ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- From the moment the Denver Broncos opened their coaching search, the team's clunky offense was on the front of the front of the front burner.
The pursuit of scoring more points has permeated through everything since, including Nathanial Hackett's arrival as the new head coach, Justin Outten's selection as offensive coordinator and Klint Kubiak becoming the quarterbacks coach. It's clear the Broncos want some version of the playbook Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak used during their time with the team, but with all of the updates Hackett can dream up.
Hackett has said he wants many of the earmarks of the Shanahan-based offense Matt LeFleur runs with the Green Bay Packers -- the zone run game, the play-action passing game, the rollouts and bootlegs to go with both the vertical downfield passing game and the foundational horizontal passing game of the West Coast offense.
As Hackett put it, "You want to make the defense cover the entire field."
The specifics will play out once the Broncos actually begin their on-field work in a three months or so, but in general it's clear the changes will benefit several of the players the Broncos already have.
"He has a proven track record of developing younger players, working with quarterbacks, and helping great players become even better," is how Broncos general manager George Paton put it, about 20 minutes or so before he added "we need to score a lot more points."
With that in mind, here are three players who could take a significant leap if the Broncos' finally get it right in their brave new-old offensive world:
If only the Broncos had a decisive, one-cut runner who breaks boatloads of tackles and who can also be productive in the passing game. Oh wait, they do in the 21-year-old Williams -- he won't be 22 until April. Williams is exactly the kind of runner former running backs coach Bobby Turner likely would have told Shanahan or Kubiak he'd like to have.
Hackett didn't call plays during his time with the Packers, but he was heavily involved in the construction of the game plan each week. This past season the Packers split carries between AJ Dillon (187 carries) and Aaron Jones (171 carries), much like the Broncos did with Williams (203) and Melvin Gordon III (203).
Jones missed two games with knee injuries this past season, so perhaps the division of labor would have been slightly different. Jones topped 200 carries in the previous two seasons -- also Hackett's first two of three seasons as offensive coordinator.
Bottom line: With Gordon becoming a free agent, Williams is getting the rock -- a lot. And he'll get it in a system looking to punish defenses on the perimeter and create play-action opportunities. It's an offense that will engage the run game with a purpose beyond killing time or slowing the pace.
The Packers averaged at least 4.9 yards per carry on runs through the tackle spot on each side of the formation this past season or outside the tackle. They were also a yard per carry better, on average, than the Broncos were up the middle.
WR Jerry Jeudy
Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey, Demaryius Thomas all proved it and Jeudy should flourish in it -- a precision offense demands precision from its receivers and the most precise will benefit the most.
Jeudy is consistently lauded by defensive coaches around the league for his ability to create space with his footwork, speed and suddeness.
The Broncos already have most of what Rams coach Sean McVay, who runs his own version of the Shanahan offense, said you need at the position to make it all work. On a Zoom interview leading up to the Super Bowl, McVay was asked about the Rams collection of receivers.
"You almost want to have complementary pieces with one another, similar to a basketball team," McVay said.
McVay cited the "toughness and competiveness" of Robert Woods, the "polish" of Cooper Kupp and the "speed" of Brandin Cooks when he first arrived to the job in 2017. McVay said the receivers who have been acquired since, including Odell Beckham Jr., have been with the basketball mix-and-match in mind.
The Broncos have the toughness component with Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick and the polish of Jeudy and the speed when KJ Hamler returns from this past season's knee injury. Factor in tight ends Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam and the Broncos have, already in-house before an offseason move is made, what McVay outlined as the the best kind of starting point.
The guys up front are going to have to move, and move well, and make quality in-the-moment decisions about the "most dangerous" defender in their zone.
Meinerz was one of the few offensive linemen in the 2021 draft to run a sub-5.0 second 40-yard dash during his pro day and he did it at 320 pounds. He showed plenty of pop in the run game this past season as the guy, often sending Williams or Gordon on their way, even as he also showed he must improve in pass protection.
But he is a problem, a big nasty one at that, for defenses already in the run game.
Hackett said "outside zone" is what he wants in the run game -- the offense attacks space instead of particular players much of the time -- and Meinerz' physicality on the move should fit nicely.
The Broncos must be much better overall at the two guard spots and at center if they're going to make it all work -- opposing defensive coaches said this past season they gladly attacked the middle over and over again -- but Meinerz should provide a quality launch point for the Broncos for what's to come up front.