I focused on the passing game in the last part. This one is going to focus on the running game. The running game was been one of the worst in the league so far this season, by almost every metric. There are a number of reasons why the running game has been bad this year, but the two most prevalent are these:
- Opposing teams are not worried about our QBs’ ability to beat them with his arm, particularly on deep balls. This leads to tight/loaded boxes which are tough for the best offenses to run against.
- The Zone Blocking Scheme takes precision and familiarity among the OL to work well. Our offensive line was relatively inexperienced coming into the season and had never played next to each other with the exception of Garcia and Paradis. Okung and Stephenson were new to the team and Schofield played mostly Tackle last year.
So how has our running game done compared to the past few years in Denver? You can see that it is not doing too well. The red line is our 2016 running game scaled to 16 games (since he only have played 10 so far). The X-axis is yards gained and the y-axis is number of runs that gained X yards. At our current rate, we’ll finish the season with 43 runs for no gain which is about the same as 2012 and fewer than 2015.
The biggest thing to note is the number of runs for 1 or 2 yards this year. If the current rate keeps up, we will make the Denver running game from the past 4 years look really good by comparison. So far this year we have 81 runs that gained 1 or 2 yards in 10 games. We only had 99 of those during the entire regular season last year.
I define a successful run as one that gains 3 or more yards. At this point our running game has been successful on 51.9% of running plays. That is near the bottom of the league. See how we compare to the rest of the NFL below
We have the second highest total number of running plays that gained fewer than 3 yards with 127. San Diego has the highest number with 130. The league average is 56.6% success rate so far this year with Minnesota being the only team that has more failed runs than successful runs at this point in the year. The Saints are currently the best in the league with 65% of their running plays gaining 3 or more yards.
We need to be able to run the ball effectively to have any shot at making and succeeding in the playoffs this year. The best way to help a running game is to have a QB that scares opposing defensive coordinators. Trevor Siemian does not scare opposing defensive coordinators at this point in his career, but Paxton Lynch would not scare them either. Another way to boost the running game is to play six offensive lineman. We did this a fair amount in 2011 with Tebow at quarterback and the Raiders have been doing it quite a bit this year. I don’t know how much of a boost to our running game it would provide since in my recollection of many of our 127 failed running plays it was one offensive lineman who was getting driven three yards into the backfield that killed the play. Having another offensive lineman on the field doesn’t help that unless he would be double-teaming with the guy who was getting destroyed on the play.
It’s possible that a shake-up in the offensive line could help the running game. Gary Kubiak mentioned earlier this week that he would be looking at seven offensive lineman to find the best 5. I read that as him trying to figure out if Ty Sambrailo (now that he is presumably healthy) would be an upgrade at RT over Donald Stephenson and whether Connor McGovern would be an upgrade over Max Garcia at LG. I would not be surprised in the least if both Sambrailo and McGovern play significant snaps against KC after the bye.