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OC Pat Shurmur's Formation Issues Could be Root of Broncos' Struggles

There have been issues with Pat Shurmur's personnel usage throughout his coaching career and it is showing this year in Denver.

Watching the Denver Broncos this year, the team has a lot of issues, and they stem from both coaching and execution. While Denver's defensive is falling apart, it's had consistent offensive problems

This year the Broncos' problems are being exacerbated by their offensive play-caller. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has many issues as a coach in the NFL, from not using players to their strengths, to play-call timing, to predictable personnel formations. 

When the Broncos were healthy to start the season, the offense looked slightly more palatable. Then injuries happened, primarily to wideouts Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, and the offense struggled even more. 

Part of the problem is Shurmur's usage of personnel groupings and formations. With just two of Denver's top-4 wide receivers healthy, it made sense to run more 11-personnel formations (3-WR sets) to start the season. 

However, the Broncos rushed the ball only 50% of the time, which is far less than the team's 61% average on the season and the 72% over its three-game losing streak. Without Jeudy and Hamler, Shurmur has been calling formations that field more receivers more frequently. 

With a 59% success rate in those situations, the Broncos are near the league average. This becomes an issue, however, when you look at the Broncos' production out of 11-personnel, with the offense having a 46% success rate while the NFL average is 49%. That 46% success rate is the same between the first three games and the last three. 

So, the question that arises is, why isn't Shurmur relying more on bigger sets with more tight ends when his wide receiver room is as depleted as it is? 

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Answer Staring Shurmur in the Face

In those first three games, the Broncos used 12- or 13-personnel (2-TE & 3-TE sets) on 86 plays and were successful 50% and 46% of the time. Denver's most successful formation was 22-personnel (2 TE/2 RB), though it only ran six plays out of that formation. 

It would make sense to fall back on your tight ends and running backs more after losing two of your top receiving playmakers. Yet, Shurmur did the exact opposite of that. It highlights the coach's inability to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of his team and set the players up for success. 

After the injuries occurred, Denver called 138 plays out of 11-personnel to only 55 total plays in any other personnel grouping. In 12- and 13-personnel, Shurmur called 44 total plays out of those groupings. This team has no identity on offense, and whenever it gets close to finding one, Shurmur decides to go away from it. 

With the receivers so banged up, Denver has strength at running back and tight end, even with Noah Fant struggling. This offense becomes less predictable outside of 11-personnel, which can help the Broncos be more successful. 

It's past time for Shurmur to start calling plays and personnel groupings that play to the Broncos' strengths, but if past behavior is the best predictor of the future, but it seems unrealistic to expect it will happen. 


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