John Elway has never been one to sit on his hands in the offseason.
In 2016, it was clear that a deficient offense held back the Denver Broncos from a sixth straight playoff appearance. There were so many holes in Denver's flawed unit that it's hard to make a comprehensive list of their struggles. But why not give it a shot?
Inexperience at quarterback, lack of depth at running back, no explosion at tight end, no true third receiving threat, zero push up front in short-yardage situations, a holding penalty about every third play, and a gaping black hole at what ideally would have been the right tackle position all plagued the offense last year.
So what did they do about it?
Well, the Broncos went after a pair of offensive linemen to shore up the trenches in free agency, adding Ronald Leary from the Dallas Cowboys to play left guard and Menelik Watson of the Oakland Raiders to potentially exorcise Denver's demons at right tackle.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1776166-film-room-chad-kelly-vs-a... Then came the NFL Draft, and the Broncos used it to get a lot faster after they selected Garett Bolles in the first round to anchor the offensive line.
Starting in the third round, Denver snagged Louisiana Tech Bulldogs wide receiver and tackle-breaking aficionado Carlos Henderson (4.46 40-yard dash) to give the offense an interior option to complement Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas outside the numbers.
At the top of the fifth round, the Broncos got their difference maker at tight end, taking a flyer on the All-American Michigan Wolverine Jake Butt, who was expected to go in the first two rounds before an ACL injury in the Orange Bowl scared off teams for the first four rounds.
Finally, Denver looked to the FCS to find depth at running back, picking up Coastal Carolina bowling ball De'Angelo Henderson (4.48 40-yard dash) in the sixth round.
One would think after a draft haul that netted three sub-4.5 speedsters, the need for speed would be satiated. Think again, because the Broncos still felt the need, the need for speed.
That prompted the unexpected signing of former Kansas City Chiefs great Jamaal Charles, a running back whose special abilities need not be explained to fans of the Denver Broncos (see Week 17, 2009-10). Charles came aboard with a prove-it deal, a one-year contract that can bring him anywhere from $900,000 to $3.75 million in 2017. After two seasons marred by injury, Charles isn't going to carry the load for Denver, but with C.J. Anderson back in the lineup, he won't have to.
We have no idea if all will go according to plan, but the Broncos at least addressed the majority of their deficiencies on offense to go with a new (but familiar) offensive system under Mike McCoy, Denver's new offensive coordinator.
The only part of the offense that has gone untouched since the last whistle in Week 17 until now are the top-two quarterbacks. It's still Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, just like it was a season ago. The auxiliary pieces are in place, but the starting quarterback is the biggest variable in the equation.
Fortunately for either Siemian or Lynch, the front office has constructed an offense built to help the quarterback succeed. McCoy has gotten the best out of every passer where ever he's been--from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, the quick, rhythm passes of his offense have been a quarterback's best friend. Throw in the new personnel Denver's acquired and there should be no excuses to be made for the starter.
However, at the same time, a lot of the burden has been taken off of whoever gets the job in 2017 compared to last season. If the quarterback wasn't on his game a year ago for the Broncos, there typically was no offense between the crumbling offensive line and languishing run game that produced just 3.6 yards per carry throughout the year.
Ideally, the best system for the offensive personnel is to match an efficient running attack with a quarterback that serves more as facilitator or point guard rather than messiah. Fortunately, the Mike McCoy offense features plenty of quick passes, bubble screens, and crossing routes to soften up the defense.
It's also made better use of the tight ends than the Gary Kubiak offense did in the last two years. In 2016, the Chargers got over 1,000 yards and 15 combined touchdowns from Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates. The Broncos mustered just two touchdowns from their rotating cast of tight ends that same season.
The pieces are all in place for the Broncos to be successful on offense. And while that means there's less of a load on the shoulders of whoever exits camp as the starting quarterback, that means there's no more room for excuses in 2017.