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What’s wrong with the Broncos?

Is it Vic Fangio? Is it Pat Shurmur? Teddy Bridgewater? I spoke with Tim Jenkins to find out.

After their fourth straight loss, the 2021 Broncos look like they’re on a fast track to nowhere come January. If the playoffs started today, Denver would be on the outside looking in.

According to Football Outsiders Playoff Odds Report, the Broncos now have less than a 20% chance to make the postseason. This comes with one last game before the NFL trade deadline on Nov. 2, which serves as the backdrop looming over everything John Elway, George Paton, Vic Fangio, and the rest of the organization decide to do.

While the Fangio defense has completely failed to live up to preseason expectations, it’s also the injury-plagued side of the ball. The same cannot be said for Pat Shurmur’s offense, as Jerry Jeudy’s return to the active lineup will all but certainly mean every one of the Broncos’ opening day starters will suit up in Week 8.

We’re long past the point where excuses are good enough.

To dig into what’s gone wrong with the Broncos, as well as what Shurmur and the rest of the coaching staff can do to right the ship, I reached out to former NFL quarterback Tim Jenkins. When he’s not coaching aspiring NFL quarterbacks at Jenkins Elite, Tim breaks down passers on his Youtube page, All Things QB. What follows is a brief synopsis of what we discussed on Cover 2 Broncos as well as a few notes.

What’s wrong with the Broncos’ offense?

  • Before the Ravens game, both Jenkins and I made note of the fact Shurmur was changing up a bit. The Broncos were running more motion, more play action, and using heavier sets. What’s happened since?
  • Teams are throwing more cover three and less cover four at the Broncos than the average NFL offense.
  • Broncos are far more dependent on Inside Zone this season than the last two years, and they’ve run it a little less than twice as often as any other concept.
  • According to some charting sites such as Pro Football Reference, Denver is among the teams allowing the highest % of pressures in the league. Some of that falls on the pass protection, some on the play calling, some on the quarterback. No one is innocent here.
  • Broncos are using 11 personnel about 60% of the time, 12 personnel about 25% of the time. No other personnel grouping is above 8%. Shurmur’s moved to more 11 personnel since week three.
  • Broncos run 29% of the time out of 11 personnel. They run 40% of the time out of 12 personnel.
  • There are six NFL offenses converting 3rd downs less than 32% of the time, including the Broncos. The good news is, at least they’re better than Sam Darnold’s Panthers and Justin Fields’ Bears.
  • How would you fix the Broncos offense?

By DVOA

  • Broncos are actually a 10th ranked O on 3rd/4th down. They’re 21st on first, 15th on second.
  • Broncos are the 25th ranked red zone offense. 29th rushing, 17th passing, 29th in goal to go situations

Beyond DVOA

  • One of the really interesting things about the season so far is how some of the Broncos biggest issues fly directly in the face of most of the analytics and traditional stats. Bridgewater’s on pace for just about 30 touchdowns and 10 touchdowns while completing 70.1% of his passes. His TD percentage of 5.2% currently ranks 14th in the league. He’s 11th in Football Outsiders DYAR while the Broncos offense is 14th in DVOA. Most of these stats don’t properly account for how much he’s struggled in the last three games, but one stat does.
  • How big a help will Jerry Jeudy’s return be?
  • Fangio’s said teams are selling out to stop the Broncos run game, but it’s one of those quotes that needs to be picked at by a reporter, as it does not pass the smell test.

Is it time to bench Teddy Bridgewater?

One question I was eager to speak with Jenkins about is Teddy Bridgewater vs. Drew Lock. If you’ve kept up with my work, you know I wrote last Saturday that the Broncos should start Lock going forward and look to trade Bridgewater if it’s at all possible. On Tuesday, Jenkins tweeted that Bridgewater is running out of rope. We discussed it at length, as well as how the Broncos got here.

  • One thing we seemed to agree on, it’s entirely possible for Bridgewater and the offense to bounce back to early season form and still come up short against Washington. The defense has been playing that badly.
  • Why did the coaches go with Bridgewater if the competition was 50-50?

After seeing Nick Kendell’s tweet about Bridgewater’s struggles outside of garbage time, I wanted to find out how it compared to Drew Lock. Instead of whittling down the sample to three games each, it made more sense to me to blow it up as much as reasonably possible. So I asked Nick what Lock and Bridgewater’s 2020-2021 looked like when they were playing outside of garbage time.

It’s worth noting that for Bridgewater this is his time with both the Panthers and Broncos, a total of 22 games. For Lock this accounts for his time as the starting QB in the Shurmur offense as well a small part of the Ravens game. It did not capture all of it because Lock and the Fangio defense were bad enough that Denver quickly fell into garbage time.

Should the Broncos sell at the deadline?

Jenkins and I dug into what we thought John Elway and George Paton should do before November 2nd.

  • A loss drops Denver to 3-5 and all but mathematically eliminates them from the postseason. At that point, does it make sense to sell at the deadline?
  • If they go that route: is there anyone that makes sense to trade?
  • If the Broncos win against Washington they’ll find themselves back at .500. What then?
  • Timing has been an issue for the Broncos as a whole since Peyton Manning retired. The Broncos process is all out of whack, and that’s hurt every facet of the organization.