Friday, May 25, 2012

Broncos Zone to merge with BroncoTalk on June 1st

On June 1st, Broncos Zone will merge with BroncoTalk, a Denver Broncos blog, news and fan site.  Broncos Zone's Jon Heath will continue to cover the Broncos for the new and improved BroncoTalk (which will be up and running on the 1st, if everything goes as planned). 

If you're interested in the sappy story behind Broncos Zone, continue reading.  Otherwise, head over to BroncoTalk and comment on every article about how excited you are about the merger.

In the summer of 2008, I stumbled across BroncoTalk and instantly became one of the site's most loyal readers, visiting the blog daily.  Reading the analysis and informative information on BroncoTalk sparked my desire to share my own opinion on the state of the Broncos and led me to create Broncos Zone on June 25th, 2008.

After several months of covering the team, I was contacted Garrett Barnes (formerly of and asked to contribute to his site in addition to running Broncos Zone. After joining Bronco Madness, I contributed to the site two years before Garrett shutdown the blog, citing that it had become more of a chore and less of a hobby.  Shortly after this happened, I was contacted again, this time by Kyle Montgomery (of BroncoTalk).

Kyle invited me to join BroncoTalk's staff as a contributor and I eagerly accepted his offer.  On June 9th, 2010, I wrote my first article for BroncoTalk.  Former Broncos cornerback Perrish Cox agreeing to terms with the team was the subject of my first BT post.

Four years later, Perrish Cox is now with the San Francisco 49ers and I am about to become BroncoTalk's Social Media Manager and an Editor on the site.  Details omitted, a lot of things have changed over the past two years.

Broncos Zone wouldn't have grown into the site it became -- one that helped launch me into bigger things -- if it weren't for the suggestions, guidance and support provided by several phenomenal people.  I have been blessed and I want to thank Garrett and Kyle for giving opportunities to write for their respective websites, Bert Jan Brands who wrote for this site as a contributor (and now covers the entire NFL for, an European sports website) and Krystal, who contributed to the site in many ways, including as a photographer and editor.

I also cannot overlook BroncoTalk's Ian Henson (who also contributes to MaxDenver) and has provided suggestions and advice, Kyle Sonneman (the Broncos former Director of Team Media) who answered every question I asked, and Patrick Smyth (the Broncos Director of Media Relations) who has given me tremendous advice and support.

The tens of thousands of readers -- located in ten different countries -- who have followed Broncos Zone also receive my gratitude.  You are the reason the site is here, so thank you.

I want to especially thank one reader, areferee.  The Ref has supported my writing through everything -- when others are critiquing a typo here and a grammatical error there, Ref has always been understanding and level-headed.  Thanks for keeping it real, Ref.

It's been a fun ride here at Broncos Zone. The time has come though to go onward and upward.  Be sure to check out BroncoTalk's Facebook and Twitter pages and check out the blog daily for coverage of our beloved Denver Broncos provided by Kyle, the rest of the BroncoTalk staff and me, starting Friday, June 1st.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Denver Broncos Safety Brian Dawkins Retires

After sixteen accolade-filled seasons of playing professional football, veteran safety Brian Dawkins is hanging up his cleats for good.  At age thirty-eight, Dawkins played with a super hero-like mentality, defying age and all obstacles while acquiring the nickname Weapon X as his alter ego.

"The Lord has blessed me (by allowing me) to play in the NFL for sixteen years," Dawkins Tweeted on Monday morning.  "I would like to thank everyone that believed in me. Along with the fans for helping make my career one that I have enjoyed tremendously."

Throughout his career -- from the time he was drafted in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles to the time he retired in 2012 as a member of the Denver Broncos' secondary -- Dawkins had two lockers.  One of them was his, the other, belonged to Weapon X.

Dawkins' teammates and coaches describe him as a quiet and friendly Christian man that loves his family and the game of football.  Every player that faced Dawkins on the football field met a different man -- a player who transformed into a super human before the first snap of the ball and maintained that energy until the final whistle blew.

And that's how Dawkins went about his business for sixteen years.  He was a leader and friend in the locker room and a terrifying warrior on the football field.  In his career, Dawkins recorded more than 1,000 tackles, 26 sacks, defended 98 passes, intercepted 37 passes and forced 28 fumbles.

"I would like to thank all my teammates and coaches that I have been blessed to go to battle with," Dawkins said.  A nine-time Pro Bowler, Dawkins is considered a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

“Brian Dawkins is one of the best to ever play the game, a future Hall of Famer who changed the way his position is played," Head Coach John Fox said in a statement Monday. "In many ways, he helped my job as a coach with his great leadership and preparation. He brought so much to the table and was such an enormous asset to our football team.

"It’s been an honor and a privilege to coach Brian. Although I will miss the positive impact he had on our team, I congratulate Brian on a tremendous career and wish him and his family all the best going forward.” 

Thanks for the memories, Brian.  We'll see you in the Hall of Fame in 2017.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Brands: Five Broncos Who Need a Good Spring

April 16th. The day that marks the start of the offseason workouts, and for many Broncos players their first opportunity to meet with quarterback Peyton Manning. However, under the regulations of the new CBA, off season workouts are much more limited in scope than in previous years.

Teams with new head coaches, such as the St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins, started their workouts two weeks ago. For the rest of the league, players will be returning to facilities today. For the first two weeks, only strength and conditioning coaches can work with players on the field. Not until after the NFL Draft are coaches allowed to take players through limited football drills.

While the players will be spending less time on the field, there will be plenty of time for personal improvement. The Broncos have shown to be all in by the acquisition of quarterback Peyton Manning, and this means it is time for some of the younger players to step up in order for the Broncos to reach their goal: A Super Bowl win. The trend in the list of players who need a good spring? Most players will be going into their second season in the NFL and can blame their early career struggles on missing the off season due to the lockout last year.

1. Rahim Moore

Entering the 2011 season, the Denver Broncos had high hopes for second round pick Rahim Moore, the free safety from UCLA. Moore went into the season as the starting free safety, but found himself on the scout team by week 14.

Many will remember Moore for his hit on Buffalo Bills wide receiver Donald Jones during the preseason, and the rookie had a solid camp. However, he suffered a concussion after colliding with cornerback Andre Goodman, and though he returned to practice three days later, he never reclaimed the starting job. Some in the Denver media seem to have entirely given up on Moore, but it is too early for that. Nevertheless, the Broncos brought in Mike Adams to play free safety, so Moore has his work cut out for him if he intends to reclaim his position as a starter.

2. Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas was no doubt one of the most impressive players in training camp last season, but the former college basketball player saw his first year hampered by an ankle injury that ruined his rookie season. While some players would have bounced back from a sprained ankle in a week two, Thomas has struggled to make the transition to the NFL after only one season of college football. Thomas recently underwent surgery to repair ligaments in his ankle and this should limit him when the Broncos take the field for offseason workouts starting Monday.

With the acquisition of tight ends Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen, Thomas seems to be buried on the depth chart, together with fellow second year tight end Virgil Green (who is facing a four-game performance enhancing drug suspension, which he is appealing). However, while tight ends were not frequently used in the offense that we have seen over the past few years, Peyton Manning traditionally likes throwing to his tight ends, so if Thomas can continue to work on his technique, there should be plenty of balls to go around to all four tight ends if Denver chooses to keep that many on the roster.

3. Nate Irving

One of the more incredible stories of the 2011 NFL Draft was that of Nate. Irving, the North Carolina State linebacker who was forced to miss the entire 2009 season after being severely injured in a car accident. He came back for the 2010 and recorded 92 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and six pass breakups that season. Joining the Broncos, many expected Irving to be the starting middle linebacker at the end of camp, but he was beaten out by Joe Mays for the position and mostly played on special teams during his first year in the NFL.

With an off season to work on his skills, Irving will again head into training camp with the expectation of becoming the starting middle linebacker. Shawn Zobel described Irving as "an aggressive, downhill defender in the run game with a non-stop motor and feisty attitude that simply can't be coached," which will all be great qualities to have on the field as Denver looks to improve the run defense. Unlike last year, Irving has several months of OTA's to go into training camp prepared for the new defense that Jack Del Rio will run.

4. Orlando Franklin

Orlando Franklin was somewhat of a surprise pick in the second round last year, but the offensive tackle held up well during his first NFL season. He proved to be a great run blocker, playing an important role blocking for Willis McGahee and the rest of the NFL-leading rushing attack that racked up 2,632 yards on the ground.

However, having to protect Tim Tebow's blindside in 2011, Franklin struggled at times, giving up eight sacks and multiple penalties. With Peyton Manning under center, the blindside responsibilities will return to Ryan Clady, who is in a contract year. With his success in the running game, Franklin should spend the majority of the offseason working on his pass blocking in order to become an all-round solid right tackle in the NFL.

5. J.D. Walton & Zane Beadles

Unlike the previous four players, Walton and Beadles were taken one year earlier, in the 2010 NFL Draft. Walton has started every game at center since joining the Broncos, and Beadles only missed two starts during his first season, though he was moved around several times until settling at the left guard spot this season.

Walton was graded by Pro Football Focus as the worst center in the league, allowing four sacks and 23 quarterback pressures this past season. There is no doubt that Walton struggled his rookie year, especially when Beadles settled in at left guard; the two were often faced with double A-gap blitzes and stunts. They improved at the end of their first year, but could not work on technique during the offseason, so some of the struggles continued in their second year as pros.

While I believe both players can be solid offensive linemen, the start of their third year will prove to be critical for their future success. It remains to be seen how long veteran guard Chris Kuper will be out after his horrific injury suffered in the regular season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs. Until then, Walton and Beadles will be counted on to solidify the interior of the line to protect Denver's ninety million dollar man.

Bert Jan Brands is a Broncos Zone contributor, follow him on Twitter: @bertjanb.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Nike Reveals Denver Broncos New Uniform in N.Y.C.

The NFL and Nike revealed the new Elite 51 uniform designs for all thirty-two teams today in New York City. Judging from the photos released by Nike and what the players are saying, the changes in the uniforms will be much more noticeable to the players than to the eyes of the fans on Sunday afternoons this fall.

Nike is taking over as the on-field and sideline apparel provider of the NFL, a position which was previously held by Reebok. There were no dramatic changes made to the Denver Broncos' uniform design, with the collar area of the team's jersey being altered and the main jersey color changing from blue to orange.

"The Denver Broncos have chosen to take full innovation in the Nike Elite 51 football uniform," Nike said of the new technology utilized in the uniform. "The Broncos design aesthetic will stay true to years past while updating the color-blocking in the neckline in order to accommodate the Flywire technology to reduce weight and provide a lock-down fit over the pads."

Cornerback Champ Bailey represented the Broncos at the event, displaying his No. 24 jersey. "These new uniforms are going to be nice," Bailey Tweeted a few moments before Denver's uniform was unveiled earlier today.

The team's formerly blue collar is now blue half-way and orange towards the tip and the orange jersey appears to be a slightly different shade of orange from the team's 2011 alternate uniform. While the appearance of the uniform hasn't undergone any big changes, the feel has. The uniform is 30% lighter than the team's 2011 uniform and has a better range of motion, according to Nike.

"My jersey fit like a glove,” defensive end Mitch Unrein told on Tuesday. “There is no extra material on them. It’s just boom, fits perfectly on the pads."

"Designed and engineered from the inside out, the new uniform focuses on creating a system where the base layer, padding, jersey and pant work in concert," said Nike. "A few of the new innovations include increasing sleeve articulation for better range of motion and integrating new four-way stretch fabrication to provide a streamlined shrink-wrap fit."

The new design was created to make players faster by giving them less resistance and helping them to perform to the best of their ability. According to Unrein, the tight-fitting jerseys will also help him try to slip through offensive lines.

"The fit helps you out a lot if you’re a defensive lineman because it has that nice cut around the arms, so those offensive lineman can’t hold on to you as much.”

The team's alternate uniform is expected to be the same design as the main orange uniform design, with blue being the main color. White is expected to be the main color of the away design.

More images of the team's new uniform can be viewed on Broncos Zone's Facebook page. Video of Bailey talking to NFL Network about the new uniform can be viewed on the team's official website.

The new jerseys will be available for pre-order on April 15th and will begin being sold on the first day of the 2012 NFL Draft — Thursday, April 26th.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quarterback Peyton Manning to sign with Broncos

The Denver Broncos are expected to announce the signing of free agent quarterback Peyton Manning on Tuesday, according to sources close to the team. Though Manning has chosen the Broncos as the team he will play for in 2012, his contract was still being finalized as of Monday evening.

Manning called Denver's Vice President of Football Operations John Elway and John Fox on Monday morning to inform them that he would be playing for the team this season, as was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Broncos are aiming to hold a press conference on Tuesday afternoon announcing the signing of Manning.

Manning, a fourteen-year veteran who was released by the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago, is a four-time League MVP and one-time Super Bowl MVP. With 54,828 career passing yards and 399 career touchdowns, Manning is bringing experience to Denver that his new teammates are excited about.

"Aw man, it's going to be exciting just what he brings to a team, he brings his leadership, just the way he approaches the game," said linebacker Joe Mays, who re-signed with Denver on Sunday. "He has the 'it' factor when it comes to winning games. He had it over his time with the Colts and now he's got a chance to do it here. We're all excited to have him on the team."

Ironically, Manning's rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts was in 1998, the same year that Elway, who was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1983, led the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory in his final season. Now in charge of Denver's front office, Elway is trying to get Denver back to the Super Bowl by bringing in Manning, who passed for nearly 1,000 more yards than Elway in their respective first and final seasons.

With Manning prepared to sign with the team, the Broncos are expected to trade quarterback Tim Tebow, who showed flashes of heroism last season before an embarrassing Divisional playoff loss to the New England Patriots. After the game, Broncos' Owner Pat Bowlen was quoted as saying he wanted Championships, not Division Titles, which ultimately led to the team moving on from Tebow — quite possibly too soon.

The Broncos have one goal in mind and that is to win a Super Bowl. Denver's front office — consisting of Elway, Fox and General Manager Brian Xanders — believe that bringing in Manning gives them the best chance to get back to the Super Bowl and win it. With Manning about to turn 36 and coming off multiple neck surgeries however, the signing is a high risk, high reward scenario.

As of late Monday evening, the Broncos were working with Manning's agent, Tom Condon, on a five-year contract — which would protect the Broncos if Manning's neck injuries inhibit his performance — which could be worth up to $100 million, with about half of that coming in guaranteed money.

With Manning now the team's starting quarterback moving forward, the Broncos will become an attractive team to free agents who are still un-signed. Denver is expected to pursue several of Manning's former teammates including tight end Dallas Clark, center Jeff Saturday and wide receiver Brandon Stokley. As of Monday, Saturday is the only player who has a visit scheduled with the Broncos.

After officially signing Manning, the next order of business in Denver will be to assign him a jersey number. Manning wore No. 18 during his fourteen years with the Colts but that number is retired in Denver in honor of the team's first quarterback in franchise history, Frank Tripucka. Manning's college number, 16, is available for the veteran quarterback.

If Peyton wants to wear No. 18 however, Tripucka said "it would be an honor" for the team to un-retire the number for Manning.

Be sure to follow Broncos Zone on Facebook and Twitter!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sources: Manning was impressed with Broncos

Peyton Manning was in Denver this weekend to meet with the Denver Broncos and reportedly came away as impressed with the team as they were by him. (Image courtesy of the Denver Post)

Fourteen-year veteran free agent quarterback Peyton Manning has concluded visits to Denver and Arizona and is expected to choose between the Broncos and Cardinals sometime this week, according to multiple sources.

After visiting with the Broncos on Friday evening and part of Saturday, Manning flew to Arizona and conducted a similar visit with the Cardinals on Sunday. Now expected to fly home to Miami, Manning's will consider his options before choosing his new team.

"The Broncos are currently the favorites to land Manning," CBS4's Vic Lombardi reported on Sunday evening. According to Lombardi, the Broncos chances of landing Manning are around 80% — highly likely, in other words.

Many have speculated that if the Broncos do sign Manning, the team will trade third-year quarterback Tim Tebow. The Broncos however have not commented on the situation and may of plans of retaining Tebow.

The fact that the Broncos are pursuing Manning has not been viewed as a vote of confidence in Tebow though, and some fans are upset about that. It should be noted that Denver's top brass — V.P. of Football Operations John Elway, Head Coach John Fox and General Manager Brian Xanders (EFX) — have one goal in mind, and that is to get Denver back to the Super Bowl and win it.

EFX have a plan and they are executing it, where is the fan loyalty? If the team believes that Manning makes them a Super Bowl contender, so be it.

The Broncos' front office was responsible for being the only team in the NFL last season to send a rookie and free agent acquisition to the Pro Bowl, and turned a previously 4-12 team into a 9-9 playoff team in one locked out off-season. With a full off-season and new acquisitions, the Broncos are looking to build off of their 2011 run.

Some have cited Manning's health as an area of concern, but multiple doctors have reported that Manning's neck is well on the way to being fully recovered and should not cause any reg flags to interested teams. As for Manning's age, Elway won two Super Bowls with the Broncos when he was older than Manning is today.

"But Elway did not have a neck injury," commented John Gavina on our Facebook page on Sunday afternoon. This is true, but the chances of Manning re-injuring his neck are just slightly higher than Tebow's chances of re-injuring his ribs or suffering a concussion this season.

There is always the possibility that Denver would keep Tebow, contrary to all of the reports, and have him learn under Manning, perhaps getting several plays a game in special packages. Or, the Broncos could change Tebow's position — something that he would not abject to if all he cares about is helping the team win games.

Back to being a Super Bowl contender; the Broncos believe that they would become one with Manning. With an improving defense led by rising star outside linebacker Von Miller, the league's top-ranked rushing offense and young, promising receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, Manning's presence would instantly make the Broncos the team to beat in the AFC West, and possibly the entire AFC.

And Manning would bring to Denver more than just his quarterback skills and no huddle offense — which would presumably be unstoppable at high altitude — he would also become the Broncos' top recruiting tool in free agency. Former Indianapolis Colts and soon-to-be free agents Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Jeff Saturday would all be more than willing to follow Manning wherever he goes, and the Broncos have enough cap room to sign them all.

Denver's own free agents, including receiver Eddie Royal, would also be more inclined to re-sign if they knew a four-time Super Bowl MVP was going to be the team's starting quarterback this season. Once free agency begins, the Broncos may have already signed the highest sought after player of the off-season.

At the end of the day, the Broncos are in no way disrespecting Tebow or anything that he has accomplished, this is a part of the game and it always has been. If the Broncos' think that Manning would upgrade the quarterback position, they'll make the move — which goes to show that all the team cares about is winning, not jersey sales, popularity or incumbency at any position on the team that can be upgraded.

Manning may visit with the Miami Dolphins before making his decision, but it his likely that he will be choosing between the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals. The Broncos are expecting Manning's decision to come by Friday evening, but it may be delayed through the weekend.

Stay tuned for updates and be sure to follow Broncos Zone on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Broncos Found Great Production and Value in Miller, McGahee and Harris

On Monday afternoon, Patrick Smyth, the Denver Broncos Executive Director of Media Relations tweeted that the Broncos were the only team in the NFL sending a 2011 draft pick (outside linebacker Von Miller) and a 2011 free agent signee (running back Willis McGahee) to the 2012 Pro Bowl, highlighting the Broncos excellent personnel transactions last off-season.

From the draft, to signing undrafted rookies, to signing free agents, the Broncos front office - consisting of John Elway (VP), John Fox (HC) and Brian Xanders (GM) - worked hours-on-end to find the right fits for the team, at the right price. The team's first postseason appearance since the 2005 season can be considerably contributed to the remarkable job done by Denver's new front office.

In addition to the acquisitions of Miller and McGahee, the Broncos also brought in several other players that contributed greatly last season, including rookie defensive back Chris Harris, who was named to the 2011 All-Rookie Defensive Team. Overlooked by every other team in the NFL, the Broncos brought Harris to training camp as an undrafted free agent.

After looking at the salaries* of Miller, McGahee and Harris and reviewing their production, it appears that Denver hit the jackpot last off-season. According to, Miller is under a four-year contract worth $21 million dollars. Running back Willis McGahee also has a four-year deal, worth $9.5 million. Finally, defensive back Chris Harris has a three-year, $1.398 million dollar agreement with the club.

If you total up the averages, the Broncos are paying each of those players an average of just over two and a half million dollars ($2.697M) per season. To compare the Broncos salary and production numbers, we totaled up and averaged the contracts of the first defensive player selected after Miller last April (Marcel Dareus), a free agent running back similar to McGahee based on his age and production a season ago (Joseph Addi), and another underrated rookie defensive back performing well (Richard Sherman).
The average contract of those three players (Dareus, Addi and Sherman) was nearly three and a half million dollars ($3.44) per season. Below, we'll compare the player's numbers to see what kind of value the Broncos received.

Miller, a second overall draft selection, had a historic season in Denver, tying the franchise record for the most sacks by a rookie in a single season (11.5). Miller was a disruptive force as a pass rusher and against the pass, recording 64 tackles and 19 tackles for a loss. Named to the 2012 Pro Bowl, Miller cost the Broncos approximately $5.25 million last season.

In comparison, Dareus was drafted third overall by the Buffalo Bills in last years draft and had a similarly productive season, although not one as dominating as Miller's. Finishing the season with 43 tackles and 5.5 sacks, Dareus cost the Bills approximately $5.1 million in 2011.

Based on productivity, team-impact and salary, it is clear that the Broncos made the right selection in Von Miller over Marcell Dareus. Many scouts do not expect to see another player of Miller's mold come around for a long time.
Moving on to the running back position, Willis McGahee had a role on Denver's offense much like Miller had on the Broncos defense last season. The leading rusher of the NFL's best rushing attack in 2011, McGahee finished the season with 1,199 yards on the ground and scored five touchdowns. Selected to the 2012 Pro Bowl, McGahee cost the Broncos approximately $2.375 million for his 2011 services.

A fellow 2011 free agent signee, Indianapolis' Joseph Addai did not fair quite as well as McGahee. Affected by the Colts historically horrendous season, Addai finished the season with 433 yards on the ground and scored one touchdown. Costing the Colts approximately $4.667 million, Addai brought less production than McGahee in 2011, at a higher price tag.

Finally, Broncos defensive back Chris Harris made waves in the NFL as an undrafted rookie, performing better than most of the cornerbacks that were drafted a year ago. Coming in with Denver's nickel defensive package, Harris totaled 72 tackles, defended 16 passes and recorded an interception. Highly praised by Denver's coaching staff for his superb tackling skills, Harris cost the Broncos roughly $465,000 in his rookie season.

Comparable to Harris is Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman, who was drafted by the Seahawks in the fifth round. Statistically, Sherman had a great rookie season, recording 55 tackles, defending 17 passes and notching four interceptions. Sherman, a player that appears primed to continue to make big plays in his career, cost the Seahawks approximately $375,000.

The Broncos found great value through rookies and veterans last off-season, both through the draft and free agency. In order to return to the playoffs in 2012, Denver will have to find similar success this off-season by finding players that can contribute to the system at a better-than-average price.

* All of the contract details mentioned above are unofficial and do not include signing bonuses or escalators. To approximately find what each player was paid last season, we divided their entire salary by the number of years they are under contract.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Video: Every Rushing Score of Tebow's NFL Career

In approximately 115 games dating back to his high school football days, quarterback Tim Tebow has rushed for 7,020 yards and 131 touchdowns in his career. Those are some impressive numbers.

That's 61 rushing yards per game and 1.14 rushing touchdowns per game — from a quarterback. To put those numbers in perspective, Broncos running back Willis McGahee has played in 120 games in his NFL career and has rushed for 61 yards per game and .5 touchdowns per game.

McGahee is Pro Bowl running back that led the Broncos with 1,199 yards on the ground this season. Tebow is a quarterback that plays like a fullback.

If Tebow can hone his throwing game to match the effectiveness of his rushing abilities—it looks like he is making progress—he could become one of the most dominating players in the history of the NFL.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dolphin Fan's Reaction to Tebow Mania

By: Kevin English

Let me start by saying I was a huge Tim Tebow fan when he was at the University of Florida. The guy was a winner. He was (and is) tough as nails. He gave you no reason to dislike him.

When he transitioned to the NFL, I thought his chances of developing into a respectable NFL signal caller were slim. The offense he was coming from, his accuracy – I know you guys have heard it a thousand times by now. Ultimately, I thought he was an elite college player. But I (like millions of others) felt his time in the spotlight was coming to an end.

While he’s certainly struggled at times during his two years in the league, I’m convinced he can have success long term. Sunday’s game – albeit just 1 game – impressed me beyond belief. If he can conquer that defense in the pressure packed playoffs – one still rock solid despite the absence of guys like Ryan Clark and Casey Hampton -- he can do it against anyone.

The thing that’s most intriguing to me is how Tebow doesn’t have to be particularly accurate to win games. He completed an ugly 46.4% of his passes in the regular season, and completed just 10 of 21 attempts Sunday. But for the most part, the guy doesn’t turn the ball over. And that’s huge. He also has a knack for the big play, which leads me to my next point.

Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy should be aggressive, and Tebow should be completing bombs down the field. I won’t pretend that I’ve watched every game Tebow’s started, but I have watched several (including Sunday, and unfortunately, one of Tebow’s comeback victories… over my Dolphins).

Over and over again, I see how easily defenses bite on his play-fakes. Really, they have every right to. After all, Tebow’s best strength remains his legs. Throw in Willis McGahee’s resurgent season and a cohesive run blocking line, and you have even more reason as a defense to focus on the run.

Oh, and there’s that part about defenses not respecting his left arm… What results are some pretty sweet matchups for Tebow. Man coverage across the board, sometimes with a single high safety. Usually no complex reads to be made, no need for Peyton Manning-like audible at the line of scrimmage. Just take the snap, drop back, and find the open man.

Of course, he’s got to make the throw. But it’s hard to understate just how much the threat of Denver’s ground game opens up a world of possibility for the aerial attack. If Demaryius Thomas, Eddie Royal and company can step up going forward, I don’t think there’s any reason he can’t go for another 300+ yards with a couple scores against an underwhelming New England defense.

So congrats Broncos fans on your team pulling off one upset. I might have to order my own #15 jersey if they pull off another one against a Patriot team all of Dolphin nation despises…

Kevin English is a blog contributor for Gold Star Games, a one-stop-shop for tailgating games and much more.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Clutch: Broncos' Kicker Matt Prater

Clutch (adj.): Tending to be successful in tense or critical situations.

That is the one word that can precisely describe the season—and career—that Broncos fifth-year kicker Matt Prater has had. In critical situations with the game on the line, Denver's placekicker has come through time and time again.

When the NFL announced last year that kickoffs would be moved up from the 30 yard line to the 35 yard line for safety reasons, it made kickoffs easier for Prater, but he was not thrilled about the ruling.

“I don’t like it because kickoffs have always been an area where I can separate myself from other guys in the league,” Prater told Naples News in October. “Now a lot of guys are kicking touchbacks because it’s so much easier. I almost wish it was still from the 30.”

Despite the rule change, Prater still owned the best touchback percentage during the regular season, booting 47-of-his-69 kickoffs for touchbacks (68.1%), proving he has one of the strongest legs in the league. With opponents rarely able to return kicks, the Broncos didn't allow a single return for a touchdown in 2011, which tied for first in the AFC.

As important as they are, kickoffs were not what defined Prater's 2011 season. Clutch field goal attempts were. Prater's right leg— especially at home, in the Denver's mile high altitude—has been a weapon that has served the Broncos offense well.

"There's no doubt his leg strength is a weapon, in particular here at home with the altitude," Broncos Head Coach John Fox said back in December. "He's been great, he's been clutch."

Prater converted 6-of-7 field goals in five games during the final month of the season, two of them longer than fifty yards. The NFL noticed, and Prater was named the AFC's Special Teams Player of the Month for the second time in his career.

After converting all four of his attempts in the fourth quarter or overtime during the regular season, Prater brought his career conversion rate to 28-of-29 in those circumstances. Near perfect in crunch time, Prater made 19-of-his-25 (.760) field goals during the regular season with a long of 59 yards.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers come to Sports Authority Field on Sunday, the Broncos can secure their first playoff victory since 2006. If the situation is right (Denver has the ball in the closing minutes of a close game), Prater may get the chance to win a game for the fifth time this season.

“He could line up from 65-yards out and there’s no doubt,” Broncos receiver Eric Decker said in December. “When you get to 70, maybe he’d be close [to not nailing it through].”

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why Quarterback Tim Tebow Is Fueled By FRS®

Broncos second year quarterback Tim Tebow has had an endorsement deal with FRS® Healthy Energy since his rookie season in the NFL, and has become the face of the healthy energy drink product.

By why did he choose FRS®? Because FRS® is the only drink on the market that uses Quercetin as its main ingredient, which makes it more of a wellness drink than an energy drink—eliminating the possibility of a crash.

Tebow—who is very conscious about maintaining a healthy lifestylehas used the product since he broke records at the 2010 NFL Combine two years ago.

“I use their products regularly and can honestly say that I believe FRS® has helped me perform at my best on and off the field,” said Tebow when his partnership with FRS® was announced.

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To enter to win on Facebook, just 'Like' this photo, 'Like' FRS Healthy Energy and check out their website. We'll announce a winner next Monday (1/9/11).

Wednesday Practice Notes: Safety Dawkins Held Out

The Denver Broncos returned to the practice field on Wednesday, veteran safety Brian Dawkins (neck) was again absent. Fullback Spencer Larsen (knee sprain) was also held out of practice.

Dawkins has missed the team's last three games, all of which Denver lost. Larsen was injured last week against Kansas City.

Broncos rookie fullback Austin Sylvester is expected to make his NFL debut on Sunday if Larsen is not able to play. Recently signed offensive lineman Ryan Harris could also make his 2011 debut with the Broncos on Sunday, providing depth to the Broncos offensive line.

Harris and linebacker Brian Iwuh, whom the Broncos signed on Tuesday, have been assigned jersey numbers 72 and 59, respectively. Iwuh most recently played with the Chicago Bears as a special team's player.

Kickoff on Sunday at Sports Authority Field is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. (MT). The game will be broadcast on CBS.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Broncos Win AFC West, Postseason-Bound

The Denver Broncos finished the 2011 season with an 8-8 record and won the AFC West, despite losing in their final three matches. Denver will host the 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers next week at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in the first round of the playoffs.

Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. (MT) and the game will be broadcast on CBS. A win on Sunday would mark the Broncos first playoff victory since 2006.

Five weeks into the regular season, there were few that thought the 1-4 Broncos would make the playoffs. Under the direction of Head Coach John Fox, the team would go on to win seven of their eleven remaining games, marking the first time in franchise history that a coach has led the team to a division title during his first season.

"We're AFC West champs. It doesn't matter how you do it," Fox said Sunday evening. "Once you get into the dance, they can't kick you out, so what we do with it we will be determined here next weekend."

They can't kick you out, but you have to win in order to advance. If they do not perform better than they did on Sunday against Kansas City, Denver will not last long in the playoffs, and they know it.

"To play the way we did... It's not going to cut it (in the playoffs)," said cornerback Champ Bailey after the game. "To go into the playoffs with losing the last three games, it sucks. But, we’re in it. We just have to keep preparing, stay positive and move on.”

There were positives to take away from the team's 7-3 loss on Sunday; the team broke a franchise record with 2,632 yards in a single season. A large chunk of those yards (1,199 of them) came from the legs of veteran running back Willis McGahee, who seven times topped the 100-yard rushing mark this season, which tied for the NFL lead.

“We didn’t do a good job. You can run the ball and get three or four hundred yards. But, we didn’t get a touchdown running the ball," a frustrated McGahee said following the season finale. "It’s over with now, and we’ve got a big game coming up this weekend.”

If the Broncos are going to have better success going forward, second year quarterback Tim Tebow will have to start performing at a higher level. After winning seven of his first eight starts in 2011, Tebow has lost three straight games and has had seven turnovers in those games.

“Well, obviously when you lose it’s just not good enough, and for me it wasn’t good enough,” Tebow said. “I just have to get better and learn from my great coaches and just come out next week and try to be a better quarterback, a better leader and be a better player.”

Tebow's teammates are confident that their quarterback will get back on the right track.

“He’s not going to have a great game every week, so that’s our job to give him a pat on the back like, ‘Man don’t worry about it. That’s behind us. We’re in the playoffs. Start fresh come this week,’” said McGahee.

Injuries: Broncos offensive guard Chris Kuper will miss the playoffs with a broken leg, and Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall will miss Sunday's game with a knee injury.

Broncos' 2012 opponents announced: Next season, the Broncos will face the Browns, Steelers, Saints, Buccaneers, Texans, and their AFC West rivals at home. On the road, Denver will play the Ravens, Patriots, Falcons, Panthers, Bengals, Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers.

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