Yesterday Zane Beadles was again practicing with the Broncos' first-team offense at left guard.
Who knows if this will make a difference with the league's 32nd-ranked running game? You can be sure of one thing, however.
It can't hurt.
I know yesterday I promised you Tim Tebow, but given the news regarding Beadles, it was more appropriate to show you why left guard is a problem the Broncos must solve.
In this version of the The Playbook Abides, we'll take a look at a play from the Broncos-Raiders game--a game that was so bad, the Broncos' coaches felt the need to throw it in the trash and shield it from the team for fear they wouldn't learn a thing.
Here at Fat Man, we exercise no such parental control. Welcome to the obscenity that is the Broncos running game, friends.
Broncos - Raiders, Week 7
This play took place well into the slobber-knocking the Broncos were taking from the Raiders. Down already 31-0, and with 14:30 remaining in the 2nd quarter, the Broncos faced a 1st-and-10 from their own 10-yard line. They came out in the gold standard of formations for a Josh McDaniels offense--the 113 personnel package (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs). The Broncos must run this personnel grouping (a guess based on my casual play charting each game) at least a third of the time.
The Broncos split Jabar Gaffney left and Eddie Royal far right, but before the snap, Royal motioned left so that Brandon Lloyd was the split-receiver right, placing Eddie in the slot right. Daniel Graham lined up at the end of the line of scrimmage on the left side of the formation. In short, although the Broncos were showing strong left, it was a very balanced formation. They could have easily run or passed just the same.
The Raiders treated the formation as if it were a 4-wide receiver set, and brought out their man-to-man dime package, which meant they had six defensive backs in the game. This was a theoretical mistake, of course; it played right into the Broncos' hands had they decided to run the ball.
And the Broncos did decide to run. Here's how they schemed the play on the chalkboard:
This is a standard dive play for the halfback Knowshon Moreno, with an added twist that you see many high school, college, and pro offenses run these days. The slot receiver (Royal) cuts across the formation for a potential handoff. This gives the defense another wrinkle to think about.
Here the Broncos didn't use Royal of course. They just handed off to Moreno.
You can see how great this call was against a dime package. The Raiders shouldn't have been in this scheme, but it was clear they were expecting the Broncos to come out and pass for the rest of the game. The key to the play, though, was that both JD Walton and Russ Hochstein (starting this game at the Broncos' revolving-door position of left guard) needed to execute combination blocks, moving to the 2nd level and picking off the linebacker and the additional strong safety. If that had happened, Moreno would have gained at least 5 yards--likely much more.
I'm sure by now you can tell where I'm going with this. Hochstein executed the first half of his combination block, but took a very poor angle to get to the 2nd level. It was so poor, in fact, he missed the strong safety, Michael Huff, entirely. Huff shot through the hole and easily tackled Moreno for a half-yard gain. Hochstein wasn't quick enough nor his arms long enough to make up for the mistake.
I don't want to let Ryan Clady off the hook here, either. I'm not saying he gave up on the play being down 31-0, but he let up early enough that the defensive tackle got in on the tackle at the end of the play. Walton also got tangled up a bit and didn't get to the linebacker fast enough. But because of Hochstein's error, it didn't matter.
Here's how the play actually unfolded:
What can we learn (or scorn) from this play? It again goes back to the original premise we've been operating under all week. One missed assignment can absolutely kill a running play; Knowshon Moreno is not Chris Johnson. Hochstein's failure (and to a smaller extent, Clady's) on this play took what was a well-designed play and made it putrid. Sure, Huff made a good read; that's what NFL players do. But if you can't beat the Raiders' dime package on a dive play down 31-0, just what can you do?
After this play, the Broncos fans still in attendance booed. You can hardly blame them.
Although they probably didn't realize what had just happened schematically, they recognized that a half-yard gain was bad under any circumstance. Bad play is bad play.
Fixing this bad play is going to require more than talk, healthy bodies, and Zane Beadles at guard, however. It's going require precise execution.
My friend Doc Bear would tell me this takes time. At 2-6, all the Broncos have is time. Perhaps the next 8 weeks will bring precision, too.