Mile High Mailbag: Bye Week Blues

With the Broncos on bye, MHH Publisher Chad Jensen answers your burning questions. Among this week's topics are Peyton's struggles, the direction of the offense and whether Shaq Barrett deserves to split snaps with DeMarcus Ware.

The Denver Broncos entered their bye week in what must feel like the Twilight Zone. They're a (un)perfect 6-0 and yet, if you take the temperature of the fans and Denver media, it feels like their 0-6. 

Such is the nature of the Manning Effect. Add to that the mountain of expectations that come with anything John Elway has his name on and it can become an Everest of pressure that can squash a lesser team. 

It remains to be seen whether the expectations will derail the 2015 Denver Broncos. However, with excellent leadership in the locker room, the coaching staff and the front office, the Broncos are set up to weather almost any storm. 

Today, I'm answering your questions in the Mile High Mailbag. You can submit mailbag questions on Facebook and Twitter by using the #MileHighMailbag hashtag.

With the Broncos on bye, it's time to reflect on the team—identify the problems and zero in on the solutions. I don't have all the answers. But I'll tell you what I know. 

Our first question comes from Kevin Go Broncos DB on our Facebook pageWhat needs to happen to get the offense going? Is it as simple as Kubiak letting Manning run the offense his way, with Kubiak's playbook? Or is there more to it?

There are a few things that need to happen to get the Broncos offense operating more efficiently. One, Manning has to stop turning the ball over. He leads the NFL in interceptions, with 10. Too many have given the opposing team six points. 

After the game in Cleveland, Manning talked about feeling like he has to do too much—like he's pressing. He doesn't have the physical tools to carry a team anymore. This isn't 2013. He has to better know and understand his own limitations. 

Eliminating the turnovers, in and of itself, will put the offense, and the team, in a much better position on gameday. The defense is awesome, but eventually, they won't be able to overcome multiple Manning mistakes in a game. 

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1602647-eerie-similarities-betwee...

Two, the Broncos have to improve their redzone offense. Most of this issue stems from the lack of a running threat and poor playcalling. The offensive line improved marginally in the last few games before the bye. 

If they can continue to improve, and maybe even take a huge step forward after the bye, and play with more physicality—more push, Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson can pick up the yards. 

As for the playcalling, that's another issue the coaching staff will be self-scouting over the bye. They've been ineffectual and predictable in the redzone and frankly, with offensive minds like Kubiak and Manning, there's really no excuse for it. 

Head coach Gary Kubiak knows where the offensive problems lie. We can't honestly believe that the Broncos don't know that Peyton Manning is ranked 33-of-34 in quarterback rating—ahead of only Ryan Mallett

The bye came at a good time. The team has enough games under their belt to be able to accurately self-scout, and enough time left on the schedule to turn the ship around. 

Our next question comes from Leo C. on our Facebook pageWhy do we have so many plays behind the line of scrimmage???

I'm not sure if you're asking about the opposing defense stopping plays in the backfield, or whether you're talking about short passes. But I'll address both. 

The Broncos offensive line are ranked 25th out of 32 teams in allowing "stuff" plays, according to Football Outsiders. Here's how FO defines a "stuff" play:

Percentage of runs where the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. Since being stuffed is bad, teams are ranked from least often (#1) to most often (#32). 

The O-line has struggled to build chemistry. The injuries they've suffered, which have led to shuffling, haven't helped. The only cure is hoping for good health—and time. 

The big boys up front need more time to build chemistry. They played their best game as a unit in Cleveland, with Ryan Harris at let tackle and Michael Schofield at right tackle. 

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1601988-what-will-the-o-line-look...

It's unclear if that will change after the bye, when Ty Sambrailo is expected to return from his shoulder injury. If I'm Kubiak, I don't want to fiddle with a good thing and change the lineup just when things seem to be improving. 

My bet is that they'll stick with the O-line as it was constituted in Week 6. However, I'm not making excuses for these guys. The Broncos are led by two productive, experienced veterans in LG Evan Mathis and RG Louis Vasquez. They have to play more consistently. 

Matt Paradis has exceeded expectations at center in his first year as a starter. The biggest issues have come at tackle. The Broncos have to quit the mix-and-match game, and stick with this bookend tackle duo moving forward. 

As for throwing short passes, it's a combination of play design and Manning's decision making. The most frustrating aspect of this issue has come on third down. 

The Broncos have faced their share of 3rd-and-longs this year, and it seems that Manning has played it safe too often, targeting a receiver short of the sticks. In Manning's defense, he's used to his guys making plays after the catch. 

But that hasn't happened much this year. The Broncos receivers aren't breaking tackles and opposing defenses have effectively shut down the screen game the Broncos love so much. 

Manning ranks 28-of-31 qualifying quarterbacks in yards per attempt, according to Pro Football Focus. He's averging just 6.48 yards every time he slings it. You can pin that on him, or play design. It's a little bit of both. 

https://twitter.com/MileHighManeiac/status/657663516430589952

In a word, yes. Shaquil Barrett has proved to be just as explosive as DeMarcus Ware in rushing the passer and has been the better player against the run. 

Barrett has notched 3.5 sacks, while Ware has 4.5. Barrett has also contributed four forced fumbles and he's done it all in about 50 less snaps than Ware. 

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1602065-fix-six-areas-ths-broncos...

Rushing the passer, Barrett has been excellent. But his run defense is what really shows how good he is—how complete of a player he is. He currently has a higher grade in run defense (+4.6) than he does in pass rushing (+2.4), according to PFF.

Add to that a +1.0 in coverage and we begin to see why Wade Phillips continues to find ways to get Barrett on the field. Ware is making about $10 million this year. He's going to play. 

But Barrett has absolutely earned more snaps with his performance through the first six games. A 50-50 split? I'd be all for it. 

Our last question comes from Ron D. on our Facebook pageWhy the hell did we spend $$ on 81 for? I honestly do not see it. DT at least acknowledges his bad play, which tells me he will get it fixed. I do not see that in 81. HULK out plays him in any senerio.

Great question. Far be it from me to defend the underwhelming performance of Owen Daniels thus far. He was brought to Denver because he's a Kubiak guy. Installing a new offense, Daniels has been instrumental in showing the other tight ends the ropes. 

But that's been the extend of his positive impact. As a receiver, he's dropped a lot of passes. As a blocker, he's been terrible. But it might surprise you that he has a higher run blocking grade than Virgil Green right now, according to PFF.

Nevertheless, you're point is valid. It would be one thing if Daniels had been productive in the passing game. But he hasn't. Daniels has struggled to build chemistry with Manning. 

Green, on the other hand, has shined in his limited opportunities as a component in the passing game. Plus, Green is younger—playing in his prime. And at this stage, he has much bigger upside than Daniels. 

Daniels will continue to get the lion's share of the snaps at tight end because Kubiak trusts him—plain and simple. But I'm with you on the get-Virgil-more-reps bandwagon. 

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Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen and on Google+

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