ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —After a 2019 season in which the Broncos averaged just north of 17 points per game and ranked near the bottom of the league in nearly every statistical category, an uptick in production could be on its way.
That's due in part to Drew Lock's progression, in part because of the existing talent in Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Phillip Lindsay and Co. and in part because of offseason additions that include Melvin Gordon III, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler.
But there's another addition, too: a dynamic offensive system courtesy of Pat Shurmur.
Sutton said Thursday he believes that system will empower Denver's offensive core — and that the points will follow.
"The thing I like about Coach Shurmur's offense is he wants to give us chances to go make plays," Sutton said. "He's going to give the receivers chances to make plays. He [sees] — which is really rare I feel like — he sees the game how receivers see that game. We feel like we can impact the game in so many different ways. Obviously in the run game, but in the pass game we can have screens [or take] shots down the field. [That's] him giving the flexibility to be able to, if he sees a mismatch, take advantage of that and not say 'Oh, we'll come back to that next series,' or something like that. If he sees a mismatch or something that he can take advantage of, something that he can do, … they're giving him the freedom to be able to do that. I think that's going to be something that is huge for us as an offense growing because if we get into a situation where Drew and everyone else in the offense gets comfortable with the offense, then we know what we're supposed to do. Then it becomes pretty much an unguardable situation to where Coach Shurmur is obviously going to call the best play for us to go and be successful.
"Drew understanding the offense and the rest of the guys on the offense understanding the offense to [the fullest], we can run any type of check that we need to be able to get the ball to the right spot for the defense that we're going against. I think that Coach Shurmur's offense is going to be able to add a lot of threat[s] to all the weapons that we already have on offense."
The Broncos will try to implement that offense despite being apart during the early phases of the voluntary offseason program. Should instruction remain virtual for the rest of the offseason program, that would force the Broncos and teams across the league to miss out on valuable reps.
"It's what you guys would expect that you'd miss," Sutton said. "You miss the huddle calls. You miss being able to hear Drew call out a play in the huddle, us break[ing] the huddle and lining up and [getting] ready to play. That's something that's so underrated. I think people see us at games and it looks so smooth, but that's over time of practice before you even get to camp. When you start adding this time into is, the OTAs that we're not getting, those reps that we're not getting, those are reps that are quality. I think one of our coaches said something about last year we ran 300-and-something plays in OTAs. That's 300 reps that you don't have right now, that we don't get in terms of getting in the huddle, hearing the whole play call, lining up and going and running whether that's verse the defense or not. Being able to do that part as an offense is so huge."
But the third-year receiver said he also has faith that the Broncos' offense will be able to make the most of the situation.
"I have faith in the coaches [in] preparing every room," Sutton said. "I have faith that we as players have taken every opportunity we can with this and running with it, so that when we do get a chance to get on the field it's not going to be something that could take a whole week to get people acclimated to it. It would be a couple days because you have such good teachers in terms of the coaches and the vets in each room. You have such good teachers that we would take the young guys under our wings to help them to guide them and understand that they are missing that huge, crucial part of on-field work. They are missing that. Whenever we do get on the field, I think we do have enough teachers and vets that will take those guys under their wings and help them."
And if that's the case, Sutton and the Broncos' offense can build off a 4-1 finish to last season.
"For [Lock] to go 4-1 as a rookie, it brings so much promise to this upcoming season," Sutton said. "I know everyone in our building is excited to see his second year of what he's going to do because, like I said, there's so much promise. The dude plays with … so much swag and so much heart and so much want to learn. Y'all have heard all the stuff about him being around Peyton [Manning]. That should show something. A quarterback going into his second year who is reaching out to a [future] first-ballot Hall of Famer, Super Bowl-winning quarterback and trying to get advice and understanding from him. That should show a lot about his character and about his drive and about his want to be successful reaching out to one of the greats to do it. I'm excited. I know there's a lot of promise. I know I'm not the only one excited about Drew. I'm pretty sure Drew's excited about being able to go out there and strap them up and be able to go use these weapons that we have on the offense. I'm more excited than anything when it comes to Drew's promise this upcoming season."
That should also mean more promise for Sutton, who will look to build off his first Pro Bowl season, in which he posted six touchdowns and nearly 1,200 yards. He's not satisfied, though. He still steams about a pass breakup that Tyrann Mathieu had against him in a Week 14 game in Kansas City, and he's reviewing his routes to make sure opposing cornerbacks and defensive coordinators aren't getting little hints from how he lines up or makes his cuts. That's not just on the routes on which he's targeted, either. It's all routes — even if the ball went to the opposite side of the field.
Simply put, Sutton is doing his best to make sure the Broncos' offense no longer hears about its lack of production.
"It is frustrating when you hear those things because the potential is there," Sutton said. "We see it every day with all the weapons that we have on our offense. That shouldn't be a concern … us not being able to put up points, but it was. We have to face the fact that that was the situation that happened and move [on] from that. Learn from that and move [on] from that and continue to grow and understand that we do have every weapon that we possibly need to be successful at every position offensively. It's upon us to apply those weapons and use those weapons to the best of our ability so that we cannot be in those conversation so 'The Broncos were only able to rank this or whatever in points per game.' That shouldn't be a conversation. If anything, it should be a conversation of us being [near] the top of the league in points per game because of the weapons that we have.
"I think that Coach Shurmur, he knows and understands the weapons that we have and he's looking forward to being able to go out and use them to the best of his ability. He can pretty much pick and choose who he wants to give the ball to and where he wants the ball to go because we have that many weapons. I don't see that being a problem this season. I think the guys that were here last year understand that that's frustrating. The guys that are coming in this year are hungry and ambitious and ready to work. Coach Shurmur understands what we have in our rooms as a collective offense.
"He's looking forward to being able to go out there and put up points."