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For position players, Broncos' new offense requires extra classroom time

Whether it's Kahoot! or the Pythagorean theorem, a new offensive playbook can be complicated.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos’ offseason moves along, word spreads that the new offense is difficult to learn.

It’s simplified to some degree for the offensive linemen. Move feet, move together, block the guy in your area. The beauty of the zone-blocking concept.

But for the "skill" positions at running back, receiver and tight end, it can be like moving up to trigonometry after a year of algebra.

"I feel like this is the most complex offense that I have been in," running back Javonte Williams said last week.

"(For) everybody, it’s complicated," receiver Tim Patrick said Wednesday.

It’s not like most of the Broncos’ skill players haven’t played in the West Coast system that new head coach Nathaniel Hackett brought with him from Green Bay. It’s that blocking angles and pick-ups can be different. And on nearly pass play a receiver may have two or three different routes he can run, depending on how he reads how the defense is playing him. And receivers aren’t the only ones who have to think on the fly.

"It’s just a lot more on the running back this year, I guess," Williams said. "We’ve got to learn concepts. We’re pretty much wide receivers and running backs."

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick, right, talks with running back Javonte Williams as they take part in drills at the NFL football team's headquarters Monday, May 23, 2022, in Centennial, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

It’s also an offense that’s been tweaked to best utilize the athletic, arm and cerebral skill set of new quarterback Russell Wilson.

"We have 'Russ' and we have Hackett," Patrick said. "They put in both of their systems together, so it’s kind of a 1-of-1 offense. It’s not something that’s really been taught before."

To help with the learning curve, there’s been more classroom time. Which is a football term for meetings.

"Every meeting that we have, we talk about confusion," Williams said. "We want everything to look the same so that way the defense doesn’t know when a different play is coming. I feel like this is the most complex offense that I have been in, but I feel like it will be the best because you never know what’s coming at you."

There are team meetings, offensive and defensive meetings, positional meetings and extra-credit meetings called by Wilson.

The offensive meetings have been relentless this offseason.

"It’s an every day thing," Patrick said. "It helps because you guys know the offense is difficult and just the routine regular practice is not going to be enough for us to get it down pat. So we have to do things on our own so we can get it because we don’t want to be one of those teams to make excuses – new coach, new quarterback, new offense and we don’t get going until the end of the year. We want to come out of the gate firing on all cylinders because it’s Super Bowl or bust."

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick takes part in drills Tuesday, May 31, 2022, at the NFL football team's headquarters in Centennial, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Can’t become collective valedictorians if one or more of the starting 11 can’t grasp trigonometry. Or geometry. Equating football offense to mathematical levels is not a reach. When Josh McDaniels was the Broncos’ head coach from 2009-10, everyone from Kyle Orton to Tom Brandstater to Tim Tebow had to know the Pythagorean theorem. What is a2 + b2 = c2?

Somehow, this applies to offense. Better believe Derek Carr knows the Pythagorean theorem now that McDaniels is the Raiders’ head coach, if he didn’t already.

Hackett has the offensive players play Kahoot!, a learning game that in the Broncos’ case presents formations or a play,J then multiple-choice answers, and a time clock. Lloyd Cushenberry III dominates the game, but again, he’s an offensive lineman. It’s the skill position players who have more intricacies to master.

"We’re all learning," Patrick said when asked about being a leader in the receiver room. "Until I get a little more comfortable with the playbook I’m not telling people what to do, I’m not going to lie."

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