On the surface, it looks like an already fantastic offense is just going to get that much better. Welker is the owner of five seasons of 100-plus catches over the last six years. That’s great production. Maybe even sensational. Factor in that Welker can also contribute in the return game on special teams, and you have the makings of a great signing, right?
Not so fast.
Welker will certainly bring an element to the Broncos’ offense that was surely lacking a season ago. He provides his new quarterback Peyton Manning with a weapon in the slot. What Welker will not bring is the element of toughness the Broncos sorely lacked a season ago. It showed in a big way during their postseason loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.
The Broncos’ problems on offense did not lie with the passing game, but rather in the run game. The numbers will tell you Denver had a top-10 rushing attack. The numbers will tell you that Denver was a top-five scoring offense. The numbers will tell you that Manning had his best season in seven years.
What the numbers do not tell you is how much the Broncos struggled in the postseason on third-and-short. Several times in their playoff loss to Baltimore, the Broncos were faced with a third-and-three or less situation. Several times, the Broncos did not convert.
In fact, the Broncos were a horrid two-of-12 in those situations.
Welker enthusiasts will say that the dynamic receiver can help in that area – and he will, but will he help in that area in the cold in January and February? Playing in January with Brady is a much different animal than playing in the cold with Manning. Brady thrives in poor wintry conditions, whereas Manning does not thrive as much.
The Broncos lost to Baltimore last postseason for a myriad of reasons, but the one area Denver needed to fix most was the short-yardage run game.
The Broncos certainly took steps to help that area out. Signing guard Louis Vasquez away from division rival San Diego could wind up being John Elway’s best signing. Vasquez is a mauler in the run game who will help on third downs.
Denver also drafted RB Montee Ball to team up with Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno in the Broncos backfield. Ball was a workhorse in college and the Broncos expect him to be a workhorse in Denver as well.
The Vasquez signing and the drafting of Ball would indicate the Broncos are well aware of their issues from a season ago, but I have to wonder how much of an emphasis can you put on the running game with the trio of receivers the Broncos will employ?
Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker transformed into one of the game’s best receiving duo’s a year ago. When you throw Welker into the mix, it becomes the game’s most prolific receiving core. With Manning pulling the trigger, how much of the running game will Denver rely on?
The Broncos will want to use their new toy early and often next season. I am afraid the passing game will click so well during the regular season that when the cold weather hits and it’s time to convert on third-and-short, Denver will again be looking for answers.