Noah Fant: Broncos' Offense isn't Living Up to its Potential
The last eight quarters of play have been particularly rough for the Denver Broncos offensively. In Week 6, the Broncos couldn't score a touchdown, despite six scoring drives, due in large part to receivers dropping passes in the end zone.
In Week 7, outside of the running game, the whole offense was skiwampus. The scrutiny of Denver's offensive struggles has mostly fallen on the head of second-year quarterback Drew Lock and coordinator Pat Shurmur.
However, one thing both Lock and Shurmur seemed to have a good handle on in Week 7's brutal loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was the tight end position. Lock targeted the tight ends a whopping 17 times, completing 12 passes for 123 yards.
The team's newfound emphasis on the tight end position, likely in the wake of Albert Okwuegbunam's emergence in Week 6 where he showed a strong connection with Lock, did nothing to move the needle against the Chiefs in terms of the final result. It was a 43-16 loss and it was embarrassing, particularly for the offense.
Lock turned the ball over twice, one of which was a pick-six, while the team continued its struggles on third down. Many in Broncos Country worry that the offense is destined to struggle all year long, following in the team's post-Super Bowl 50 tradition.
Tight end Noah Fant is just as unhappy as those fans but he's not seeing it with that same myopic apathy. The second-year Fant missed one game this year with an ankle sprain but came back last week and is ready to stop talking about improving offensively, and just do it.
“I don’t have a bad attitude about it, but I’m not happy with the results that we have right now," Fant said on Tuesday. "It’s unacceptable with where we’re at. We want to be better than what we’re doing. The statistics and the conversions—you look at all the numbers, we’re not living up to our potential."
That's part of what has Broncos Country and media alike so concerned. Even without a stud like Pro Bowl receiver Courtland Sutton, this offense is too talented to be ranked bottom-5 in all the key statistical categories.
Denver is ranked No. 29 in third-down and No. 30 in red-zone efficiency. There is no way to sugarcoat it. That's almost as bad as it gets and the potential Fant speaks of is what makes the Broncos' offensive impotence so maddening.
Even Lock, whose last five quarters of play have left much to be desired, is far better quarterback than he's displayed of late. The Broncos have invested some serious resources into the offense and right now, Coach Shurmur is not providing the team with a return.
"We have so much ability and so much talent on the offensive side of the ball, and we have to figure out how to make things work," Fant said. "Again, not a bad attitude from my part. Still positive about it, but at some point, it’s like, ‘Put up or shut up.’"
The Broncos still have plenty of time to "put up" with 10 games left to go. But at some point, things have to start coming together offensively.
It was far from ideal for Coach Shurmur to lose all of the offseason and preseason due to the pandemic, only to see his starting quarterback go down in the second game and miss the next month of real-time. But Lock is back.
The sun is still shining on the Broncos, even sitting at 2-4. The onus is on Shurmur, Lock, Fant — and all those talented players on offense — to make some hay.
"It’s time to buckle down and get these things going," Fant said. "As for me and anybody on this team, we have to be on our Ps and Qs to get this thing turned around.”
Was Week 7's slapdash performance an outlier? Or was it a symptom of a larger problem the Broncos have offensively?
Until Shurmur and Lock can get on the same page, and simply start scheming ways to get the ball into the hands of their prodigious playmakers — like Fant, and wideouts Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler — the Broncos are going to continue to sputter. Fant should be fed 8-10 targets per game, and Jeudy? He should receive a heck of a lot more than the nine total targets he's garnered over the last two games.
That's on Shurmur. And it's on the triggerman, Lock.
With the Justin Herbert-led Los Angeles Chargers coming to Denver this weekend, once again, the Broncos face an AFC West litmus test. The mettle of this offense — especially its leader under center and brainchild play-caller — will be tried.
The message to Shurmur and Lock this week? Don't make it harder than it has to be. It's gut-check time. Get back to basics and figure out how to maximize the formidable talent Fant speaks of on the offensive side of the ball and all can be made right with the world.
You know the old sports cliche: 'Winning cures all.'