Broncos OC Justin Outten explains some of Denver’s new offense

Justin Outten at Broncos minicamp. Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports.
Justin Outten at Broncos minicamp. Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports.

This year, the Denver Broncos offense is going to be different than anything we’ve seen before in the NFL.

What new head coach Nathaniel Hackett is doing is exactly what Broncos Country hoped previous playcallers would do with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater the last three years; tailor the offense to their skillset.

Not only is he doing that, though, Hackett is taking his offense and blending it with the offense that Wilson is comfortable running. Together, they’re creating a hybrid of sorts that will likely attack deep down the seams and outside portion of the field, but throws will likely avoid going between the hashmarks.

Why is that? Well, for as talented as Wilson is at throwing the football — especially the deep ball — it seems he lacks prowess in the middle of the field. This is a look at his heat chart from 2021:

Now, of course, the Seahawks playcalling left a lot to be desired and their tight ends weren’t much to write home about. So, there’s a possibility he improves in that area this year with Hackett — who knows how to develop tight ends like Robert Tonyan — but it’s also good to know his weaknesses going into the season.

But, besides just throwing the ball, the Broncos are going to have to run it as well.

This week during mandatory minicamp, new offensive coordinator Justin Outten explained what that looks like. Specifically, he dove into the outside zone concept.

“The outside zone concept—the whole world with the outside zone is just pulling the trigger, rolling, running, and not measuring,” Outten explained. “That’s where you get in trouble—when you start to measure and slow down. When one guy is off, the back’s track is off and then it just turns into a bad deal. Getting them to buy into the technique that we’re getting them to do is a little bit outside of the box, as far as this system. This system is extremely special, and you have to have that trust factor. It takes a couple of weeks for them to realize what we’re asking them to do. Once they see the back matchup with their tracks, it starts to get really nice.”

The zone-blocking scheme should be something familiar to long-time Broncos fans, as Alex Gibbs (RIP) created it and ran it with Mike Shanahan during the Broncos first two Super Bowl-winning seasons in the late 90s. They utilized “undersized” offensive linemen who were more agile and able to move as a unit, together, towards one side of the line or the other. It’s a simple concept that overwhelms defensive fronts because it’s five-or-more players moving in unison.

That’s the key, too, though. Everyone has to be together, moving the same direction and picking up blocks along the way, or the play will fall on its face.

“It’s everyone. It’s everyone being on the same page, learning to trust their tracks and not to deviate from that,” Outten continued. “We’re going to hang our hat on that and that’s going to be something that we’re going to pound into them. They’ve done a great job. I’ve seen a really good jump this offseason compared to previous off seasons, especially the first year, of just the buy in. It takes weeks, it takes months for it to click. There were some really good clips throughout this whole camp of it coming together and making it look the way it should.”

When it works, the outside zone will mean Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon getting the handoff, running outside the tackle and into open space, making one man miss and earning a big gain.

Of course, Williams is a pounder of a back, so it seems to fit Gordon’s game a bit better and utilize his speed. However, get Williams a handoff with all the lineman getting their blocks, and he has the ability to make defenders miss on big runs himself.

What about the offensive line? It would seem to lean towards Graham Glasgow starting at center over Lloyd Cushenberry, because of fluidity/movement ability, but there’s still a lot to be decided along the Broncos offensive front.

As Outten explained, “You ideally like it in the first week. It’s going to be a competitive environment in that room all the way through training camp. Like I’ve said before, when the pads come on, that’s traditionally when you start to see the movement and you see the solidification up front. That’s when you get an idea of who your guys are going to be.”

Clearly the offense is a work in progress for the Broncos and will continue to be all season long. There’s a new coaching staff — not only to Denver, but in their new roles — and we’re going to see some issues throughout the year.

But even with some struggles here and there, the Broncos offense promises to be much-improved from what we’ve been watching in the Mile High City for years.

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