Denver Broncos | News

Mason's Mailbag: Assessing the offense, Von Miller's number, handling criticism, and more

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As always, 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.*

Mase, I'm not one of those complaining about the Week 1 win. I think it was gritty and great to see the defense really step up, been lacking with recent defensive coordinators! What I'm nervous of is Peyton. Our line couldn't protect him often and he looked scared. We're never gonna win Super Bowl 50 like that. Think we should put Brock Osweiler in until our line irons out the details? Maybe counterproductive?

-- John Jardine

You kind of answered your own question by admitting that such a move would be counterproductive. The Broncos' best chance at a world championship remains with Manning under center. As you could see Thursday, once he got into a groove, he did what he needed to do.

I know it's tough for Broncos fans to watch the protection issues that lead to free pass rushers coming after Manning. It's not the easiest thing for the quarterback to experience, either. But you were warned about this. How many times did Manning, Head Coach Gary Kubiak, Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway and others talk about the offense -- and in particular, the line -- being a "work in progress," or something similar?

This is exactly what a "work in progress" often looks like. There are mistakes. You're just banking on those mistakes not leading to injury. Fortunately, Manning is one of the best in NFL history at feeling and anticipating a pass rush, and despite the numbness in his fingertips, still gets the ball out quickly.

You can expect the "work in progress" to linger for a while. But improvement will be demanded.

"There are positives," Kubiak said. "We've got to get better as a group. If we find a way to stay on the football field offensively, we can improve physically and do that. With our defensive football team, it should help us in the long haul. Like I said, we're going to stay committed to that. We're never going to run away from what our quarterback does best, but we've got to find a way to be physical as a football team."

But as you saw against Kansas City on Thursday, you can expect the Broncos to lean on three-wide receiver personnel groupings, shotgun formations and no-huddle from time to time. The trick will be finding ways to become more physical as a football team -- as Kubiak expects -- through these alignments.

"We know we have the ability to do that," Kubiak said. "We didn't do that perfectly all of the time, either. We kind of went to it in the second quarter and started doing it more throughout the course of the game. Regardless of whether you're in no-huddle or huddle and regardless of what you're doing, it still gets back to being able to run the ball some. If we stay in the no-huddle, we have to find a way to run the ball better."

Further, the Broncos are now two-for-two on "gut check" drives, marching to a field goal on their 17-play, 81-yard march against Baltimore and to a game-tying touchdown in Kansas City. Both possessions had wildly contrasting styles, but equal effectiveness.

"We made it work both ways," guard Evan Mathis said. "It would be nice to stay out of those situations and score a few more points early on and get a little more experience early."

"Those are definitely great experiences to build off of," he added. "Those drives where you have to have a sense of urgency, to go down the field and score. That's invaluable. It's incredible how valuable that experience is, especially for these guys who are so young in their careers and haven't experienced that yet. We get these two times in the first two games, it's going to build character; it's just great experience to carry."

Aren't there any centers who can LS thereby clearing another roster spot?

-- Bob Hoshijima

That sounds great in theory, but it doesn't translate to reality, especially with what the Broncos want from their long snapper.

That's not ideal, because you want your long snapper to get downfield quickly to try and make plays on special teams. With even the lightest NFL centers at 285 pounds, they don't qualify the way a 230-pounder like Aaron Brewer does. Further, you'd prefer that your long snapper doing nothing but that in practice, to perfect that specific craft.

The responsibilities of the long snapper are too important to entrust to someone who can only give it part-time attention.

As the only living Bronco fan in the Pacific Northwest, all I hear is how Peyton Manning is over the hill and can't play any more and the O-line is "horrendous." Your thoughts?

-- Dan Johnson

mathis_evan_CP_150920.jpg

First, the roars for the Broncos in recent trips to Seattle's CenturyLink Field assure me that you are not alone in the breathtaking Pacific Northwest.

Second, those were valid criticisms when viewed from afar, and even the players recognize why they exist -- although they find a way to tune them out. As Mathis said Thursday night:

"We're just trying to win. The criticism -- we don't care; you can criticize. It's people's jobs to have emotions and to have opinions. We're not worried about anybody's opinions; we're worried about winning football games."

That was a rational, and even-minded assessment from Mathis, who is one of the most pragmatic and thoughtful players in the locker room. This is one of many reasons why he's a good leader; he understands that the noise is a part of having such a public job in which so many have such a profound emotional investment.

The best scenario in which a team can find itself is this: winning and still taking lessons from each game while being relatively free from injuries. Those last six words, well, they went out the window when Ryan Clady tore his ACL. But the rest of it applies to the Broncos. They're 2-0 and have wins over projected AFC playoff contenders, but there's plenty of room for growth, which will keep them on edge.

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Why is Bud Dupree allowed to wear #48!!??? He is listed as a linebacker. Didn't Von want to wear #40 originally?**

-- Kyle James

Miller did, but at the time, linebackers could not wear jersey numbers in the 40s, so he took No. 58, the number of one of his football heroes, Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas, to whom Miller has often been compared in skill set and production.

This year, the NFL approved a rule change that allowed linebackers to wear jersey numbers in the 40s. That's why Dupree and Shaquil Barrett can wear jersey number 48.

Miller has always kept "40" in his Twitter handle, so it's clear that his Texas A&M number is close to his heart. But if he wanted to change, it would be costly. Should you opt to change your number while remaining with your team, and jerseys are printed with your name and number (that aren't custom-ordered jerseys), you have to buy back the cost of unsold jerseys printed with the old number. In 2012, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson was told this could cost him approximately $1 million.

I kind of wondered that, too, but the sentiment wasn't quite the same after Week 2. Three offensive touchdowns and a rousing comeback against a division rival in their backyard will change the outlook just a bit!

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I'm a Bronco fan since 1970, big time. Moved to Massachusetts in 2000. I've friends here who tell me the Broncos were fined for being above the salary cap in the seasons of 1997 & 1998. These fines were leveed during the later years of Shanahan ...**

... Were the Broncos fined for being above the salary cap in 1997 & 1998 a few years later? Please, I really need to know the true facts because these Pats fans seem to think they know facts reported to them by the journalists out here. Most of the time it appears to me the sports journalists in NE pick which facts to include and/or not mention.

-- Thomas Gormally

Your friends are right, although it's not as simple as they put it.

Per a settlement announced on Sept. 17, 2004, the Broncos were fined $950,000 and docked a third-round pick for salary-cap violations. By the time the punishment was announced, no one involved with the violations remained with the organization. You can get some details on the punishment and its rationale from the archives here at DenverBroncos.com.

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Why do you wear sunglasses on camera so often?**

-- Bill Hanson

Because I have major trouble with eye contact, as do many who have Asperger's Syndrome, as I do. Sometimes I stare too long; sometimes, I can't look someone in the eyes at all -- or make proper eye contact with a camera lens. And then if I think too much about eye contact -- or the lack thereof -- it overwhelms me in the moment and I lose track of the conversation, the thought I wanted to say, etc. Then there are the social issues -- for example, I've been told I often sound mad when I answer the phone. It's usually because I've been interrupted.

(On the positive side, I wouldn't have the command of football history, Atlanta Braves minutiae or the ability to spend hours crunching stats and watching film without it, so I tend to view Asperger's as a net positive for me. It's essential to who and what I am. I wouldn't be working here without it.)

Beyond that, my eyes are heterochromic -- a five-dollar-word way of saying they aren't completely the same color. When I was in ninth grade, a classmate said I had "mutant eyes," and not in a joking way, either. That doesn't make you want to show them off to the world unless you're forced to do so.

I would wear sunglasses every waking hour in public if it was socially acceptable -- even inside, even at night. But it isn't, as my three-year-old daughter reminds me when she insists on removing them when I get home.


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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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