Did you expect anything different from the Denver Broncos on Sunday night against the Patriots? I think most of us saw this coming. I felt like offense and defense rebounded a bit from their showings in previous weeks, but it didn’t matter. The story coming out of the most recent loss to the Patriots is how the Broncos special teams unit single-handedly took Denver out of contention in the blowout loss.
Back in training camp, Broncos fans were fired up over the Broncos special teams coach, Brock Olivo. Coach Olivo came out to his press conferences with a vigor and energy that excited Broncos Country. With the acquisition of Isiah McKenzie in the 5th round of the draft, there was so much hope that something special was in store for Denver.
Back then, Mile High Report’s Tim Lynch penned the article, Brock Olivo determined to build stong special teams unit.
Special Teams has the ability to change the course of games and new Broncos Special Teams Coordinator Brock Olivo wants his unit to own some of that glory this season. Meeting with the media on Monday, Olivo started to talk about his units role on the team.
Did you bathe in the glory last night? Wasn’t it awe-inspiring?
“It starts with players, it's all about those guys,” Olivo said of the importance of special teams.
Since it all starts with the players, lets talk about Isaiah McKenzie. I have never, in all my years, seen a player fail so spectacularly and yet still be rewarded with opportunity after opportunity.
Some of you may have heard that rookie Isaiah McKenzie muffed a punt on Monday, bringing us all back to the days of Trindon Holliday, but Olivo wasn’t concerned about McKenzie’s hands.
“He dropped a punt, which is an unusual occurrence for him,” Olivo said. “He's usually spot on. I don't know if you saw it, but he was out here and he caught probably 50 punts. That's the kind of kid he is, he's a budding pro. We're happy about that.”
Really? Doesn’t seem that unusual after watching McKenzie drop balls in just about every game in recent memory. Last night was no different, ‘the human joystick’ dropped another punt setting up the first Patriots touchdown. After all his struggles, I was sure that, finally, they would sit his butt down.
Not so! Olivo looked past the 5 fumbled footballs (2 lost) and decided to showcase the other hallmark of the returner’s game, poor decision making. I couldn’t believe that McKenzie was back there again fielding another punt. McKenzie has never seen a return he didn’t like. No matter how deep in the end zone the ball may go, he’s bringing it out. Sure, the league spots you 25-yards for taking a knee, but that’s for amateurs. McKenzie is taking it to the house every time, and by house, I mean he’s going to get walloped at the 14-yardline... assuming he doesn’t drop it.
At this point, I’d gladly take Trindon Holliday. At least he would score from time-to-time. McKenzie is just a disaster wearing cleats and gloves.
If it all starts with the players, where does it end? Are fumbles and poor decision-making not enough reason to make an example of the guy? What does that tell the team? “We all expect you to be excellent at your job, but not this guy. This guy right here can fail up and down the field each and every week and we’ll keep trotting him out there.” High fives all around!
“We try to keep it really simple, so they can play fast. We K.I.L.L. it. We keep it rock and roll and learnable so they can cut it loose and play fast. That's what wins in special teams in the NFL, speed and toughness. The X's and O's piece, that's easy with respect to the other things they have to bring to the table—toughness and grit, we talk about that all the time.”
Maybe it’s time to get a little less simple and focus a little more on the X’s and O’s. The only thing that looked fast last night was Dion Lewis streaking for a 103-yard touchdown return... and Rex Burkhead. He was pretty fast when he sliced through the Swiss cheese punt protection and blocked Riley Dixon’s punt. Maybe those X’s and O’s will help Olivo learn to count to 11 on punt coverage. A dozen is too many, Brock.
“Coach Joseph is behind us 100 percent when he says that special teams are a third of what we do,” Olivo explained.
Last night the Broncos lost, 41-16, to Denver’s most heated conference rival with 24 of those points coming off special teams blunders. A third of what you do? Special teams was responsible for 60% of those points! I’m sorry but when your unit’s incompetence takes you out of basic contention, it’s time to look elsewhere. It all sounded great in training camp, but this is the real world.
At some point you have to start holding players and coaches accountable for their mistakes.
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