My take on our offense is that it stinks pretty bad. I'm an eye-test guy mostly. While I may think stats are often misused and sometimes not as meaningful as people may think, they are at times useful. I'd like to point you to some excellent information from footballoutsiders.com on offenses in 2015. They agree quite a bit with what my eyes tell me about our offense - it is one of the, if not THE, worst offense in the NFL today.
You know it. I know it. The stats guys know it. The team knows it. We've all been doing a great job as fans of pointing fingers at the problem at a granular level. I think maybe we're missing the forest for the trees, though. Let's take a step back and talk about what the offense can do as a team to improve.
Changing offenses is very hard
We can't really get into a serious discussion about what ails our offense without setting up this very basic and very big point worth considering - we just changed head coaches and completely moved away from the offense we were using.
This is not an easy task for a unit to do. Some guys with high levels of football IQ can do it in a few weeks, but that doesn't mean all the guys can. We have a bunch of young guys on the offense. Maybe there is a very good reason the O-Line doesn't look in sync. Maybe there's a good reason also why our No. 3 WRs aren't getting targeted as much.
Everyone is going through this on our offense. The quarterback is (which is probably the toughest job for anyone on the team because he's taking a big step away from what he's been doing for his whole career system-wise). The offensive line is. The receiving options are. The running backs are (go read some MHR-U articles on zone blocking...what it requires from the runners is VERY different from most power blocking schemes).
Let's also point out that the coach is changing offenses as well. Kubiak is absolutely adjusting his scheme to make Peyton Manning more comfortable. He's designing his system to work out of the pistol for starts. You can also bet he's working on integrating some of Manning's favorite pass patterns into his calls as well.
Surprises in personnel
The other baseline point I want to make is that some of our players, for whatever reason, were vastly overrated by us going into the season. Are they nursing some sort of injury? Are they having too much trouble adjusting systems? Have they lost a step? Do they not buy in? Is the change in systems being very tough for them to grasp / execute? It could be any number of things that could be affecting their games, but the truth is some of the players aren't playing at the level we thought they would.
TE: Owen Daniels
I really liked this signing in the off season. We were going to get a veteran TE who knew the system and could help the team not miss a beat in the middle of the field. The problem here to me is that Daniels isn't getting separation like he used to. He knows the plays, but he either can't fight through contact, or doesn't have the jets to get room for plays from the TE spot.
Synopsis: His production isn't likely to change much. He's not likely to consistently contribute in a big way to the offense. Many of us want to Virgil Green step in and I'd love to see it if we can find a blocking TE to fill that slot since Daniel's is not a strong blocker.
RB: C.J. Anderson
C.J. just doesn't look like C.J. Last year he was a bright, shining spot on our offense who was a joy to watch on the field. We haven't seen any of his burst, little of his awesome jump-step, and none of his big play ability. He looks slow to the hole this year and I'm wondering if his foot is really slowing him down or if he isn't familiar enough with his reads to get into his game properly.
Synopsis: There is reason to hope that his production can improve. If he's fighting an injury that's nagging his play, it can get better. If he's just not grooving on the reads yet, that is a skill he can improve. I do think Ronnie Hillman needs to be the primary back for now, but with our line improving, we can hope to see more of C.J. being productive soon.
QB: Peyton Manning
We ended last season with most of us saying, "Oh...he had an injury. This all makes sense now. He'll be good enough for another run." I want to say that we were probably correct in that area. He is making throws happen enough to make me not worry so much about his physical ability to throw the ball: yes he's lost something in his throws, but that isn't his biggest problem.
The surprise here is that learning a new offense appears to be the biggest obstacle in Manning's way for 2015. He's not sure of his WR's routes. He's throwing into coverage. He's staring down WRs because of his unfamiliarity. It has made for a huge problem in our offense and has to improve.
Synopsis: The encouraging thing is that if he can improve his familiarity with the offense and get his understanding in sync with his receivers, this can improve. We don't need Manning to be a super hero. We just need him to clean up the problems. If he does that and gives us some mediocre level play from the QB position, we'll have a very solid rest of the season.
TE: Virgil Green
I was so stoked that we resigned Green. He's a very talented TE who blocks as good as anyone and according to the draft reports is a weapon in the passing game. Well, the problem here is that his blocking has taken a step back and he isn't being used in the passing game much at all. I don't think anyone saw this regression coming in both areas of his play.
Synopsis: I would hope the blocking issues have to do with our new scheme. That can be cleaned up. I'd love to see him get more reps as our pass catching TE, but I honestly don't think that will happen until Daniels gets inured and that would be terrible for our team given how few TEs we have. We can hope for good things to happen with Green as the season wears on, but I doubt we'll be wowed by him in the passing game any time soon.
WR: Demaryius Thomas
This problem I did see coming. DT is a phenomenal talent, but his hold out was never going to bode well for the 2015 Broncos. He isn't on the same page with Manning all the time. His hands have gotten worse likely because of lack of practice. What happened to his YAC? He isn't dominating anyone this year, and it is very disappointing to watch as a fan.
Synopsis: I'd really hope if his problem is attitude that someone sits him down and tells him to Bronco the hell up and get it together. He's one of our highest paid players now and needs to be leading the team on the field. Demand the ball. Catch the ball. Practice extra until you are on the same page with Manning. Be there to help Manning. Time will tell if he has the heart to get back to giving his all to the team, but I'm only seeing 70 percent of last year's DT out there right now.
WR: Cody Latimer
Latimer spent time at Duke with Manning. He was going to get off his duff and really get into the game and be a cog in the machine this year. That didn't happen. He's hardly seeing the field, and even more rarely getting looks. We have undrafted and lower-drafted guys ahead of him on the depth chart because they are doing more, working harder, and making plays.
Synopsis: I honestly think there's a disconnect in his ability to know the plays and execute them. He seems like he has all the physical tools that you would want from a WR but is missing something on the field. From his effort last year I can expect it is a mental thing in some form or function. I doubt this is going to ever improve, but I'd love him to prove me wrong.
Progress is being made
The hard thing to see as a fan watching our offense this year is the progress that is being made. The last two games HAVE looked better as far as offensive line play. The guys up front are starting to get things figured out and holes are starting to open up in the run game. Also the pass protection has been very good. All of that is happening even though we're down our starting LT (Clady) and our #2 LT (Ty Sambrailo). That's pretty darn encouraging from my perspective.
Also the passing game keeps showing some flashes of competency. We are moving the ball well. The big deal here is that just like when we were led by Kyle Orton, we have to reduce the mistakes. If we can clear those up, I doubt many of us will complain about the offense only putting up 14 or so points per game. Turnovers are killer and the good thing here is that Peyton Manning is a far cry better as a QB than Orton ever was. He CAN clean them up.
Also take note that as the season wears on, the offense has been changing. The plays we started the season with are not the same plays we are running six weeks into the season. Kubiak is adjusting to help the players out. That too is encouraging. We have 10 more games before the end of the season. We need to peak then, not now.
Where do we go from here?
Be patient, Broncos Country. Even if we lose to Green Bay, be patient! That game doesn't mean squat or diddly really to our playoff hopes. The team as a whole is working hard and doing everything it can to right the ship offensively, but it is a tough job. They are showing that they have each other's backs and especially the back of their QB. Let's keep cheering them on and have their backs too.
Let's get ready for Week 8 and cheer loud and proud for our whole team. We're 6-0 and offensively things are looking up!