BENGALS CBs LEON HALL AND NATE CLEMENTS VS. BRONCOS WR BRANDON LLOYD
Coach John Fox has been brought to Denver to turn the Broncos into the Mountain (Time) Panthers with a powerful running game and cutting-edge defense. But until he can get the right personnel in place, he's going to have to throw to score, according to a former NFL scout familiar with both the Bengals and Broncos.
"Lloyd is Denver's best offensive player. Good speed, good instincts. He plays the ball well in the air and he's got unbelievable hands. He doesn't have top-end speed, but if you're on him hip-to-hip, he still makes a play on the ball. He's an acrobat, a guy that can go up and come with the ball on fantastic plays."
Lloyd is a marked man as the first Bronco to lead the NFL in receiving yards with 1,448 yards last season, but the amazing thing is that 93.5 percent of his catches (72-for-77) accounted for first downs, the third highest mark in the NFL since 1991. He didn't work Wednesday and Thursday since injuring his groin against Oakland last Monday night.
If Lloyd goes he's the first major test of the year for the Bengals cornerbacks that usually stay on their sides. Clements is the oldest player on the Bengals defense, but he's a neophyte working in his 11th season compared to the guys in Denver like cornerback Champ Bailey in his 13th year and safety Brian Dawkins in his 16th season. And Clements has been as advertised replacing Johnathan Joseph.
"He's a different kind of player than Joseph," the scout said. "Joseph has great speed while Clements is more of a smart player who knows what he's doing and knows what the offense is going to do and he's never going to get himself put in a bad situation."
Both Hall and Clements came up with huge passes defensed in the end zone on the second half's first drive Sunday that forced the Browns to settle for a field goal that gave them only a 17-13 lead. Hall had been beaten on a slant for a TD in the first half, but that's the same play he came back to defend in the second half.
"Hall is Hall," the scout said. "He can run, he's physical, he's smart and he rarely gets beat."
Hall was also part of that secondary in the '09 opener that held Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton to one completion longer than 20 yards to a wide receiver before Hall's tip of a desperation pass ended up in the ridiculous winning 87-yard touchdown pass.
"Fox is playing with Josh McDaniels's people," the ex-scout said of the fired Denver head man. "He wants to run the ball, but he's got these small, athletic linemen on offense that are suited to run screens and draws. That's what they're going to have to do until they get bigger people in there."