After last season’s lackluster offensive performance the Broncos decided to part ways with their previous offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello. Scangarello couldn’t put the pieces together in his one year in the mile-high finishing 28th in total offense. Now axing him after only one year may have been a bit harsh, but having a worse offense than the Dolphins and the Bengals is unacceptable. In his place, the Broncos brought in former Giants head coach Pat Shurmur. Shurmur runs a west coast style of offense which can be deadly if executed right.
In the passing game, Shurmur loves to use three or four-wide receiver sets. This pairs perfectly with the Broncos depth, speed and route-running at the wide receiver position. The goal of Shurmur’s passing strategy is to confuse corners with overlapping routes and quick cuts to get wide open catches for medium gains.
This could potentially work by putting Courtland Sutton and rookies Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler in a three-receiver set on the same side. If the defense decides to play man coverage there will be three corners to take care of (not counting the one who covers the curl route). If they also decide to play cover two there will be two safeties. The route goes to the sideline taking the coverage middle linebacker mostly out of the equation. Hamler is the inside receiver and Jeudy is the middle receiver in the set. When the ball is snapped Jeudy will cut to the middle setting a pick on the two inside corners and blocking them. This allows Hamler to come up and get in open space. Now this leaves Sutton and Hamler working on the same corner on the outside. If Sutton runs a post route to the middle and takes the corner and safety with him it leaves the entire right side of the field open. Now that Hamler is wide open it just takes Drew Lock to find him for a first down completion.
Even though Shurmur doesn’t use a run-heavy style of offense he still finds a way to incorporate the run. In his last stint as an offensive coordinator in Minnesota in 2017, he ran the ball 47 percent of the time which was fifth highest in the league. On first and 10 he ran the ball 61 percent of the time so look for Melvin Gordon and Philip Lindsay to be busy all season long. Shurmur puts an emphasis on making sure the run game works to open up the play-action pass. In that same year, 29 percent of Viking quarterback dropbacks were play-action passes so it’s very important to the scheme.
Here’s how a rush play in this offense could work. The offense lines up in a one tight end set (tight end on the left). Gordon takes the handoff from Lock on the left side towards the heavier blocking. On the left outside the line is going to lay a TED block. This means the tight end goes up and the tackle goes around him to pick up the outside linebacker.
The rest of the play relies on the speed of Gordon to accelerate to the second level. It’s a pretty simple run but it can result in big chunk plays when executed against zone defense. When there are three wide receivers in the formation (especially on first down) it makes it tougher for defensive coordinators to send a blitz. This is why runs in weak formations catch the defense off-guard.
Shurmur has always been regarded as a bright offensive mind and can usually find success as a coordinator. His biggest offensive achievement came in the 2017-2018 season when he coached a Vikings team led by quarterback Case Keenum to the NFC Championship. His top running back that year was Latavius Murray, and to top it off the offensive line wasn’t great. They still managed to finish the season with a 13-3 record and secured a first-round bye. The following season Shurmur became the head coach of the New York Giants. He found a little success with the offense in his two years there but not enough to keep his job. It didn’t help that his only quarterback options were an old Eli Manning and a young and inconsistent Daniel Jones.
Expect to see some growing pains in the first few games for this offense because of their limited time together to learn the playbook. Once it starts to click though lookout because the Broncos could go from zero to hero on offense very quickly.