Dissecting the Real Issues with the Denver Broncos Running Game


Nov 16, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson (22) carries the ball during the first half against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

There are two issues with the Denver Broncos running game and one of them is not the running backs. No they don’t have a “star” in the backfield but they have the players to get it done if the two real issues are fixed.

Don’t believe me; I watched some running back named Jonas Gray of the New England Patriots run all over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night. I know NFL rosters pretty well and I’ve never heard of Jonas Gray. CJ Anderson is playing well enough right now to get the job done if the following two areas are corrected or improved.

The first issue is not the offensive line; that may shock most of you but it’s the truth. The offensive line is an issue and we’ll get to that but if the first issue is not fixed, then the play up front won’t matter.

The number one problem with the Broncos running game is a lack of commitment to it. The Broncos ran the football nine times in Sunday’s loss to the St. Louis Rams. Their last running play came halfway through the third quarter with the Rams leading 13-7.

At that point the game is still obviously in doubt and for some reason the Broncos completely abandoned their running game. The Rams knew that too and it made it even easier for their pass rush to disrupt the Broncos passing game.

The good news is this part is easily fixable if the key figures can swallow their pride and make a commitment to run the ball. Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase and Peyton Manning like to throw the ball and their stubbornness often gets in the way. This is where Head Coach John Fox is going to have to assert some authority and demand and bigger commitment to the running game.

Fox, even today, gets accused of being too conservative but he needs to go back to his roots a little bit and force his will on this offense. The Broncos aren’t going to run the ball for 150 yards, even with an increased commitment but just an increase in attempts will help the offense.

It’s frustrating when the Broncos only get one yard on first and ten but they have to continue to run the ball. Running the ball is largely an attitude and when teams don’t do it consistently, that attitude disappears. The yardage numbers might be ugly but if the Broncos are going to get better, then they have to run the football at least 25 times a game.

There’s no doubt that the offensive line is an issue and they simply have to play better. However a commitment to the running game would help them play better. When you throw the ball on every down, the offensive lineman are forced into a passive mode. Pass blocking is about catching the defenders and pushing them whichever way they are going. Run blocking is about firing off the ball and forcing your will on the defense.

If the Broncos are serious about getting better as Fox said they were on Monday, then I want to see them do what the Pittsburgh Steelers did on Monday night. They came out on the first drive and ran the ball eight straight times. It established an attitude for the night that led to Le’von Bell running for more than 200 yards.

Are the Broncos going to run for 200 yards versus the Miami Dolphins on Sunday? No but they can start to establish an identity and they can help their offensive line.

The second thing that will help the offensive line is the type of running plays that are called. Right now when the Broncos do run the ball, they are all draws and inside trap plays out of the shotgun. Those plays are almost like pass plays, they promote a passive form of blocking.

If this new commitment to the running game is going to work, then the Broncos have to call some good ole fashion power plays and let the offensive lineman fire off. Let them be the aggressors.

All of this leads back to the commitment, they cannot just give up on the running game if it is not working early. It may even led to some ugly possessions but if the Broncos are going to fix the running game, then it starts with that commitment.

There’s no doubt that Manning and Gase have to buy in but this is on Fox, it’s time for him to be a leader and demand more out of his running game.