Broncos offense lacking big plays
The Denver Broncos are 6-1 through the first 7 games of 2009. There’s not really much to complain about, especially considering the offseason they had. Mike Shanahan retired, Jay Cutler was traded and many other familiar faces are gone. The Broncos have surprised many analysts and fans across the country. The 6-1 start has been a big lift for fans that expected the team to be average at best. I did a little research and came up with one major thing the Broncos need to address if they want to be a legitimate playoff team in 2009.
I’m not trying to only look at the negative, but there’s on glaring weakness the Broncos have shown so far in 2009…a lack of “explosive plays”. An explosive play is any play that gains 20 yards or more. I hate the term "explosive play" but its commonly used by football analysts. So far the Denver Broncos are among the worst in the league in explosive plays. This may not be a big deal if the Broncos were among the leaders in yards and points per game. As of week 8, they rank 15th in total yards and 20th in points per game. The explosive play, which was a staple under Mike Shanahan, has become nearly non-existent for the Denver Broncos in 2009.
This brings up two questions:
1) Is the lack of explosive plays due to play calling?
2) Is the lack of explosive plays due to poor execution by the players?
I think anyone that watched the Baltimore Ravens defense dominate the Broncos offense on Sunday would agree, the play calling was the problem. The Ravens continually blitzed the Broncos all game long. Kyle Orton was hit so many times I could'nt keep count. Instead of trying to open the middle of the field by throwing passes over 10 yards, the Broncos repeatedly ran short crossing routes and screen passes. This approach played right into the hands of the Ravens defense. They were not worried at all about getting beat deep, so they moved up the safeties and kept the blitzes coming. Why not try a fade to Brandon Marshall? The guy is 6’4” and can jump. Tony Scheffler, where was he? Scheffler made an amazing catch on a fade route over a smaller defender against the Chargers, why couldn't he against the Ravens? The Ravens have small corners and they were considered to be the weakness of the Ravens defense. The Broncos did little to take advantage of the size and talent advantage of their receivers vs the Ravens corners.
I don't want to put all the blame on the Broncos coaches for the poor offensive performance on Sunday. There's no doubt in my mind that Kyle Orton had plays where he could have looked for a deep route. For the most part, Orton had no time to throw. I understand pass protection was a major problem for the Broncos this weekend. I still think that with the size of Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler, there should have been opportunities to throw deeper passes. You can't forget about Eddie Royal either. He's a very quick, speedy receiver. There should have been opportunities to get him the ball as well. I'm sure after watching film of the game, Broncos coaches and players were disgusted by a lack of plays down field.
The Pittsburgh Steelers come to Denver on Monday night and will undoubtedly bring many blitzes. I'm assuming the Broncos will be taking more chances down the field to slow down the Steelers amazing pass rushers. The game next week will be a big test for the Broncos coaching staff and it's players. Whether or not the Broncos look to play more aggressively on offense may decide the game.