The Broncos have no offensive identity and Nathaniel Hackett knows it

Nov 16, 2022, 1:01 PM
Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett...
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Some teams dominate with a strong running game, others thrive on the back of an aerial attack and some can even win with crafty game management combined with a scoring defense.

The Denver Broncos do none of these things. The 2022 orange and blue are allergic to the end zone; heck, they’re unable to put any considerable amount of points on the board. Denver hasn’t even been able to make their bones off a league-best defense, stiffing opponents while setting up the offense. The Broncos are in a slog, unable to score while keeping teams from scoring.

That defense would be an identity for the team, one worthy of an Orange Crush moniker or the hype of 2016, but because of their incompetent offense led by first-year head coach and longtime offensive assistant Nathaniel Hackett the defense’s efforts will be forgotten in a 3-6 season. It’s the lack of an identity on offense—the ability to do any single thing well—that has led to this lousy Broncos season.

“We’re gonna score a lot of points,” Justin Outten shouted at a Nuggets game prior to the season. The first-year offensive coordinator’s unit is the lowest-scoring unit in the league and on pace to be one of the three worst offenses in franchise history.

But it should be all so simple given the mega-trade Denver pulled off, bringing in Russell Wilson and signing him to a quarter-billion-dollar extension.

The identity should be right there, whatever makes the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback—an NFL veteran and former MVP runner-up tick. But it’s not—at least right now.

“It’s not a good one (identity) we haven’t had a very successful offense,” Hackett said, lacking a direct response to the question. “We have a lot of things we want to get better at.”

The Broncos are 15th in both rushing attempts and passing attempts. Their average yards per attempt on each rank in the 20s. They’re third-worst in getting first downs, in the bottom tier in time of possession, and toward the bottom in turnover rate. Denver’s offense hasn’t so much attacked; it has more existed through nine games.

“We want to look at what we have; there’s gonna be a lot of different faces out there,” Hackett said. “And we want to keep building around Russell.”

Wilson isn’t without blame; his 57.4 completion percentage is second-worst to Baker Mayfield among quarterbacks with over 100 attempts this season. Wilson—whose offensive line has been terrible—has still been sacked third most (29 times) in the NFL behind Justin Fields (36 times—has played two more games than Russ) and Joe Burrow (30—times—has played one more game than Russ.)

Maybe this would be all different had Javonte Williams stayed healthy. The defense dominates, Denver keeps time of possession on the ground, moves the ball on the back of Williams, and some play fakes from Wilson, and boom—these close games are wins. But the same issues were present when Williams was healthy.

And while the Raiders are 2-7 and the Broncos had their best scoring performance of the season in Las Vegas, it’s Denver’s lone two-score loss.


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The Broncos have no offensive identity and Nathaniel Hackett knows it