ENGLEWOOD | The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl in an unorthodox manner and they’re out to defend that title in an unconventional way as well.
In this age of the high-powered passing games, they won it all with a devastating defense. They’ll try to do it again with a throwback offense that features an old-fashioned fullback and a QB that shield the ball as well as he slings it.
“Our room is a big, big, big part of what we want to do,” running back C.J. Anderson said Saturday. “No matter who’s back there, it’s on us to get this offense to go.”
When Peyton Manning retired, coach Gary Kubiak reinstalled his version of the West Coast offense that blends roll-outs, bootlegs, play-action passes and plenty of handoffs.
General manager John Elway drafted Utah running back Devontae Booker and Nebraska fullback Andy Janovich to help an offense that will be led by Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch, who are involved in a rare three-way training camp audition.
The uncertainly can curtail the receivers’ rhythm early on, but all this isn’t to say that Pro Bowlers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are taking a back seat in 2016.
Kubiak’s offense was at its zenith in the late 1990s, when fullback Howard Griffith cleared the way for Terrell Davis to gain 1,750 and 2,008 yards in 1997-98. But both of those seasons also featured a pair of 1,000-yard receivers.
“We’re going to be physical from the start and I think putting a fullback in the offense helps out with that a lot,” Anderson said. “We can get more 21 personnel (base formations) and then we can get in a lot of different matchups and hopefully we can get eight men in the box.”
That would open up things for Sanders and Thomas, Anderson said.
“They get 1-on-1 coverage, that safety has to choose one and the ball’s going to go the other way,” Anderson said. “So, I think the philosophy is great. It’s just up to us to execute it.”
To that end, Anderson is in tip-top shape.
After signing a four-year, $18 million contract this spring, Anderson, who had weight issues early in his career, reported at about 217 pounds as he seeks to start 16 games and topple the 1,000-yard barrier for the first time.
Anderson has only run behind one fullback in his NFL career, James Casey, who was released a month into the 2015 season as the Broncos realized they had to alter their approach for Manning.
Anderson likes what the fullback brings to the mix, recalling some of the best ground games of his youth.
“The Cowboys did it with Emmitt Smith and Daryl Johnson, (LaDainian Tomlinson) had Lorenzo Neal. Of course, T.D. had a fullback here. Even Warrick Dunn had Mike Alstott,” Anderson said. “And all those offenses won big.
“We’re getting back to the ground and pound: Run game and play defense,” Anderson said. “But don’t be surprised, we will put the ball in the air because we have playmakers on the outside.”
Notes: Kubiak said MRIs were encouraging on NTs Sylvester Williams (shoulder) and Phil Taylor (knee) and both are expected back in action this weekend.