Broncos vs. Jets: 4 Key Matchups for Denver's Option Offense
The Denver Broncos have a lot to prove on Thursday Night Football when the New York jets come to town.
They need to make a bid for their division and prove to the critics that they can be a force in the AFC West.
What's more pressing is proving not only to the world, but to themselves that their newly incorporated option offense can continue to be effective in the NFL.
What better way to prove the potency of the spread offense than against the eighth-ranked defense in the league in total yards per game?
In an interview with NFL.com's Jeff Darlington on Tuesday, John Fox went through tape after tape of game film from the Broncos' most recent win, and broke down some of the improvements that need to take place this week.
Here are four key matchups to watch in the Broncos' option offense on Thursday as they do their best to prove their critics wrong and score another win.
The Third Runner vs. Whoever Is on Him
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It will be very interesting to see if the Broncos will bring out the triple option again this week.
During the game against the Chiefs in Week 10, the Broncos ran the triple option only twice. And that's all they needed to do.
Showcased as the third runner in the triple option was wide receiver Eddie Royal.
If the Broncos do decide to bring it out again on Thursday, it will be up to the defense of the Jets to account for not only the primary back, and not only Tim Tebow, but whoever fills the spot as the third runner—if it wasn't hard enough to cover for the explosive running of Willis McGahee or Lance Ball and that of Tebow already.
The End Blockers vs. the Jets' Defensive Line
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When the option does come out to play, there are some very key positions that need to come up big and make adjustments.
Tebow already knows what he is doing when they call his number to run. The men who need training are the other 10 on the field who haven't been running this spread offense their whole careers.
Fox pointed out some players specifically, while going over his "dive option" play against Kansas City.
See the tight end? He's got to be flatter in arc. That'll suck the support guy up. See how he's steep? He needs to be more down the line so Timmy can be more downhill at the end. We've got to get better at that.
See the right tackle? He needs to come up and block the backside backer, who gets in on the play. Timmy is fine. He's done this his whole life. It's the rest of the guys that are learning it. We just put this in two weeks ago.
The support blockers need to make some serious strides this week in order to give this offense its best shot.
When Tebow ran this offense so successfully in college, he was lucky enough to have one of the best teams ever assembled running it with him.
With Denver, the effort is turning what is merely an average offensive line into an effective working unit in an offense that's rarely seen at this level.
Wide Receivers vs. Jets Corners
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Denver only attempted eight passes during its win over Kansas City.
ESPN's SportsNation viewers on Wednesday voted 63 percent in favor of the idea that Denver will need to pass more to be effective against the Jets defense.
Whether this holds true or not is yet to be seen.
Frankly, passing against the likes of Darrelle Revis is not something I'm looking forward to seeing Tebow attempt on Thursday.
But nevertheless, the pass will need to have some sort of an effect on the game, just as Denver displayed when Tebow passed to Eric Decker on a 56-yard bomb to end the game in Week 10.
The key will be to put Revis and his fellow secondary defenders to sleep.
If the wide receivers stay consistent with their routes for the entirety of the game—when they're called upon to do so—Revis will have a tougher time figuring out when Tebow plans to pass.
If there's no difference between the evolution of the receiver's routes during an option run play and a passing play, the offense will be successful in not only drawing the back four away from the play, but also confusing the secondary when it is time to go for the long ball.
And with no star wide receiver remaining on Denver's roster for Revis to hawk all night, it should be much easier for Denver to pass away from him altogether.
Tim Tebow vs. the World
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The most critical factor in the continuing success of Denver's option will be the main man himself, Tim Tebow.
If the Broncos plan on running the ball another 55 times in Week 11, Tebow will need to do everything in his power to sell the defense into something else.
The first part of establishing this run-heavy offense again will need to be an early look at the pass.
If Tebow can make use of his tight-ends and backs in a short passing game, or even open the throttle early with the deep-game to Decker or Demaryius Thomas, he'll open up a world of possibilities with the option and play-action.
The passing game was basically useless for Denver in the last two weeks until Tebow's final completion last week, but the fact that they were still willing to throw the ball kept the defenses honest and kept the run-game moving.
Creative play-calling by offensive coordinator Mike McCoy will aid Tebow in this respect.
If Denver can succeed in its improvements on this short week and utilize each of their weapons in this deceptive "gimmick" offense, they should be able to secure a third straight win and keep the critics at bay—for at least another week.