Tuesday, January 12, 2010
A big change likely brewing in Denver
By Bill Williamson
With Denver offensive line coach Rick Dennison headed to Houston as offensive coordinator, there will be a major change in Denver.
Expect the Broncos to begin to fully move away from the zone-blocking scheme the franchise made famous. Denver head coach Josh McDaniels kept the basis of the system in 2008, his first season with the Broncos.
The Broncos used the scheme, featuring smaller, athletic linemen, in the 14-year tenure of Mike Shanahan. McDaniels kept Dennison, who perfected Shanahan’s schemes last season. Thus, he kept the blocking philosophy. McDaniels also mixed in some of the more traditional power blocking schemes that McDaniels was operating under in New England.
With Dennison gone, watch for McDaniels to fully adopt the power-blocking mode.
This is probably best for McDaniels. It was one of the few Shanahan influences he used. It was clear he wasn’t always comfortable with it. Before Denver’s final game, McDaniels was critical of the offensive line.
Dennison is a fine coach, but now McDaniels can do what he is most comfortable with. That may mean some change in personnel. Denver loves tackles Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris. Right guard Chris Kuper is also big enough to make the transition.
But Denver could try to make changes at left guard and center where Ben Hamilton and Casey Wiegmann started, respectively. The team could bring back Russ Hochstein, who replaced Hamilton toward the end of the season. But Hochstein suffered a major knee injury, so an upgrade may be necessary.
It wouldn't be a surprise if Denver looks at offensive linemen early in the draft and in free agency as it moves away from the zone-blocking scheme.
Denver could also be in the midst of another big coaching change. Running backs coach Bobby Turner -- widely considered one of the best position coaches in the NFL -- is talking to Shanahan about becoming his associate head coach in Washington. Turner’s running schemes were a staple of the zone-blocking scheme.