View Full Version : Carter: Offenses take fewer shots at Broncos' new Champ

09-12-2004, 01:07 AM

Offenses take fewer shots at Broncos' Champ
Opposing QBs respect cornerback Bailey

The Kansas City Star

Shutdown corner is one of the most overused terms in pro football. Dick “Night Train” Lane was a shutdown corner. Rod Woodson was a shutdown corner. Deion Sanders was (emphasis on was) a shutdown corner.

In the annals of NFL history, that about covers it.

Still, if Denver's Champ Bailey doesn't belong in that company of great cornerbacks yet, he's getting close. To gauge just how respected Bailey is, consider what Denver coughed up to get him.

The Broncos sent Pro Bowl running back and noted Chiefs killer Clinton Portis to Washington for the 6-foot, 192-pound Bailey and a second-round draft pick.

Bailey, who got a seven-year, $63 million contract after the trade went through, has been to four straight Pro Bowls while not missing a game in five NFL seasons. He has picked off 18 passes, which doesn't sound like much until you consider that opposing quarterbacks pretty much ignore him — and, unlike Sanders, Bailey actually plays the run.

“He's the best corner in the NFL,” said Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. “Every team is looking for a stud cornerback, the kind of guy who can change a game at that position. Champ certainly fits that description.”

Shanahan's decision to obtain Bailey was based on two key factors: Shanahan was confident that he could find a running back to work in his offense because, well, he always has; and he had been searching in vain for a corner like Bailey for years.

Shanahan signed a still-in-his-prime Dale Carter away from the Chiefs in 1999 but saw Carter waste his talent with bad off-the-field decisions.

The Broncos selected Deltha O'Neal with a first-round pick in 2000 but became frustrated with O'Neal's inconsistent play and let him go this off-season. They spent another first-round pick on Willie Middlebrooks in 2001 but haven't seen him develop into anything more than a good special-teams player.

In snagging Bailey, the Broncos are hoping to do what the San Francisco 49ers did after adding Sanders in 1994. The 49ers' defense went from being ranked 15th without Sanders to No. 8 with him. San Francisco also picked up Super Bowls rings that season.

The Broncos ranked fourth in total defense last season and sixth against the pass but were badly burned by Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison in a wild-card loss to the Colts. Returning corners Lenny Walls and Kelly Herndon are solid but hardly in Bailey's class.

Aside from clamping down on one side of the field, Bailey's presence should allow safeties Kenoy Kennedy and John Lynch, who came as a free agent from Tampa Bay, to play closer to the line of scrimmage in run support.

An already-fast Denver defense — which includes defensive end Trevor Pryce, whom Chiefs guard Will Shields ranks as his toughest opponent, and middle linebacker Al Wilson — is now built to face a team like the Chiefs.

“With the new personnel they've brought in, with Lynch and Bailey in the secondary, there's a different dimension,” Chiefs quarterback Trent Green said. “Something they can focus more on is bringing one of those safeties into the box.”

The key question that Green and Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders face heading into tonight's game: Will they give Bailey the Deion Sanders treatment and avoid him? Or will they take a few well-calculated shots to keep the Denver defense honest?

If Oakland cornerback Charles Woodson is any kind of gauge, look for Green to be very careful when and if he goes to Bailey's side. Green has generally avoided Woodson but did make a memorable big play during the 2001 season opener at Arrowhead when he and Snoop Minnis beat Woodson for a 30-yard touchdown in the game's final minute. But Woodson also intercepted Green once in that game.

“You definitely have to respect him because of his ability,” Green said of Bailey. “He's one of the top corners in the league.”

Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said facing a corner of Bailey's pedigree presents a unique challenge, one in which respect must be balanced with the need for the Chiefs to run their normal offense.

During the preseason, Bailey mostly lined up at left corner, but defensive coordinator Larry Coyer has indicated that he may use Bailey on the opponent's best receiver. Against the Chiefs, that could be Dante Hall, who has had a knack for making big plays against the Broncos.

“I'll tell you this,” Vermeil said. “We are not going to surrender because Champ Bailey's over there playing corner. I watched him play (at Georgia) and had an opportunity to draft him (at St. Louis). But we went in a different direction — not because he wasn't a good football player, but he's only one of 10, he's part of a scheme. We know where he is. We may not waste much time over there.”

As Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer has learned in practice, any Denver opponent had better be careful going Bailey's way.

“You have to know where you are going with the ball, and you can't just hang it up there,” Plummer said. “He closes so quickly. It will look like the receiver has a step on him, but then Champ recovers and gets back into the play. He's definitely one of the scariest guys in the league. I'm just glad he's on my team.”

Bailey said he is fully prepared for the Deion treatment tonight.

“I just play my game, I can't control it,” Bailey told the Rocky Mountain News. “Obviously, I don't have the ball in my hands, I can't control where it's going to go. I've just got to play my game, and hopefully, I get in the mix somewhere and they start throwing some balls that way.”

09-12-2004, 01:10 AM
Here's Carter's prediction....



Denver has put together a nasty defense with size and power along the line, speed at linebacker and heavy hitters at safety. New cornerback Champ Bailey should allow safeties John Lynch and Kenoy Kennedy to creep down into the box. Still, the Chiefs have the game's best offensive line, and Priest Holmes hasn't looked this explosive since 2003.

Even with Clinton Portis gone, Denver remains committed to the run. It sets up everything the Broncos do. And they appear to have a pair of capable backs in Quentin Griffin and Garrison Hearst. The key for the Chiefs will be middle linebacker Monty Beisel, who will make his first career start. Beisel can't overrun plays, which will create cutback lanes.

The player to watch is Bailey. If Chiefs wide receiver Johnnie Morton is unable to carry a full load, it's hard to imagine the Broncos doing anything but putting Bailey exclusively on Dante Hall. That means Eddie Kennison and rookie Richard Smith must make plays on the outside. Trent Green must be his usual accurate self and avoid the costly turnover. The Chiefs were 9-0 when they had a positive turnover ratio in 2003 and 4-3 when they were even or negative.

Jake Plummer looked terrible during the preseason. He hit just 51.6 percent of his passes and didn't lead the Broncos to a TD until the fourth game. A bunch of no-names are trying to replace tight end Shannon Sharpe, and the team is waiting for Ashley Lelie to show something at wide receiver. Rookie wideout Darius Watts had a terrific camp and could provide a deep-threat complement to veteran Rod Smith.

In what should be a tight game, the Chiefs will be counting on a new punter (Steve Cheek) and new place kicker (Lawrence Tynes). The Broncos have a reliable place kicker in Jason Elam and a solid punter in Micah Knorr. The Chiefs, however, have the ultimate difference maker in Hall.

The Broncos are 34-0 at home when scoring 30 or more points under Mike Shanahan. The Chiefs are 3-0 under Dick Vermeil in the initial road game of the season. But the real difference maker is Gunther Cunningham, who went 4-0 against Denver as Chiefs head coach and has always had a knack for stopping Shanahan's offense. Then there's Hall, of course. When Hall makes big plays against Denver, the Chiefs win. When he doesn't, they lose.

Denver is a brutal place to play, but Plummer's poor play combined with Holmes' excellence will make the Chiefs 1-0. Prediction: Chiefs 24, Broncos 21.

— Ivan Carter/The Star

09-12-2004, 05:03 AM
“I'll tell you this,” Vermeil said. “We are not going to surrender because Champ Bailey's over there playing corner. I watched him play (at Georgia) and had an opportunity to draft him (at St. Louis). But we went in a different direction — not because he wasn't a good football player, but he's only one of 10, he's part of a scheme. We know where he is. We may not waste much time over there.”

I believe Denver plans to use an 11 man D. Vermeil spent way too much time around Robinson.