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.

Knowing of the benefits of FRS®, we are giving you a chance to sample a twelve (12) pack of FRS bottles (your choice of flavor) and two (2) packages of FRS Chews for FREE on our Facebook page.

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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