Broncos Training Camp 2009: Shock to the System

Chaz MattsonAnalyst IJuly 30, 2009

Pump up the volume!  Pump up the volume!


The shock to the Denver Broncos 2009 system is about to be put to the test. 


So why not pump up the volume!  Pump up the volume!


But be prepared for a shock to the system!


There are some truths in life that can shock people once they find them out to be true.  The truth is truth itself can be hard to find.  Truth in life can seem to be a moving target to the casual observer.  It takes time and effort to realize success in order to be able to answer a myriad of unanswered questions that come to mind.


And so it is at Broncos Camp 2009 in the daily soap opera, As Dove Valley Turns.


Tomorrow, training camp starts and with it the 2009 season.  On the horizon is the truth.  Some of it may be in view, some of it not.  Some of it may take a couple of years to answer and know for sure.  Its possible there might be a question or two that would take light years to answer, but they are way out there anyway.


With a jumpstart to the vehicle and a shock to the system, here it goes.


As for the questions, here are a few of them coming into view.


Did the Broncos need a new coach?


Did it have to be Josh McDaniels?


Will the young Coach McD succeed?


Will Kyle Orton become a master at the helm of Coach McDaniels system?


Will the Broncos produce points on offense as they appear somewhat poised to compete for every yard?


Will the Broncos defense rise up and be much better than the 2008 team?


If Coach McD fails, was this offseason all part of another Patriots scandal of league tampering and a conspiracy from the start?


Finally coming into range is an opinion that speaks of the disarray incurred in the 2009 offseason.  Just like a rally cheer at a high school basketball game.


Nuts and Bolts!  Nuts and Bolts!  We got a new system!  


Forgive the off-season cynicism, even the least seasoned fans among them knows it’s a well deserved jibe. 


Take it to the limit, here it goes, these are some of the intricacies to look for inside of the 2009 Denver Broncos uncertain outlook on the field.



Offensive System Overhaul


First, foremost, and most obviously to the fans this season is this one single point.  The new head coach is running the offense in conjunction with his assistants.  The fact of the matter is that Josh McDaniels was hired in large part because of his knowledge of offensive football.  It is his personal slant on how the Patriot Way would go about creating successful mismatches on offense the better part of the last decade.  This makes accountability clear this season, quite unlike any other. 


As the Broncos succeed on offense, give Josh all of the credit in the world as the run game gets going.  As the receivers hook up with Kyle Orton; give him all the credit.  Give Josh credit for being the student, the new master, and the new guru implementer.  As the Broncos surprise teams, give him all the credit as he will deserve it following this past off season.


In the same breath, if the Broncos fail to move the ball effectively, score points, and can’t improve on defense.  Hold Coach McDaniels accountable.


That is exactly what makes this season intriguing.  There is a young guy trying to get a few NFL vets and a number of young players to be disciples to his belief in his ability.  Josh McDaniels has provided the rallying cry himself.  This season is for all the old dog disbelievers out there.


You will either love this team or hate them.


How quickly this team can gel will ultimately tell the tale.


Technically speaking the ground game makes the Broncos poised to become a much more physical team upfront.  The Broncos will run the ball more in the vein of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots.  They will run out of a myriad of formations.  Some have said this approach resembles as many as six different offensive systems.


Certainly as a fan there will be the shotgun, the spread, the solo back power sets, I formations, power run game, and package sets to better enhance the run or pass game depending on the situation. 


McDaniels has pushed the New England system as being a very cerebral one.  There is a lot of quick decision making the quarterback, receivers, offensive line, and even running backs will be responsible for. 


In general it’s easy to say the offense is predicated on a number of factors such as   game situations, package selection, personnel, and defensive alignment at the line of scrimmage.  The offense has an audible component which allows package, route, and run game adjustments to the defensive front.  In essence, the philosophy of this sort of offense is simply this:  Whatever the defense does or sets up in, they are wrong.


So how exactly does this work?


Just as an example.  At the line of scrimmage say Kyle Orton and Eddie Royal are set to create a mismatch.  They come out of the huddle with a play called.  Depending on how the defense is set up on that side of the field (strong / weak) a read is made on the Safety, Corner, and / or Linebacker by Orton and Royal.  At that point a signal can be communicated on switching a route from a slant to a cross or hitch and go for instance. 


The ideology is to work to find the most space available or greatest mismatch available and utilize that against the defense.


Offensively receivers will become floaters.  This means they may line up inside, outside, stack, or use the bunch formation (three receiver’s line-up tightly together at the line of scrimmage).  All in the name of creating the mismatch.  This offense is keyed on seeking the mismatch out and exploiting it.


Broncos fans will remember how Eddie Royal made his debut last season at the Oakland Raiders.  He was the primary receiver that game, it was predicated on the concept that DeAngelo Hall and the Raiders defense was wrong no matter what they do.


Now imagine more receivers with similar quickness and skill to find space and create mismatches.  Football fans may remember the old run and shoot offense.  An offensive system developed on quick hitches, sprint passes, 5-10 yard outs.  The Patriot system is similar in that the pass game was the run game.  The way the Broncos are projected to use the run game is as a more physical presence which should allow them a greater opportunity to control the ball and the clock.


The benefit of the system is obvious, it’s about game management and keeping the team in each and every game they are in.  The pitfall of the system is that it’s predicated on the pass game first.  Some teams can live with the consequences other teams cannot.  However, the fact that the New England Patriots who play in one of the coldest, most humid environments in sports is substance enough to say this system can be run anywhere.

The Broncos will have opportunities the Patriots may not have in this similar position, that coming from the extended knowledge of the zone run game.  For running backs like Knowshon Moreno he poses the threat of a shifty run game within the context of a more physical run game.


It’s opportunities like having Moreno run successfully out of a variety of sets which makes defenses more accountable going into a game.  In essence, there is a volume of information teams have to prepare for.  Some of this can be formation sets, techniques of the offensive line, situational information and the like.


The pitfall can come when the other teams’ coaches are able to successfully prepare defensively for such a versatile attack.  Coaches have to have the foresight and knowledge to anticipate situational matchups and have their teams in the right sets.

Coaches can decipher some of the oppositional attack plans through personnel sets and prior situational calls, so it’s import to disguise the game plan as much as possible since there is so much film available on these sorts of offensive attacks.


Projecting this offense is hard to gauge at this time, however on the whole it appears the Broncos offense may struggle early but should be strong near season’s end.  There is a great deal of young talent on both sides of the ball.  Offensively success is predicated on practice and repetition in systems such as Coach McDaniels version of the New England offense.


Defensively Overcoming a System in the Ground


The greatest change in the off-season has been the change in defensive personnel and with it, a new defensive scheme. 


The overall philosophy of a 3-4 vs. a 4-3 defense is the current enigmatic question. 


Can the 3-4 help the Broncos become more competitive on the defensive side of the ball?  Can the defense keep them in games?


In essence 4-3 teams try to physically beat the other teams up front along the line of scrimmage.  This works to first shutdown the run game then apply pressure to the pass game.


Conversely 3-4 teams are free and flexible to make appropriate adjustments across the line of scrimmage; this is due to greater team speed and versatility of talent on the field.  So if a team were too audible from a run set into a spread, the 3-4 much more adequately allows for the proper adjustments to be made.  This is due to having an extra linebacker who can cover short flat routes and space.


Keep in mind the talent the Broncos have had on board of late.  It has been undersized, but quick.


So how does this suit the 3-4 the Broncos plan to implement?


The overall philosophy upfront defensively against the run game and screens is one of having coverage sideline to sideline.  It’s a full system integration predicated on overall defensive team speed to go from ground zero to the coverage area where the play ends as soon as possible.


Much has been made this off season about the Broncos acquiring more team speed defensively with better tacklers as well.


Brian Dawkins has publicly stated that defensively it’s about getting repetitions.  These reps help the defensive communication for each new wrinkle the offense might throw its’ way.  The knowledge of where the current defensive alignment is strongest is manifest in each players overall knowledge of their personal assignments and how they fit within the overall scheme.  This boils down to a firm grasp of the gap responsibilities and anticipated special assignments of each player.


How quickly the Broncos defensive personnel are able to use make-up speed to close a gap to shut down a plays will dictate much of this season.


The thing that made the Broncos 3-4 defense of the late 70’s to be as affective, and later known as the Orange Crush defense, was that each player knew their responsibilities.  This led to the intangible quality of anticipation.  Anticipation creates turnovers and opportunities for defenses to snuff out plays and shut them down early.


For the Broncos, they have improved in the defensive backfield.  Give them a letter grade of a “B” to start the season.  At linebacker they have talent, there is very little question about that.  How well they develop will dictate the impact on the defense.  Former Orange Crush Bronco Tom Jackson had a similar frame to Elvis Dumervil, while Robert Ayers and Jarvis Moss are physically gifted enough to cause havoc on the other outside position. 


Can DJ Williams hang at the middle weak side backer position?  That is a very big question that will need some answering.  DJ has been impressive on the outside in the past, but flounder in the middle as the only MLB in a 4-3 scheme.   DJ is somewhat protected now and could become a hunter much in the way Ray Lewis has built his career with his speed and tenacity in the middle.


Along the defensive line, there is not a lot that impresses immediately based up the past 4-3 scheme.  However, due to the overall team speed, this could free the defensive line to make a statement that they could be back on track.  They will have to focus on technique and utilize the players behind them to create the team chemistry that is needed.  Regardless it all still starts up front and no other group in Denver has more to prove than the defensive line this season.  With that anticipate the defense of the Broncos to be much improved and help keep them in games this season.


On the whole, questions will be answered and inevitably cause a new generation of Q and A to go along with it. 


The season is upon us.  The shock of this new found system of Coach McDs is here.


Turn on the tube.


Pump up the volume!  Pump up the volume!


Just be ready for a shock to the system because the football season is here!


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