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There was only one reason to watch this preseason game, and we all know why that was — to see Kyle Sloter in his full starting role…albeit in the fourth preseason game…albeit with the backups to the backups. Still, there’s quite a soap opera going on here.
You know it’s a soap opera when I am contacted out of the blue to be on a Denver radio station podcast to discuss all things Sloter – because this radio station rightfully recognized my status as the world’s foremost authority on Kyle Sloter. Me and Nick Martin, a football writer out of Pittsburgh are the only ones who can claim that mantle of early adopters on Sloter.
The radio show host wanted to find out more about this mysterious player who has suddenly captivated Denver Bronco fan’s attention – captivated it enough that it took over sports talk radio there this entire week. There is a righteous fan revolt, a rage against the machine happening in Denver – and I love it. I feel like one of the founding fathers of it… One of those founding fathers that are only recognized as such 30 years after his passing. But still…
I will never stop saying it, until it’s no longer true, football fans, especially fantasy football players, especially serious fantasy football players – they know as much/more about assessing football talent and are more aware of the capabilities of the offensive depth chart for every NFL team or that highly paid general managers and their scouts are. Nothing will convince me the opposite at this point. The millionaire football coach Vance Joseph fails to see what’s right in front of his face with Sloter…and even if he relents and keeps Sloter on the roster (as he’s previously said he will only keep two QBs/not Sloter), which he may have to now keep with the Paxton Lynch injury, I still find him guilty in a court of my own mind.
Just as a rewind for any new readers – Kyle Sloter is a UDFA quarterback who we scouted and ranked among the top three QB prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft. He was a top 50 or so overall prospect in our statistical rankings of 600+ draft prospects. Translation to the NFL – undrafted/not draft-worthy talent.
Sloter signed to try out with Denver, started to become the talk of camp in that cute ‘rookie trying hard and has some talent’ way, but then he keeps impressing — and then comes right out of the gates producing on the field in preseason games. The fans can see how good he is. However, the head coach declared he won’t make the 53-man…doing so weeks in advance of needing to decide; for reasons only a fool would do. Prior to that statement, Vance Joseph rejected Sloter as playing so well in their Week 1 preseason game that he should be considered in the race for the starting quarterback. Nothing is going to stop Vance Joseph and his set in stone ways. He’s not even kind enough/smart enough to give that “everybody’s fighting for a job” bullshit that face painting fans adore and the stupid media laps up. Serious football fans and smart media were beyond miffed. Serious Denver Broncos fans have gone from miffed by the situation to the verge of being pissed off – taking their pitchforks and torches to the streets of Denver talk radio and chat rooms.
The story could’ve taken a different turn this week – the head coach could’ve changed his tune and everyone would respect him for it. He could’ve started acting pro-Sloter or at least enough to the point of some respect for him. Joseph has done the opposite – he’s trying to minimize Sloter in every way possible. After all this mess of the past few weeks by Joseph, I think he is trying to low-key Sloter so they can get him onto the practice squad and can claim that was their plan all along. What he could’ve done was change his tune, push for Sloter to be kept behind the scenes, and start talking him up for this Week 4 performance…like what a good boss might do. Instead, I think he tried to bury Sloter Week 3 but Paxton Lynch foiled the plan, as Paxton Lynch is want to do (cause issues not solutions), by getting hurt and forcing Sloter back into some spotlight. All Joseph could do was to try to put out the fire that is Kyle Sloter is making hand the ball off a lot. Despite the vanilla game plan the past two weeks for Sloter. Despite the awful weapons the Broncos mostly trotted out around him the second half of the games. Despite a lack of blocking – Sloter shrugs off a slow start here in the first quarter and then settled in and looked every bit of the way he has all preseason…like the best, most naturally talented quarterback the Broncos possess.
Likely, as a regular reader here, you have no doubt after watching his preseason work and having some background in our scouting on how good Sloter was — that it’s true…that Sloter is the best, most gifted quarterback on the Broncos roster. The opinion opposite of that comes from Vance Joseph, highly paid person to do a football job tied to the quarterback position. What we don’t know is when highly paid, seemingly football talent adept GM John Elway thinks. Is he going to step in and save Joseph from himself? Or is the guy who drafted Chad Kelly going to rule the day?
With that said, in this game, Sloter was the planned beginning to the end starter — a chance to ruin his momentum or keep it going. I believe he kept going but there will be Broncos management and a complicit lapdog local team mainstream media trying to downplay it for multiple reasons… so don’t expect anyone from any type of mainstream reporting outlet to even report on this brewing controversy…from the people who love the Deshaun Watson-Tom Savage type QB controversies.
Before I comment on Sloter and the on-field performance, I just need to make a comment about the Arizona Cardinals. ‘Listless’ doesn’t even begin to describe what I’ve seen from Arizona this preseason. They absolutely strike me as a team that peaked in 2015, and are being propped up by the fact that they have David Johnson and Patrick Peterson…and Deone Bucannon (all tops at their position). Some really talented guys…and they still had a disappointing 2016.
I think Bruce Arians has totally ruined this team by constantly drafting mental case prospects he’s going to be a father figure to, a reclamation project guy. Most of them have come in to do absolutely nothing but be mental cases or just disappointments in the NFL – Robert Nkemdiche, the Jonathan Cooper flop, Chad Williams this year…Tyrann Mathieu stealing money/not worth the money. Hell, they didn’t want David Johnson they were desperate for Ameer Abdullah — that is documented. Arizona barely has a winning first 22 players, but I know they have a terrible 23–53 depth. Carson Palmer gives them a fighting chance as a competent quarterback who’s fading away – if he fades anymore or gets hurt the Cardinals have nothing behind him, essentially. I blame this on Arians because the GM and President are stuck up his ass thinking ‘he’s the coolest’. It’s going to drag them all down. I have no doubt Bruce Arians knows football coaching – but there’s probably a reason why Pittsburgh didn’t elevate him any higher, now that I look back at it. The Pittsburgh Steelers are incredibly savvy about most everything they do. Why did they just let Arians walk? The Def Comedy Jam/Father Flanagan hybrid routine is about to wear to its thinnest. If Arizona disappoints again this season, I would nearly guarantee Carson Palmer retires and Bruce Arians does the same citing health reasons. This is the all or nothing last hurrah for Arians in 2017.
Fantasy player notes…
— Kyle Sloter (15-23 for 220 yards, 1 TD/0 INT) looked really nice, once again, in this game. The night started slow…sacked in the end zone when a screen pass set up got blown up. A couple incompletions, but mostly all ‘on the money throws’ dropped by 3rd/4th string WRs and Jordan Taylor gaffed one as well. Sloter started heating up and finished with a great night.
You know where I stand on Sloter – potential star. I could nitpick this game to tell you how great he is, but you should be on-board already. Even with terrible WRs and no blocking Sloter delivers the ball with perfect mechanics on the money 95% of the time. Of his 8 incompletions, there were probably 4-5 drops/tough catch not made plays. The night would have been bigger if Vance Joseph didn’t have Sloter hand-off every single play of the game, or so it seemed. Yes, let’s see more Stevan Ridley… Sloter could’ve had 4+ TDs and 400+ yards in this game against a pathetic second-level unit from Arizona, but the game plan was set up for him to underwhelm.
Instead of going through all Sloter’s throws, I’d like to offer this commentary to chew on…
I watch all these NFL games year-after-year and I will see some coaches interacting with their QB in some way shape or form. Sean McVay is great with Jared Goff…always near/in his ear. Bruce Arians, for instance, was yelling at Trevor Knight (2-12 for 19 yards, 0 TD/1 INT) on the sidelines as Knight set the state of quarterbacking back about 50 years. At least, Knight got tough love communication. I never once saw Vance Joesph near Kyle Sloter, or even talking with any of his other players in this game. There’s like a wall. I get the feeling Joseph is in love with being a coach and is doing ‘central casting’ of what of coach is supposed to act like. Maybe he Sloter go to Broadway plays together and I just can’t see it, I grant that I might be ignorant here, but what I did get to see in this game…Joseph didn’t even crack a smile near Sloter in this game. Ditto the delicate genius O-C Mike McCoy.
Again, I don’t spend a lot of time watching the in-between plays action…so, I could be ‘all wet’ on this view.
Conversely, I can’t tell you how many times I saw Sloter patting teammates on the sidelines and getting hugs from his 3rd-team mates as well as street clothes #1s. My nickel opinion – I think the team knows Sloter is their best QB, and they like the ‘kid’. Siemian was in street clothes nowhere to be seen interacting that I saw.
I walked away thinking…if Lynch’s shoulder is OK, Denver is going to cut Sloter no matter the mood among the fan base. Vance Joseph knows more about football than you do, so don’t question it. If Denver loses Sloter to waivers it will be the biggest mistake they will make for the next decade…and you can flip the sand dial on the timing of the end of the Vance Joseph era. No coach should be so clueless making seven figures.
We’re about to find out.
— In other young, producing in the preseason UDFA guys about to get released despite their constant success – Cap Capi (2 tackles, 2 TFLs) did it again. He is a nightmare to block and somehow always finds his way into the backfield more than most every player in the preseason – he’s done it for about three different teams the past three preseasons. He got two TFL’s in this game. One of the things to note is that even when he doesn’t register a traditional style – he’s putting pressure on his blocker. He creates a problem. How he can’t make a 53-man roster in a league desperate for pass rushers and backfield penetrators is absolutely beyond me. If he is some kind of nightmare off the field then stop inviting him to training camps if you have no intention of keeping him. I don’t think that’s an issue – I just think the NFL is out to lunch once again. Did they even watch these preseason games? Am I the only one who does?
— You know who’s looking really good is rookie RB DeAngelo Henderson (6-41-0). His Week 1 preseason performance was a little shaky for what I assume was NFL debut nerves…because he’s been pretty sweet/fleet of foot since. He moves so fluidly with such a nice burst for his bowling ball like body. I liked Henderson as a prospect among the later round RB prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft, but honestly, I thought Jeremy McNichols was the much better prospect in that category – but Henderson looks a thousand times more confident in the preseason then Nutrisystem McNichols has.
— What a terrible waste of a draft pick Arizona made with Grambling WR problem child Chad Williams (1-4-0/2). I think Williams deserved a look in the NFL for sure, but a nice third round pick? I don’t know if anybody else would’ve even taken him in the entire draft…but Arizona burns a third round pick on him. He’s done absolutely nothing in the preseason games nor has anyone been impressed with him in training camp. In this game, Blaine Gabbert fighting for his NFL life – he leaned on Jeremy Ross and could’ve given a crap about Chad Williams. That was telling.
— CJ2K did not play in this game, which I thought meant he’s going to be the back up to David Johnson but just finding out CJ2K was cut…and Kerwynn Williams named the backup. Shocking. A great call by Arians, finally.
— I watched a lot of the Denver D-Line work from the first half, concentrating on DT Adam Gotsis (3 tackles) and DT/DE Shelby Harris (2 tackles, 1 QB hit). Harris is coming off his huge break out performance last week, while Gotsis is a high draft pick guy that always catches my attention watching him in games.
Harris was a flop in this game, he may have played himself right off the roster and onto the practice squad in this one. Whereas Gotsis was pushing and penetrating the interior all game.
Speaking of dominant – rookie LB/DL Demarcus Walker (7 tackles, 1 TFL) had a number of impressive moments in this game as well. A few weeks ago it looked like he had a possible serious injury, but now it looks like he’s a legit contributor for 2017. Denver has a ton of defensive talent but we don’t know whether Vance Joseph and friends are going to butcher it or not. It’s going to be hard to live up to Wade Phillips’s standard left behind.