Maybe we should have expected early season fights from a team with new faces as quarterbacks and head coaches. It takes time to develop the confidence and chemistry needed to perform at a high level. And this is especially true when it comes to the relationship between the quarterback and the head coach / attacking player, given their crucial responsibility to manage the schematic adjustments and tactical plans.
As an attacking architect, Hackett has a vision of what he wants his offense to be like, but must adapt his system to suit the quarterback’s talents. Although some changes were made in the off-season, after seeing the OTAs and minicamp practices, top players continue to tinker with their bout throughout the regular season.
“When it comes to Russell and me, it’s just going to be a continuous growth process,” Hackett said in his press conference on Monday, in the wake of an uninspiring 16-9 win over the Houston Texans. “It’s about Russ. We want to make sure he’s comfortable with him, that he feels good and that I’m playing him as fast as possible. We want to do what’s right for him. I think that’s something we’ll grow as the season progresses.” .
Hackett appeared to build a system that fits Wilson’s skills as a mobile director. These Broncos feature a variety of concepts ranging from bootlegs and movement steps from below the center to racing step options from shotgun formations. With some traditional dropback passages mixed in, Denver’s offensive menu was clearly created with Wilson in mind.
As an athletic playmaker with a baseball background, Wilson excelled at throwing on the go during his 10 years in Seattle. Whether he evaded overtaking runners on impromptu scramble throws or turned the corner on designed bootlegs, he was always able to throw darts by rolling to his right or left. With the talent of the A + arm, Wilson established himself as an outstanding deep ball passer with a combination of arm strength and anticipation that allowed him to throw over the top of the defense in the restarts along the border. He also regularly hits deep overs. All of this stretched the defenses vertically and completed Seattle’s power racing game.
But studying the All-22 Coaches Film from Wilson’s first two regular season games in the Broncos uniform, the veteran didn’t play up to his standards. His completion rate (58.9) and passerby score (86.5) are both well below his career scores at the start of the 2022 campaign (65.0 and 101.8). Although he averages 7.7 yards per pass attempt, he only threw two touchdown passes against a pick and fought hard in the red zone. Wilson’s accuracy issues prevented the Broncos from cashing in when they reach the shadow of the post. Denver has been in the red zone six times this season. The results: four field goals and two lost fumbles. Indeed, the Broncos failed to score a touchdown in the first five goals of the season. In the past 25 years, according to NFL Research, that shameful streak has only been matched by two other teams: the 2007 Falcons (which finished 4-12) and the 2001 Lions (2-14). As detailed by ESPN’s Jeff Legwold, the Broncos’ offense fielded 18 plays within the 10-yard line, none of which resulted in a touchdown. Wilson’s last eight attempts to pass within the 10 have fallen incomplete.
This isn’t exactly the kind of production you’d expect from a quarterback-led offense who just signed a $ 245 million extension earlier this month. When Denver hits the red area, Wilson should be able to get his team into the end zone fairly regularly. But at the beginning of the QB Broncos’ mandate, that’s not quite the case. At the age of 33, Wilson appears to be more of a reluctant runner. He is no longer a dangerous threat to games with reading options. And his ball positioning problems have manifested themselves on tight shots when the field is condensed. Until Russ does a few foot plays or needle sticks some hero shots, the Denver offense will continue to struggle in the red zone.
With all of this in mind, it is up to Hackett to acknowledge his veteran QB’s current struggles and quickly map out a plan that will allow the Broncos to work around these shortcomings until Wilson can get out of this crisis. The running game could emerge as the solution to the Denver problem. The team is ninth in racing (126 ypg) and seventh in yards per carry (4.9). Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon’s dynamic 1-2 punch gives the Broncos smashmouth prowess when Hackett is committed to getting the ball rolling between tackles.
“When it comes to Javonte, both he and Melvin have been incredibly efficient. They made some great plays,” Hackett said on Monday. “The running game is going really well right now. We have to continue like this and we have to keep giving them the ball.”