Three Ways The Broncos Offense Can Improve Down The Stretch

This late in the season, we can't expect the Broncos offense to miraculously do a 180. But there are some small changes the Broncos can make to help pick this struggling unit up off the mat.

News Flash: the Denver Broncos aren’t the 'Greatest Show On Turf'. If that wasn’t a complete shock to you and you’re still with me, let's talk about how the Denver offense reached new lows in the past two games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans. Struggling to move the ball with any kind of consistency, and at the same time, putting far too much pressure on the No Fly Zone to keep games close, has led to hostile and trying times in Broncos Country.

There is still hope and while those aspirations are hanging by a thread, the team is in the playoff picture right now as the sixth seed in the AFC. Even though they have been few and far between, flashes of offensive progress stand as proof that this group isn’t dead in the water.

Although we can't expect a complete turnaround, it's not out of the realm of possibility that with just a few tweaks, this offense can still be a respectable unit going down the stretch. Here are three subtle ways the Denver offense can improve as a whole.

Pass To Set Up The Run

Comparing Denver's collective performance in the first and second half of games is equal parts pathetic and gutsy. Conventional wisdom tells us that in a West Coast offense, using the run game effectively forces the defense to commit extra defenders into the box to help in support.

This allows the offense to attack down the field with one-on-one coverage. In 13 games this season, main play-caller and Head Coach, Gary Kubiak, has unsuccessfully tried to incorporate that into this offense. What it's produced is the most three-and-outs in the league in 2016, to go with scoring just three points before halftime combined in Denver's most recent defeats to Kansas City and Tennessee.

The game situations in both of those losses dictated that Denver had to start passing the ball coming out of the break but that doesn’t mean that Denver gained yardage and moved the ball against prevent defense either. 

In those two losses, quarterback Trevor Siemian, primarily known for being a check-down passer, had more success getting the ball down field and letting his two Pro Bowl wideouts —Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders — make plays in the passing game than at any other point of this season.

It has to be frustrating for Kubiak to see his run game struggle mightily. But game-planning to air it out more against weaker secondaries in New England, Kansas City and Oakland to end the year will help weaponize the run game, putting teams off balance, rather than Kubiak's traditional method of run first, pass second.

Justin Forsett Needs To Be The Starter

Devontae Booker, for all the promise he showed as C.J. Anderson's backup, has taken a huge step backward in his development since his predecessor was sidelined. Whether it be from hitting the supposed “rookie wall” or some unknown injury, Booker hasn’t grabbed the reigns of his new role.

Too often lately, Booker looks to be thinking and not reacting when given the chance to carry the ball. The quick, hard runner he was spelling Anderson has dissipated to the point of non-existence. 

In his past three games since coming back from the bye, Booker has carried the ball 45 times for 115 yards. His average? 2.5 yards per carry.

If you factor in that Booker was responsible for two of the three sacks, missing the blitz pickups that took down Siemian in Tennessee, you can see that it was a necessity to bring in Justin Forsett for insurance. Yes, the Broncos only ran for 18 yards in Week 14, but that stat is a bit misleading, as a nine-yard carry by Forsett resulted in a lost fumble, and a 20-yard breakout was nullified by a Matt Paradis holding penalty. It's hard to establish rhythm with negative plays. 

It should also be noted that after the fumble, Forsett didn’t play much in the first half, as the coaching staff seemed fed up with trying to establishing any type of run game. Forsett also had a nice catch-and-run off a screen pass, as well.

Everything Booker hasn’t been, Forsett was on Sunday, just with a limited sample size. Quick to the hole, decisive in his cuts and getting downhill quickly. With another week to get himself acclimated to his new teammates, and being the better option in the passing game, Forsett needs more touches in final next three games.

Kubiak Needs To Be The Sole Play-Caller

At the risk of repeating myself, the Broncos offense has been stuck in neutral for far too long and I believe its due to having too many voices when it comes to play-calling and game-planning. Simply put, this is four-man band that needs to break up and let Kubiak be the solo act.

The players need to execute better on the field — no doubt. Penalties and dropped passes were damaging in losing a close game to the Titans but the coaching staff needs to put those same players in the best situations to try and put points on the board.

Often times this year, the offense has struggled to execute game-plans that are either far too conservative, or have no semblance of continuity. 

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For as much flak as Kubiak gets for his conservative penchant, he been much more aggressive as of late, going for the win against the Chiefs in overtime and going for it on fourth down twice in Tennessee. The guy called 55 passing plays on Sunday — it doesn't get much more aggressive than that.

Kubiak has coached the second-year Siemian to the point that he has played remarkably well in the second half of games throughout the entire season. The flip side is that we're still waiting for Siemian, and this offense, to put together a full 60-minute performance.

Its admirable that Kubiak trusts the input of Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison. It’s empowering that he has Greg Knapp to lean on as the 'Passing Game Coordinator'. Its cutting edge to have Mitch Tierney in the booth going over numbers and analytics to gain an edge on the field. The only problem is that none of it has translated to a well-oiled offense. 

We're 29 regular season games into this four-headed offensive approach and still there's no impending quantum leap around the corner. 

Kubiak has forgotten more about offensive football that we’ll ever know and isn’t far removed from making Joe Flacco, of all people, into a top-10 quarterback. There are far too many cooks in the kitchen right now and its messing up the rhythm and flow of the game — something a play-caller needs to be in tune with the game.

If the Denver offense is to get any better, it needs Gary Kubiak to be the only voice in the huddle. Period.

Three playoff-like games loom for Denver and they have to win each one to have a shot at defending their World Championship. Wholesale offensive changes won’t do much but create more doubt among a young group that is still trying to find its identity late in the year.

Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.

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