One of my favorite parts about the 3 & Out series is it provides me a chance to reach out to different analysts I learn from and follow closely. Mark Schofield is one such analyst. A recovering lawyer who spent 2019 breaking down film for a number of places like the Pro Football Weekly and the Rookie Scouting Portfolio, Schofield has a unique perspective into Pat Shurmur’s offense because he kept up with it as part of SB Nation’s Big Blue View. So when the Broncos hired the former Giants head coach, I immediately reached out to him for insight.
Our conversation is lightly edited for clarity.
1st and 10
What did you think when you first found out the news that Pat Shurmur would be the new Offensive Coordinator for the Drew Lock Broncos?
I think cautious optimism is probably the best way to put it. As someone who was not the biggest fan of Daniel Jones coming out, I was very curious to see how Shurmur would handle the young quarterback. But I was impressed with how Jones progressed this season, and he far surpassed my expectations.
Part of the reason was due to Jones himself, but in addition, Shurmur did things to help his young quarterback. He gave him some vertical concepts that allowed Jones to stress defenses and push the ball downfield. He was more aggressive in the downfield approach and that is something I think will mesh well with Drew Lock.
On Daniel Jones, debuts and unbridled optimism - Big Blue View
Another thing to keep in mind is the use of play-action. A few years ago Shurmur turned Case Keenum into a highly attractive quarterback, in part by using the play-action passing game. That year the Minnesota Vikings used play-action on 30% of their passing plays, and as you can see here their DVOA jumped 44.2% from non-play-action to play-action plays.
Now that was something the Giants got away from last season. As a percentage of his throws, only 18% of Jones’ passing attempts were play-action plays, which was ranked 33rd in the league according to PFF’s charting. So I would like to see that number boosted for Lock, who attempted play-action on 28.5% of his throws last year according to PFF.
2nd and 8
Shurmur’s time with Andy Reid has been really focused on by the local media and Broncos’ reporters. How different would you say this offense will look from the Kyle Shanahan style Denver used last year?
It really depends on how Shurmur feels about the rest of the roster. There is a chance this offense looks very similar to the Shanahan/Kubiak kind of offense, if Shurmur wants to build around Lock and some of Denver’s weapons like Noah Fant.
But in all likelihood the offense will mirror what Andy Reid has been doing over the past few years, sort of a “West Coast on steroids.” West Coast quick passing elements with vertical shot plays mixed in. Take, for example, the five touchdowns Jones threw against Washington near the end of the season. I broke them all down here:
Daniel Jones: Breaking down Sunday’s 5 touchdown throws - Big Blue View
The touchdown pass to Saquon Barkley is a variation of a play that Reid has been running and that others such as Matt Nagy and Sean McVay have used as well, a vertical concept with the back running one of the verticals out of the backfield. These are plays that would suit Lock very well.
3rd and 3
When he was first hired some were touting the hire as a move to get more aggressive on offense. Does Shurmur’s offense strike you as aggressive?
I think yes.
As someone who covered the Shurmur Giants over the past few seasons, I can tell you that there are elements of the offense that are designed to be aggressive in the downfield passing game, and it comes down to whether the quarterback himself will execute on them. Last year the issue with Eli Manning early in the season was that he was taking the old adage “touchdown to checkdown” to heart, and checking the ball down far too often. IT was something I wrote about here:
Let’s talk about Eli Manning, risk management and the Giants’ offense - Big Blue View
As you’ll see in the piece, there were often downfield options available to the quarterback that he did not take advantage of. So the offense is aggressive, it just comes down to whether the QB pulls the trigger.
4th and inches
One of my big concerns with his offenses has been the playcalling in the redzone. Did you notice any tendencies of his there? What should Broncos Country expect?
Smash concept. Learn it, love it. Shurmur loves smash in the red zone. That will play to one of the strengths from Lock, which is his velocity.
Do you like this fit for the 2020 Broncos?
I do like this fit. I think Shurmur struggled like many head coaches in trying to balance the responsibilities of being a head coach, an offensive coordinator (in part) and a play-caller. Sometimes that is too much to handle. Now, Shurmur can focus just on the offense.
Of course, his main task will be handling the development of Lock. I think Broncos’ fans should take heart in what we saw from Jones last season. A quarterback who far surpassed the expectations that many had of him coming into the draft. IF Shurmur can replicate that in Denver, the Broncos will be in great shape.
Do you like this hire by the Broncos?
This poll is closed