Broncos Wide Receivers Need To Be More Physical
By Tylor Walden
Oct 18, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
With the Denver Broncos season halfway completed, there is one thing that is certain. The defense of the team has been playing like a remodeled version of the Orange Crush defense.
For the first few weeks into the season, the Broncos offense was not living up to expectation. When the season began, most of the blame was directed towards these four.
Gary Kubiak/Offensive Scheme
With the season now eight games old, it has been clear that these four have improved somewhat. Manning has gotten better in the passing game as Sayre Bedinger stated in his article. Kubiak has adjusted his game plan in order to better suit Manning.
The offensive line has done a solid job as the season has gone forward. In fact, the sack allowed against the Colts was the first sack the opponent has had since Week 5 against the Oakland Raiders. And while the running game still has some kinks left to work out, they have shown improvement in flashes, especially in games between the Browns and Packers.
But what was brought to my attention this week was neither of the four listed above. It was in fact the wide receivers and tight ends. Something is off from this group than in recent past. But what exactly is it that is off?
Nov 1, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos tight end Owen Daniels (81) runs with the ball during the first half against the Green Bay Packers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 29-10. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
What separates the Broncos receiving corps of 2013 than the one in 2015? That group was a lot more physical. You had Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas getting more physical with the guys that were covering them. They were fighting for the yards after they caught the ball.
Emmanuel Sanders and Daniels have replaced Decker and Julius Thomas. It remains to see who could be the replacement for Welker, but perhaps Bennie Fowler could be the player to do so.
Going back to the point at hand. I bring up physicality due to the lack of yards after the catch from the Broncos wide outs this season. Let us compare Demaryius Thomas from 2013 to 2015.
Nov 1, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) runs with the ball against Green Bay Packers cornerback Casey Hayward (29) during the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
In 2013, Thomas recorded 7.8 YAC on average. That is quite impressive for a wide out. But what about 2015? Well, he is recording only 3.8 YAC. That is quite a huge drop off from two years ago. It shows me that Thomas is not making enough plays after the catch and fighting for more yards than he did in 2013.
For Sanders, despite his deep touchdown receptions this season, he has only amassed five YAC. Those are not too bad, but I believe that they could be better.
But there is more to this than the receivers fighting for more yards. And here is where I can turn to Peyton Manning. He is spending too much time throwing the ball seven yards or more down the field when all he really has to do is hit his wide out for about maybe three to five yards and let them fight for the extra yardage.
Here is an example of how important being a physical wide out and obtaining YAC’s is for an offense, as I give credit for this information to Julie Dixon. She was the first person I interviewed for the Broncos Fanzone articles.
In this information, she compares the three key receivers from the New England Patriots to the three key players from the Broncos and their numbers in the receiving game. For Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and Danny Amendola they only average 5.5 yards after the catch. However, the YAC to air numbers are very impressive with an average of 90 percent. Meaning their YAC’s almost equals the air yards that Brady throws.
For the Broncos, the yards after catch have been below average at best and the air numbers are only 72 percent on average. This means that Manning is spending more time throwing the mid to deep ball instead of doing the dink and dunk passes and letting the wide outs do the work after the catch.
As much as Broncos Country is not a fan of the Patriots, these numbers shows what makes Tom Brady and his receivers so successful in games. I do not mind a deep pass every now and then, but perhaps it is time to have Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Owen Daniels, and the other wide outs on the roster fight for the yards instead of trying to get it all at once on a deep pass.
Sep 27, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Bennie Fowler (16) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Next: Peyton Manning has Shown Improvement
Let Demaryius, Sanders, and Daniels do some work in the passing game. Fight for the extra yards. Putting the ball in the hands of the playmakers will make all the difference.
As mentioned before, Manning is improving. Now it is time to rely on the wide outs and let them do the dirty work. Get those yards after the catch. Fight for every yard. If they can do that, there is a high chance of the offense working wonders down the stretch. Let us see if they incorporate that in the offense in the next few weeks.