After going 6-10 in the 2018-2019 season the Denver Broncos decided to part ways with head coach Vance Joseph, and in turn most of his staff on both sides of the ball.
The Denver Broncos decided to hire Vic Fangio, who was the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears last season, to be their next head coach. Fangio didn’t waste much time in naming Rich Scangarello as their new offensive coordinator. Scangarello was the quarterbacks coach in San Francisco under Kyle Shanahan.
The 2019-2020 Broncos are going to be running an offense that should be familiar to Broncos Country as it will be an offshoot of the West Coast Offense that Kyle’s father Mike Shanahan developed during his tenure coaching Denver Broncos in the mid 90s to early 2000’s.
The tight end in the West Coast Offense plays a large role as both a pass catcher, and run blocker. It is no secret that the tight end position has been a huge hole for the Broncos since Julius Thomas left a few years ago. Through free agency, and the draft Denver has tried to fix the hole they have at the position, but hasn’t really been able to find the right guy, or have their players they do have stay healthy.
Denver drafted Jake Butt out of Michigan in 2017, but he has battled injuries since coming into the league, and has seen very little action thus far. The following year in 2018 Denver drafted Troy Fumagalli from Wisconsin in hopes that they could pair him with a healthy Jake Butt, and Jeff Heuerman who they drafted back in 2015. Fumagalli wasn’t really healthy all year, and never played on game day, and Butt played in three regular season games before tearing his ACL during practice in September. Both players are projected to be healthy by the time the season starts.
Today’s NFL isn’t simply about X’s and O’s anymore. Now more than ever the NFL is based upon personnel match ups, and how a team can take advantage of the match ups that favor them plays a large part in how successful they are. There are many examples of this, but I think the main one that comes to mind is the New England Patriots. One of the things that they have done well is week in and week out they find the match ups that favor them, and then exploit them.
Next season the Broncos will be able to put 3 or 4 tight ends on the field at the same time, and then take advantage of whatever mismatch they can find. At 6’4 and 249lbs Noah Fant, the Broncos first round draft choice is the smallest of the tight ends on the team, but he is also the fastest posting a 40 yard dash time closer to what wide receivers run as opposed to tight ends. He is a former basketball player, and reports already have him as being a threat when it comes to catching passes in the end zone. Troy Fumagali is 6’5 and 250lbs, and while he is not as fast as Noah Fant. He is known for his ability as a receiving tight end. Both players struggle run blocking, but were able to get the job done in college most of the time.
The other two tight ends are more of your traditional tight ends in that they are solid blockers, are able to catch passes, but are not exceptional in either area. Jeff Heuerman is 6’5 and 255lbs, and when he has been healthy has worked on making his blocking game better. Jake Butt is the biggest of the group at 6’6 and also 255lbs. Outside of Fant, Jake Butt has the highest ceiling as far as how good of an NFL player he can be. Before getting hurt his senior year he was projected as a second round pick or higher.
Suddenly a position that was a huge weakness for this team could turn into a potential strength. Teams do not typically have 4 tight ends suit up on game day, so my guess is week in, and week out Denver will suit up 3 of the 4. Having the ability to put 3 tight ends on the field at the same time is going to create match ups Denver can take advantage of. If opposing defenses try and cover them with linebackers any combination of the 4 tight ends should be able to take advantage of their speed, and route running abilities to be able to get open. Should opposing teams feel it is better to try and cover them with a safeties Denver should then be able to take advantage of the size difference to once again create mismatches, and high percentage receptions. Another benefit would be that with 3 tight ends on the field Denver should be able to have a lot of success running the ball, and a successful running game is what this offense is based on. Being able to take advantage of these mismatches next season should be something that helps Denver ensure it doesn’t have a 3rd losing season in a row.