The Eat Front within the Penny Package (5-1)
MatchQuarters dives into one of the Broncos favorite presentations from a hybrid package.
Much has been said about the Denver Broncos’ lack of offense, which has hidden the masterful job rookie Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero has done with the defense. Evero hails from the LA Rams scheme that Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley started. The whole system stems from Vic Fangio, the former Head Coach of the Broncos. Though Evero has an apparent head start, that does not discount his success on the field in his first year.
Denver finished the season at a disappointing 5-12 behind a lackluster offense that finished 29th in DVOA (Football Outsiders). That starkly contrasts the hype surrounding the trade for Russell Wilson. Before the Ravens game in Week 13, had the Broncos scored at least 18 points, they would have entered their Week 14 matchup against the Chiefs sitting at 10-2 with a lot of momentum heading into the season's final stretch.
The Kansas City game seemed to be the breaking point for the entire team. Playing Mahomes at home, the Broncos stayed within reach but eventually lost 28-34. The following week saw a win against the lowly Cardinals, another struggling offense, but the 14-51 blowout loss to the Rams led to the firing of Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett.
Before the LA blowout, the Broncos had only given up 30 points twice, in Week 14 against the Chiefs and Week 4 at the Raiders. There were three overtime losses as well. The defense did their part for as long as they could, and the focus on Wilson and the offense muted the success of the Broncos’ defense.
From Week 1 to 13, Denver had the fourth-best defensive EPA (-.081) and the third-best passing EPA at -.093, right behind the Cowboys and Eagles ( RBSDM). Though the rushing EPA was towards the middle at 18th, the Success Rate was near the top 10 at 11th overall. The Broncos’ defense was doing its part, and Evero had the secondary playing at an elite level.
Though not an EPA or even efficiency darling, the Broncos run defense did well enough to keep their opponents from gashing them regularly. Unfortunately, the stats on the rush defense are a little misleading, as the secondary was one of the best all year, forcing teams to turn to the run. Combined with the offense's ineptitude, most opponents got ahead early and settled in for the long haul, utilizing the run game to kill the clock and keep the Broncos’ defense on the field.
It should not come as anyone’s surprise how well the secondary in Denver played. Looking at what unfolded in LA (Rams), Evero has proven himself a great DB coach. Pat Surtain made the Pro Bowl roster and was named to PFF and the NFLPA’s All-Pro teams. Though there is room for improvement in the secondary and a need to find a replacement for the aging Kareem Jackson, the unit's production can’t go unnoticed.
One of the main strengths of the defense outside of the secondary was interior D-line play. Dre’Mont Jones (#93) would finish the regular season 6th overall in DT pass rush win rate. Interior counterpart DJ Jones (#97) would finish fourth in DT run-stop rate. The D-line unit finished 10th in run-stop win rate and 9th in pass rush win rate (ESPN). Evero’s ability to get production from the EDGEs was significant, as Bradley Chubb was traded to Miami in early November. Highly coveted and oft-injured, EDGE Randy Gregory (former Cowboy) only played in six games.
The Broncos’ defense has a slight head start regarding terminology and scheme. The Staley and Raheem Morris (current Rams DC) iterations of the Fangio system are slightly different. The main difference in the schemes lies in how the fronts are used. Fangio (and former DC Ed Donatell of the Vikings) prefer to run a four-down Nickel where the Staley branch leans into the Penny Front (5-1).
Like the Rams and Chargers, the Broncos’ defense in 2022 featured a high usage of the Penny package or 5-1 front alignment. However, instead of utilizing an open B-gap and two ILBs, Denver opted to feature the two Jones and the workhorse Mike Purcell (#98) at Nose. Outside, the Broncos used a rush-by-committee from their young EDGEs to set the perimeter and rush the passer.
A powerful platform used on Microsoft® Visio & PowerPoint to allow football coaches to organize, format, and export Playbooks, Scout Cards & Presentations efficiently.