Mike McCoy and the Denver Broncos will be utilizing the tight end position much more effectively in the passing game than did Gary Kubiak and his staff over the last two seasons.
“I think this is a great offense for tight ends,” Broncos tight end A.J. Derby said of the new system. “I think his (Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy) past record in San Diego shows that. The whole room is really excited to see what we can do this season.”
Stretching the field, especially down the seam, is going to help open things up outside and on screens. Both of which were bread and butter under the previous system, but without any significant threats elsewhere defenses were able to sit on those routes rather effectively in most games.
Trevor Siemian’s biggest plays during OTA’s thus far have been to tight ends and have been down the field plays on throws he wasn’t making in 2016, so that is a huge improvement. A lot of that has to do with chemistry.
“I think it’s good,” Tight end Jeff Heuerman said of the offenses chemistry. “We’ve been throwing a lot since we got here in April. We’re two months into this. A lot of the timing routes are coming together. You can start to see it out there. Every day you can see the offense getting into more of a groove and getting more of a feel for the offense and plays and how we’re calling things, as well as the motions and who’s running what. It’s really good.”
Heuerman and Siemian have developed some excellent chemistry this offseason as many of those big plays to tight ends have been that Siemian to Heuerman connection.
One of the big changes will be how tight ends are used in blocking. All to often, tight ends were asked to stay in on pass protection in mismatched assignments against the likes of Justin Houston or Khalil Mack.
“I don’t want to say it was forgotten,” Tight end Virgil Green said of whether or not the tight end position was forgotten in 2016. “I just think we had to do things a little differently. A lot of things worked last year. We had to try and get the run game going. I was busy blocking Khalil Mack and Justin Houston and those guys on the edge. I think with a system like [Offensive Coordinator Mike] McCoy has provides answers for those guys and can make it to where the tight ends could be more available in the pass game.”
Instead of scheming the offensive line to account for premier pass rushers, Rick Dennison threw in a tight end to try and block the all-pro pass rushers on the other side. Needless to say, that didn’t work out. Not only did the Broncos lose an additional route runner to keep the defensive secondary busy, they put the player in a position to fail against superior athletes used to going up against 300+ pound offensive lineman.
That appears to be the past. Thankfully.
Instead, McCoy plans to spread out the tight ends and move them around to create mismatches in the secondary.
“Just more spread out and more movement,” Derby said of the new system. “Like what San Diego did with their tight ends, they had two on the field like [Antonio] Gates and Hunter Henry. They’re just using a lot more tight ends and having them be more versatile. Last year it was just learning the week-by-week plays. This year is building on the whole system.”
That, of course, will require a more cerebral quarterback. Whether it be Siemian or Paxton Lynch, both quarterbacks struggled to get beyond their first read. This is typical of a first-year starting quarterback, but they will need to read the field much better than they did last season if McCoy’s offense is to be successful.
As far as tight ends are concerned, the system is a perfect fit.
“I think it fits great,” said Heuerman. “Like I said, he allows the tight ends to do a lot of fun things, different types of blocks and a lot of different types of routes. There’s motions all over the place. It’s good. It’s definitely going to be fun to get out there this season and really get in the groove with this offense and get moving on it.”
With Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders considered elite talent outside, things will only get easier for them too if the Broncos can make the tight end position impactful in the passing game. It will be fun to see how this new offensive system evolves over the next few months.