Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall
Author: Joey Carr
Prior to season’s begin, if I told you that the high and mighty Denver Broncos would have the 26th ranked offense in the NFL, you would’ve more than likely laughed in my face and drafted C.J. Andersen in the first round of your fantasy draft just to spite me. Well, here we are, Week 6 of the NFL season, and the Peyton Manning-led Broncos have one of the most inefficient offensive units in the league. Many predicted a Manning decline was on the horizon, but none could’ve predicted the turmoil the run game is in right now. Their rushing attack has been virtually nonexistent, which ultimately weakens the passing game and explains why their offense has been playing so poorly to start the season. However, even with an average passing attack and porous run game, they’re still undefeated at 5-0. Can their defense keep carrying the offense or will Manning and company start costing their team games? My guess is the latter.
Just two years removed from having one of the more triumphant and brilliant seasons a quarterback has ever had, Peyton Manning is now in the twilight of his career (let the AFC West rejoice). It’s apparent that his arm strength and accuracy just isn’t what it used to be back when he was tossing touchdowns left and right to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne as a Colt. However, to Number 18’s credit, his average skillset is still significantly better than some of the other quarterback’s skills in the NFL today. Still, the fact remains that the Denver offense is sputtering in mediocrity to start off the 2015 campaign and, if not for their formidable defense, they could easily be 2-3 right now. Take last week for example: if Chris Harris didn’t pick off Derek Carr and return it for a touchdown, the Broncos wouldn’t of had the breathing room they did, and the Raiders could’ve definitely won that game on a last minute drive. The Bronco defense has bailed out the Bronco offense more than once this season, and we all know that in the NFL, you need both sides of the ball working together in concert to get to February and win. Just ask the 2011 Patriots.
These offensive problems for Denver can be fixed, however, but it will require vast improvements on the offensive line. The blame for the lackluster running game is being placed all on C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, but in reality it’s not completely their fault; if you watch the tape on any Bronco game, it’s obvious that the running backs have no room to run due to the fact that they are being antagonized by the defensive lineman before they can even maneuver their way to the line of scrimmage. Between the two feature backs, Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson, only Hillman has eclipsed the 100-yard mark, but just once. They’ve only accrued 2 rushing touchdowns on the year, both by Hillman, and have done minimal damage in the passing game. They are being asked to block more to compensate for their trivial production, putting more pressure on Peyton Manning and the passing attack. Simply put, Manning doesn’t need that kind of pressure this late in his career. In order for him to succeed and be more efficient as a passer, he needs his run game to step up, gain some solid chunks of yardage, and chew up some clock. 50 passing attempts isn’t what will propel this Denver team to the Super Bowl, even with a number 1 defense.
To be blunt, if the Broncos offense keeps going the way they’re going, the defense will eventually follow suit, to a point. They won’t completely collapse because they’re simply too talented to not be a top 5 defense. However, they can’t keep winning their team games all by themselves; that’s not what a defense is designed to do. The offense is supposed to put points on the scoreboard and the defense is supposed to stop the other team from scoring. So far, the Broncos game plan has relied on their defense scoring and securing ideal field position for their offense, which can’t last all season. Once they face off against a worthy offense, it will be interesting to see how Denver’s offensive unit responds if they have to put up 34 points to win the game. As of now, however, the Denver Broncos can’t survive without at least a middle of the pack offense.
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