Denver Broncos News: Broncos' Mailbag


Mason's Mailbag: Involving the RBs in the passing game

You can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site.

With the recent struggles in the run game, I've often asked myself, "Why do we not try harder to utilize RBs coming out of backfield with screens?" Will we see more of this with Mike McCoy, C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles, De'Angelo Henderson, etc.?

-- Steve Cochran

I think you'll see more of this -- not just with screens, but with dump-offs, wheel routes and other methods of getting the football to running backs via the pass. One of the reasons the Broncos drafted De'Angelo Henderson was because of his work out of the backfield; he was one of only eight running backs drafted who caught at least 95 passes and notched at least 900 receiving yards during his college career.

As Head Coach Vance Joseph said immediately after the draft, one of the Broncos' goals was to add speed "in the interior of the offense." He cited Henderson as one element of this, along with wide receivers Isaiah McKenzie and Carlos Henderson. If Charles is healthy, he provides an additional burst of interior speed in the passing game. Since 2009, only one running back (Darren Sproles) has more receiving touchdowns.

Has the team considered not having a dedicated long snapper? Coaches always talk about flexibility and how every roster spot is critical, so LS seems too limited. Why not have an OL, TE or LB snap?

-- Alex Aguilar

You always have a player on offense or defense who can handle long-snapping duties in a pinch in case the first-teamer is injured. But there are two significant reasons why a dedicated long snapper is considered essential in today's game:

  1. Many plays involving the long snapper are high-leverage plays. Placekicks, for instance, are potential scoring plays. If you have an errant snap on a punt, you risk putting the opponent in excellent field position -- or, if you're near your end zone, a safety. The potential scoreboard damage of a bad snap is enough to ensure that you want to leave as little to chance on these plays as is possible.
  1. The structure of practice. A dedicated long snapper allows the punter, kicker and snapper to go to another field with the special-teams coaches and work together on their craft while the rest of the team goes about its work. If you have a long snapper working on offense or defense, it cuts into the practice time for the core elements of the kicking and punting game.

Both of these reasons outweigh having flexibility at one spot. Expect the dedicated long snapper to remain the league-wide norm.

That's a fascinating question, because to change the game's stop-start nature, you would have to fundamentally alter the structure of game play itself -- and that is a bridge too far at this time.

Football and rugby are cousins, as you know; they share a developmental ancestry. Rugby has a smoother flow simply because it has fewer pauses during game play. If football went in that direction, you'd eliminate the huddle and eliminate plays being sent in from the sideline, even via the radio receiver in helmets. This would also cut into the situational substitution between plays.

Changing these aspects of the game might add some fans, but it's possible you lose others, because the stop-start nature of football is something to which the audience is accustomed. According to the NFL's research, the biggest issue on game-flow issues did not center on the pace and style itself, but the timing of commercial breaks, particularly the dreaded break-kickoff-break that plagued too many games in recent years.

That being said, I often come back to my thoughts regarding a lower-contact, seven-on-seven league that runs in the offseason to help the development of passing talent and pass defenders. Such a concept would allow for game-pace experimentation. Perhaps that would be an environment in which ideas such as quicker resets between plays, minimized situational substitution and a running clock could be tried and tweaked?

Is there any interest in picking up inside linebacker help? Maybe a Rolando McClain or Justin Durant?

-- James West

Not at this point, and almost certainly not either of the names you mentioned. McClain currently faces another substance-abuse suspension. Given the issues he has and the fact that he hasn't played since 2015, he's not an option. Durant did not start any games last year and went down with an elbow injury late in the season. He's not an upgrade over what the Broncos have on the roster.

Do you think Donald Stephenson could compete for the right guard position?

-- Anthony Duron

Stephenson has no career starts at guard. It is not realistic to expect him to compete for playing time there given the other, more experienced options the Broncos have there, starting with Ron Leary and Max Garcia. The Broncos also have Michael Schofield, who started last year at right guard and can serve as a swing backup at both guard spots and right tackle.

Hey, Mase -- how come we went down in rankings after a stellar draft and pickups?

-- Ricky Lebsack

You'll have to ask the people who do the rankings about that. It's not like those rankings mean anything, anyway.

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The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.





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