Through the first four weeks of the NFL season, the Denver Broncos are a perfect 4 – 0 and as much as you want to say it is all because of Peyton Manning, you would not be totally correct. I am not trying to minimize what Manning has done since coming over from the Colts before last season, I am only trying to point out that he has an outstanding group of offensive players to work with and some veterans on defense, that have more than done their part as well to get this season started off in the right direction.
In studying this Broncos offense, it does start with Peyton Manning and his ability to not only put his team in the best possible play but to execute it as well. Where the Broncos hurt you the most on offense, is how they execute these plays. Sure there are different formations and packages but when you really break it down, the ball is out of Manning’s hand quickly to a receiver that is generally on the move.
It’s rare that you see Manning holding the ball which puts tremendous pressure on not only your rush but the secondary as well. It is a complete group of offensive skill players because they can all do different tasks well. Demaryius Thomas is a big time talent at wide receiver but you see him running quick screens in space. Thomas has a skill set that allows him to do little receiver traits in a large body. Eric Decker in scouting terms “Can’t run out of sight” but there you see him running the routes that Thomas should be vertically down the field. Decker is one of the best bad ball catchers that I have ever seen. It is incredible the type of plays that he makes throughout a game. There is a complete trust by Manning in getting him the ball in any situation and usually with favorable results.
In the offseason, John Elway added Wes Welker to his team, who during his career has been one of the greatest mismatch players to ever play in this league. What is interesting about Welker, is that he is just not an underneath player. There are plenty of snaps where you see him working open down the field beating coverage. He has always been a difficult player to have to defend not so much for his hands or quickness but the way he plays the game with his head. This stems all the way back to his college days at Texas Tech, in the way he thinks getting around the field. There is none better when it comes to setting up routes with movement.
Julius Thomas is a tight end that shows up on tape not so much as a blocker, which he is not terrible at but his ability to work underneath or down the field. I would not put him the class of what the Cowboys faced last week in Antonio Gates because I have seen Thomas be covered by linebackers with success. There is an ease of movement to his game and his hands are dependable. Large target that can be difficult to bring down with the ball in his hands.
The Broncos offensive line has lost two very talented players in Ryan Claddy and Dan Koppen. Claddy suffered a Lisfranc Injury during a game against the Giants earlier in the season and Koppen was lost in training camp after tearing his ACL during a practice. Claddy is one of those tackles that can be considered “Elite” and he will be missed. In his place, Chris Clark has taken his spot and in the games I was able to study, he has held up well. There are times where he plays a little slow footed but overall, not bad.
Koppen has been replaced at center by Manny Ramirez, who is a guard by trade but has played seven seasons in this league. Ramirez is not the most athletic center but where he makes due is his ability to play with power. He is a difficult player to knock back. He loves when he can face rushers down the middle instead of those that play with movement. Zane Beadles and Louis Vasquez are veteran guards that will pull in the running game. The player on this line that I like is Orlando Franklin at right tackle. He is a big man with really nice foot skills. I have seen him in space several times on screens where he was able to locate his target and sustain his block.
This line benefits greatly from the ability of Manning to get rid of the ball quickly. In the Philadelphia game last week, they gave up a sack when Manning held the ball to long and the protection on the inside just broke down. For what the Broncos do scheme wise, running and throwing the ball, they have been dependable.
Knowshon Moreno has been the starter at running back but at any time in a game you will see, Montee Ball, the rookie from Wisconsin and Ronnie Hillman. Moreno has struggled throughout his career dealing with injuries but he looks healthy now and thriving in this offense running the ball generally out of the shot-gun or pistol formation. Ball had a bad fumble going into the end zone against the Giants, but he has also shown the ability to blitz pickup when he is required to.