During the Broncos' two Super Bowl runs, the strongest part of Denver's offense was the balance the team had in the running and passing games. As the seasons have gone by, we've seen a strong running game under Mike Shanahan transition into an aerial attack based on not knowing which weapon is going to hurt you under Josh McDaniels.
I've heard a lot of complaining about coach McDaniels' new direction of the team. We've seen budding stars Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and perhaps Peyton Hillis pushed out the door in favor of a team concept that features numerous changing parts. At running back the Broncos now feature Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter, and Laurence Maroney. Some would argue that Maroney was brought in as insurance to the oft-injured Moreno and Buckhalter, but that's kind of funny because Maroney has a pretty long injury history himself. The point--the Broncos like to rotate 2-3 running backs and keep fresh legs in the backfield.
And speaking of fresh legs, the Broncos are perhaps the deepest they've ever been at wide receiver. It's unfortunate that Kenny McKinley is no longer with us as he was another guy who had the talent to be on the field for the Broncos. Denver has four different guys who are getting it done at wideout, with Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal leading the way with 17 receptions each, veteran journeyman Brandon Lloyd finding a home with 14 receptions, and rookie Demaryius Thomas showing flashes of being the next big thing with 10 receptions of his own.
The four-horsemen have combined for the bulk of Denver's passing yardage with 854 total receiving yards and each guy has a receiving touchdown. Rotating these four guys and even having 3-4 of them on the field at the same time is causing major problems for defenses. Through three games the group has combined for 15 plays over 20 yards and Lloyd leads the group with the longest catch going for 61 yards.
In his ninth NFL season, the 29-year-old Gaffney is with his third team (Houston, New England and now Denver) and has the trust of quarterback Kyle Orton. The good thing about Orton is he doesn't have just one favorite target as he also seems very comfortable getting the ball to former Bears teammate Lloyd.
Lloyd, 29, in his eighth NFL season might have found a home with his fourth team (San Francisco, Washington, Chicago and now Denver), but I'm sure Lloyd has doubts about his job security ... especially with the play of youngsters Royal and Thomas.
Royal and Thomas both look like great draft picks and it's nice to finally see some highly drafted talent at wideout start to pan out for the Broncos (sorry, I still have Marcus Nash flashbacks from the 1998 draft).
The 24-year-old Royal and 22-year-old Thomas both could be in Broncos uniforms for a long time (unless they become superstars on McDaniels' watch! Jokes). I'd love to see Gaffney and Lloyd stick around as well, but who knows if there will continue to be enough footballs to go around if the young guys keep rising.
It's nice to see a position that we don't have to worry about. As long as the offensive line continues to give Orton the time he needs, he'll continue to sling the ball all over the field. Through three games, 58 of Orton's 83 completions have been to the four-horsemen.
The aerial attacking Broncos have all the pieces they need, now we'll see how far they can carry the team.