Is the key to unlocking Denver’s offense just getting healthy?
Greg Dulcich is finally gearing up to play, and the Denver Broncos could really benefit from a standout tight end.
Denver’s 15 points per game on offense ranks second-worst in the league, only bottomed by the Colts, who the Broncos just lost to. Russell Wilson struggled to throw the ball as he’s dealt with a shoulder injury, and he’s also had trouble finding a consistent second target after Courtland Sutton.
After Sutton’s 46 targets for 29 catches, 417 yards and a touchdown, Jerry Jeudy has been targeted 29 times for 14 catches, 236 yards and two touchdowns. The next two men up, who aren’t coming out of the backfield, are tight ends Eric Saubert and Albert Okwuegbunam. Taking those two and combining them with tight end Eric Tomlinson and tight end/full back Andrew Beck and you see that Wilson has only targeted his tight ends 30 times through five games, with 16 catches, 185 yards and a touchdown.
Nathaniel Hackett’s offense is predicated on a lot of tight end involvement, so the production has been disappointing, but historically, Wilson hasn’t had the best connections with tight ends.
Could all of that change soon? Could that change come because of Dulcich?
“He allows us to stay more multiple, bigger, tight ends that can run down the field you can do a lot of things with those guys and keep them in the box; you can spread them out,” Broncos offensive coordinator Justin Outten said. “Versatility at that position is key for this system and just building off their athletic ability and ability to learn everything. They can go line at the receiver position, in the backfield, or in line, so there’s a lot on their plate. So give them as much as they can take and then try to plan around that.”
Dulcich was a third-round pick of the Broncos out of UCLA this past spring. As a senior, he finished as a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end, garnering All-American votes. As a Bruin, he appeared in 33 games over four seasons, recording 77 receptions for 1,353 yards (17.6 avg.) with 11 touchdowns.
“It’s gonna allow us to do a lot of different things,” Hackett said. “You have another guy that can stretch the field vertically, a guy that he strains in the run game and pass protection, so anytime you can put those guys out there, their skill sets are so unique, that will be fun to have them out there.”
The rookie who is yet to debut hurt his hamstring in the offseason and is just now starting to get over it
“From his college tape, he was a very electric player,” Hackett said. “He was able to separate down the field, stretch the field. He did some really good things for us as we were here in OTAs and a little bit of training camp. He’s just kind of another weapon for us — and we’re excited to get him out there — but he hasn’t played a lot of football lately, so it’s going to be a slow process, and we want to be sure we work him in the right way.”
Hackett isn’t the only one tempering expectations, as it may take some time for the big pass-catcher to really come online.
“Between the tight end position, the quarterback position, taking the jump from the college level to the NFL, there’s a lot of adjustments that have to be made,” Outten said. “It’s learning the details of every position, especially in this system; you got to be smart with what you give them. Obviously, with Greg not having pads on and not working through it since camp, you’re going to have to evaluate to see what he can do still and what he’s picked up when he was last in pads, and we just got to be smart with when we utilize him.”