns warm up at Wembley Stadium last Sunday

Tebow will not have a rookie season that will match the likes of the Rams Sam Bradford, or even the benched Panthers 2nd round 2010 pick Jimmy Clausen, but if he continues to show the same amount of respect to his fans he did on Sunday (31 Oct 2010) then he deserves more playing time.

Having said that it was extra special that the first touchdown scored at Wembley this year was a quarterback run by none other than Tebow himself.

It can’t be every day that you get to meet an NFL rookie quarterback, get him to sign your hat and then watch him score a rushing touchdown.

A special day indeed.

Gore will be looking to slash the Broncos defensive line at Wembley

With two combined wins in their last 10 games, and only 3 wins in 14 contests between them, this is on paper the worst two teams to come and play in the NFL International Game, in the four year history of the contest.

Still, one mustn’t grumble we are under 5 little days away from the 4th consecutive regular season NFL game to be played at Wembley Stadium, and although it may rain, and whilst my wife will not exactly be beaming I can’t wait.

Whatever anyone says the real key to this game is how many touches that the talented 49ers running back Frank Gore (pictured above).

If Gore gets 30 touches then the 49ers win, if he gets under 20 this means they are passing and it spells doom and gloom.

I will take a small reporters notepad with me to Wembley on Sunday (along with a plastic bag to put my programme into) and I will be tooting up the Gore touches.

The 49ers opponents in England, the Denver Broncos, had their back sides handed to them in a hemp sack by the Oakland Raiders two days ago. 59 points conceded in three quarters by a team quarterbacked by Jason Campbell is simply to painful for words to describe.

Gore must be licking his lips more than a group of donut eaters at the world donut eating championships.

As much as I respect the heritage of the Denver Broncos I am a fully paid up member of the ‘Josh McDaniels is a prize loon fan club’ and I will be rooting for the Red and Gold on Sunday.

Only problem is I have just had a t-shirt delivered from the Next catalogue – and bizarrely its a Denver Broncos retro shirt with the white hose riding up through the big letter D.

I wonder what everyone else is wearing and if you actually are a fan of the other 30 teams who you will be supporting on Sunday?

The fashion police finally granted Mike Singletary (bottom right) day release to come back to England

 

The last time San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Singletary was at Wembley Stadium was back in the 80s, as Da Bearz faced the the Dallas Cowboys in the American Bowl ’86.

Back then it was cool to rap in full uniform (minus pads and helmets) whilst simultaneously trying to pull off an impression of News at Ten legend Trevor McDonald.

Speaking today after touching down in London, the former middle linebacker and now head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Mike Singletary said all the right things.

Asked about why he jetted the team to England one day after a tough loss to the Carolina Panthers, Coach Singletary said: ““I always believe that we want to give the guys a chance to get acclimated. If you’re going to come for just a couple of days – we know it’s a business trip and we know that we’re coming here to win a football game, but at the same time, we have a younger football team. I wanted our guys to be able to come and get a taste of the culture, and at the same time, get a feel for the environment. The weather and the whole nine yards, and just be settled by the time the game starts. I think it was a great decision.”

Asked about what this means to the Bears bank balance the steely eyed coach said: “I’m not sure, in terms of the financial gain one way or the other. I think more than anything, it’s the exposure. I think the NFL is a tremendous game. I think having a game here really gives the NFL a lot of exposure. I think it gives the people here – it’s a two-way street, the fans here have a chance to see the game. In what you call ‘futbol,’ I think there are some similarities. The fans could get very excited about it and want more of it. We’re hoping that is the case.”

Asked the inevitable question about the possibility of an NFL franchise permanently moving to London, England, the Super Bowl XX winner said: “It would depend on the team. That would be really interesting. It could be a good thing. It could be dependent on if the team is young. It depends on if it’s a mature team, if it’s a young team. I think if you had a mature team here, it could possibly work, and work to their advantage. I’m not trying to sell you on it, but I do believe it would have to be a veteran team, it couldn’t be a young team.”

So has Coach Mike been told something that everyone else is thinking? Moving an existing franchise from North America to Europe. I find it very interesting Coach Mike talks about a ‘mature team’ moving would be the only way it could work. That kind of says no to the likes of the Jacksonville Jaguars doing a Midnight Mayflower.

As my mind goes in all different directions I just want to say to all the San Francisco 49ers players, coaches and support staff – WELCOME TO ENGLAND. Few tips – stay away from the drink we call bitter, Jellied eels are NOT the English version of gummy bears and make sure if you do have some Fish and Chips you make sure you get cod and not that rubbish pollack.

 

 

Because you're 'Gore'geous - the tickets arrived today !

Phew! They have arrived in our house, two pieces of thin card that bring a huge smile to my chubby face.

Yes my two tickets for the San Francisco 49ers v Denver Broncos are here and on my coffee table.

Despite both teams travelling to a different continent to play their week 8 game, it is billed as a 49ers home game.

With that in mind I was delighted to see 49ers workhorse running-back Frank Gore as the ticket star.

I had a bad feeling that 49ers quarterback, and the man that will cost Mike Singletary his job, Alex Smith would be on the tickets.

Gore is one of the hardest working running backs in the NFL, a player who plays with passion, guts and a nose for the endzone.

The former Miami Hurricane has only managed one season without injury since he was drafted in 2005, but despite that he has amassed 6,032 rushing yards (at an impressive 4.7 yards per run) and 2,115 receiving yards, resulting in 42 touchdowns.

In six games so far this season Gore has only managed three total touchdowns. This is not Frank’s fault, it is Alex ‘millstone’ Smith who has crippled the 49ers offensive production.

With under two weeks until I get to see Gore in the flesh, I only hope the man handing him the ball is not a former #1 pick in the NFL draft (and yes that includes you David Carr!).

 

Its the 49ers v Broncos at Wembley in 2010 - Not exactly my dream matchup

In 2007 we had the New York Giants team that went on to lift the Superbowl, In 2008 we had offensive fireworks as the San Diego Chargers and the New Orleans Saints trading touchdowns like they were right hooks in a ring, and in 2009 we were treated to future Hall of Fame bust owners Tom Brady, Randy Moss and coach Bill Belichick.

In 2010 we have Kyle Orton and Alex Smith and two teams that have combined for JUST 2 playoff wins combined in the last 10 full NFL seasons (a 49ers Wild Card win in 2002 and a Broncos Divisional round win in 2005).

Yes the 49ers have a stud running back in Frank Gore, and a WR with big ‘potential’ in the shape of 2009 1st round draft pick WR Michael Crabtree, but their defense is pretty grotty aside from Patrick Willis.

As for the Broncos they have a Bears reject at quarterback, a Pro Bowl WR who seems to be a petulant liability (Brandon Marshall), a defense that ranked 26th in the league in rush defense.

Bottom line this is my least favourite matchup of teams that will make the pilgrimage to London, England.

When I say least favourite I mean in a 2010 exciting and meaningful game context.

I do appreciate the history of both teams, having grown up watching Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Tom Rathman, Roger Craig, John Elway, Steve Atwater, et al.

I just have to say I am not exactly blown away by a Kyle Orton short passing game versus a similar activity delivered on the sacred Wembley turf.

I have to admit I will pay extra attention to the free agency moves of the Mile High crew and the Goldrush fanatics, and their subsequent draft picks.

I just have a feeling that unless both teams do some significant off-season roster pimping then we could be in for a rather dull 16-10 sort of game where it becomes a festival of field goals.

Using an analogy from the wrong sport I do wonder if the NFL has scored an own goal with these two definitions of mediocrity.

I wonder if you think like me and would have rather seen someone like the Indianapolis Colts up against the Green Bay Packers? This from a Redskins fan!