Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Jan 2014

ESPN: The Broncos' Big Weakness

Here's the first in a two-part series looking at what ties together each of Denver and Seattle's losses this season. For the Broncos, the biggest problem in their losses has been giving up deep passes. That's an area where Russell Wilson is very good, although the weather could limit the passing game.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 28 Jan 2014

13 comments, Last at 29 Jan 2014, 8:23pm by EricL


by Rick_and_Roll :: Tue, 01/28/2014 - 2:49pm

Denver's weakness lies with their Safeties and how frequently they get burned on play-action passes. Most of this is due to 'mediocre' talent, but some is by design.

Denver's defensive philosophy is to stop the run at all costs and prevent teams from playing 'keep away' from the offense. It seems like they are willing to give up a big play or two per game because they're confident their guy will make more. Looking at how Denver played KC (in KC) and NE (in Den), two teams that passed mostly by play-action, there were some open guys that were missed due to poor throws or drops.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/28/2014 - 3:20pm

What percentage of Wilson's deep completions occurred when he had extended the play?

by Rick_and_Roll :: Tue, 01/28/2014 - 3:53pm

It seems like almost all of his big plays originate from play-action bootlegs whether he extends the play or not. He holds the ball a long time and takes some bad sacks to go along with the big plays.

He reminds me a little bit of Jake Plummer, when he was with Denver. Great at play-action and roll outs, limited from the pocket and generally dependent on complimentary running game to be effective.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/28/2014 - 6:25pm

Remembering nothing about Plummer and only looking at his stats, it seems that he was hardly sacked. I don't know if rolled out an awful lot, or if he was simply really good at getting the ball out, but I'm going to guess he had a pretty good offensive line as well, because Cutler didn't get sacked much in his two full years there either.

by tuluse :: Tue, 01/28/2014 - 7:58pm

Both Plummer and Cutler were also willing to throw the ball when common sense says you shouldn't as well.

by formido :: Tue, 01/28/2014 - 10:07pm

Yeah, Wilson tied Manning's rookie TD record, broke the rookie play-off passer rating record and is the first QB to be >100 in passer rating his first two years. I'm gonna say you don't know what you're talking about.

by Anger...rising :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 12:26pm

Exactly none of that refutes the points you're responding to.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/28/2014 - 4:42pm

How do you define "extended the play"? When the receivers clearly change their routes after looking back? What about if the protection is good but he can't find anyone open, and just stands in the pocket for three more seconds (although that's far more likely to happen to Manning)?

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/28/2014 - 5:30pm

I'd define it as when he is not in the pocket, and the receivers have broken off their initial routes.

by jacobk :: Tue, 01/28/2014 - 10:55pm

The ones they show on the highlight reels are mostly of that variety, but he gets his share of more normal big strikes. Look at the playoffs: the big play to ice the Saints game was a 24 yard pass to Baldwin on 3rd and 3 that was from the pocket. In the 49ers game he had the scramble drill 50 yarder, but the 35 yard touchdown pass was a strike from the pocket. In the earlier game against the Saints he had big plays on rollouts, but not after an inordinate amount of time (the 60 yard pass to Zach Miller was a relatively quick throw).

The scramble around plays are more spectacular, and he does get more than his share of them, but if your main exposure to Wilson is from highlight shows I think you get a slightly distorted view of his game. The Seahawks run a disproportionate number of designed deep throws, they don't just happen to throw deep on scramble drills.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 1:26am

Yeah, I have no idea, which is why I asked. I wish charting data was more accessible, and more quickly available.

by Pen :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 7:49pm

Wilson is actually quite good in the pocket. The myth that he's not seems to be self perpetuating.

by EricL :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 8:23pm

He is. The problem is the amount of time he actually has a pocket (which hasn't been very long lately), and that it seems his "pocket awareness clock" is starting to tick a little fast and he bails on the pocket a touch sooner than he should.

And, when you try to prematurely escape an intact pocket, you run into problems because there's no escape lanes. I know I've seen a couple of sacks this year caused by exactly that.