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2017 Broncos offense: dink and dunk and no chunk

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The 2017 Denver Broncos were all about that dink and dunk, but never found that chunk of yards.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

We all are painfully aware of how poor the Denver Broncos offense performed in 2017. I could recount the rankings here, but I am not. What I am going to do here is talk about the strange piece of data that I came across today regarding our 2017 offense. There were 333 offensive plays in the 2017 regular season that gained 40 or more yards. Denver was dead last with only 4.

Tm Plays TD Pass Rush
KAN 18 11 14 4
PIT 16 3 16
DET 16 6 16
NOR 16 5 11 5
SFO 15 3 14 1
LAR 14 6 13 1
OAK 14 10 10 4
NYJ 13 5 8 5
JAX 12 5 7 5
PHI 12 6 9 3
LAC 12 6 11 1
SEA 12 2 12
ATL 11 4 9 2
MIN 11 3 9 2
NWE 11 4 10 1
DAL 10 3 8 2
WAS 10 5 9 1
TEN 9 7 6 3
IND 9 6 9
CHI 9 1 4 5
GNB 9 3 8 1
CAR 9 1 5 4
MIA 9 4 5 4
CIN 9 4 9
HOU 8 4 6 2
NYG 7 4 5 2
CLE 6 2 5 1
TAM 6 2 6
BAL 6 1 5 1
ARI 5 2 5
BUF 5 1 4 1
DEN 4 1 3 1
Totals 333 130 271 62

It’s also interesting to note that 39% of the time these chunk plays resulted in a TD while we only scored on one of four in 2017 (Brock Osweiler’s 54 yard TD throw to Jeff Heuerman). So this drives the point home that our offense was the worst in the league last season at moving down the field quickly (getting chunk plays). What’s really odd is how effective our 2017 offense was at getting plays that gained 20-29 yards.

Tm Plays TD Pass Rush
NOR 58 6 49 9
DEN 50 7 44 6
NWE 50 1 43 7
ARI 48 6 44 4
ATL 47 2 40 7
SEA 47 9 40 7
LAC 46 7 39 7
LAR 40 1 33 7
MIN 40 4 32 8
TEN 39 2 31 8
DET 39 7 34 5
PHI 38 4 26 12
OAK 37 6 33 4
BUF 37 5 25 12
CLE 36 5 31 5
JAX 34 1 27 7
CAR 34 5 32 2
MIA 34 4 31 3
NYJ 33 5 25 8
PIT 32 3 26 6
HOU 32 6 30 2
KAN 32 3 24 8
TAM 32 2 29 3
WAS 32 4 31 1
SFO 30 1 26 4
GNB 30 3 21 9
IND 28 2 21 7
NYG 28 2 22 6
CIN 28 2 20 8
CHI 25 4 21 4
DAL 23 5 14 9
BAL 23 1 18 5
Totals 1162 125 962 200

Our 50 plays of 20-29 yards were second in the league behind the Saints. For comparison sake BAL and DAL had less than half of that with 23 (tied for last place). The Cowboys were actually decent at getting chunk plays last season with 10 plays of 40 or more yards (tied for 17th) while BAL was almost as bad in 2017 as DEN with only 6 plays of 40 or more yards - meaning that their offense was more inept than ours.

So for completeness we need to look at plays that gained 10-19 yards. Here we see that Denver ranked 19th in terms of absolute numbers (yes I am not using rate stats for this article) with the Bucs having the most 10-19 yards plays (191) and the Packers having the least (115).

Tm Plays TD Pass Rush
TAM 191 9 166 25
PHI 179 18 132 47
LAC 170 6 133 37
PIT 168 7 127 41
SFO 167 3 122 45
ATL 164 4 125 39
NWE 161 10 128 33
KAN 152 6 115 37
CHI 151 6 107 44
JAX 150 7 115 35
ARI 148 12 126 22
DET 148 4 122 26
WAS 142 10 109 33
LAR 141 10 95 46
CAR 141 6 98 43
MIA 141 3 120 21
CIN 140 7 106 34
SEA 139 6 91 48
DEN 138 7 104 34
DAL 137 13 90 47
TEN 135 5 104 31
MIN 135 6 102 33
BAL 135 5 94 41
NYG 131 8 104 27
NOR 128 7 91 37
HOU 126 3 92 34
CLE 125 5 82 43
OAK 122 1 93 29
IND 121 4 89 32
NYJ 121 6 89 32
BUF 121 5 78 43
GNB 115 8 89 26
Totals 4583 217 3438 1145

For those who are interested, all of this data can be found, searched and sorted at

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/play_finder.cgi

You can manipulate it any you you want (like if you wanted to know how many plays of 20-99 yards there were in 2017 and how we did in that regard).

So what does this mean for 2018? If our offensive line remains healthy it should be significantly better than our 2017 OL. This will give Case Keenum more time to throw which could lead to more long completions (which take longer to develop). Also Keenum is adept at moving in the pocket to avoid pressure and give his receiver more time to get open; again this should lead to more longer completions than we saw from our offense in 2017. Case is also more more adept at “throwing his receivers open” - IOW, hitting them in stride so that they can gain yards after the catch. All three passers who threw passes for the Broncos in 2017 were not very good at this (accuracy). This should also lead to more chunk plays particularly with Dermaryius Thomas being fully healthy, Emmanuel Sanders being re-envigorated and the other new offensive weapons who are both elusive and have break-away capabilities.

While long runs are uncommon (and were very limited for the 2017 Broncos since Booker and CJ Anderson don’t have breakaway speed), an improved offensive line combined with three RBs who DO have breakaway speed and increased elusivity (Royce Freeman, DeAngelo Henderson and Phillip Lindsay) could lead to a few more long runs than we saw in 2017. If you look at runs that gained 30 or yards in 2017, we had two, which tied us with a bunch of teams for 30th in the league. Only Arizona and Indy were worse with one each. The Saints had eight. If we make that window runs of 20-99 yards, then we see Denver had eight which was tied with a handful of teams again at 26th in the league. Philly had 19 runs that gained 20 or more yards while Washington had three.

Poll

Which will change the most in 2018 relative to our 2017 offense?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    More long runs
    (196 votes)
  • 61%
    More long passes
    (363 votes)
  • 5%
    Fewer plays gaining 20-29 yards
    (33 votes)
592 votes total Vote Now