Solving my Saturday escapades may not have required turning to outer space for a ninth plan, but they certainly showed that my mind can be a tad spacey sometimes, and I’d like to think that one of the worst directors of all time would have appreciated that. So let’s start pulling the strings …
When I have a little time on my hands — or when the timeliness of a reply is crucial for adding something to the myriad discussions on this blog — I like to respond to comments in the comments section and wade into the conversation. I did a few times yesterday, and nearly did so again last night after reading one comment that suggested banning a certain vociferous supporter of a former Broncos quarterback, a poster whose name many of us have come to know.
The comment that struck me was this one, which suggested banning the poster, using as his argument a phrase that has become a political and cultural flashpoint in recent years:
“If you’re not with us, you’re against us.”
A permutation of this phrase was uttered by President George W. Bush on Sept. 20, 2001, and his use of it has often been cited by observers on various positions on the political spectrum. (Its use is not limited to the right side of the aisle; Sen. Hillary Clinton also spoke in such terms.) Truth of the matter is, the phrase is a hoary one, as old as the Bible itself.
In any case, it forces an issue into absolutism, the dangers of which are legion, even in something as trivial as sports fandom. So few things are absolute and incontrovertible. Numbers can be, although in some cases they can be massaged to illuminate a point.
Loyalty can be absolute, but you don’t have to wear blinders in order to be a loyal follower of your team. When I grew up as a Bucs fan, I’ll admit that in the hour before kickoff, as I walked to Tampa Stadium, I was convinced the Buccaneers would win, no matter how bulbous the boulder in front of them. The three hours of game time, of course, had a way of hammering those outsized expectations back into a frustrating reality, and then the other 164 hours of the week were largely spent disassembling all aspects of the team, its scheme and its chances, understanding that in all likelihood, the Bucs, in the midst of 14 consecutive losing seasons, would lose.
One can support and love and be a fan of a professional team while criticizing constructively … and blessedly, I see much of that in the comments on this blog, for which I must thank you, dear readers. Many of you prove that loyalty also means intelligently and rationally deconstructing what transpires on the field … and makes me feel better about my own sports fandom for the teams I follow in other sports, teams for whom I am a caring — but occasionally harsh — critic.
Anyhow … it’s time to dive into the weekly questions and answers. Apologies for the responses not being as lengthy as last week’s; it’s been a busy day of meetings in the Web world.
First … there were a lot of questions about Al Wilson … having not spoken with him, I can’t attest to exactly how he’s doing … I apologize, but that’s all I have on him right now. Anything else I could write would be mere speculation.
Second, if you’d like to e-mail rather than post your comments in the blog, please click here and I’ll do my best to get to as many as I can.
On to some more specific queries.
I did just think of one question that I think is important. We always talk about how strong Jay’s arm is, but two weeks in a row he had a go-ahead touchdown that receivers had to come back for … Now I know they were long bombs, but is there something wrong with Jay’s arm? I mean if he cant throw that far he should have been running, right.
Not necessarily … he did get the pass there, even though the tosses probably arced more than Cutler would have liked, and helped give the Colts defense a chance to catch up to Brandon Stokley to force the incompletion … I don’t think it’s a question of arm strength as much as it is simply a matter of this being another part of Cutler’s learning curve, and refining the timing on the deep routes.
Speaking of the passing game … from bhmfje80:
Thanks for the posts, Mas. You’re a busy man, I’m sure, but do you by chance have any update on Rod Smith? Haven’t heard about him in weeks and I’d love to hear about his progress.
Nothing much has changed on Smith … he’s still rehabbing, still working out, still a constant at the team’s facility and on the practice field (albeit in sweats) and the sidelines during games. He and the Broncos still have several more weeks left to determine whether he’ll return in time to play this season or whether he will go on injured reserve.
From pinoybroncoFaN, an issue many fans and observers have at the tip of their tongues:
I guess we really need to improve against our run defense. If you sum up the first (four) games … it’s quite alarming. How many yards did (Marshawn) Lynch gaine during the Broncos’ game against the Bills? How many did (LaMont) Jordan run for the Raiders? The Jags? and lastly, HOW many yards did Addai (gain for the Colts)? Our corners are excellent but our run D is poor.
And from Broncosfan1977, some similar sentiments:
Mason, do you think you could post your take on our defense and why they are not playing well?
There’s plenty of other comments about the run defense, so let’s get started.
First, there’s the simplest indicator — that Denver ranks 31st in the league in run defense, ahead of only Miami. Numbers aren’t always true illuminators of what actually takes place, but in this case, the average of 181.0 rushing yards allowed per game provides all the evidence needed.
Of course, this past week the Broncos sat their first-team tackles, Amon Gordon and Sam Adams. Head Coach Mike Shanahan said Sunday that deactivating Gordon was in part to give Marcus Thomas and Antwon Burton a chance to play some more, while Adams’ deactivation was due to the defensive countermeasures in place to account for the Colts’ running style. Unfortunately for the Broncos, the run defense yielded 226 yards Sunday — more on the ground than it has for any regular-season game since Dec. 28, 2003 at Green Bay.
What is it? The near-unanimous opinion of the players in the locker room is that the run defense’s struggles are a result of not getting to the gaps and subsequently missing tackles. Changes in personnel — not only with newcomers, but players at different positions — also have an impact, but while that might explain being in the wrong place, it probably doesn’t explain the missed tackles; that’s more fundamental in nature. That’s just my take on it from watching in the press box.
“It’s inexcusable the way we tackle, and miss gaps and assignments,” an exasperated Champ Bailey said Sunday.
As Shanahan said Monday, “I think it’s a little bit of the system (and) a little bit of the personnel.”
There was also a revealing comment from assistant head coach/defense Jim Bates last Wednesday, when he was asked how the run defense’s play in his first three games in Denver compared with how other teams had started under his watch.
“We have never had this experience in the past,” Bates said.
“But we’re going to get there. We’ve got a lot of new guys. We’ve got several guys in new positions and several new players, and the thing that is really positive is that the players are still learning and still trying to get better, and as long as we try to get better, we will improve.”
That will be essential for the Broncos to reverse the slide of the last two weeks. What Sunday showed was that Bates and Co. are willing to experiment … using Jarvis Moss as a roving stand-up defender, sometimes lining up in a tackle slot; others working outside from end. When things aren’t going well in an area, sometimes the worst thing you can do is stand pat … being creative, open-minded and willing to experiment is usually the genesis of some of the game’s great ideas, even though there can sometimes be some messes in the laboratory that need cleaning. It’s science — just not always exact.
“If you don’t rush the football and if you don’t stop the run, you’re not going to be very good at offense or defense,” Shanahan said, “so we’ve got to get better and work on it.”
And lastly, moving away from the run defense, we turn to a query wormyblackburny:
Hey Drew, This is a little off the subject, but could you tell me why they don’t post Nate Jackson’s Journal as a blog post so that we could leave comments for him? He is a magnificent writer, and I think many of us would like to tell him how much we enjoy his work (no offense to you, you’re pretty good too).
None taken … and while I have broached the subject of converting to a blog to Jackson, he prefers the format in which he writes. With him, writing is something that is deeply personal; this is truly a case of a man who scours his soul for something to share and the proper words with which to convey his thoughts. If he ever wants to go to a blog format, that’d be wonderful, but I’m still happy we can present his words in the Top Stories section on the main site.
If you want to pass along your thoughts to Jackson, then e-mail me and I will forward them to him … I do know he’d appreciate them.
I’ll get to more queries in some comments sections … for now, I have to call it a night. Vaya con Dios, and I’ll be back at some point Wednesday.