One of the first thing new Denver Broncos head coach, Vance Joseph, said upon arriving in Denver is that he wanted to score points. He told Pro Football Talk in an interview:
“I want our offense to be able to score points,” Joseph said. “I want us to be up-tempo and put pressure on defenses. Sometimes when you have a great defense intact you kind of lean to the defense too much and you kind of get spoiled when things go bad, let the defense have it. I don’t want that, I want an offense who wants the responsibility of winning games and scoring points.
His first piece of the puzzle in building that kind of offense was to hire Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator.
McCoy, along with QB coach Bill Musgrave, will be tasked with bringing Joseph’s vision to life.
The most important part of scoring points as an offense is capitalizing on red zone opportunities. Denver’s offense this past year was 28th in the league in red zone touchdown percentage converting only 46% of their red zone trips into touchdowns. The Titans, by contrast, were the #1 team with 72%.
With this in mind, I went to the tape of Mike McCoy’s offense this past year in San Diego to see what kind of red zone plays we might see implemented in Denver.
I will point out that the Chargers didn’t fare a whole lot better in this department at 21st overall (51%). However, this isn’t necessarily an apples to apples comparison as the Chargers had lost most of their starting offensive cast by the end of the season and by their last three games they were averaging a 45% red zone TD percentage which would impact their overall season average.
Additionally, last year San Diego was top ten in this category with 63%. Denver has been 28th both seasons under Gary Kubiak posting the same 46% red zone TD percentage in 2015.
That being said, I think there are some positives to take from the Chargers’ film as we imagine the possibilities here in Denver.
With things becoming more compact in the red zone, match-ups and mismatches become even more important; and manufacturing space for your players by formations or route combinations is a must for an offensive coordinator.
This play is a great example of the latter.
Here the Chargers are in 11 personnel with TE Antonio Gates split into the slot left. This is the area of the field where Phillip Rivers loves to go to his big TE. Atlanta knows this, so the Chargers are going to use that against them.
Gates will run a double move and the receiver at the bottom of the formation will curl up underneath Gates’ initial route, creating a bit of a pick. This is a nice combo on its own, but then they will also have RB, Melvin Gordon, coming out of the flat right past all the traffic that Gates and the receiver create.
Now Atlanta is running a compact cover-2 look, so the outside corner should have responsibility for the area to which Gordon is running. However, Gates is such a red zone threat, the defenders can’t help but suck up to him when he gets close.
Look at the shot above. The corner, safety, and linebacker are all paying attention to Gates. The linebacker will drop off Gates underneath and break towards the receiver running the curl, but the corner is so far out of position, and never even sees Gordon until it’s too late.
You can see the corner pointing out Gordon to the linebacker, but there was no way the linebacker was getting through that traffic that Gates and the receiver created.
This is a great example of scheming your guys open down in the red zone.
This play is actually a variation on the popular “spot” concept that Peyton Manning loved to run, especially in the red zone.
As Julie recently mentioned, we will likely see a migration back to the Peyton Manning, Erhardt Perkins (EP) offense under Mike McCoy.
Stay tuned for more plays like this as I break down what our offense could look like in 2017.