I am not an expert on the differences between last year's offensive system and this year's offensive system when it comes to the passing game, except to know that Jay Cutler threw more often than Kyle Orton.
I hear people talking about whether this guy or that guy fits Coach McD's system -- why Sheffler's numbers are down, why Royals' numbers are down, and so on. So I thought I would look at the stats. To date, the 2008 Broncos through 16 games threw the ball about 22% more than the 2009 Broncos have through 15 games. Let's look at the receiver stats.
Courtesy of kffl.com's NFL utilization stats:
Tony Scheffler, 2008: 62 targets, 40 catches
Tony Scheffler, 2009: 51 targets, 31 catches
If the Broncos threw the ball in 2009 the way they did in 2008, Scheffler would probably have 62 targets and 38 catches...almost identical to his 2008 figures. Denver is throwing the ball less, but he's just as integral a part of the passing game this year as he was last year.
His red zone stats are almost identical, and he has apparently been used more inside the 5 yard line this year than he was last year.
Eddie Royal, 2008: 143 targets, 92 catches, 980 yards
Eddie Royal, 2009: 80 targets, 37 catches, 340+ yards
Eddie has delivered such a low completion percentage and yards per attempt average all year that I haven't been able to figure out for the past 8-10 games why Denver is throwing to him. Whatever the problem is, he seems to have been one of the most inefficient receivers in the game this year. He gained 90 yards against the Patriots. That has been his only good receiving game that I can recall this year.
Brandon Marshall, 2008: 188 targets
Brandon Marshall, 2009: 162 targets
Given the drop in pass plays this year, his involvement in the offense has been almost identical to last year.
Brandon Stokley has seen a serious dropoff, from 86 targets last year to 26 targets this year.
Jabar Gaffney's 80 targets have (I think) obviously come at the expense of Stokley and Royal. But last year we have three wideouts to throw to...this year, when we are passing less, we have four.
I am not sure what it all means, but the idea that Sheff hasn't been involved this year just doesn't seem to fit the numbers this year. Two guys that have been as involved in the passing game this year as they were last year -- Marshall and Sheffler -- have been benched for game 16 due to their attitudes. Guys who really did lose part of their place in the passing game this year -- Royal and Stokley -- apparently haven't had the same problems fitting in.