In the two weeks of the NFL season, there has been no greater disappointment than the Denver Broncos. OK, maybe the Cincinnati Bengals, but the Broncos are right behind.
With flashy new tools at quarterback and head coach, plus a litany of young weapons in Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Javonte Williams, the Broncos hoped to compete in what was expected to be a tough AFC West division. They had an easy schedule and were looking to gain confidence ahead of the tough part of their schedule between weeks 3 and 6.
Instead of confidence, all head coach Nathaniel Hackett inspired was doubt. Her team looked horrible in their first week loss to Seattle, a team they should have torn down. They arguably looked even worse against the Texans, and Nathaniel Hackett takes the brunt of that. As it should be honestly, did you see some of those play calls against the Texans?
Most egregious was that third-and-1 option run with fullback/tight end Andrew Beck.
I mean…it’s an outside run which means you want speed to get around any would-be tacklers, so opting for a fullback to carry the ball probably isn’t a good start. But hey, at least he’s got his backup plan, Javonte Williams, running alongside him. You know, the same Javonte Williams that was averaging nearly seven yards per carry up to that point. The same Javonte Williams who hadn’t had a single rush go for less than a yard to that point. In fact, the only rush where he had less than two yards was pulled back due to offensive holding. So, of all the runs that counted, Williams had yet to not pick up two yards, aka twice the distance needed for a first down, but no, Andrew Beck is the call there. Gotcha coach, what a play!
I’m not even talking about his clock management blunders which have been well documented.
I’m talking about how Hackett uses its best players, inefficiently and without playing to their strengths. In Seattle, Wilson never had to push the ball down. In 2022, through two games, Wilson has a aggressiveness percentage of 23.3%, third-highest in the league behind only Dak Prescott and Mitchell Trubisky, meaning Wilson is getting into tight coverage a lot more often than before. In 2021, Wilson placed 20th. In 2020, he was 41st – last among qualified passers.
Now let’s see how Hackett uses Wilson in specific situations. It also goes back to the use of Williams. Damn, I’ll even throw Melvin Gordon in there, too. Does Hackett use one or the other? No. In their game against the Texans, the Broncos went 13 games with threeWhere-fewer yards to go before a first down or touchdown. Only five were executed. Oh, and one of them was the option with Andrew Beck. Guess what, the Broncos converted two of those other four points (two from Williams, one from Gordon, one from Jeudy) in short-range situations for first downs. How many first downs in short-range situations do you think the Broncos have recovered via the pass? Hmm? Any guesses? They had eight attempts. How many went for at least three yards? Four. Sounds good, right? Well, not exactly because three of those first downs came by penalty. It was incomplete passes that pushed the drive forward due to defensive errors. In the boxscoring, Wilson went a much more respectable 1 of 5 for six yards in three-yard-or-under situations, but was saved three other times by defensive penalties.
JUST RUN THE DAMN BALL!
I understand wanting to cheat the defense and pick up yards every once in a while, but at least balance it out then, maybe even go a little too far. You have a very talented halfback who, before the last practice of the game, had only been stuffed on the line twice in the two games this season. Stop overthinking the game-call by trying to run options with your fullback, or force Russ to pass when one of his best receivers is out with a rib injury.
It’s too early to sing “Fire Hackett” at Mile High Stadium in my opinion. Even Urban Meyer got 13 games. Should he have been fired sooner? Hell yeah, but Hackett still isn’t kicking his players, belittling his coaching staff, or giving up plane rides for a much younger woman to sit on his lap in a Cincinnati bar, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. On the bright side, Hackett took most of the blame in his postgame press conference following the win over the Texans. It’s a good sign of humility and an awareness that things have to change.
However, unless we start to see improvements in offense soon, especially as the schedule gets tougher, Hackett’s tenure in Denver could prove very short.