And his theory is based on his experiences with the Broncos’ playbooks from his five previous seasons with the team. For through those seasons, Thomas has lived the most extreme of extremes in the Broncos’ offense.
He was there in 2011 when the Broncos either led, or were tied for the lead, in the league in rushing attempts (546), rushing attempts per game (34.1) and rushing yards (2,632), when as Thomas said last week “we ran all the time and then ran some more." And Thomas was there in 2013 when the Broncos set an NFL single-season scoring record with 606 points.
And that year the Broncos led the NFL in pass attempts (674), pass attempts per game (42.2), net passing yards (5,444) and passing touchdowns (55).
“Everybody knew we were going to pass and we still worked the ball all around and Peyton [Manning] was Peyton, he did what Peyton does," Thomas said.
So, given all that, with Gary Kubiak's new playbook ready to be delivered, Thomas thinks he knows what the new offense is going to look like with Manning still at quarterback and many of the skill players in place from the group that has averaged 34 points per game in the past two seasons combined.
He figures it will be somewhere in between, that the Broncos will still have Manning throwing when he needs to throw in an offensive scheme that has consistently proved, year after year, running back after running back, it can run.
“They’ve got everybody saying we’re going to run, run, run and I know the coaches have run the ball before and that’s good, I think," Thomas said. “We know we can throw, we know we have guys who can make plays, I don’t think Coach Kubiak is going to just ignore that. But I think we all feel like if we can add in a good running game, you can win the Super Bowl."
It will be some time until all of the pieces are in place, however, and everything is installed, but Thomas said he believes if the Broncos can construct more of a running game, opposing defenses won’t be able to commit so many defenders in coverage.
Thomas, who was designated as the team’s franchise player, will not be at the Broncos' offseason program when the team begins its work April 13 as his representatives and the Broncos continue to try to work out a long-term deal. Thomas said he plans to leave the business side of things to his agent, but that he remains confident something will get worked out between the sides.
Thomas also said “I’m not going to do anything to hurt the team. Like I say, I’m in the loop with everything and when it’s time to get to work in [training] camp and in the season or whenever they get something done, I’ll be ready to go. I think it’s going to be a great offense and for all of us because if we can run the ball they can’t gang up on me or Emmanuel [Sanders] or anybody, they can’t rush Peyton with extra guys."
Kubiak also has addressed the perceptions and realities of the Broncos’ new offense with a skill positions group that has attempted 1,282 passes in the past two seasons.
Yes, Kubiak has promised the Broncos will run the ball more, will run more play-action pass plays with a little more beef in the formation, with a second tight end, a fullback or both, than the Broncos have done in the previous two seasons.
But Kubiak always is quick to add he’d be “stupid" or “crazy" to not use a playbook that stayed true to his schematic beliefs, but also took full advantage of Manning, Thomas, Sanders and the rest.
“It’s going to boil down to what [Manning] is most comfortable with and what we feel like we’re doing best," Kubiak said. “Basically, what I’ve done is study what he’s done. He’s been doing those things for so many years. Then you take the things that we do and we feel are very important to us to be successful offensively and we mesh them all together."
Thomas said he initially was surprised there was so much change for the Broncos this offseason, starting with the move from John Fox to Kubiak to go with the departure of free agents Julius Thomas and Orlando Franklin as he awaits what will happen with his own contract.
For the offense, however, he sees the coaches who have remained, such as running backs coach Eric Studesville, offensive line coach Clancy Barone and wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert; he sees Manning, Sanders, the team’s collection of running backs and Kubiak’s previous success as a playcaller.
“So much change," Thomas said. “First surprise was Coach Fox out of there, big surprise. I loved Fox, [I was] a big Fox fan. Then you’ve got four free agents gone. But we have a lot of the same coaches, like Tyke, that’s my guy, I love Tyke. He’s a big part of why I’m who I am. It will be different, but I just feel like we’ll all figure it out and get where we want to go."