Schon: Thursday Picks & Coach's Corner 11/18

QB Jay Cutler (Rick Stewart / Getty Images)

Check out tonight's pick between Chicago and Miami and read what Josh McDaniels had to say about the state of the Denver Broncos heading in to Monday Night Football against the Chargers.

Well, we've got another Thursday Night Football game and while I'm busy trying to replace the majority of my bodily fluids with Coors Lite, I thought I'd bust out tonight's Pick Against the Spread….

DOLPHINS (-1) over Bears – Just not feeling the Jay Cutler love tonight – which is probably a good thing.

…Meanwhile, my trusty NFL partner Roni Bryant, who's rebounded better than Rush Limbaugh, is rolling with the Bears (+1).

Needless to say - she's starting to scare me

Coach Josh McDaniels

On LB Mario Haggan
"He gives great effort all of the time. Some of the plays that he made the other day were really great-effort plays. Some of them were a scramble-type situation and he's just playing as hard as he possibly can, the quarterback hangs on to the ball and Mario found the football. I think this defense is really a perfect fit for Mario because it's a downhill, hit-them-in-the-face, physical style of defense. He was always a very good special-teams player because that was the type of game that he played. I know he played in some 4-3 defenses, really before last year. So, this was really a perfect fit for him to find a role in a 3-4."

On which positions LB Mario Haggan had played in 4-3 defenses before coming to Denver
"There was some ‘Sam' there and some ‘Mike' in his background. But, I just think that being on the line of scrimmage and hitting the tight end, or being the ‘Mike' linebacker and doing what we ask the ‘Mike' linebacker to do in our scheme really fit him to a ‘T.'"

On why it took time for LB Mario Haggan to become a starting linebacker in the NFL
"I'm not sure. I think different players respond differently — sometimes there is a perfect fit, in terms of the system or the scheme with the player. Other times it may not be, and I'm just very happy that we have him here. He continues to make plays for us."

On the play of San Diego's special-teams units in losses this season
"I think they've given up some plays there, but I think the teams that have beaten them have generally played three good phases against San Diego. All of (the Chargers' losses have) been close — I know that. There is nobody running away with any games against this team. People have found some opportunities there in the kicking game and tried take advantage of some things there. But, it's a long season. There's a bye week and you have time to address different things. We addressed some things on our team and tried to fix some of those things, and I'm sure San Diego did some of those things on every phase of its team. We're going to try to do what we feel is in the best interest of trying to win the game. Whether that be return (or) rush — in terms of covering kicks — same thing. They hurt us significantly last year in the kicking game in our first game with (RB Darren) Sproles, and we had a couple plays against them too. The special teams have factored into our games with them, played a big role, and I'm sure it will be no different this week."

On K Matt Prater's ability to kick the ball into the end zone
"I think we had two touchbacks and three tackles inside the 20 (yard line), so in some cases it probably worked out better for us (to not have touchbacks). As long as we have a team that is going to cover fast and be aggressive and disciplined, Matt usually gives us an opportunity to get down there and cover the things at the 20, or potentially inside the 20. In many cases, that is just as good. As the weather gets cold, you can't anticipate that many touchbacks anyway because it is hard to kick them like that, but I think Matt is doing a fine job."

On WR Brandon Lloyd
"Brandon has always had great ability. I know that I had an opportunity to be at his workout when he was coming out of Illinois. He was very impressive then — always has been a great athlete, great hands and great leaping ability — the traits that you look for from an explosive type of receiver. I can't comment on the things that he has gone through in his past, in terms of being on other teams, in terms of why it didn't work one place or another. I just think that his skill set is a good fit for what we are trying to do with him, and I think he has embraced that role. Again, to his credit, he endured last season, which wasn't an easy season for him to go through sitting and playing on the scout team a lot and not really getting a lot of opportunities to help us in the game. He stuck with that and really showed a lot to his teammates and our coaching staff by doing that. Now, I think he is reaping the benefit."

On whether WR Brandon Lloyd has changed as his career has progressed
"I don't think so. Like I said, I know we liked him when he came out. He had the traits he has now — he is explosive, his 41-inch vertical jump, great hands, very smooth route runner, smart kid, very likable, great personality — that was him then and that's what we have now. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to see him have the season that he is having right now."

On whether teams give up on players too easily
"I think each situation is different, I really do. It depends what you are looking for or what your expectations are and it depends what the player's performance is during whatever time period that may be when you are evaluating them. I don't think two situations are really the same in that regard."

On how close the team is to where he wanted it to be at the start of the season
"We don't really put a prediction on the team before the season starts in terms of, ‘Well at this stage of the season we are really hoping to be this many wins and this many losses.' We just try to put together the best team we can, go out there and compete and play each game to win. The record kind of speaks for itself. I don't think anybody is really thrilled with where we are at in that regard, but the attitude is that we have an opportunity to play our best football coming up. The other day was a good start for our team in that regard. If we can continue to move in a positive direction that way and make improvements in the areas that have kind of hindered us throughout the first part of the year, then really what matters is where we are where and we want to be towards the end of the year. I think that goal is still out there and still attainable for us, and I'm really happy with the focus that our team has, in terms of trying to keep things in perspective. We are not looking backwards, we are looking forward, and we know that there are an awful lot of opportunities out there in front of us."

On whether he's concerned with giving up passing yards in a victory
"It's kind of a pick your poison — we've had to do it the other way most of the year, where we've been out there for 70 snaps, 67 snaps a game and they're running the ball 37 or 40 times on us. We haven't had that many opportunities to put ourselves in a position where it became a one-dimensional passing game. I know whenever that happens, there are always multiple schools of thought — play zone, let them throw the ball, complete passes and take the clock up and not get it on one or two plays. Sometimes, you choose to blitz so that you don't have to cover as many things. Although, they can make something happen and create a big play in that situation too. I think we were fortunate to put them in that position. I think there are certainly plays we could execute better so that they're not throwing the ball for whatever (Kansas City) threw it for in the second half — 370 yards or whatever. But, I think any time you get a lead like that and it becomes a passing game — I think the same thing happened, I saw a little bit of the Sunday Night game too — Pittsburgh has 120 yards passing and then all of the sudden they end up with 370 like that (snapping his fingers), because it became that kind of a game. If we can put ourselves in that position again, I'm sure we wouldn't mind it. We'll try to play a little bit better pass defense as we go, but we'll trade the score for some of that stuff."



Michael John Schon has covered the National Football League and the Denver Broncos for the past twelve-years. As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association he has published and syndicated columns to both newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and Canada. His syndicated radio broadcast: "Schon Live" airs weekly on various radio and Internet stations around the country. You can follow all of Schon's updates on Twitter - Facebook or drop him an email at Michael John Schon





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