Something needs to change in Denver and it's something almost everyone agrees on. It's obvious that the change has to come on the offensive side of the ball, but what should be done? I have been very outspoken of the success I think Brock Osweiler would have, were he the Denver Broncos starter, but in this article, that is one solution that I will not entertain.
The Broncos road to offensive success starts up front. The offensive line play has been among the worst in the league, as the line is currently rated among the bottom ten. The first thing the team needs to do is commit to a starting group and stick with them.
In the past three games without rookie LT Ty Sambrailo, the offensive line has played far better than the first three with him. LG Evan Mathis continues to assimilate to the team and has improved as the season has progressed.
RG Louis Vasquez has struggled adjusting to the zone blocking scheme, but has been a stalwart as a pass blocker, allowing just five total QB pressures on 249 drop backs. Center Matt Paradis has shown steady improvement since the first couple games of the season.
The question marks are with the tackles. Ryan Harris, in three games starting at LT, has graded out -6.2, according to Pro Football Focus, compared to the -10.3 grade Sambrailo earned in his three starts.
The O-line has steadily improved without Sambrailo in the lineup. The first move on the way to fixing the offense is committing to a starting line of Harris (LT), Mathis (LG), Paradis (C), Vasquez (RG) and Schofield (RT). Harris is no franchise left tackle, but he has played far better than Sambrailo did as the starter.
Settling on five guys and allowing them to play together and build chemistry will allow the line to continue to grow. Sambrailo is a second round pick, so keeping him on the bench would be a tough decision, after talking him up during the offseason, but it is the right move for the offensive line as a whole.
After solving the offensive line issues, the running back situation has to be addressed. C.J. Anderson is clearly hobbled. He doesn’t even closely resemble the runner he was a season ago.
The team needs to commit to the more explosive Ronnie Hillman as their top back and allow Anderson to get fully healthy. Hillman’s greatest advantage is his burst, and with the Broncos run blocking being so rough, he has been able to overcome more negative plays and gain more yards.
At the wide receiver position, there is a very simple solution—get healthy. Demaryius Thomas is not healthy. He has dealt with a hand injury and most recently, a neck injury, playing through both.
Being fully healthy will allow Thomas to get back to being the best receiver in the league after the catch. A return to full health will also allow him to cut down on his drops. Although Thomas is known to drop easy passes from time to time, he has been far worse this season.
After Thomas, the team needs to find a way to better utilize slot receiver Jordan Norwood. Tight end Owen Daniels has struggled to get any separation this season, but Norwood hasn’t. The targets that have been going to Daniels should start heading towards Norwood.
Bennie Fowler also continues to show why he deserves more snaps. Many may also want to see Cody Latimer play more, but there is a reason he isn’t seeing the field—a combination of poor route running and a poor understanding of the playbook.
Speaking of Daniels—at some point, the Broncos have to consider using Virgil Green as an option in the passing game. Thus far, Green has played a total of 152 snaps, only 45 of which came as a receiver. 86 of the remaining snaps are as a run blocker.
Half of the time Green sees the field, the Broncos run the ball. Denver running backs have ran the ball 136 times so far this season, 63 percent of which came with Green as a blocker. The Broncos have run a total of 262 snaps with Green on the sideline, only 50 of which were runs—or 19 percent of those plays.
All these stats are to show that with Green in the game, it’s clear the Broncos are likely to run the ball, and with him out of the game, the offense is passing, making the Broncos extremely predictable.
Finally we come to #18. Through 6 games, Peyton Manning has been the worst player on the Broncos offense. He is staring down receivers, failing to go through his reads, making very poor decisions and struggling with his ball placement.
#18 is playing a lot like a rookie right now. We can debate endlessly how it is the fault of everyone else in Denver but Manning's, but the fact of the matter is that he deserves the lion's share of the blame.
Whether #18 is healthy or not, if he reverts back to his old self on the mental side of the ball, the quarterback play can be easily fixed. That means looking off passes, progressing through reads and better anticipating throws. Most importantly—eliminating poor decision making, which is inexcusable.
With the bye week now behind the team, it’s time to see what the Broncos solution to fixing the offense is. Denver cannot count on the defense to win every game. At some point, the offense is going to have to step it up for this to be a true Super Bowl contender.
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