Tale of the Tape: NFL Week 4 — Broncos vs Titans
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A LiveBall Sports Game Tape Review:
Notes from the Titans offense against the Broncos defense.
- There may not be a quarterback who throws the corner route with better touch than Vince Young. He doesn’t throw that route with a lot of authority, and is clearly less comfortable trying to stick that route in against zone coverage vs. throwing it over the top of a linebacker or safety against man coverage.
- Kenny Britt’s second quarter touchdown was an excellent example of this touch in a tight area.
- Chris Johnson is prove positive that a great fluid runner can’t do anything in today’s NFL if he is outnumbered. Stopping the boom-or-bust runners in the NFL is a simple numbers game. Give them respect they’ve earned: put one more guy in the box then they have blockers for. Johnson has been a non factor this year: less than 3.8 yards per carry and worse on a per-play basis than backup RB Javon Ringer.
- The Titans offense can respond to this by using Vince Young on reverse-option looks, but this asks a lot of Young to really get out there and threaten the run defense. In Week 1 against Oakland, Young really tried to attack the Raiders at the second level with his own legs. Against Denver, he just pitched the ball early as soon as Johnson got to the open field.
- Too many times in this game, the Titans took the game out of Vince Young’s hands on third down…which is something similar to what the same coaching staff used to do with a pre-MVP Steve McNair. Young had mixed success on his third down attempts, but that’s much better than what happened when they gave Chris Johnson the call, when the drive just ended.
- With Eugene Amano out, Leroy Harris started at Center for the Titans. Both guards have having trouble getting push in the running game, which is not helping Johnson’s case. On Ringer’s 54 yard run, Harris had a devastating block (that was likely holding) on a linebacker while on the move. The timing of his block was excellent, and sprung Ringer.
- Robert Ayers is part of a new generation of highly drafted end-linebacker hybrids who excel against the run, but simply don’t have a whole arsenal of pass rush moves to get to the quarterbacks. Ayers has 1.5 career sacks in 19 games with 5 starts. He does his best play in an opponents backfield, really lighting up running backs.
- The Broncos played mostly man coverage in this game. Rookie Perrish Cox has been a revelation taking away no. 2 receivers. The Broncos were missing Andre Goodman on Sunday due to injury, and Nate Jones replaced him: he was just awful in man coverage. Justin Gage isn’t running away from anyone…except Nate Jones.
- Champ Bailey still plays at a very high level. Brian Dawkins still plays at a high level, though it’s worth pointing out that Dawkins was always overrated as a pass defender.
- The Broncos don’t have any aggressive safeties to help the man coverage defenders over the middle. The Titans passing offense lived off of middle routes to receivers such as Nate Washington and Justin Gage, and then sending their Tight Ends to the boundary. The Broncos safeties were not a factor in this game.
- The Titans use all of their tight ends in the passing game. Bo Scaife is the leading receiver, but they really like Craig Stevens a great mid-round find in the 2008 draft out of Cal who is one of the best blockers in the league at any position, and is a sound route runner. Jared Cook, who is believed to be the future at this position, saw some passes thrown to him in the second half. He’s a Jermichael Finley type, but is clearly behind both Scaife and Stevens as a player right now.
Notes from the Broncos offense against the Titans defense.
- Kyle Orton has thrown more pass attempts than any player in football, but most of these attempts are underneath and don’t threaten the defense.
- Orton was not feeling the rush in this game. The Patriots have timing mechanisms built into their passing plays, but Orton was guessing wrong on his first reads, then instead of throwing the ball incomplete over the head of the missed read, he would duck and take a sack.
- Orton was also not very efficient in the presnap phase, usually limiting himself to a side where he had no mismatches, losing the play before the snap was wrong.
- The Titans make no reads on their defensive line. Their players all have explosive first steps, and are free to try to anticipate the snap count. The Titans were called for offside four times in this game, but made that up and more in sack yardage.
- It’s a system that fits them well, because the Titans are weak against the pass behind their line.
- Screens really work well against the Titans. They trust their linebackers to move well and sniff out screens, but they don’t have great coverage linebackers in space, at least not their starters.
- Will Witherspoon, WLB for the Titans, is a particularly bad coverage player against receivers, tight ends, and backs alike.
- The Denver offensive line is nothing like the weapon it was just two seasons ago. The personnel is 60% different, for one thing, they now play in a man-spread blocking scheme. It’s average or slightly below average for a unit.
- I do like center J.D. Walton, who is just a rookie. He’s inexperienced and can be had 1 v 1, but he’s a smart player with high upside.
- LT Ryan Clady isn’t all the way back from his offseason knee injury, he looked a little slow in this game.
- WR Brandon Lloyd is running his routes a lot sharper than he ever did in the past. He’s still a bit of a surprise near the top of the receiving charts — he doesn’t do any one thing particularly well — but his improvement is evident.
- WR Eddie Royal is the best receiver on the Broncos. They remind me a lot of the 2009 Giants out there, with Royal as the Steve Smith of the group, Demaryius Thomas as Hakeem Nicks, and Gaffney as Mario Manningham. Whatever they get out of Lloyd is just a bonus.
- They need those receivers to excel because all of their running backs are injury prone or not effective. They just gave up a fourth round pick for Laurence Maroney, who plays as if he’s trying to lose his roster spot. Correll Buckhalter is an excellent all-around back in running, receiving, and blocking, but he’s hardly ever healthy. Knowshon Moreno didn’t play in this game…because of injury.
- For a second year head coach, Josh McDaniels has a heck of a lot of his talent that fits his system in this offense. It’s made up of guys who played for him in New England (Gaffney, Maroney, Daniel Graham), guys who would excel in any system (Buckhalter, Clady, Demaryius Thomas) and hand picked guys who fill in the cracks in the system (Orton, Lloyd, Royal). The Broncos have one of the most efficient passing offense in the league, a record setting offense that masks the fact that the QB makes a bunch of mistakes without having to take the ball out of his hands. What the Broncos have been able to accomplish in order to beat the Titans is remarkable.
- On the late-game 49 yard pass interference penalty that changed the outcome, Orton evaded a sack from William Hayes, and launched downfield because he had no choice. It was an all-seam route, and Buckhalter stayed into block. Orton threw it downfield because it was 2nd and 25, and because he had no outlet receiver (and no foot speed). SS Chris Hope had it covered down the sideline, but lost track of the football and then went through WR Jabar Gaffney as the ball got there. That should have been incomplete, and effectively, a game ender. Such is the margin of victory in professional football.
- Orton, I thought, excelled in just one area in this game: the accuracy of his passes. They came out of his hand crisp and he had good timing and location to his intended targets. This is how he completed 70% of his passes (35/50) on the day, and is currently the passing attempts leader in the NFL.