How Broncos Have Gotten the Best Out of Bridgewater Vincent Verhei 30 Sep 2021, 10:32 am
The Teddy Bridgewater everyone was promised is not the one we have gotten through three weeks of the season. More often than not, that kind of sentiment signifies devotees and analysts overpromised, merely for the player in question to under-deliver. Bridgewater has done the opposite. The former play director has strangely emerged into one of the league’s most aggressive passers and steered the Broncos to their firstly 3-0 start since 2016.
Now, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Denver’s schedule has been favorable for Bridgewater. The Broncos offense has faced the sixth-easiest schedule of defenses through three weeks, per DVOA. That does not even be given to the fact that the Broncos offense has been in no danger of being outscored thanks to their stout defense, which has gotten to tee off against Daniel Jones and two rookie quarterbacks. Denver’s offense, as well as it has played, has largely been in control of the game script and had the freedom of the media to run what it wants.
With that tell me anything, let’s get into what has changed for both Bridgewater and the Broncos offense, and how much of their production to this point is sustainable.
A portion of Denver’s offensive renaissance still comes from what was promised with Bridgewater at the helm. Bridgewater adds a degree of stability, both in decision-making and accuracy, that was never there with Drew Lock last season, or with any of the other Broncos quarterbacks since Peyton Manning for that are important. The speed at which Bridgewater can process information compared against his predecessors in Mile High is noticeable.
This rep is the definition of “checking all the boxes.” Truthfully, the concept does not do a whole lot to give Bridgewater many advantages, so the onus is on him to assess the defense from a five-step drop and zip through his progressions. Through the first few steps of his dropback, Bridgewater get eyes on both curl/ flat defenders on the outside, first checking the field curl/ flat player to his left handling the motion man before peeking to his right at the boundary curl/ flat safety, who rolled down just before the cracking and may have been blitzing. Bridgewater likewise devotes a quick look to the field cornerback playing deep and with zone eyes, all of which should tell Bridgewater this is Cover-3.
Bridgewater then reads the concept left to right, getting to the sit route over the centre by the top of his fell before transitioning to hurl the bend outside. Before throwing the bend, Bridgewater knows from what he saw during his dropback that Marcus Maye( 20) is positioned in the curl/ flat region and needs to be moved, which is why he imparts a burst fake out to the running back running a swinging route to open up the window before delivering the curl.
As mentioned before, deserving consistent gains on base downs is not what has pushed the Broncos offense to brand-new altitudes. Bridgewater’s added stability aids, make no mistake, but that’s not the X ingredient. The real key has been his aggression and willingness to stand strong in the pocket, especially on third and fourth downs. Bridgewater’s time to throw( 3.08 seconds, third) and average depth of target( 9.1, tied-seventh) are an easy ascertain of that, but it is even more satisfying to watch play out on film.
On the following play, Denver has a fourth-and-7 against the Monster in Week 1, in part because Bridgewater targeted a fairly well-covered corner route past the sticks on third down rather than taking the checkdown and hoping that yards after catch would have gotten the first down. Bridgewater’s aggression threw him in this fourth-down spot, in a way, but his ability to work full-field speaks bailed him out of it.
Denver is running a notion that may be referred to as Cross-Country Dagger. The outside receiver to the left moves a 12 – to 14 -yard dig route, while the slot receiver passes a deep over that helps clear out that area. The lone receiver to the opposite side of the shaping runs a straight vertical to help clear out space for the deep over. From right to left, each road theoretically opens up the window for the next, and the quarterback can work the concept front to back that style. Getting all the way back to the dig can be tough because of how long the quarterback has to hold the ball and adjust to throw opposite of the two sides he opened up to, but Bridgewater does a fantastic position working to it after the weak security plunged down to take away the deep over route.
That window was not difficult to hit once Bridgewater got to it, but a quarterback who could be trusted to execute a dropback theory that assaults past the sticks on fourth-and-7 is not something Denver had in their arsenal before. Last-place year’s Broncos probably kick the field goal right then and there. That drive ultimately ended in a field goal anyway, but Bridgewater afforded them another chance at the end zone and, if nothing else, an easier field goal attempt. Those opportunities will matter over the process of being 17 games.
To be clear, Bridgewater has not ascended to being an aggressive passer all on his own. Denver’s pass protection unit also deserves a portion of the credit. Statistically, the Broncos’ pass protection appears middling, as their spot at 20 th in adjusted sack rate suggests. That can be partially explained by their aggressive pass conceptions, though, as well as Bridgewater’s newfound willingness to hold the ball.
While the Broncos do not have upper-class personnel who can win one-on-one blocks versus the best pass-rushers on every rep, they are a sharp-worded unit, running backs and tight ends included, who do not let many free athletes on dropback pass or play-action. Mike Munchak has this division overperforming in some ways with how well they play as a crew to patch together protection plans.
This is supposed to be play-action. It would normally be the running back’s job to take the fake handoff and then scan for any potential late blitz threats from his back of the formation. Giants security Logan Ryan( 23) tips his hand just before the crack, though, and shows the Broncos he is blitzing. Running back Melvin Gordon knows he is responsible for any extra threat off this back and has his eyes on Ryan before the snap. Gordon presumes Ryan will blitz and immediately peels off to the edge to pick him up, abandoning his play-fake responsibilities. Evidencing the awareness to pick up that offensive in any capability is solid enough from Gordon, but forcing the blitzer as far inside as he did for Bridgewater to have an open throwing lane to the tight end out wide was the cherry-red on top.
The Broncos are in another six-man protection with the running back on this snap against Jacksonville, this time without play-action because it is third down. Before the click, centre Lloyd Cushenberry signals he is working to the right and sliding the line that route. Cushenberry’s call is a response to that back having more potential rushers with the second-level threat creeping in , not to mention that the 1-technique to his right( Roy Robertson-Harris, 95) is a bigger threat( literally) than the linebacker to his left( Myles Jack, 44 ). An offensive path generally wants to slide to the side of the protection with more rushers and Cushenberry sets them in position to do so, leaving the running back to read inside-out from the -Agap back to his edge.
The Jags drop out two musicians from the left side of the shaping( Jack and Josh Allen, 41) and send everyone from the privilege, including the second-level champions( Rayshawn Jenkins, 2 and Rudy Ford, 5) in an effort to get Denver blocking phantoms on one side and overwhelm them on the other. Thanks to Cushenberry’s slide call, as well as Williams’ fantastic imagination and block on the free athlete, the Broncos get this all blocked up with ease and Bridgewater determines Courtland Sutton over the middle for a first down.
Plays like this put on display the perfect wedding between Bridgewater’s bold new posture in the pocket and Denver’s ability to pick things up well in protection. The Plane are a defense that are ready to deliver pressure, and Denver knows that. The Broncos add on both the running back( Gordon, 25) and the tight demise( Albert Okwuegbunam, 85) to the protection to guarantee amounts. Since the only inside blitz threat is in the right-side B-gap and the Denver offensive line already has numbers there, Gordon can kick out to meet the blitzer off the left edge immediately. That puts both extra defenders on the edge, allowing the big dudes up front to better block up the interior.
Both “add-ons” to the edge do a good-enough job forcing their players deep around the back of the pocket. Along the interior, right guard Graham Glasgow( 61) glues the protection together by passing presence to help his middle( Cushenberry, 79 ), running over to help his right tackle( Bobby Massie, 70) once he gets pushed back, and finally bringing himself back to the middle to pick up the late blitzer( C.J. Mosley, 57) and present Bridgewater enough of a runway in the pocket to work. That is some heads-up ball from Glasgow and commendable struggles from Denver’s “extra” blockers to tie this play together.
Unfortunately, some of Denver’s heads-up pass protection may be in jeopardy for the short term. Both guards, Dalton Risner and Glasgow, are combating minor injuries and may not be available for Week 4 against the Baltimore Ravens. Netane Muti and rookie Quinn Meinerz are the next men up in that scenario. Both give full play this season, including one Muti start in place of Glasgow in Week 2.
Muti and Meinerz are intriguing potentials for the Broncos, but it’s a matter of fact that neither of them are as experienced as Risner and Glasgow, and those two veterinaries have been playing smart football despite some ups and downs in one-on-one situations. Denver will be fine in the long run when they get the veterinarians back, but for the time being, things may be a bit bumpier with the young guys both in the lineup, if it comes to that.
That being said, the Broncos have a good foundation moving forward this season. Between good coaching up front, smart players in pass protection, and an amped-up version of Bridgewater, the Broncos have finally noted themselves a successful offensive formula after years of searching for one. They will likely fall back to earth and stop developing like a top-five unit, specially if Bridgewater continues to struggle hitting shot play-acts, but the signs of a capable enact offense are there.
Bridgewater and the fellas up front have proven they have a seem, aggressive approaching that can give the team a fighting chance. Now they just need to prove they can execute against the league’s best rather than its worst.
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