Good morning, Broncos Country!
So now that we're basking at 3-0, it's time to get serious.
What are we going to do about this run game?
In total rushing offense, the Broncos rank 31. Ironically, only the Detroit Lions are worse. The Broncos have 171 rushing yards in three games, an average of 57 yards running the ball each contest. And if that isn't pathetic enough, the average per carry is 2.6 yards.
Football Outsiders' Scott Kacsmar pointed out the Broncos will be 3-0, throwing it 40+ times and rushing for less than 70 yards every game. "No team has even four wins in a season doing that," Kacsmar reported.
So what the 40/70 stat shows is the "protect PM's arm with a running game" is a massive failure, but it is Week 3.— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) September 28, 2015
For some more perspective, Minnesota Vikings running phenom Adrian Peterson averages 97 yards a game with a 4.9 average per carry. That is almost twice as much as many yards as our entire team when running the ball.
In fact there are at least 20 running backs in the NFL who average more yards per game than our combined depth chart of backs has put together.
And as much as we'd like to blame our poor rushing attack on the opposing defenses faced so far, that argument doesn't work too well when those defenses aren't all that highly ranked against the run - Ravens (25th); Chiefs (27th); Lions (12th).
And bad news on the horizon - Vikings come in with the highest run defense the Broncos will have faced so far (9th).
But I'm not one to let stats tell the whole story, nor do I think this spells doom for the Broncos.
But it should be - as it seems to be - a point of major emphasis in the near term if Gary Kubiak and the Broncos are going to save Peyton Manning's arm by including a ground game that can move the chains.
"We're just struggling to run the ball, space-wise," Kubiak said on Monday, noting that the Broncos offense has been using a lot of one-back formations. "We have to look at that and find them some space. I think that we can run better a lot of times, so I think that it's a combination of everybody, but we just need to keep battling through it."
Rookie left tackle Ty Sambrailo told 9News' Mike Klis that the run game starts up front, and he takes responsibility for some of its sputtering.
"I think that comes with time,'' Sambrailo said, adding that the zone scheme is tough to pick up and run with. "I think as the season goes on, we'll continue to get challenged and we'll get better working on our double teams and whatnot and keep working towards getting more efficient in our run game."
Last week C.J. Anderson refused to let the linemen take all the blame for the lack of a Broncos running attack.
"You have to blame yourself," he said. "I won't put anything on those big boys [offensive line]. It's on me. Even if things are not looking clean, I believe that I'm the type of player that can make plays. That's just something that I haven't been doing the last two weeks."
Staying healthy is a big part of that, Kubiak added. Anderson spent some time out with a toe injury, and then Sunday he went out for the second quarter to undergo the concussion protocol. Juwan Thompson left the game with a neck injury, so Ronnie Hillman ran the show all by himself. Anderson did come back in the game but still didn't get much going.
"We have to keep C.J. on the field," Kubiak said, pointing out that there is not one single factor that would improve the running game. "I can't say that it's just one thing and we'll go out there and rush for 250 yards. I think we have to keep pounding and get better at a lot of things."
I have one idea that might be worth considering - let defensive line coach Bill Kollar coach the running backs and/or offensive line for a week. I'm not even kidding (OK, I am, but it would be interesting to say the least). The rave reviews of that guy (who, I will remind you, wrestled a bear - are enough to convince me he could coach any group and get the best out of them). I mean, if you are running from a bear, you will find an open lane.
Malik Jackson knows what I'm talking about. He credits Kollar with a lot of improvement on his game in the pass rush department.
"He's very cerebral," Jackson said of Kollar, adding that the d-line coach really focuses on the pass rush and they work it a lot. "I think that's really helped my game to really be detailed, everything from getting off the ball to the hands and where they are. I think that's where he's really helped me out ... being the intense guy that defensive linemen should be and just helping us feed off of that."
Intensity would be a good start for the running game too. Excuse me while I go call Kubiak real quick.
More than 40% of the Broncos' points this year have come as a result of their 10 takeaways (31 pts off takeaways). pic.twitter.com/0zPJaPX2lW— Patrick Smyth (@psmyth12) September 28, 2015
I'll withhold any judgment until Kubiak has had time to work on the solution - which I have every reason to believe he will. So in the meantime, I will revel in the glory that is our defense.
"[The defense] has a special thing about it when it gets its hands on the football, which it does a great deal. It makes big plays," Kubiak said, singling out Chris Harris Jr's attempt to run back a blocked PAT. "We have those types of athletes and those types of athletes rushing the passer. Let's keep it going. It's been special for three weeks."
Let's make it four.
Or heck - 19 is a good number.
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