Thursday, October 10, 2013
Broncos playbook a fruitful harvest so far
By Jeff Legwold
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- August is not often considered planting season, but the roots of the Denver Broncos' offensive explosion certainly reach back to those oven-baked days of training camp.
Days when, often in full view of thousands of fans, the Broncos decided to experiment on more than a few things now stored on their iPad playbooks. Stuff that's been good enough for 230 points in five games, a total that includes the league's only two 50-point games this season, constructed in back-to-back weeks against the Eagles and Cowboys
Peyton Manning's touchdown run against the Cowboys is just one product of the Broncos' summer of experimentation.
"There are a lot of things that are there," Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase said. "You might not have worked at it or tried it in the spring and it didn't work and it just takes a back page. A lot of the stuff we're doing right now, we did try and experiment in training camp and had success with it and we just kind of waited for the right time to use it."
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is adamant about the benefits of summer -- whether they be a two-back set with defensive tackle Mitch Unrein lined up at fullback, or lining up wide receiver Wes Welker in the backfield, or Manning simply tucking the ball and running for a touchdown -- all things the Broncos have done in recent weeks.
All through the team's offseason workouts and training camp, Manning consistently said it was the best time to experiment. He added that since the Broncos defense, collectively, would be one of the fastest the offense would see, there was an added benefit to see how things might work.
Manning also believes the chances of improving the success rate of those plays goes up if they are installed in the summer, rather than in some mid-season scramble. To that end, there is an understanding among everyone involved in the offense that once it's installed in training camp, it's fair game to be broken out during the season.
So it's best if everyone is familiar with the entire playbook, not just the parts the Broncos use week to week.
"I think that's why [Manning] quizzes you sometimes," rookie running back Montee Ball said. "He wants to see if you've been in the book and that you didn't just memorize it, that you understand it, that you know all of your responsibilities on those plays and why you're doing them that way."
Added Manning: "I think one thing that Adam Gase and the coaches did a good job of is we ran a lot of plays in training camp, we put a number of plays in. And going against our defense is a tough challenge. So you put them in in training camp, and then you can kind of call on them at any point. So that's how we kind of install the offense. I think it's tough when you put a play in, a brand new play in, on Thursday [during a game week]. So most of the stuff, it's in the system somewhere. It's just a matter of how many times we'll run it.”
And in Manning's world, the 22 regular-season games he's started for the Broncos -- the playoff loss to the Ravens last January included -- aren't nearly a big enough sample size to have the kind of comfort level with all involved. Manning believes that will happen later. Even as the touchdowns pile up, Manning often talks of still getting to know Welker as a player, or tight end Julius Thomas, or even first-year center Manny Ramirez.
While the Broncos know what plays they've liked so far, they may not yet know which ones are the favorites.
"I think we're still finding out kind of what plays we can hang our hats on and what plays we can go to in crunch time," Manning said.