Denver Broncos: Pat Shurmur should take cues from glory days
As the Denver Broncos continue through the trials and tribulations of training camp, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur should potentially look at another way to run the offense, one that proved successful during the Broncos back-to-back Super Bowl years: Utilize the fullback position.
Last year saw Denver’s offense try to do too many things as Shurmur liked to employ the three-wide receiver sets to push the ball downfield. The problem with that was that Drew Lock was being asked to do the wrong things and regularly found himself playing catch up, while making costly mistakes that cost the team games.
Travel back to the 1997-1998 season when the Denver Broncos were coming off their first world championship in franchise history under the leadership of Hall of Famers quarterback John Elway and workhorse tailback Terrell Davis.
Davis became the fourth member of the exclusive 2,000-yard club when he rushed for 2,008 yards and 21 touchdowns. While his season alone was impressive, it wouldn’t have been as easy with contributions from his teammate, Howard Griffith.
Although Griffith wasn’t given very many rushing attempts during his time with Denver, he was primarily a blocking back in the offense for Davis, becoming known as “The Human Plow” and was a reliable target out of the backfield for Elway.
This unsung duo was a strong contribution to how effective the offense was for head coach Mike Shanahan, to where they were able to take off a good amount of pressure for Elway. If Shurmur can adapt the same concept and morph it into today’s game, it could prove to be beneficial for Lock’s further development.
When Shurmur was brought onto the coaching staff midway through the 2020 season, he looked to improve Denver’s stagnant offense and try to open the field with more receivers and tight ends.
Although Lock has the ability to throw the deep ball, his pocket presence and timing still need time to develop, and now that Melvin Gordon will be handling the starting role for this season, it could give the ability to develop a strong run game without becoming one dimensional.
Fangio and Shurmur don’t necessarily need to go out and get a traditional fullback in order to run the ground and pound offense, but rather find the right combination that will generate the best results. Newest additions Mike Boone and second-round draft pick Javonte Williams have a strong upside that Denver is drawn to.
In order to veer away from the sloppy play and constant turnovers, Shurmur could use someone such as Boone, who has the frame and experience to work as a makeshift fullback, to block for Gordon or Williams, both of whom are not against fighting for extra yardage, that could churn out 15-20 yard runs, thus forcing the opposing defense to re-evaluate their strategy.
Where Lock seemed to be the most comfortable was on bootlegs and shotgun formations, but still would be locked into his first read before the snap. Add on the backfield option with solid blocking, then he can continue to work on his footwork in the pocket and become a more rounded signal caller.
Shurmur appears to run the outside zone when it comes to rushing attempts that generally gravitate towards the heavy power gap scheme that if caught by the defense, will only output a couple of yards that will ultimately lead to a third and long type situation.
The Denver Broncos can’t afford to be put in the spot that will require Lock to think quickly and just throw to his first read. He’ll need to be given the ability to use the check down when needed and Williams and Boone would fit that role, again providing the sense of having a fullback.
Where Davis succeeded during his MVP season, was that defenses had to pick their poison with the Denver Broncos offense, whether that be one of the many receiving weapons that Elway had at his disposal, or take their chances with Davis, who could find the hole and get big yardage.
It would be in the best interest for both Shurmur and Fangio, who both could be considered on the hot seat, to switch it up and try something they might not be comfortable with. Fangio has the chance to prove that he has a top-5 defense, while Shurmur can prove doubters wrong by developing a system that we haven’t seen in almost 25 years.
It’ll only be a matter of time before the same old song and dance get predictable and we’re seeing three and outs, turnovers, and more looming questions about the future of the franchise. Let’s all hope it doesn’t get to that point.
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Bring back the fullback Pat. You’ll be glad you did.