George Paton Pinpoints Injuries as Biggest Detriment to Broncos' Offense
Denver Broncos general manager George Paton on Monday held a media gathering to celebrate the team's newly-minted contract extensions with wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick. But mere minutes passed before the presser's jubilatory tone took a sobering turn.
Case in point: Paton was pressed on what specifically is preventing the Broncos' offense from becoming an explosive unit despite the presence of Sutton and Patrick — two of the NFL's most sure-handed wideouts with elite catch radii, coveted traits that earned the pair a combined $94.8 million — among others in the war chest.
“I mean, there’s a number of things," Paton began to explain. "You can look at the injuries we’ve had as a whole and again, I hate to talk about injuries because that’s not an excuse every team has them. We haven’t had all the guys together in many games. I think we lost [WR Jerry] Jeudy the first game, and [WR KJ] Hamler maybe the third game. Just keeping all our guys—we lost three linemen I think against Dallas, but that’s part of football. That’s part of the NFL. It’s not an excuse. When we’re clicking, we’re pretty good. We just haven’t clicked enough.”
Sure, losing your WR3 (Hamler) and starting right guard (Graham Glasgow) for the season while dealing with intermittent injuries elsewhere (Jeudy, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, left tackle Garett Bolles, right tackle Bobby Massie) is enough to sink most teams, or at the very least alter its play-style.
But it's an adapt-or-die business, and the Broncos haven't. In fact, they've regressed to a football relic, to a time before razzle-dazzle and showy nuances like pre-snap motion. Anyone with an objective viewpoint can see its offensive woes, its maddening stagnation, its torturous vanilla tint, go beyond the on-field personnel.
Under embattled coordinator Pat Shurmur, a lightning-rod for the fan base, Denver ranks 23rd in points, 20th in total yards, and 18th in passing entering Week 12. They're also 29th in red-zone scoring percentage and 28th in third-down conversion percentage. Worst of all, despite boasting a sensational backfield with Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, the Broncos rank just 19th in rushing. Nineteenth.
You can't blame injuries on Gordon, known for fumbling issues, receiving a crucial fourth-down carry over Williams, known for bulldozing opposing defenders. Yet it happened.
You can't blame injuries on Sutton, who pocketed nearly $35 million guaranteed, getting a measly three targets amid a game in which Denver attempted 36 passes. Yet it happened.
You can't blame injuries on the club posting one — count 'em, one — opening-drive touchdown in almost two calendar years. Yet it happened.
Not even head coach Vic Fangio, noted Shurmur apologist, can.
“Well, every week it’s something different, but basically, we haven’t run it or thrown it well enough in those first drives to get them going," Fangio conceded Monday. "We’ve had a few too many three-and-outs in those situations, and we need to start better. There’s no doubt about that.”
All Paton can do is toe the company line, biding his time with potential wholesale changes on the horizon. And in the short term, dancing with those who brought him.
"I still believe in this team," Paton said Monday. "Obviously, the last two weeks it’s been up and down, but you saw what we can do when we put it all together against Dallas.”
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