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Mason's Mailbag: Looking for offensive balance

Does it look like we will be a ground-and-pound or a run-and-gun team with Case Keenum at QB? And who will Case have at TE that will be relevant?

-- Randy Hulse

Somewhere in between would be ideal. Last year, if you look at the 14-and-a-half Vikings games in which Keenum was the quarterback, the Vikings ran on 47.0 percent of their snaps, which would have been the fifth-highest rate in the league. However, that run reliance was due in part to playing from ahead. When Keenum was under center, the Vikings led or were tied for 74.3 percent of the elapsed time, trailing just 25.7 percent of the time. With that sort of edge, you can have a balanced offense.

If the Broncos trail more, expect more of a run-and-gun style. If they can play from ahead, expect them to pound it more often. But if they are in position to run, look for the passing game to lean on efficiency rather than posting gobs of raw yardage. Last year, Minnesota averaged one first down every 2.78 pass plays with Keenum at quarterback and 6.77 yards per pass play, figures that ranked sixth and 10th, respectively.

As for tight end, that could be a position that sees contributions from a variety of players. While Jake Butt has been an impressive target in red-zone work during training camp, look for others to be in the mix. Last year, NFL teams averaged 6.16 receiving touchdowns from their tight ends. Minnesota had 9; Denver had 5 (which was an improvement over 2016, when the Broncos had just two touchdowns by tight ends). If the Broncos' tight end group accumulates 7 or 8 touchdowns, this would be ideal, even though the production could be dispersed among three or four players.

Mase, what are you most worried about with our defense heading into the preseason? Our front 7 is a beast. But I'm not sure our coverage, including LBs, are up to par with past years.

-- Chance Koch

I think the coverage against running backs and tight ends should be improved with Brandon Marshall having shed weight to play at 225 pounds. He noted after the first practice how he felt fresher and quicker at that size. The addition of Su'a Cravens should help this process, but remember -- he's only in his second active season, so he is still developing and refining his game. The biggest question remains No. 3 cornerback, although with Tramaine Brock currently injured, the Broncos will have a chance to learn about third-round pick Isaac Yiadom, who worked in the first-team nickel package Wednesday.

As I have noted on Orange and Blue 760 at times over the last few months, I think they could be part of the sport's long-term evolution into something closer to rugby, with form tackling becoming the norm, utilizing the body while keeping the head up and the eyes forward.

There will be some hiccups, particularly in terms of ballcarriers instinctively lowering the head as they push forward. It will require unlearning of old habits for some players, and could reduce yardage after contact in the short term as players adjust to the sport's new reality. But the flip side of this is that defenders could concede extra yardage as they continue to focus on getting their bodies in place for a form tackle, rather than lunging head-and-shoulder first at an offensive player.

Football is at an intriguing place in its evolution, and while there are legitimate concerns, the sport has generally been adaptable to issues of safety and the values of its times. With a proactive mindset, these and further changes can maintain the tactical essence of the sport while lowering the injury and health risks for the people who play it.

At this point, it is unlikely unless Case Keenum or Paxton Lynch suffers an injury. If Lynch and Kelly both struggle in the preseason, this is possible. But if Lynch shows that he can capably run the offense if needed -- and can run it as he did with the second team during Wednesday's practice -- then I expect the Broncos will ride with what they have.

Don't forget about Kyle Sloter. Based on the text messages I see coming in during shows, I know that some listeners to Orange and Blue 760 haven't.

He certainly would have faced them. But given that he located the good within himself, I think Luke Skywalker would have lobbied for a pardon from whoever assumed the role of Chancellor in the New Republic.

I don't think that Luke would have been like Mace Windu in Episode III with Palpatine, arguing that Vader would be too dangerous to keep alive; it is his father we're talking about here. I think in the end, it would be the galaxy-far-far-away version of Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon and would generate equal controversy.

And if all else failed, Luke could probably use a Jedi mind trick on the revenge-minded forces in the New Republic to save Vader from prosecution.

Absolutely. A pizza with pineapple and either ham or Canadian bacon is one of my favorites.

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