The Denver Broncos introduced their coordinators earlier this week with Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett making the introductions. It’s always good to see what the new staff says day one, because it’ll give us insight into their overall intentions and vision for the tenure with the new team.
New coaching staffs is something us here in Broncos Country have grown accustomed to in recent years, so I feel like we’re all getting better at picking out the important parts of these introductory pressers. Here were my key takeaways from it.
Getting the offense to play fast
When new offensive coordinator Justin Outten was asked what needed to be improve on offense, he had a lot to say. The thing that stuck out most to me is the bit he talked about when it came to how the offense will need to operate in terms of allowing players to play faster.
“Well, you’ve got to look at the rhythm of the game. You’ve got to dissect each game and see what the issues were going into it. You always want to be efficient with methodically moving down and ending every series with a kick. That’s your No. 1 goal. To put your finger on a certain thing or a certain concept or a certain player—it’s about how all 11 are coming together and playing together. If there’s a breakdown in a certain position and then the next play there’s another breakdown in another position, you have to make sure that everyone is on the same page, whether it’s schematics, rules, or the personnel. It’s about coming up with a plan to allow our guys to play fast.”
To me, that seems to suggest the offense will be simpler than the complex and often frustrating scheme Pat Shurmur ran where too many things had to go right for a play to be successful. Playing fast in today’s NFL is definitely leading to more success, so this could be a fun change to how things are run offensively. And I say that regardless of who the starting quarterback ends up being in 2022.
A more attacking style defense
Vic Fangio’s defense was pretty good, but it was more of a chess-style defense where it moves pieces around in an NFL style chess match with opposing offenses. New defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero also identified a high energy, attacking-style defense as a complement to the plans on offense.
“Well starting with the energy—I’m not going to try to keep up with that. We’ve all got to be our own self but when you talk about our philosophy on defense, we want to play with great energy. When people put our tape on, I want them to see a defense that’s playing fast, that’s playing aggressive, that’s playing physical, and we’re flying around to the ball. I think just like Outten said, the biggest thing in football is the ball, and we’ve got to be attacking the ball. That’s going to be a big point of our emphasis. Then we want to be situational masters. There’s going to be all these situations [like] third down, red zone [or] two-minute and we want to own and dominate those situations. It’s not just the coaches that are situational masters but more so important are the players. We’re talking about playing with great energy and great physicality. We’re talking about beating [them] off the ball and, we’re talking about playing with situational awareness.”
Those comments of overall philosophy fit in well with Evero’s description of what kind of defensive scheme he plans on running in 2022.
“We’ll be 3-4 in our base defense. We’ll play a variety of sub packages. There will be a lot of carryover from what these guys did last year, but at the end of the day, [like] Coach Outten was just talking about the evaluation, you’ve got to start with the evaluation of your players. You’ve got to see who’s on your roster. You’ve got to see what they do well and then the scheme has got to fit your players. You can’t go the other way around with that. It will be a lot of carryover and I think the players will be familiar with a lot of what we’re going to present to them. We’re going to always start players first and then move into the scheme.”
First off, I love that the plan is to keep a lot of carryover in scheme from Fangio’s defensive system. Despite the losing record, the defense always seemed to be competitive no matter how many injuries piled up. That Evero plans to keep a lot of what they did last year is a good thing.
However, it sounds like he wants more turnovers. I think back to Wade Phillips’ defense and that scheme relied heavily on playing fast and attacking the offense. It could be fun to see if Evero can blend those two defensive philosophies into one cohesive scheme.
Special Teams consistency
Now for new special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes, his line of focus was really hitting the consistency angle. Given what we saw from Tom McMahon’s special teams units the last three years, consistency has eluded this unit all throughout.
“For me, it’s about consistency. It’s easy to make splash plays on all phases, but you want guys that can play at a consistent level, and we expect those guys to play at a high level. Not just to field 11 guys—that’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to raise the standard and build a culture around here where guys are excited to take part in special teams. It’s a we—not me—mentality. In order for us to get to where we want to get to everybody has to buy in and play special teams—regardless of their role on the team. It might be one guy that plays in one phase but obviously the more talented guys we have on the field the better we’ll be on special teams.”
Stukes didn’t want to call out McMahon or even critique his scheme, but I felt like he found issues with it that he fully intends to correct for this season.
“I’m not here to critique the scheme from last year. That’s not my job. My job is to get the guys this year to play at a high level. Obviously, we saw that we were ranked last in kickoff return average and last in kickoff return average against, so that will be an emphasis going forward. There are certain techniques and fundamentals that myself and Coach [Special Teams Assistant Coach Mike] Mallory will teach these guys that hopefully will put them in position to make plays consistently. That’s all I ask for. I don’t want to talk about what happened last year as far as that because I don’t really know their scheme that they ran. All I can talk about is the scheme that we’re going to run and how excited I am to work with the guys. I think we have a lot of talent on this roster. I think we have core special teams players on this roster. I think we have guys that can help and play at a high level on this roster so I’m excited to work with the guys we have in the building and watch the culture change as guys get familiar with the scheme. Once guys start buying in and they see the success of the scheme, that’s when you get the buy-in.”
One thing I recall is that the Broncos special teams unit had three blocked kicks in 2021 and the next closest team had just one. However, Stukes made a point to emphasize the poor kickoff return average both for and against the Broncos. His focus will be on the techniques and fundamentals used by the players more so than some scheme design.
That’s a big thing for me. When you have a unit that either lacks talent or is struggling to make plays, a good way to ground things is to get back to the basics. With a focus on technique and fundamentals, Stukes could at the very least get this unit back to the basics and then work up from there.
Don’t sleep on Drew Lock
The last important tidbit of information to come out of these coordinator interviews was the apparently willingness to developer Drew Lock from offensive coordinator Justin Outten.
“The quarterback position is the leader of this organization in a sense. They’re the guy that you have to lean on. It doesn’t matter if you’re on offense or defense or special teams. As far as the quarterback room itself, it’s got to be a supportive group. You’re working together.”
Outten went on to talk about how quarterbacks he worked with in the past like Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers all held each other and the other quarterbacks in the room accountable.
“It was also a collaborative situation where they would shoot ideas off each other. I think that’s really important. It’s not just, this guy’s getting more reps than I am, so I’m just going to pout and do this. It should be: how can we make each other better? Having competitions within practice. They’ll take five minutes and throw a ball in a net 50 yards away. Keeping it competitive and having one up on each other, that’s the fun part of being in any room. It’s the competitive nature, while still being able to work together for the common good of the team, which is exciting.
The question was about Drew Lock, but Outten spent a lot of time talking about accountability and working together as one in the quarterback room regardless of who is getting reps and such. I found that interesting, especially after a recent report from Ryan Koenigsberg of DNVR that Lock become a bit disengaged after losing the quarterback competition with Teddy Bridgewater last season.
“As far as [QB] Drew [Lock], he’s got a powerful arm. He’s done a really good job as far as using his legs and being an athlete. As far as that, I want to see how he fits in the system a little bit more once he gets the playbook under him, and then we’ll go from there.”
Instead, Outten focused on Lock’s arm talent and athletic ability. Those are positives we’ve all seen, but his comments were mostly non-committal until he sees what Lock can do with the playbook and on the field. It wasn’t an outright rejection and the door is seemingly left wide open for Lock if he can take advantage of it this offseason.
You can watch the full interview of the new Broncos’ coordinators here. What were your biggest takeaways and thoughts on these new hires? Let us know in the comments section below.