What changes might Denver make to jumpstart its offense?


Denver Post Broncos writer Parker Gabriel posts his Broncos Mailbag weekly during the season. Submit questions to Parker here.

Parker, welcome to the Broncos Mailbag! Is it the chicken or the egg? Are the offense’s issues more on Nathaniel Hackett or Russell Wilson? With all the injuries does Denver even have a chance to compete for a playoff spot?

Brandon Brown, Rogers, Minn.

Hey Brandon, thanks for the welcome!

At this point I think it’s safe to say there’s enough blame to go around. It’s never just one thing. Some of it, and I know fans don’t want to hear this and there’s not a ton of patience in the NFL, is just the natural learning curve. I don’t think anybody was saying they’d come out firing on all cylinders. However, there’s a lot of room between firing on all cylinders and 15 points per game.

Nathaniel Hackett has said all along they’re trying to do what Wilson is comfortable with. Perhaps that is making it difficult for the head coach to get into a play-calling rhythm. Wilson doesn’t look particularly comfortable a good chunk of the time, and some of that might be just getting used to putting new concepts, schemes and progressions in against professional defenses for the first time.

Some way, somehow, they’ve got to get more on the same page and find more flow. But then the next layer is, when it does come together, guys have to catch the ball consistently. And when Wilson is going to take deep drops, the line has to protect. And the Broncos have to run the ball efficiently in order to make the play-pass and boot action that this system is built on work and keep defenses honest.

The bottom line is this: The clean-up list is long at this point. It’s likely not going to happen all at once. Denver can keep itself in the playoff picture, but the improvements have to start now and steadily continue.

How could this have happened? Mortgage our future for a has-been, maybe even a never was, phony Russell Wilson? Not to mention hiring a coach with literally no resume. I was raised to be a Broncos fan. What I have seen is a QB that is so fake. No passion. No drive. I want answers. I want action. I want wins.

Sam Huffman, Greenville, S.C.

Hey Sam, frustration from fans is entirely understandable. You’ll remember, perhaps, that the Broncos went 4-6 in Elway’s starts his first year, had a 5-11 season in 1990 and in the two years before 1996 went 15-15 total in his starts. They started 2-3 under Peyton Manning, too.

Every situation is different and the start of Wilson’s tenure here has been rocky, no doubt. Wilson has a Super Bowl title and his numbers, virtually across the board, stack up with some of the best in the game over his first decade in the NFL, so “never been” doesn’t hold water. Where is he at in the arc of his career? Certainly right now he’s not playing well. In terms of figuring out if he’s truly physically diminished, struggling to pick up a new system, interested in reinventing himself as a player to excel until he’s in his 40s, as he’s stated is his goal… all of that is going to take more than five games to sort out.

As for Hackett, he’s got a lot to prove. Unlike Wilson, he doesn’t have an overwhelmingly successful track record in his current position to lean on. The NFL is an adapt-or-die league. He and his mostly young coaching staff have to figure out how to adapt on the fly. He made one change by adding Jerry Rosburg and the game management has felt smoother, if not perfect, in the three weeks since. But smoothly managing games in which the offense averages 15 points is not a recipe for success. There’s a lot of work to be done, quickly.


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