Denver Broncos: 3rd and Uh Oh

Carlos MonagasContributor IIDecember 20, 2009

NFL officials bring out the chains and measure for a first down as the  Chicago Bears host the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois on November 20, 2005.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

If there was one thing sacred in my entire existence, it used to be that the Broncos were absolute money on third and short come Sundays.

Everyone and their mothers knew what would happen in that situation and sure enough the ball was snapped, handed to the RB on a stretch in the now-famous one cut and go style, then poof, like it was magic first and ten. 

Those were the days.

Even last season when the Broncos put every RB in existence on their IR whenever the Broncos needed to convert a crucial 3rd or 4th and short, we did it.  We were not as successful as in the past, but let's be real, last season was the exception, not the rule.

As I watch my team struggle this season with that type of situation I find myself wanting to find one guy I can blame, one person that I can point to and say "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE RUNNING GAME YOU A$$%#@!&", but I can't. 

I'm one of those people who tries to be as honest and real as possible all the time, so in this a moment of weakness, I must stay true to myself.

That said, there is not one person who can be blamed for the Broncos struggles on the ground in short yardage situation this season, they are all to blame.

If you watch the games as closely as I do, you will notice that the Broncos are caught in a classic transition from one system or style of running to another and therefore, they are not performing either the old one or the new one up to par.

When McDaniels got here we all knew he was going to install his offense but never in my wildest dreams did I think he would mess with one of if not the most prolific running scheme for the last decade and a half, call me naive if you want but I just didn't think that would happen.

Like most times when I think such thoughts, the complete opposite happened and McDaniels brought his running-game scheme with him.

While I was surprised, a small part of me kinda expected it and its not like his scheme is horrible, but like the zone blocking scheme, his requires a unique type of offensive lineman, one that we do not have within the organization. 

Its no secret that McDaniels prefers a power scheme with big, bulldozer type of linemen, and the Broncos always prefered the smaller, yet more athletic linemen.

Obviously, this type of linemen are not interchangeable and so that causes a problem.  That is not to say all is lost along the offensive line, we do have a pair of elite tackles in Clady and Harris (when healthy), that can perform both styles and not just do it well, they can be dominant. 

However, the problem lies in the interior of the offensive line, this is where our guards and centers are experiencing the biggest problem with the transition and have been getting dominated.

Kuper, Olsen (R) and Hochstein all have good size and strength, while Hamilton and Wiegmann are both very savvy and athletic, they are undersized and constantly overmatched. 

Both Kuper and Olsen are young players who have shown a lot of promise within the new scheme, they also have the frame to put on more weight if required.

Hamilton and Wiegmann, who have been sharing duties as the main centers for the O-line, are both on the last leg of their careers and with each passing week, this area has become an even bigger area of concern.

Depth along the interior is another issue because behind Kuper and Olsen only Hochstein remains and he is another one that is on the latter part of his career. 

That is not to say that this "grey beards" can't perform they certainly can, but only as stop gaps they are no longer dominant as they once were, especially the centers.

This is not the only issue though, play calling is another area of concern.  If anyone would please explain to me why on God's green earth are we running a two-tight end set on short yardage instead of putting Hillis and Larsen in the backfield and just plowing ahead?

Let's not pull a guard, just put your big boys out there and let them do what they do best, which is maul each other over.

I don't know if its that McDaniels refuses to use a two-back set in that type of situation, but at some point he has got to realize that what he has been doing is not working and he needs to change it up and try something that will get the job done.

Two weeks ago against the Chiefs (yeah I know its the Chiefs), we saw Hillis carry people on his back for five or six yards on almost every play that he was in, while last week against the Colts we struggled to gain a couple of yards on some crucial third and forth downs. 

I can't help but think that maybe, just maybe, if we would've ran Hillis up the middle with Larsen as his lead blocker he might have been able to carry the Colts linebackers and get the yardage needed for a first down. 

Linebackers are quick and athletic but smaller than our 250-pound RB/FB, and let's not forget that Hillis has what you might call deceptive speed.

McDaniels' love affair with the one back set in short yardage is inexplicable given our personnel along the interior line. 

His system is not at fault here; it's his refusal to concede to the fact he simply does not have the right personnel right now to run it that concerns me.

I mentioned above that depth is an issue as well, and that is because no matter how talented and how much promise Kuper and Olsen show, we need to be able to rotate them in and out because they will get tired after a couple of plays. 

Trust me I know, I am a big guy and no matter how much you train and exercise, if your a big person you will lose your breath rather quickly. 

This issue however, is a fairly easy fix, we just need to address it either through FA or the upcoming draft and I am confident that McDaniels will do so.

Also, the issue at center will be addressed through the either medium as well.

As disappointed as I am in this area I must give the devil his due, McDaniels has coached his rear end off this season and has silenced most, if not all of his critics. 

He is an extremely smart and bright coach who's got a very long and bright future ahead of him (hopefully with the Broncos) filled with Super Bowl trophies I'm certain. 

I am also confident that this little issue will be ironed out sometime in the near future and we will once again experience the certainty of the Broncos in a short-yardage situation.

At least we got the Raiders coming into town this Sunday, and just like good chicken soup, the Raiders are always a cure for whatever ails you.



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