Mason's Mailbag: Kickoff returns, Paxton Lynch and more

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.

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Why don't the Broncos work on a contract extension for Darian Stewart instead of waiting until the offseason when the price tag will go up?**

-- Todd Banchor

How do you know they're not working on contract extensions with current players? Just because it's not reported in the media doesn't mean something is not happening. Besides, the best contract negotiations often see no leaks and no communication beyond exchanges between the parties themselves. Reports -- or the lack thereof -- do not necessarily correlate with work on contracts.

Remember, the Broncos had a major re-signing during each of the last two seasons -- Chris Harris Jr. (December 2014) and Derek Wolfe (January 2016, during the postseason run). It would come as no surprise if there is one before the end of this season, and given Stewart's strong play, he would seem to be a strong candidate to continue that pattern.

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Last week against the Saints I did not see the "C" patch on T.J. Ward's jersey. Is there a reason he did not have one? (I did not look to see if any of the other new captains had patches, so maybe none of the new captains had the "C" patch).**

-- Darren Blackman

None of the midseason additions to the roster of captains -- Ward, Trevor Siemian and Dekoda Watson -- have the "C" patch on their jerseys. I don't know of a specific reason why, unless there is an NFL rule of which I'm unaware regarding the "C" patch for players who are bumped into a captain's role at midseason. (There is nothing in the actual NFL rule book regarding this.)

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So far through the season, it seems like our kick returning is struggling massively to get the ball past the 20-yard line when returning which sets up our offense with bad field position. It seems like whoever they put back there struggles to get any good yardage because they are met by a defender right away. Is this a blocking problem a returner problem or another one that might be the issue with the lack of yardage gained on the return? Thanks Mase! **

* -- Ethan Stanton *

It's not something you can attribute to any one aspect of it over the course of the entire season, although in the game in which the kickoff returns caused the biggest problems, Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis noted that the blockers were "out-physicaled" by the Raiders' coverage team. That left Kapri Bibbs in trouble once he advanced beyond the 10-yard line, and led to the cumulative 22-yard loss in field position on the first three kickoffs compared with if he had taken a knee each time.

On the kickoffs the Broncos do return, they're averaging 22.46 yards per return, which places them in the league's middle tier -- 14th of 32. It's not all bad, despite the shuffling at returner. But it can -- and should -- be better.


I see NFL viewership is way down. Roger Goodell said he is looking into ways to speed up the game. What do you think can be done to make the games flow better?* *

* -- Gordon Ferris *

  1. Better consistency and standards as to calling and enforcement of penalties. (I've heard this from so many friends and acquaintances who are long-time fans that I've lost count.)
  1. Prior to the last five minutes of each half, re-start the game clock on plays after incompletions with 15 seconds left on the play clock.
  1. Ban the flow-killing timeouts after kickoffs. The pattern of stoppage for commercials, kickoff, stoppage for commercials only helps writers like myself, who use those breaks to write a few paragraphs without missing any action or go to the restroom. As a viewer at home, few things drive me crazier than the score-break-kickoff-break sequences.
  1. Trim the number of TV-related stoppages altogether, making up for the lost commercial time by adding 60 seconds to breaks after each quarter and six minutes to halftime. The breaks will be longer, but less frequent. The extended halftime also solves the problem of empty seats for the early moments of the third quarter because a 12-minute halftime is not long enough for fans in person to go to the restroom, grab a drink and a snack, etc. (Some change needs to be made to benefit the fans who actually buy tickets, in my opinion.) I'll never forget seeing Trindon Holliday take the second-half-opening kickoff to the house in the divisional playoff of January 2013, looking to the stands and seeing one-third of the seats empty. This is an easy fix, and although you'll have another two or three minutes of halftime commercials, TV networks can also use their halftime shows to provide live look-ins, which comes in handy for the fans who do not have access to the NFL RedZone subscription service.

Why isn't Paxton getting more reps, after all he was a first-rounder and should develop into a star.* *

* -- Kenneth B. Dillard *

Because if the repetitions come before he is ready, they're not necessarily the right kind and could lead to issues down the road as bad habits become repeated in game action and set in. He's a high-ceiling first-rounder who is still learning the basics of operating a pro-style offense, from playcalls to drop-backs from under center to making his second and third reads.

Don't forget that Head Coach Gary Kubiak noted that Lynch still has issues with consistency during his practice work. If you're inconsistent in practice, that will carry over to games.

Look at the stalled development of Jacksonville's Blake Bortles for an example of what can happen when you push a quarterback out there too soon (or without an adequate supporting cast in some key spots, particularly offensive line). It's not a one-size-fits-all proposition, but each situation is different. Take Dallas' Dak Prescott as an example; he plays behind the best offensive line in football and with an out-of-the-box, immediate-contributor rookie running back (Ezekiel Elliott, whose stellar play ensures that Prescott can only be the second-best rookie on Dallas' roster).

Submit a question for the next Mailbag!

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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