Peyton Manning to Broncos: 4 Adjustments Team Will Make to Offensive Scheme
Peyton Manning's decision to join the Broncos means more than a massive upgrade at the quarterback position that should instantly put the Broncos in contention. Never before has there been such a massive change in offensive philosophy in such a short amount of time.
The Broncos still have a lot of work to do if they want to get their offense clicking on all cylinders. Here are four adjustments the Colts will have to make to their offensive scheme in order for that to happen.
More Use of the Tight End
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One of the gaping holes on the Broncos roster is at the tight end position, particularly one of the receiving mold. It seems very likely that the Broncos will look to add Dallas Clark, who is now a free agent after being released by the Colts.
To understand the impact of the tight end in Manning's system, just look at the Colts offense in 2009 when he was fully healthy and in 2010 when there was talk of Manning's fall from grace.
Clark is not much of a blocker. In fact, he is one of the worst in the NFL in that area—but accounting for the tight end can be tricky when deciding whether to use a linebacker or defensive back to cover him.
Unlike Tebow, Manning has the cognitive ability to put Clark in the best position to succeed with the ideal matchup and deliver a perfect strike to take advantage of it.
Fewer Shifts and Motion
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A common misconception about Manning and the Colts "old" offense is that the Colts are always shifting guys around because Manning calls all kinds of audibles at the line.
In reality, when Manning calls an audible, he Colts rarely use any kind of motion to tip off what kind of play they are running. Reggie Wayne was always lined up on the same side of the formation and was rarely moved before the snap.
On the other hand, the Broncos used all kinds of motion and shifts to confuse defenses and get them out of their alignment in order to open up holes in the running game. The Broncos essentially ran an expanded version of the Wildcat offense for a good part of their season, which always uses a motion in the handoff (or fake handoff) to the running back.
More Complicated Route Tree
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The Broncos ran the simplest offense in football in 2011. Not only because it was so run-heavy, but the receivers ran only a handful of routes and the passing concepts were elementary in an effort to make things as simple as possible for Tebow to execute.
With Manning in town, he will expect a level of precision and timing that these young receivers have never been expected to do before.
For example, last year, the Broncos receivers were given a route to run for a specific play, and that was the end of it. No matter what the defense gave them, they were going to run a basic route that Tebow knew was going to be there every time.
With Manning, more onus is going to be on the receiver to recognize the defense and act accordingly. More times than not, Manning is going to know the coverage before the snap—it will be up to the receiver to find the weakness and exploit it, which is something these young receivers have never been asked to do.
Running Game Adjustments
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The Broncos were very much a downhill running attack in 2011, running between the tackles and eating up clock.
With Manning under center, expect the Broncos to utilize a staple of the Colts offense in the 2000's—the Halfback Stretch.
The HB Stretch is an off-tackle run in which the back takes a wide angle to send the play wide. Essentially, it is a toss play without the toss and does not quite start as deep in the backfield; the back takes more of a straight-line angle to the running lane as opposed to a rounded-out, ovular angle to build up speed and explosion.
What the stretch does best is keep defensive lineman moving laterally, which is much more exhausting than just standing up a lineman and tossing him aside to make a tackle. Getting the defense moving and off balance sets them up to make a mistake later on.
This is just one of the many "finesse" elements that will be brought to a team that was known for power.