ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The goal of the reshuffled offensive coaching staff is simple: maintain the production level of an offense that has gained more yards, averaged more yards per play and and scored more points than any other in the NFL the last three seasons.
But to do that, the Broncos know they have to evolve -- while maintaining their core strengths.
"We want to take the next step," said running back C.J. Anderson, "but we don't want to give up what we do best."
For most of the last three seasons, the passing game flourished. But in the second half of the 2014 season, the Broncos' "best" was a power running game that masked some struggles in pass protection and the overall performance of the offensive line, which led to a position shuffle at midseason.
New Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison and line coach Clancy Barone, who moves over from coaching tight ends the last three seasons, will begin their work up front.
Together, with retained Wide Receivers Coach Tyke Tolbert and Running Backs Coach Eric Studesville, their task is simple: maintain production while continuing the evolution of the offense.
Dennison coached the Broncos' offensive line from 2001-09, and also served as coordinator from 2006-08, which included two years in which the late Mike Heimerdinger served as assistant head coach/offense. The former Broncos linebacker is now considered the league's best teacher of zone blocking, the concept that defined the Broncos' offense for 14 seasons.
"He definitely helped me learn the game of football better," said left tackle Ryan Clady, a first-round pick in 2008. "Just learning the game and cutting out a lot of mental mistakes. That's one thing he got on me a lot about, is just mental mistakes. I had that ability; I just had to put it on the field."
After Dennison left to join Head Coach Gary Kubiak on the Houston Texans' staff in 2010, Barone assumed direction of the line for one season before moving back to the tight ends in 2011, where he worked the last four seasons. He also worked as tight ends coach in 2009.
Clady saw improvement in his one season under Barone.
"He's a great offensive line coach," Clady said. "He definitely got my technique right and my footwork and stuff like that. I'm excited to work with him again."
Footwork, quickness and lateral movement make the zone-blocking scheme work, which in turn, opens horizons for running backs like Anderson.
"I know what (Kubiak) brings. I know what he's trying to accomplish," Anderson said. "Me and Coach E (Studesville) texted the other day and he told me that he's going to sit down with me and share the vision of Kubiak.
"I just can't wait to get to work, to be honest."
And with new coaches and some tweaked ideas, that's a good thing, because with Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Orlando Franklin, Will Montgomery, Virgil Green, Wes Welker and Jacob Tamme all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in March, plenty of work looms to keep the offense in the NFL's elite.
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