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IS IT TIME FOR "THE MAGIC 3"?

 

MY FIRST POST.  So let me introduce myself.  I relocated to the Mile High city in 1987, from Alaska (grew up on the East coast as a NY Giants fan).  I must confess up front that I rooted for the Giants against the Broncos in the ‘87 Super Bowl – Blasphemy!  But I have grown up; steadily becoming an ardent BroncoManiac over the years.

My strength is Analysis.  I can spot trends and tendencies in games and during a season.  That is why the playing calling of Jeremy Bates last year just drove me crazy.  What an "idiot" – He was too predictable in a bad way, and when he was successful in some aspects of the game plan, he would change for no reason in the middle of the game for disastrous results. (Sorry I Digress). 

 I have only recently found MHR, and I thank each and every one of you for an absolute FANTASTIC site.

I have learned a tremendous amount from MHR University, and was totally intrigued by hoosierteacher’s post on the MAGIC 3.  So I apologize to hoosierteacher in advance if I have taken your teachings out of context or without proper clarity.

My Analysis: 

 Josh McDaniels has been very secretive in his discussions about the direction of the Denver Bronco’s offense for 2009.  The MSM is living in confusion, since they have no information to speculate on, hence the obvious route for the Broncos must be an adaptation of the "Patriot Way", or so they believe.  I do not discredit that belief entirely, but I believe it is too small-minded in its scope.  Josh McDaniels is too much of a visionary, to just turn the 2008 NE Offense into 2009 Broncos-Patriot West.

 ENTER – "THE MAGIC THREE" – which was so superbly written about by Hoosierteacher last year (Feb 2008).  I encourage you to read or re-read this article to get a better understanding.  

I am not here to teach, that is best left to the Masters at MHR such as the above mentioned Hoosierteacher; my post will attempt to connect the dots, so to speak. 

FIRST - THE COACH JOSH MCDANIELS:

"We are focusing on the team every day. We are going to win as a team every day. It's not going to be one player and it's not going to be two players. It's going to be a team and we are going to win. Whichever way we are trying to win, that's the way we are going to try to win. If it's kicking six field goals, it's kicking six field goals; if it's shutting somebody out, it's shutting somebody out; or if it's scoring 45 points it's scoring 45 points. Whatever combination of those things we need to try to win with that's what we're going to try to use. "

THE MAGIC THREE – or the three Tight End set is IMO the ultimate team system.   There are so many options to utilize that no one player gets all the glory, and it will be an absolute nightmare to defend against. 

I believe that McDaniels has the intelligence, the football experience, and the guts (and EGO!) to develop a new offensive strategy for the Denver Broncos.  There was a significant presentation that he gave to Pat Bowlen & VP Joe Ellis during his initial interview that apparently "Wowed" Bowlen as to how prepared McDaniels was to lead the Broncos.  Bowlen hired him without a second interview for anyone else!! 

I believe a major part of that presentation was a new system for the offense.   In a similar way that Mike Shanahan took the West Coast Offense of Bill Walsh fame, and modified it to develop the strengths of the Broncos (ie..Zone Blocking - one cut down hill running plays, in addition to the horizontal passing game- short passes with significant Yards After the Catch "YAK".).   I believe that McDaniels has a comprehensive new strategy for the offense that will incorporate the THREE TE System.

The following from the press conference from Draft day:

On The Addition of TE Richard Quinn
"(TE) Daniel (Graham)’s a veteran player, he’s a good inline blocker, different type of a pass receiver than (TE) Tony (Scheffler) is. Tony obviously can be flexed away from the formation a little bit more. We’ll use him a little bit more on the move than Daniel. Richard (Quinn) is more in the middle of both. He can catch the ball, he’s got soft hands, we can move him, he certainly can handle his own on the line as a blocker.   But when you’re going to use two and three tight end packages during the course of the season, you’d love to have three guys that you feel good about. To have three guys that can run block, pass block, catch passes in the passing game and make an impact at more than one thing, I think that’s very valuable to us." (Bold emphasis mine)

Three TE Packages???  A hint of what is to come this year. 

 (An interesting note:  This quote was referenced by a post on MHR from DB.com after the first day of the 2009 draft, but the highlighted part of the quote has since been removed from the website.  Removed for too much strategy information released? Or just editing by the DB.com webmaster?) 

THE ASSISTANT COACH – TIGHT END COACH CLANCY BARONE

From DB.com:  Clancy Barone is the ninth assistant to join Head Coach Josh McDaniels' ever-growing coaching staff.  

Barone, who spent the past two NFL seasons in the same position with the San Diego Chargers, has five years of NFL experience, including his time with the Atlanta Falcons from 2004-06. In his each of his four seasons as a tight ends coach in the NFL, one of his players led his team in receptions. Barone’s tight ends totaled four Pro Bowl berths and one All-Pro selection.

Barone mentored Chargers tight end Antonio Gates in his two seasons with the club as his star pupil caught 135 passes for 1,688 yards and tied for an NFL-high among tight ends with 17 touchdown receptions over that span.

Before his stint in San Diego, Barone was the tight ends coach for the Atlanta Falcons from 2005-06 and helped tight end Alge Crumpler earn a trip to the Pro Bowl in both seasons, including his All-Pro selection in 2006. He entered his coaching career in the NFL as the assistant offensive line coach for the Falcons in 2004.

A new TE Coach with a track record of success now working for the coach with a visionary new system!!

 

SECOND - THE PLAYERS – All these TIGHT ENDS!!

Daniel Graham (Height: 6' 3" Weight: 257 lbs, 8th Yr). Established himself as one of the NFL’s premier blocking tight ends as part of a New England offense that ranked fifth in the league in rushing touchdowns (51) from 2004-06. Graham started every game for the Broncos in 2008 and finished fifth on the team in both receptions (32) and receiving yards (389). He was also third on the team with four receiving touchdowns.    

Tony Scheffler  (Height: 6' 5" Weight: 250 lbs, 4th Yr). Started seven games in 2008, finished the season fourth on the team receptions (40) and third in receiving yards (645) despite missing three games with a groin injury. He is currently fourth among Denver's all-time tight ends in receptions (107), receiving yards (1,480) and receiving touchdowns (12). His 16.3-yard receiving average ranked first in the NFL among tight ends and 11th overall.

Richard Quinn   (Height: 6' 4" Weight: 260 lbs. Rookie) "He's tough, smart, physical; very physical. People would say maybe the top blocker in the draft as a tight end. He didn't catch a lot of balls at (the University of) North Carolina, but that wasn't because he can't catch. They didn't use him that way very much in their system, in their scheme, but he showed very good hands during the course of the spring. We worked him out personally. We also saw him at the combine and he doesn't drop many balls, he's very big and physical and gives us a presence on the edge. We're going to use some two tight end sets, we have two good tight ends ahead of him, but he'll be in the mix to play in some of those packages."  (Josh McDaniel’s quote)

It is without a doubt Quinn's blocking that earned him a second-round selection in the draft. He has plenty of strength -- he tied for fourth in bench press repetitions among tight ends at the Combine -- but it's not as if he lacks athleticism. He finished fourth in the broad jump at the Combine as well.  

Jeb Putzier  (Height: 6' 4" Weight: 256 lbs. 8th Yr)   The Broncos have brought back another familiar face, re-signing tight end Jeb Putzier, the team announced Monday.

Peyton Hillis (Height: 6' 1" Weight: 250 lbs. 2nd Yr) Listed on the roster as a FB, but as we all know he was utilized as starting RB in 2008.  Hillis started three games at tailback and three games at fullback for the Broncos before being place on the reserve/injured list on 12/8 (right hamstring). He led the team with 343 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in 2008. His six total touchdowns (5 rush., 1 rec.) tied for the team lead(DB.com)

McDaniels said Peyton Hillis took part in practice today, and is close to fully healed from last season's injury. "He did a lot of things well -- he's a versatile player, so we're going to try to use him in a lot of different roles," McDaniels said. "He carried the ball today, he blocked -- as much as you can block when you're going against air -- and caught the ball well. So he's going to do a lot of things. We really like his skill set and what he can do for us."

Marquez Branson (Height: 6' 3" Weight: 248 lbs., Rookie)  A rookie tight end from the University of Central Arkansas who joined the Broncos as a college free agent on April 27, 2009... Played 23 career games in two seasons at Central Arkansas after transferring from East Mississippi Community College... Totaled 82 career receptions for 1,236 yards (15.1 avg.) with 18 touchdowns at Central Arkansas.   Marquez Branson is said to be a Peyton Hillis Clone!!

THIRD – THE EMPHASIS ON TIGHT ENDS

Highlights from a Sporting News Article from Dec 2007, talking about the new emergence of the tight ends in Offense game planning. The key is the impact tight ends can make as receivers in an era when explosive pass plays have become the Holy Grail of NFL offense. The first thing I notice when I pop in tape is where these players are positioned. No longer do I see them predominantly lined up right next to an offensive tackle on the line of scrimmage. Tight ends are now movable chess pieces that align all over the formation -- flexed just off the line of scrimmage, in the wing or H-back position, in the backfield, in the slot, split wide. They often shift and motion before the snap.

Watch the Chargers and you'll see Gates split as a wide receiver in two-back, two-tight end personnel groupings. They can do that because of Gates' ability to win match-ups as a receiver on the outside, whether he's up against a linebacker, a safety or even a corner.

In Week 12 against the Bears, Scheffler was clearly the foundation of Denver's offense as Mike Shanahan consistently split his tight end wide. There were times when Chicago put man coverage on Scheffler with safety Adam Archuleta or linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer. Scheffler beat both of them for big plays.

This SN article deals only with the pass play potential of a TE as a receiver, but I believe that is a short-sighted one dimensional version of a true MAGIC 3, or 3 TE system.

I now reference aspects of the great teaching of hoosierteacher in his post - The Coming Storm (Magic 3) 

"Mark my words.  TE is the wave of the future in the NFL.  It started a couple of years ago, and is gaining in momentum.  When I was coaching I looked at TEs the way most people looked at safety before the dawn of guys like Dawkins and Reed.  Now the position is becoming a major tool.  There has always been a few rare exceptional TEs (Sharpe anyone?).  But with the approaches to football in defensive scheming the last few years the TE figures to be a new powerful weapon. Let's be grateful for Scheffler and Graham.

But the TE has a future in the league for several reasons that have washed together like a perfect storm.

First, the "cover two" system on defense gains in popularity each year.  It is one of the very few systems that is designed to counter the popular "west coast offense".  But the TE position (because of alignment next to the tackle, and the physical build of a TE) ends up in the dangerous "seam", where the cover-two is weakest.  By the time an opposing defender gets to the TE he has already taken a couple of steps, and is a physical mismatch for the likely swift safeties trying to bring him down.

Second, teams have discovered the many "smoke and mirrors" that can be accomplished with a TE.  Line him up next to the RT and defenses don't know if he is going to block or catch (historic).  But NOW when a defensive coordinator sees the offense bring in two WRs and one TE he is likely to send in a 4-3 defense.  Maybe he should have brought in a third CB because teams (like SD) might line up the TE in the slot!  If the poor coordinator calls a nickel for the next formation (3 CBs) the QB audibles to a run, and the TE lines up (or motions) to the RT.  In other words, an elite TE ensures a mismatch until a defensive theorist develops a new formation or a new LB archetype.

Third, the recent move by many teams to return to the old 3-4 creates a special opportunity for TEs.  The danger with the 3-4 is picking up the blitz.  With a two TE set the blockers are already up to the line and facing each OLB.  Threat neutralized.  But with two TE sets we quadruple the number of disguised packages the team has available on offense, and with motions, we create a playbook fatter than consideration of all of the other positions combined.

Fourth, teams have discovered that in two TE sets they can compound-multiply the formations and abilities of an offense with alignments never before seen (the revolution has reached this fourth point in the last couple of years, but it still hasn't completely caught on and been fleshed out).  No one would have ever lined up or motioned a TE from the line back to a RB position.  

The TEs need to be balanced in their ability to block and catch, with perhaps an edge going to blocking.  HT

SOUNDS  LIKE OUR PLAYERS (My Comment)

Also keep in mind another point that gives the scheme some complexity.  The 1, 2, and 3 TEs can be mixed and matched in their positions.  It isn't simple enough that a CB can just line up on the 3TE, because the best receiving TE may line up at any of the positions on any play.  Wherever the opposing defense lines up their people for optimal matches the offense simply audibles.  (Audibles are a key to the offense in the system as well). HT

 

CONNECTING THE DOTS My Analysis

First, we have Coach McDaniels:  He is focused, detailed and purposeful, with a well though out plan and Vision for the Denver Broncos.  I believe that He feels the need to make an immediate mark on this football team in 2009.  He has the coaching experience and the guts to move forward in a new way.  Much like Walsh, Parcells and Shanahan He will implement new and innovative game plans.  He has hired experienced and highly regarded coaches in all areas of the team.  One of the most intriguing is the TE coach Clancy Barone; a coach of Pro-Bowl players.

Second, there is an over abundance of Tight Ends on the roster.  I grant you that not all will make the final roster, but Coach McDaniels has an army of TE/H-Back players to mold and mix n match into a special unit.

Third, the 3 TE system is a possible (probable) wave of the NFL future.  Like the West Coast Offense it will change game planning in a significant way.  If the Broncos are as successful on the offense side of the ball in 2009 as many here at MHR believe they will be than the pressure is taken off of the new 3-4 defense.  Control the clock, increase scoring in the Red-Zone, better field position thanks to a renewed Special Teams and that will add up to more victories in the Win/Loss column.

The 3 TE system is absolutely perfect in the areas of ball control and RZ scoring.  Plus the "Strength of Schedule" issue will be greatly negated if the supposed Power-House teams are trying to figure out how to Defense this new "Magic 3" Offense.

I believe that the "MAGIC 3" will only be part of the new strategy for the offense.  Coach McDaniel’s recent success has been with the "Spread Offense" which will be a big part of the offense – hopefully utilizing an occasional "No Huddle" aspect to keep the defense in a state of confusion.  But I believe that there is a strong case for the 3 TE scheme to be used in the run oriented ball control phase of the new offense. 

IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES………… 

TE-1 /H-BACK: HILLIS /BRANSON

TE-2 - GRAHAM / QUINN

TE-3 - SCHEFFLER / QUINN

WR – ROYAL / MARSHALL

RB – MORENO / HILLIS

 

More thoughts from hoosierteacher..

Remember this is a run heavy scheme.  The advantage to pairing the Magic 3 with a zone block system is that TEs are lighter and faster than most OLmen, and thus come close to fitting the zone block build.

The pass rush doesn't concern the 3 TE systems since they are basically showing goal line run.  A team that rushes DEs against what is likely a run play in a goal line formation loses even more yardage.  But you are right that speedy LBs are part of the answer.  I just think you really want bigger, run stopping DEs just like you would see against any goal line type formation.

 As good as the scheme is (in theory), it will probably come about several years from now.  But you DO see teams experiment on a drive here and there, and it is in the back of the minds of coaches."

THIS BRONCO FAN believe the time is now – 2009  - -

GO BRONCOS!!!!

YOUR THOUGHTS???

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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