Denver Broncos | News

Mason's Mailbag: Coin tosses, attacking with Osweiler, throwbacks and more

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As always, you can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase, use the submission form or scroll to the bottom of this page.*

Why did the Broncos run the two-minute drill when Brock Osweiler was in? Why not just hand off three times and go to halftime?
-- Harold Johnson

It's as simple as this: in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, when the Broncos have more than 20 seconds left in the half, they line up and run their offense. At 20 seconds or less, they take a knee and go to halftime. With 1:27 on the clock and three timeouts at their disposal late in the second quarter at San Diego last week, the Broncos did not need an explosive play to drive to another score; they could run their offense and have a chance.

And it's important to underscore the general "next man up" mentality by expecting your reserve to do what the starter does. Had Osweiler remained in the game, there would have certainly been adjustments, but first, you want see if you can have a seamless transition in regards to your tactics.

The "next man up" mantra is meaningless without the confidence to back it up with action. Otherwise, it's just three words.

"I think Coach [John] Fox said it best. Whether it's Ryan Clady or Peyton Manning going out, we're paying these guys to do a job," Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said. "Brock's job was to come in and play quarterback. We had plenty of timeouts left. Once we get the green light to go after some points, we expect him to execute.

"It didn't go the way we wanted it to, but I'm sure the next opportunity he has, he'll make sure that he makes the most of it."

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Is there a chance the Broncos sign Shaun Phillips or another experienced outside linebacker?**
-- Joe Odom

John Fox often says, "We're always looking to improve our football team," or something like that, whenever the possibility of bringing in a player from outside arises in a press conference. That being said, regarding Phillips specifically, he's not a weakside linebacker; in the 4-3 he's a defensive end who could work on the strong side in a pinch.

The Broncos are fine on the strong side with Von Miller and his backup, Lerentee McCray. It's at the other spots where their depth is compromised, with Nate Irving and Danny Trevathan on injured reserve and Brandon Marshall injured, but for now, the Broncos will ride Steven Johnson and the three rookies: Todd Davis, Lamin Barrow and Corey Nelson.

What was Ryan Clady's injury? And do you think Chris Clark could handle the starting job again or should we try to sign a free agent? -- Joe Seulean

If Clady's thigh injury flares up, Clark is a better option than anyone the Broncos could import at this time. He started 17 games, including playoffs, at left tackle last year. He knows the checks and calls, and as Clark said in San Diego, the left side is "more natural" than the right, since he has far more experience at left tackle, including his years at Southern Mississippi. Week 16 is too late to go fishing for an offensive lineman; your best bet is to ride the ones already in place, who understand your system.

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Will the Broncos wear throwback uniforms anytime soon (or have they already this year)?**
-- Denny Flaherty

They have not worn a throwback uniform since the two games in 2009 when they wore the 1960-61 uniforms as part of the team's 50th anniversary celebration, and there are no plans to wear throwbacks in the near future. In 2013, the NFL ended the practice of teams wearing different helmets in the same season, in a nod to player safety and wanting players to wear the same helmet from the start of the season to the finish, if possible. So the teams that do wear throwbacks keep the same helmet, and change the stickers on it. (For example, Buffalo, which had a white helmet from 1960-83 and wears one today.)

Since the only era in which the Broncos used a navy blue helmet is the current one, the only accurate throwback possible is to wear the navy alternate jerseys with the white pants that have the orange stripes, an ensemble last worn in 2011. (The white pants worn by the Broncos the last three seasons have blue stripes.)

Why doesn't Denver start Malik Jackson instead of Derek Wolfe? Don't get me wrong, Wolfe is average but Jackson can rush and stop the run, and he showed it against the Bills -- even in Madden he does good for his rating of 76?
-- Teddy Martinez-Alcon

First of all, the Madden rating means nothing. No team is going to distribute their real-life repetitions based on a video game.

And while Jackson is the more effective pass rusher, Wolfe is the better run stopper -- the second-best in the league among 4-3 defensive ends, according to ProFootballFocus.com's rankings (but Jackson is no slouch, either; he is sixth-best against the run).

The two work well together in the pass rush; more than half of the Broncos' 38 sacks have come when the two of them line up together, and Wolfe does well at drawing blockers and allowing Jackson and others to stunt inside. But part of Jackson's effectiveness is his freshness; he has 146 fewer snaps than Wolfe's 640, which allows him more energy to attack the quarterback when he enters the game.

The Broncos lead the league in yardage allowed per play (4.7) and are fourth in yardage allowed per game (309.4). They're doing something right. There's no reason to mess with a balance of snaps for the two versatile third-year defensive linemen that appears to be working.


What is the Broncos' winning percentage when they win the coin toss and defer to the third quarter? (It seems when they win the toss they win the game, whether it's at home or away.) When was the last time they won the coin toss and didn't defer to receiving in the third quarter?*-- Brad Ensz *

Since Peyton Manning's arrival, the Broncos are 19-3 (including postseason) when they win and defer their option. When they lose the coin toss and the opponent elects to receive, they're 9-1; when they lose the coin toss and the opponent defers its option, they're 10-4.

The last time the Broncos won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff was in Week 5 of the 2012 season, at New England. The Broncos won four of the first five coin tosses that year and elected to receive every time; they went 1-3 in these games, although the adjustment to an overhauled offense and the quality of the opposition (the three losses were to Atlanta, Houston and New England, teams that finished a combined 36-12) were more significant factors than the coin toss.

Regardless of winning or losing the toss, the Broncos are 28-4 since the start of the 2012 season when they kick off to start the game, and 11-7 when they receive the opening kickoff (but they are 10-4 since the afore-mentioned 1-3 start).

*Zac Dysert has great credentials. He surpassed Big Ben for total yards passing in a career at Miami of Ohio. Why is he not the backup QB for Peyton instead of Oswieller? Is there any plans in the making to trade Zac? He deserves better then this. -- Rick Hall *

If pro success was all about passing yardage in a college career, Timmy Chang and Colt Brennan of Hawai'i would have been pro standouts, to name two examples (and there are many others). So Dysert's college accomplishments, frankly, mean little -- which is the case for any player once they get to this level. So that is an irrelevant attribute.

Thirty-one teams had the chance to claim Dysert for their 53-man rosters when the Broncos waived him at the end of the preseason, and they've had that chance every day since. None has bitten. This isn't specifically a knock on Dysert, but it reveals how teams generally prefer to develop their own young back-of-the-draft/UDFA quarterbacks, rather than find a new one. If an emergency rises, they turn to that passer, who has experience in their system.(The Texans' recent claim of Case Keenum to start Sunday against Baltimore is a bit different, since he was with the Texans for two seasons and the entire 2014 offseason and preseason before being released and going to the Rams' practice squad.) So there's no plans to trade Dysert, and there's no rationale to do so, because a player on the practice squad has no trade value. (And we're after the trade deadline, anyway.)

Without game repetitions, you have to go by practice work. And from the practices I've seen -- offseason, training camp and preseason -- Osweiler's body of work has been better than Dysert's. And I've only seen a fraction of the practices, since half of the offseason sessions and all of the regular-season practices are closed to media.

The Broncos' decision on the backup quarterback is based upon thousands of throws in practice, all of which are noted and catalogued, which gets you to a sufficient sample size. The one variable that cannot be accounted for is how the player does "when the lights go on," but in the absence of a sufficient sample size of game repetitions, you have to lean on practice work. That, more than anything, leads to the decision of Osweiler over Dysert as the No. 2 quarterback.


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