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Final 2021 Denver Bronco snap percentages - offense

In a season plagued by injuries and illness at every position group, who played and how much.

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Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The tables are here if you want to look at them because the graphs are impossible for you to read.

I will list the PFF overall grade for each player despite my reservations regarding their methods and lack of transparency. I will also provide the PFF color code which shows their relative position group ranking. In other words, a ranking of 64.0 might be above average at a “weak” position group like center (this is the case with Lloyd Cushenberry).

Offensive line

Eleven offensive linemen took offensive snaps this season. No offensive lineman played in every game unlike the previous three seasons where we had at least one. Lloyd Cushenberry had the highest percentage with 96.1 percent. Garett Bolles was second with 80.5. Dalton Risner and Bobby Massie essentially played three quarters of the offensive snaps and Quinn Meinerz was the only other offensive lineman over 50 percent (57.6). Graham Glasgow played one third. Netane Muti played thirty percent and Cameron Fleming played one quarter of the total offensive snaps.

It’s interesting to me that with the exception of Austin Schlottmann, every offensive lineman who took offensive snaps for us this season was rated as “above average” or better. It’s hard to square this with the fact the by pro-football-reference.com the Denver Broncos offensive line allowed the second highest pressure rate in the league (28.2 percent). Only the Panthers were worse at 28.3. It does go to show that an offensive is more than the sum of its parts and that overall unit familiarity with each other makes the unit play much better as a whole.

The line that was the best in the league this season as NOT allowing pressure on their QB was the Buccaneers. They allowed pressure on only 11.1 percent of drop-backs (the second place Rams were not even close at 16.6). Having arguably the greatest QB to ever play throwing the ball helps immensely in not allowing pressure, but the Bucs were blessed with an offensive line that played almost entirety of the season together as a unit of five guys. Four of their five offensive line starters played 97 percent of the offensive snaps or more (two played 100 percent). The only starter who didn’t play 97 percent or more, Ali Marpet, played 88 percent. To remind you, the Broncos did not have a single offensive lineman who played 97 percent of the snaps or more.

During this long and dark off-season, I will be doing an in-depth study of the play of each player on the 2021 Bronco offensive line. I will also look at the correlation between overall offensive line health and offensive line unit play for the entire league last season. I would guess that correlation is strong, but the data might surprise me (and you).

Running Backs

When it was all said and done (for the Broncos at least), Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon finished with almost the exact same snap totals for the year (551 and 514). Mike Boone and Damarea Crockett combined for 30 offensive snaps. Williams was given an overall grade of 75.9 by PFF (above average) while Gordon received a grade of 77.9 (also above average for their position). While neither was able to crack the 1000 yard rushing mark (which still has some mythical aura around it despite meaning that you averaged 59 yards rushing per game if you played in all seventeen), they combined for 2350 yards from scrimmage. That was the second highest total for a RB duo behind only Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines of the Colts. They combined for 2757 yards from scrimmage.

Tight Ends

Noah Fant (843) had almost exactly double the offensive snap totals of the tight end with the second highest total, Albert Okwuegbunam, who had 421. Fant finished the season with an overall PFF grade of 61.6 which was average for his position group. Albert O. finished with a grade of 67.3 which was above average while Eric Saubert finished with a grade of 67.8 (also above average). Fant’s grade was lower than the other two TEs because of his penalties eight penalties which was the second most among NFL TEs this season (Pharaoh Brown of the Texans had nine) and his poor blocking. Fant’s total of eight penalties made him the second most penalized Bronco in 2021. Only Bolles had more with nine total (three of which were declined).

Fant had the largest average depth of target, ADOT, among our three tight ends at 6.1, but that was a fairly small number relative to other “vertical threat” tight ends in the league. For example Kyle Pitts, Mark Andrews and Darren Waller had ADOTs of 10.8, 10.3 and 9.9 respectively. Fant’s ADOT was 43rd among TEs. Fant also very little YAC/reception. His 4.5 yards after the catch per catch was 51st among TEs. I would argue that this is a function of Pat Shurmur misusing Noah Fant by rarely using him on vertical routes where he has much of a chance for YAC. If you dig through the weekly route charts for Fant, you will also come to this conclusion. Albert O. had a YAC/reception of 7.4 which was 10th best in the league among TEs and fifth best among qualifiers (minimum 17 catches).

It would appear that Pat Shurmur saw Noah Fant as a hammer when he is more of a screwdriver. While you can hammer a nail in with a screwdriver, it’s much better used for driving in screws than hammering in nails. Hopefully our next offensive coordinator has a better idea of how to employ the tools in his toolbox.

Wide Receivers

By the end of the season we had eleven different players take WR snaps on offense and we had six different WRs take 50 percent or more of the offensive snaps in a game.

David Moore, John Brown and Travis Fulgham not shown because of how few snaps they had with the Broncos

From a group that was supposed to be a strength of the team, this group really underwhelmed in 2021. Courtland Sutton had his worst year when healthy (although he didn’t appear to be fully recovered from the 2020 injury). His yards per catch, yards per target and receiving TDs were all career lows. His YAC percentage was also a career low. His YAC percentage in 2019 was 32 percent. That was down to 17 percent this season. In 2019 he had twelve broken tackles compared to one this season. In other words, 2021 Sutton was a shadow of 2019 Sutton. Hopefully he regains his 2019 form in 2022.

For comparison, Tim Patrick’s 2021 season was almost identical to his 2020 season both in his standard stats and in his advanced stats.

Jerry Jeudy played in about half the snaps this season relative to last, but he had a much better year in 2021 despite having zero TD catches in 2021. His catch rate went up to 68 percent from 47 percent. His drops went from ten to one and he appeared to be much more a part of the offense when he was in the game (all 412 snaps) this year than last. That being said, his yards per catch went down significantly (from 16.5 to 12.3) and he went from five broken tackles to zero. So it’s not all sunshine and roses for Jeudy.

Losing Jeudy (for seven games) and Hamler for almost the whole season seemed to completely fluster Shurmur’s offensive plan. With both of them out, there was no speed threat on the field and while Sutton (at least in when healthy) and Patrick are both good on deep contested throws, neither wide receiver has the speed to scare defenses like Hamler and Jeudy both do. In the absence of Jeudy and Hamler, both David Moore and Diontae Spencer were tried as the speed threat but neither worked. Even when Jeudy came back, it did not appear that opposing defenses respected our offense’ ability to go deep. This was most likely a combination of poor pass protection, poor game-planning and Teddy Bridgewater’s limited arm strength.

A WR group of a fully healthy Sutton, Patrick, Jeudy and Hamler could be a real weapon for the Bronco offense in 2022 with the right QB and the right OC. Even Seth Williams looked like he could be a good NFL receiver in his very limited playing time this season. So we are back to where we were prior to the 2021 season with a WR group that looks scary on paper. Let’s hope the new head coach and new offensive coordinator can get some significant improvement from this group in terms of the teams ability to score points.

The Broncos finished the season 23rd in points scored and the team hasn’t sniffed the top 10 in scoring since 2014. The 2014 team team was second in points scored. The highest a Bronco team has finished since then was 19th in 2015.