Orton is on pace to break Marino's single season passing mark, will he make it?
Five games into the 2010 NFL season is a bit early to make judgments about what will happen the remainder of the year, but one thing is for sure: Kyle Orton is off to a good start. The Broncos QB is currently second in the NFL in passing yardage five games into the year. He has put up astronomical numbers so far in his second season as a Bronco and doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon. Many QBs have had great starts to the season (including Phillip Rivers this year), but it takes a special set of circumstances for a QB to make it last throughout the year and take down Marino's longstanding record. Here are 10 reasons why Kyle Orton will surpass Dan Marino's mark of 5,084 yards set in 1984.
It will be hard for Orton to keep up the pace he is on, but this quick start gives him some room to make a mistake or two.
Records have to start somewhere and for Orton to even be in contention for breaking Marino's record he had to get out to a fast start. Well he has. Kyle Orton has totaled 1,733 yards through five games so far this season. He is currently on pace to throw for over 5,500 yards. To put that into perspective, that would break Dan Marino's single season passing record by almost 500 yards. Granted, Orton will most certainly have a game or two where he does not perform as well, but this early start gives Orton some leeway for which he can afford to have a lackluster performance or two throughout the year.
Josh McDaniels coordinated Tom Brady's record setting year in 2007, can he do the same for Orton?
Denver coach Josh McDaniels is no stranger to prolific passing offenses. McDaniels was offensive coordinator in New England when Tom Brady and the Patriot offense set numerous offensive records. Tom Brady had his best season of his career under McDaniels as the Patriots finished the regular season 16-0 and Brady set a record for passing TD's (50) and had the 4th highest All-time yardage total (4,806 yards). McDaniels knows how to orchestrate an efficient passing offense, as we have continued to see this year in Denver as he has his QB on track to smash Marino's 26 year old mark.
McDaniels runs a pass happy style of offense that often substitute short, high percentage passes for running plays. Essentially, the Broncos will often choose a shallow cross, quick hitch, or screen over a more traditional running play. This philosophy will help pad Orton's stats, as he will be receiving some of the yardage that (in other systems) would normally go to the runningback. This offense also utilize the runningback as an added reciever, utilize them in the passing game using screens and short underneath routes where they can get into space and make plays. These plays count toward the runningbacks' yardage total, but also count as passing yards even though the passes are short.
Orton has shown that he can put his pride to the side and might the right choices for the team.
Five games into the season and Kyle Orton has only thrown 3 interceptions. Meanwhile, he has thrown 8 touchdown passes. Orton has shown improved decision making, which will help keep him on the field to continue to pile up monstrous passing numbers. Let's face it, its impossible to get passing yards when you're sitting on the bench. By keeping the ball in Denver's possession, Orton has been able to give himself and the offense more time and more opportunities to succeed on offense. Orton showed improvement in his interception total last year as well, making good choices to throw the ball away instead of forcing a throw or getting sacked. By making good decisions in bad situations, Orton will give himself a better chance at besting the single season passing record.
Denver's offensive line has done a poor job run blocking, but has given Orton the time he needs
The Denver Broncos have a very young offensive line and many point to this as the main reason the Broncos have not been able to get a running game going. This offensive line does seem a little inept when it comes to run blocking, but when it comes to pass blocking this team has gotten the job done. True, this young offensive line has already given up its fair share of sacks, but they have also provider their quarterback with ample time to throw the ball. Time and time again. Anchored by LT Ryan Clady, this Denver offensive line has shown a prowess for giving Kyle Orton plenty of time to find an open receiver. The runningbacks have also done their part picking up blitzes and providing additional blocking. While we can't expect this offensive line to suddenly learn how to run block effectively, we also can't assume they will suddenly forget how to pass block. With rookie J.D. Walton starting at center, rookie Zane Beadles seeing time at tackle, and veteran tackles Clady and Ryan Harris, this line should only get better as the season progress. If they can continue protecting Orton, we could see Marino's record fall.
The Broncos have faced some stiff competition thus far, luckily for Orton teams like Arizona, St. Louis, and Houston are still to come.
Denver has already faced some stiff competition so far this season. The Indianapolis Colts, the Tennessee Titans, and the Baltimore Ravens are all among the league's top teams. Denver still faces some challenges on its schedule (Jets next week, Chargers twice), but they will also get some breaks in terms of the quality of defenses it will face. Kyle Orton was able to put up big numbers against the league's top rated pass defense (going into the game) in the Ravens, as well as traditional defensive power Tennessee. Naturally, due to the big games Orton has put up against the teams Denver has faced thus far, these teams do not rank very high in terms of passing defense (with the exception of the Ravens). Denver still has teams like Arizona, St. Louis, and Houston on their schedule, all teams that are already giving up a ton of passing yards. Expect Orton's numbers to have a slight drop off against good defensive teams like the Jets and Chargers, but expect him to regain those lost yards against poor defensive teams like the Cardinals, Rams and Texans.
Kyle Orton's play action has been a great tool for Denver's offense.
Usually, you need an effective running game in order to run the play action pass. Not in Denver's case. Kyle Orton is an incredibly effective play action passing quarterback because he has the ability to fool defenses even though the Broncos have had little success running the ball. Orton's play action is incredibly deceiving and has been a very valuable tool in setting up advantageous passing situations. Most would assume that Denver would struggle with the play action pass, since they have been so incredibly anemic with their ground game. Quite the opposite however. Thanks to Orton's great play action motion, Denver has been able to keep the play action as a powerful tool in their offensive arsenal. This will be a valuable in keeping Orton's passing yards high from week to week.
Eddie Royal and Jabar Gaffney have been great options for Orton so far this season.
The real star of Denver's receiving corps has been Brandon Lloyd, but we will talk about him later. Coming into the 2010 season the Broncos had a big question mark at WR, who would fill Brandon Marshall's shoes? Well, its been a team effort. Eddie Royal has had a bit of a resurgence after a disappointing sophomore year. Jabar Gaffney has been an incredibly reliable underneath option. Daniel Graham has been his usual reliable self. Not to mention rookie Demaryius Thomas, who has shown flashes of brilliance. Denver's wide receivers have been picking up the slack left by Marshall. It is always somebody different stepping up each game, as Denver's receiving corps continues to show its depth. This group of WRs will be an integral part of Orton's season and it is comforting to know that he has multiple, reliable options.
Orton's ability to avoid the rush will aid in his quest for Marino's record.
No one will ever confuse Kyle Orton with Michael Vick, or Donovan McNabb. Orton is not a mobile QB, but he does have a keen awareness of the pocket and where he needs to move at what time. We have seen this skill on display numerous times throughout the 2010 season. Orton has great feel for the pocket and is able to slide away from pressure, giving himself more time and opportunities to find a receiver down field. Kyle Orton has the sense to feel where the rush is coming from, and just enough athletic ability to avoid it in most cases. This has already helped tremendously, and will continue to add more completions and more yards to Orton's stats.
Brandon Lloyd has been a solid deep threat for Kyle Orton, helping pad his passing stats.
Kyle Orton's surprise year has not so coincidentally coincided with another break out year from Brandon Lloyd. The Broncos wide receiver has been Orton's most consistent target, already hauling in 30 catches and 589 yards. Lloyd has been consistent on his underneath routes and has a knack for finding the ball when its in the air, but Lloyd is more than just consistent. Five games into the year, Brandon Lloyd has been deadly. Lloyd is averaging 19.6 yards per catch and his three TDs have come on passes of 61, 44, and 42 yards. The Broncos have found themselves a true deep threat in the passing game. Not to mention, Orton and Lloyd seem to be on the same page so far this season. With Brandon Lloyd providing deep passing opportunities as well as consistent short routes, Orton will be able to continue putting up big numbers in the passing game.
Without a sufficient running game, Denver will have to rely on Orton all year long.
While Kyle Orton has been putting up huge passing numbers, the Denver running game has been doing the exact opposite. Denver is currently averaging around 2 yards per carry, they have yet to top 100 yards in a game, and they have had three games with under 40 yards on the ground. This absence of a ground game has put more pressure on Orton to perform, and he has done just that so far this season. Not only does it bring more pressure, but it brings more opportunity to throw the ball. Orton is currently second in the league in passing attempts. This seems to be a trend that will continue throughout the season, as Denver has done little to improve their running game. In fact, Denver has begun using more short passes and screens to help supplement their ineffective running game.
The lack of ability to run the ball has already led to huge passing numbers for Kyle Orton. There is no indication five games into the year that this anything will be changing as the season progresses. I do not expect the Broncos to completely give up on the run, but I do expect them to find more clever ways to utilize the short passing game instead of the running game. Look out for more bubble screens, runningback screens, short slant passes, and passes into the flat. I expect Orton's numbers to get even stronger as the season progresses, Denver as a team gets healthier, and the Broncos fully embrace the team that they are, a mostly pass oriented team.