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23 Jan 2014

Film Room: Demaryius Thomas

by Cian Fahey

The most famous play of Demaryius Thomas’ career happened a little more than two years ago in the wild card round of the playoffs: Thomas caught an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the first ever game played under the new overtime rules, and it was the final memorable moment of the Tim Tebow era.

To that point in his career, Thomas had only shown flashes of ability. The Broncos had selected him with the 22nd pick of the 2010 draft, but his impact during his first two seasons was limited. He only managed 21 regular season appearances during his first two seasons because of injuries. As a raw receiver coming out of college, that missed time severely hampered his development. Furthermore, playing with quarterbacks such as Tebow and Kyle Orton limited the opportunities he received when he was healthy.

It wasn't until Peyton Manning arrived that Thomas began to scratch his potential.

During Manning's first season, Thomas wasn't just healthy for 16 games, he was one of the most productive receivers in the NFL. He finished the season with 94 receptions for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns. In comparison, he had just 54 receptions for 834 yards and six touchdowns during his first two seasons combined. In spite of the rise of Julius Thomas and the addition of Wes Welker, Thomas improved on his production this season: he ended the year with 92 receptions for 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound receiver has firmly established himself as one of the most productive players in the NFL. Now, Thomas needs to prove that he can produce against the very best secondary, on the biggest stage in the NFL. In the AFC Championship Game, Thomas had seven receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown. The Seahawks will provide a completely different challenge.

A huge amount of Thomas' production during the regular season came on screen passes and underneath routes against soft coverage. Rarely did Thomas produce anything when defensive backs jammed him at the line of scrimmage and played aggressive man coverage through his route. Because the Seahawks will want to disrupt the timing of the Broncos offense, they should play a lot of man coverage. Their defensive philosophy will dictate that they look to be very aggressive with the Broncos receivers.

Much of the talk surrounding Thomas entering this game will focus on his "matchup" with Richard Sherman. However, the Seahawks star cornerback doesn't typically follow receivers around the field. Sherman will stay on the defensive left side of the field. Unless the Broncos decide to use a hurry-up offense early in the game, Thomas should move around the formation. Avoiding frequent matchups with Sherman is a positive, but dealing with Byron Maxwell or Walter Thurmond won't be easy for Thomas, since they will relish the opportunity to jam Thomas at the line and be aggressive with him in man coverage.

Against the San Francisco 49ers, Sherman, Maxwell, Thurmond and both of the team's starting safeties played very aggressive football. Even though Sherman was penalized once for holding, each member of the secondary was able to pool his aggressiveness and intelligence. This allowed them to compete for almost every pass that went down the field, and put more pressure on receivers Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree to make difficult catches.

While the Broncos have very impressive talents at the receiver position, they don't have players who specialize in making contested catches. Welker, Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker can absorb big hits and hold onto the ball, but none relish contact the way the Seahawks defensive backs do. Of the Broncos main receivers, Demaryius Thomas is the least reliable when trying to make contested catches or fight through physical coverage.

Thomas is 6-foot-3 and well over 200 pounds. He has as much athletic ability as almost any receiver in the NFL. However, he is not a very physical receiver. His athleticism gives him the ability to adjust to the ball in the air and make plays against tight coverage when the defensive back is notably smaller than him. His mentality makes those occasions rarer than they should be, especially against better, bigger defensive backs. Even when Thomas was challenged by average defensive backs during the regular season, he too often gave up position on the ball without much of a fight.

Against Washington's DeAngelo Hall, Thomas was responsible for two interceptions.

On the first play, he is lined up at the bottom of the screen. Hall is lined up directly across from him, in press coverage. In these situations, Thomas had his most success with a 5-yard in-route. He is very decisive coming out of the break in that route, with a hard outside step that drags the defender away from the middle of the field. But before he can even think about his route, he needs to release from the line of scrimmage.

There are times when Thomas beautifully manipulates the defensive back at the line of scrimmage to escape into his route. There are also times when he is too lazy with his feet and allows the defensive back to jam him at the line of scrimmage. Therefore, he was rarely targeted in these situations. This was one of the occasions where Thomas’ release was lazy and indecisive.

Thomas attempts to take an outside step to drag Hall towards the sideline. He doesn't step wide enough, so Hall never has to adjust his feet before engaging with Thomas. Thomas was trying to create a free release past his inside shoulder, but instead he had to fight through contact to get into his route. This disrupted the timing of the play, and more importantly, it led to Thomas falling down before the ball arrived.

Hall sticks to Thomas throughout the route and he pulls at the receiver's shoulder as he breaks inside. Hall could easily have been called for interference, but Thomas should never have gone to ground so easily.

Manning is throwing the ball blind because he wants to hit his receiver on a timing route. As the ball arrives, Thomas is lying on the ground and Hall has an easy interception. That interception turns into a touchdown because Thomas isn't in a position to tackle him after the turnover. At the very worst, Thomas should have been able to fight with Hall and disrupt the catch. Hall is a crafty cornerback, but he's also not anywhere near the level of the Seahawks defensive backs.

Nobody can question Thomas' ability to make big plays down the sideline or turn short passes into huge gains with his ability after the catch. However, when those catches down the sideline are contested, he has a timid mentality. On numerous occasions throughout the season Thomas dropped passes he should have caught because of an incoming safety. Those plays were unimpressive, but understandable because the defensive backs typically timed their hits well and exploded through Thomas' body.

While running down the sideline against Hall, Manning forced a pass that floated in his direction. When the ball arrived, it was a 50-50 situation between the defensive back and the receiver. Hall had played good coverage to that point in the route and he turned his head around just as the ball arrived. Hall missed the ball as it arrived into Thomas' hands. Thomas did well to extend his hands and go for the football instead of waiting on it, but after that point he failed to fight for the football.

Hall is falling in the air and has just one hand on the ball initially. Thomas has two hands, but he allows Hall to rip it away from him because he is too timid. Instead of moving towards the ball and pulling it into his chest with his hands, Thomas leaned backwards and tried to pull it away with his fingers. At worst, Thomas should have created a simultaneous possession situation. Instead, Hall came away with an easy interception he should never have had.

Unless Thomas recognizes the flight of the football and separates from the defender before he can react, he won't make the reception. Being an athletic receiver is important in these situations, but often it's the player who wants the ball more who comes away with it. Too often Thomas shies away from contact and avoids making contested catches. Even on the occasions when he got in position or Manning threw a pass to a point where only he could catch it, Thomas couldn't make a catch with a defender on him

Thomas showed off the ability to make contested catches once every few weeks. In the Super Bowl, he may be asked to make contested catches once every few plays.

This issue would be lessened if Thomas excelled at creating separation. In spite of his huge production during the regular season and excellent display in the AFC Championship game, Thomas is still refining his skill set as a receiver. His route running alone isn't enough to create separation against man coverage. He primarily relies on his speed and he can use his strength against smaller defenders in space. However, against better cover cornerbacks, route running becomes more important because they can match him physically.

Where Thomas really excels is with the ball in his hands. Thomas averaged 7.7 yards after the catch this season, the highest figure for any wide receiver with at least 20 receptions. (Golden Tate of the Seahawks, incidentally, was second at 7.6; Jermaine Kearse of the Seahawks was last at 1.7.) Most of that yardage came on plays that were specifically designed to put Thomas in space. A huge percentage of his targets came on screen passes, pick plays, against off-man coverage or against soft zone coverage. Thomas didn't need to run crisp routes or make contested catches in those situations. Instead he could just focus on catching the ball and finding space with the ball in his hands.

Against the Seahawks, these opportunities could be very rare. Seattle's defense is very fast. There is rarely much space for receivers to work in underneath, and when there is, that space is often closed quickly with a big hit from a linebacker or safety Kam Chancellor. If the Broncos can put Thomas in space during this game, they should be able to have success because Seattle's tackling on the second level isn't always reliable.

It appears that Thomas is going to be a boom-or-bust receiver in this game. On paper, the Seahawks should be able to handle him without overcommitting their coverage to him. On the field, Thomas' explosive ability could easily allow him to make a handful of big plays that give the Broncos victory. As often as he has been reliant on specific situations for his production this season, it also can't be overlooked that Thomas has made big plays in big games against press man coverage.

Just like he did against the Steelers two years ago, Thomas made some huge plays against the Patriots last week and most notably against Marcus Cooper of the Kansas City Chiefs during the regular season.

While the Broncos don't desperately need Thomas to have a huge game, a positive display from their best receiver would go a long way to helping them win the Super Bowl. Even with Julius Thomas, Welker and Decker around him, the Broncos can't afford to have Demaryius Thomas be a non-factor.

For that reason, the boom-or-bust potential of his play makes him a fascinating player to watch in New York.

Posted by: Cian Fahey on 23 Jan 2014

56 comments, Last at 25 Jan 2014, 12:55pm by Will Allen

Comments

1
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 2:15pm

The little noted aspect of the Broncos is that their receivers, for all the attention they receive, really don't catch the ball all that well. Combine that with the fact that Manning makes his offensive line look better at pass blocking than it actually is, and the decent chance that weather will strongly favor the Seahawks, and the Seahawks really should be favored.

The Seahawks jam guys at the line, but they really don't play a lot of man to man coverage. It's one of the things that makes them difficult to attack.

6
by tad (not verified) :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 3:23pm

I tend to agree with this assessment. I've watched every Broncos game this season, and none of the receivers are what I'd call 'great hands' guys. They aren't bad, but Decker, in particular, can be a bit lax in his catching skills. It's a testament to Manning in how he can put the ball in just the right spot for them. I'm a Denver fan for many years, and am looking forward to the game, but have yet to convince myself that they can come up with a gameplan to defeat Seattle. I just see the Seahawks defenders manhandling DT, Decker lying on the ground looking for a flag half the time, and Welker getting pancaked by linebackers. If the weather goes as predicted, this will likely be a very frustrating, and occasionally dull, game for many.

10
by Perfundle :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 4:46pm

Well, if they just jam you momentarily before moving to their respective zones, can't the offense plan for that in the route designs? Scheme the routes to have a half-second delay at the start, to account for the expected jam.

16
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 6:00pm

There are any number of thing that can be done against any defensive scheme. The point is that Seattle executes it's scheme extremely well, and there is a decent chance that their athletes on defense are better than Denver's athletes on offense. Is it sure to play out that way? Of course not. Tell me that Denver's o-line plays their best game of the year, and keeps Manning unbothered and unhurried from his spot behind the line of scrimmage, and the weather isn't a huge roadblock to passing, and I say Denver wins, despite the quality of the Seahawks dbs. Tell me Denver's remaining dbs stay healthy for 4 quarters, Pot Roast plays another dominant game, along with other guys on the Broncos defensive line playing well, and that helps Denver get to a win rather substantially.

What will happen? That's why they call it gambling. My inclination is to think that Seattle dbs beat Denver's receivers soundly, the weather and the pass rush inhibit Manning's efficiency, and Seattle's offense does enough for the Seahawks to win by about 6-7 points.

22
by Insancipitory :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 9:37pm

I don't think I've ever noticed what an erudite, perspicacious, handsome, successful writer you were....

29
by CBPodge :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 5:47am

I hate the idea of gambling on this game, simply because it means you're either betting against the Broncos ridiculous offense or the Seahawks ridiculous defence, and neither one of those things seems to be a wise idea.

2
by jacobk :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 2:41pm

I am a gigantic, shameless Seattle homer, and this seems way too down on Thomas. How did he go for 1400 yards if he's lousy at ninety percent of his job? It can't all have been smoke and mirrors.

3
by Cian Fahey :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 2:52pm

"Where Thomas really excels is with the ball in his hands. Thomas averaged 7.7 yards after the catch this season, the highest figure for any wide receiver with at least 20 receptions. (Golden Tate of the Seahawks, incidentally, was second at 7.6; Jermaine Kearse of the Seahawks was last at 1.7.) Most of that yardage came on plays that were specifically designed to put Thomas in space. A huge percentage of his targets came on screen passes, pick plays, against off-man coverage or against soft zone coverage. Thomas didn't need to run crisp routes or make contested catches in those situations. Instead he could just focus on catching the ball and finding space with the ball in his hands."

4
by RoninX (not verified) :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 3:06pm

Fortunately for us shameless Seattle homers the Seahawks have been pretty darn good at shutting down the screen game for most of the year.

What concerns me most about the Broncos is their rushing attack (well, that and Welker finding the space in the middle zone). I keep getting flashbacks to the Texans ZBS carving them up in week three. I know the Hawks have been great vs. the run lately too but it kind of feels like Denver has too many offensive options for the Seahawks defense to keep its fingers in the dike all game long.

The Seattle offense is going to have to find a way to approach 30 points. 23 again probably wont cut it.

5
by Perfundle :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 3:20pm

I'm surprised more teams don't fake the screen against Seattle (Seattle has done this themselves a few times). Their defenders read screens so well and attack them so aggressively that it seems like they'd be susceptible to a fake. Denver has been known to fake some of their staple plays, so it's a possibility. The fake pick play they did once freaked me out; the defense has enough troubles defending pick plays to begin with, and now to give them something else to think about?

7
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 3:32pm

Thurmond certainly seems terrified of the pick play.

14
by Pen :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 5:39pm

That wasn't fear, that was a subtle message to the refs.

18
by EricL :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 6:52pm

As a Seattle fan, the LAST thing I want is someone calling attention to what's going on in the secondary...

9
by jacobk :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 3:59pm

It just seems hard to believe that he could rack up THAT much production purely on the junkball stuff, especially consider his athletic tools. If he's so bad against press man coverage, I have to wonder why teams didn't turn to more of it instead of letting him run wild against softer coverage. The Seahawks might be better than everybody else at aggressive pass defense, but I would think most teams have at least one guy who could body up on Thomas.

The fact that they don't do it suggests to me that he is able to at least occasionally burn such coverage, so it's better to give up the short stuff instead of risking the long games. I'd be pleasantly surprised to be wrong, though.

11
by Perfundle :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 4:48pm

I wonder if it isn't because, although you might be able to take him out of the picture with press man, it still leaves the rest of your DBs to cover the other receivers, who are still running any number of picks, and could spring a 7-yard pass for a TD at any time. Perhaps teams decided they needed all the DBs at their disposal to prevent this, and are willing to essentially play a prevent defense for the entire game and hope for drops.

28
by CBPodge :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 5:44am

The pictures of him burning press man coverage at the end of the article also suggest that he can occassionally beat it. Probably more often than your typical speedsteer, what with him being 6'3" and 230lbs. And if he does beat solo press man coverage, he's quick enough to make a D really pay.

My thought on the article wasn't that it was saying that he was terrible at playing against press or fighting for jump balls, but more that he was much worse than you'd expect for a guy his size.

8
by Perfundle :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 3:36pm

If you're going to analyze how Thomas would do against Seattle, you should at least mention the time Thomas burned Sherman in the preseason: http://www.footballperspective.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Sherman-DT...

I've never seen this route run against Sherman before. Usually, Sherman positions himself to prevent the receiver from coming back (they'd either go out of bounds or crash into him for offensive pass interference), but the double-move threw Sherman off his technique, and Thomas was able to easily elevate over him.

26
by Jared :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 2:16am

If memory serves me correctly, Manning hit Decker for a 10 - 12 yard gain on the play before that. I remember he hit them back to back with Sherman covering both. I also remember Manning picking them apart in general while experiencing very little, if any pressure. The only time he got hit was because Montee Ball didn't pick up a blitzing Bobby Wagner. Seattle learned why you don't blitz Manning on that play. Yes, preseason doesn't count, but Manning had a lot of success that day moving the ball.

30
by Perfundle :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 6:42am

Well, as a commenter said on that Football Perspective article, Clemons, Avril, McDaniel and Irvin were all out that game, which is a huge whack of Seattle's pass rush. Also, Winfield played that game, and didn't play well, giving up the only touchdown Denver had.

35
by Jared :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 11:37am

I wonder how much of a factor Clemens and Avril will be. They are solid, but not dominant, as most Seattle fans seem to think. Irvin looks more and more like a bust every week. Not sure what difference these guys will make.

39
by EricL :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 12:50pm

Clemons has certainly not been dominant this year, but I nearly always hear Avril's name once or twice a game on a big play. I'd estimate he's been the third-best DL on the Seahawks this year after Bennett and Mebane.

41
by Perfundle :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 1:27pm

Like EricL said, Avril has been fantastic this year, with 9.5 sacks and 7 forced fumbles (often on the same play). Also, because they're so deep, Seattle didn't really have a lineman log enough snaps to have dominant stats. You would probably say Bennett's the best of the lot, but he only played 58% of snaps and didn't even start; compare that to Quinn's 78% and Mathis' 79%. Finally, sometimes it's not just about their talent, but about who they're replacing. If whoever played in their place is even worse, it makes a difference, and if those four not playing caused the ones who did to have to log more minutes, that makes a difference too.

42
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 1:45pm

You can run underneath Avril though. He tends to abandon contain to go sack hunting.

44
by Perfundle :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 1:55pm

If he was just sack hunting, this might be more of a problem. But he goes strip-sack hunting, which is far more game-changing. Going for strip-sacks requires getting behind the QB, which would explain his weakness in run support, but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. Also, Peyton has been unusually prone to getting strip-sacked this year, so Avril certainly has a chance.

46
by Jared :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 4:56pm

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought Avril played left d-end, almost exclusively? Usually when Manning was strip sacked, maybe even every time this season, it was from his blind side. Also, as someone else pointed out, we'll see what Denver's offense does to keep Seattle from playing the packages that they'd like too. That hurry up offense could create some mismatches along the line, favoring Denver.

Of course, it's all speculation and who knows how it will play out. I for one don't think this game will be won necessarily by Seattle's secondary or by Denver's air attack. I think that whoever wins in the trenches will win the game. I know that Denver has a very strong offensive line, and that Seattle has a horrible offensive line. Seattle really, really struggles if you shut Lynch down. It's not out of the realm of possibility for Denver to do that, considering how they've played the run all year and especially these last two weeks.

52
by Perfundle :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 7:15pm

"Seattle really, really struggles if you shut Lynch down."

This would be arguable without any really's, but two of them? I don't think so. They scored 27 offensive points against NO with 45 yards from Lynch and 34 points against Minnesota with 54 yards from Lynch. They played very well in the Carolina game despite the low score (Lynch had only 43 yards), because Wilson got strip-sacked in the red-zone after a 61-yard drive and a 67-yard drive ended the game. the St. Louis and New York games were the only ones where Seattle's offense was bad with Lynch not playing well.

12
by Rick and Roll (not verified) :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 4:54pm

In regard to downfield receiving, DT seems to be much more effective on routes towards the middle of the field than he is on fades and sideline patterns. Considering Sherman is best against the fade, Don't expect Denver to throw a lot of fade routes toward Sherman. Given Gase and Peyton's mentality, I would not be surprised to see Denver run a play designed to get DT a catch against Sherman early in the game to build his confidence.

Given the weather and the matchups, I would expect Denver's passing offense to involve Julius Thomas, Knowshown and Welker more than DT or Decker.

19
by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 7:00pm

This has a lot to do with Manning being more effective to the deep middle than to the deeper sideline areas. He has underthrown a lot of deep sideline routes this year, especially in winds and regardless of the receiver involved. At least two of his interceptions occurred this way too.

I don't know if it is an arm strength issue or what (Brady has been terrible going down the sidelines for years now, but seeing Peyton miss what was once his bread and butter is interesting).

But to some extent, what is being described is a weakness of Manning, not a weakness of DT and Decker.

[That said, I agree that Decker in particular seems more interested in flags than receptions on deeper routes.]

20
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 7:12pm

Alshon Jeffrey would be first team All-Pro by a good margin if he was on the Broncos. It seemed every time I watched the Broncos this year, within a drive or two I saw Decker or somebody else fail to complete a catch of a perfectly placed ball that a defender was in the vicinity of. It's scary to think of how efficient their passing offense would be if their receivers had really good ball skills.

13
by Sixknots :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 5:21pm

No mention in the article of DT's downfield blocking. I would guess it's not much if he doesn't like contact. ??

17
by tad (not verified) :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 6:10pm

Actually, I think DT and Decker are both pretty good blockers. Neither really shies away from contact.

15
by Pen :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 5:41pm

Excellent article. I look forward to more in the next week.

48
by Silversmith :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 6:07pm

Agreed. A similar article on Eric Please-Gimme-the-DPI-Call Decker would be terrific.

21
by JasonP (not verified) :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 7:19pm

In general Denver's receivers don't match up well in terms of applied physicality, but they do a lot to get them open in picks, bunching, 2nd moves when the line gives them time, etc. I think they'll be able to get plenty of short completions, but Seattle will come up well and limit the YAC which won't allow Denver to overcome mistakes (holding, drops, etc.) easily like they have of late.

23
by deflated (not verified) :: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 11:38pm

The article looks pretty, contains little content.

As Manning is one of the best ever at placing the ball to the advantage of his receivers the 'contested ball' issue is minimized. It blames Thomas for an interception caused by blatant DPI (with the WR hauled to the ground); it is unlikely that similar holding would go uncalled by the select crew in the SB. Thomas was one of the more consistent top WRs with few 'bust' games; his worst was in the NE game (4-41 on 8 targets) when conditions meant Brady and Manning completed one deep pass between them. Nothing as bad as the 3-25 game from Calvin Johnson against the Browns and I would never label Megatron as 'boom or bust'.

He was the highest rated WR by DYAR, top 10 by DVOA; downgrading him for something he isn't asked to do (catch in traffic) and expecting that little-used skill to suddenly become significant to him in the SB seems nitpicking at best.

24
by Perfundle :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 12:45am

"Thomas was one of the more consistent top WRs with few 'bust' games"

It certainly helps when you only play 4 games against opponents with a top-12 opponent passing DVOA, as opposed to Seattle's 10, New England's 9, and San Francisco's 9, and 0 top-6 pass defenses.

"He was the highest rated WR by DYAR, top 10 by DVOA"

All that tells me is that he produced at very high levels when he did get targeted. But how often did he draw double coverage? What was his success rate at getting open when he didn't?

"expecting that little-used skill to suddenly become significant to him in the SB seems nitpicking at best."

You don't think this skill is relevant when facing the best pass defense?

25
by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 12:52am

The Broncos did not go undefeated this year, when they lost, guys not catching contested passes was an issue, and they will be playing the secondary which is most likely to contest catches.

If you think that is "nitpicking" I'd suggest watching the games more carefully.

27
by Jared :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 2:41am

Dropped passes were an issue all season long, win or lose. They dropped 7 passes vs. SD in the Divisional game, for example. For their losses though, I would claim that the biggest issue was turnovers, mainly fumbles, as opposed to contested passes. I don't recall many plays like the ones that were highlighted above against the Redskins. If Manning has time to throw, they will make plays. If he doesn't have time to throw, Denver will most certainly lose.

32
by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 10:33am

Those receivers have a lot of work to do in the off-season. You can get better at catching the ball, if you do put the work in.

31
by Thundar (not verified) :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 10:29am

"For that reason, the boom-or-bust potential of his play makes him a fascinating player to watch in New York".

That may be.. but how will he play in NJ?
That's what I'm mostly interested in this time of year!
How often does Denver play Buffalo anyway? I think that's the only time the Broncos will venture to NY.

33
by The Hypno-Toad :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 11:03am

I haven't gone through the film the way the author (and many of the commentors) have, but I find it very hard to believe that Thomas is less reliable than Decker in terms of making contested catches. Decker did improve somewhat as the season went on, particularly after the four touchdown game against the chiefs, but early in the season, if he felt a defender coming toward him, it was not unusual to see him never even bring his hands up for the ball, and a couple of times he turned his head completely away while bracing for impact. Maybe the film tells a different story but that's what I saw watching the games.

34
by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 11:32am

I don't think Decker has ever been the same, since he got his jaw busted while catching a pass late in his last season in college. It's really remarkable that an Anquan Boldin can suffer such severe head trauma, and come back without any noticeable tendency to be averse to contact.

36
by The Hypno-Toad :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 12:06pm

Well, that's exactly the kind of thing I don't know from not watching college. I agree about Boldin, the speed of his return and continued lack of fear baffles me. As for Decker, I think he's very good in in space (random trip and falls while running free notwithstanding), improving in traffic, but way too convinced that he will get a flag on every play regardless of whether or not he makes a bona fide attempt at the catch. Ultimately, I think he will get drastically overpaid this off-season and I hope it's not the Broncos signing the check.

37
by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 12:27pm

He was really a go-up-and-catch-everything guy in college; he had to be, given the inaccuracy of the guy throwing to him, Adam Weber. After this....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiFZMQv3TM4

....however, I've not seen the focus on catching it, no matter what. I really don't mean that as harsh criticism, at all.

55
by The Hypno-Toad :: Sat, 01/25/2014 - 11:50am

Aww Jeebus, that was ugly. Yeah. That goes a way toward explaining his occasional 'turtling' behaviors when he feels someone coming.

56
by Will Allen :: Sat, 01/25/2014 - 12:55pm

It really is no different than some guys not being the same hitter after a severe case of fastball to the head. It's really a shame, and not in the sense of the athlete being shameful.

38
by RichardD (not verified) :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 12:46pm

This article on Thomas reminds me of Jimmy Graham. He's very big and athletic, but has been easily handled by physical coverage (Patriots with Talib did this well, as did SF and Seattle). He also doesn't really catch all that well in traffic. I like him, but I think he's not quite as good as his reputation.

40
by cjfarls :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 1:23pm

Being physical at the line has certainly been the way folks have had the most success against Denver's receiving corp... Indy had some success that way, as well as some of the examples listed here. Its not like this is a big revelation, and pretty much every team has tried it to some extent since at least mid-season.

Thus, I think it is pretty easy to overstate how effective that tactic actually has been. Folks complain that Denver didn't do it against DB groups like SEA, but ignore the "D"-adjustment that DEN has in its huge DYAR/DVOA ratings. "Success" was letting DEN score only 30 vs. 50... While there were certainly missed plays by DEN against press-man, there were also big plays they did make... And even then, the most "successful" outings vs. DEN tended to be when Welker or JThomas or multiple o-line guys (Franklin) were hurt.

It should be a great matchup, and the weather concerns are likely to be overstated (The DEN vs. TEN game was similar conditions to whats predicted and DEN put up 50). Can DEN's WRs win consistently enough to outscore SEA's fitful offense? Can SEA front 7 get enough quick pressure on Manning and stop the run without subbing, etc. vs. the Manning no-huddle? I'd say both are equally valid questions, so assuming one will be true but not the other doesn't make a lot of sense.

To me, it looks like 2 pretty evenly matched teams and it should be a great game, and I can also see scenarios where either team could run away with it. It should be fun to see.

43
by Perfundle :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 1:47pm

"I'd say both are equally valid questions, so assuming one will be true but not the other doesn't make a lot of sense."

Who's assuming that?

45
by Jared :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 4:46pm

Following up on what you've said, on the issue of press man vs. Denver's receivers. In all three of Denver's losses they were played phsyically at the line by the oppositions DBs. Denver lost those games, and people said that's how you play their receivers if you want to have success against them. A lot of people didn't mention that Denver's o-line played poor in pass pro, uncharacteristically poor in those games. So it could be that pass pro was the main issue and not press man; as you pointed out, many teams played them physically and still lost. We'll see if their line comes to play on SB Sunday. As I've said before, if they can give Manning time, look for Denver's receivers to have success.

49
by Silversmith :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 6:23pm

Money post.

I was at that TEN/DEN game (64 yards!!!), most of those points were scored without Welker. A Broncos blowout is 18x more likely than a Seattle blowout, and I'd really like to see someone type up a post that legitimately refutes that.

50
by Jared :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 6:41pm

I'd like to see a post that describes a few cherry picked plays that Seattle's secondary has been burned. Point being, it happened a few times (think TB, Houston), it's very likely to happen again against a much better Denver offense. Sarcasm.

51
by Perfundle :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 7:14pm

Are you completely ignoring sample size? Seattle's secondary has over a thousand snaps. How many snaps has Thomas faced press coverage? That he struggles is clearly not a belief that only the author shares, since several other posters have backed him up.

53
by Jared :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 7:57pm

See post 45. Again,the comment re Seattle was sarcasm. I take nothing away from their secondary.

54
by LionInAZ :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 10:58pm

I think everyone would love to hear why you think a blowout might be expected at all, and why it's relevant to a discussion of Demaryious Thomas in particular.

47
by Jared :: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 5:00pm

Maybe the article was already written prior to Denver's playoff game vs. the Patriots, but if it wasn't, you could have also cherry picked a play where DT actually caught a slightly underthrown, contested pass, against a much smaller DB, Dennard.