Oct 12, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (23) runs against the New York Jets during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Broncos took a step in the right direction.
With the Broncos running game and the play of the offensive line, there is no way to know for sure. Even Miley Cyrus doesn’t have as much drama as Denver’s offensive line. One second those five guys are like a wrecking ball and the next it’s as if they’re playing blind.
Still, the Broncos did have a 100-yard rusher against the New York Jets, and given how the first three games of the season went, that’s remarkable.
Anyone who says they knew Ronnie Hillman would become the first Denver back to rush for 100 yards is a liar. Hillman can say he wanted it, but there’s no way he thought he would be the first, either.
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The same question has hounded this team since the season started: What now? Does this aspect of the offense continue to improve? Or does it make Broncos Country plug their noses and make its eyes water because the stench is so rank?
For as important as the Broncos have repeatedly said the rushing game is to this offense, it still looks as if they never practice it. The linemen don’t know who to block, if they block at all. Here’s looking at you, Manny Ramirez.
I have said since June that Ramirez would haunt this team. He’s a terrible player and the experiment needs to end. Pro Football Focus graded Ramirez at minus-5.9. How did he score that high?
Denver needs to put someone else at center.
The failed argument is: “Well, Peyton Manning has communication and a special bond with Ramirez.”
How has that worked out, since seemingly every game, there’s a botched snap? Some communication those two have.
Oct 12, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) yells at the line of scrimmage against the New York Jets during the second quarter of their NFL football game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
The effectiveness of a team’s running game starts and ends with the center. If a team’s center is consistently blown up and he can’t block the stairs from a toddler, he needs to find the bench.
Another aspect that would help this team is to have people on the sidelines who understand situational football.
One instance comes to mind in the Jets game. On third-and-one with the chance to eat more clock, everyone in Metlife Stadium knows the Broncos will run it. It would be a perfect chance to utilize your big, physical back to pick up that one yard and take valuable time off the clock. Juwan Thompson has proven repeatedly that when he gets an initial hit, he breaks the tackle and moves forward.
With the First Pick
Using Thompson on that play made too much sense, so obviously John Fox and Adam Gase called for their lightest back. “Let’s catch them off guard, even though our offensive line has been getting blown up most of the game.”
Still, Denver found a way to get a 100-yard rusher.
The task now is to build upon it.
As the old adage goes, it can’t get much worse. And despite the awful play of the offensive line, the Broncos compiled over 350 yards of total offense.
It won’t get any easier with one of the most physical defenses and teams in the NFL set for action on Sunday night. The San Francisco 49ers will beat teams into submission. If the Denver line plays as it did against the Jets, it could be in for a long night. And since the NFL is a copycat league, you can go-all in that the 49ers will use a similar plan to attack Manning and the Broncos offense as Rex Ryan and New York used.
The good news is Denver’s rushing game took a step in the right direction.
The question now is will it take a few more forward, or will it go backward?
Oct 12, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) in the huddle during the third quarter against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports