Nathaniel Hackett: The offense needs more time to gel

USA TODAY Sports

Through five games, the Denver offense stinks. Coach Nathaniel Hackett thinks that, with time, the aroma will improve.

Asked Friday whether he’ll be making changes to the offense or whether it simply needs more time to gel, Hackett went with the latter option.

“I would say for sure we need more time,” Hackett told reporters. “I think we’re in the process of we’re going to evaluate everything. We’re going to sit down as an offensive staff, we’re going to look at all of the things that we thought were good. Things that sometimes they look good, and we might not have capitalized on them, so we don’t want to necessarily throw those things out of there. We just want to find ways to get guy open and give them the opportunity to make plays. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re going to be sure we look at it with a fine tooth comb, all of us, every single one of us, to try to put those guys in the best position possible.”

Hackett also shed some light on the hybrid system that has been crafted for quarterback Russell Wilson. It’s a system that has been operating more like the Frankenstein monster, through five games.

“Right now, when we built the system, we built the system that was a combination of both our stuff and [Wilson’s] stuff,” Hackett said. “We wanted to be sure that we were doing it. A lot of the stuff carried over. There was a lot of stuff that we had that both he did and that I had done in the past. So we’re trying to mesh those things together. I don’t know if it’s necessarily sometimes the stuff that we’re doing, it’s just, again, those little negative plays here and there. Those things when you’re at second and long; you’re at first-and-long, and when we’re playing behind the chains. So I think we definitely want to take a hard look at everything that he’s done successfully and make sure we’re accommodating him as much as possible so that he feels comfortable. But at the same time, we want to do things that our players do. It’s a different team than the team that he was on in the past. So we just want to make sure we’re doing all the right stuff.”

Still, it seems as if the Broncos aren’t doing much of what Wilson has done well in the past. If they are, then it’s Wilson who is the problem. During Hackett’s Friday press conference, he was never pressed on the fundamental and basic question of what’s wrong with Russ?

That said, Hackett indirectly (and very delicately) blamed Wilson for the end-zone interception that happened late in the fourth quarter, on third and four with 2:19 to play, from the Colts’ 13.

“In that situation, I wanted to have a very good protection, wanted to get a first down to finish the game and not just a field goal,” Hackett said. “The defense had been playing great and wanted to finish it off for them. I wanted to be somewhat aggressive, but not too aggressive and in the end we have to execute the play better. Of course, right now, I would much rather have run the ball and then kicked the field goal to take more time off, but in that situation, I thought it was a good play call. It was my decision to do that and [we] just need to execute better.”

In other words, Wilson shouldn’t have thrown it to the end zone. Any other outcome would have preserved the ability to kick a field goal, go up by six points, and force the Colts to do something neither team did the entire night — score a touchdown.

So what happens going forward? Look for Hackett to simplify the offense.

“Without a doubt,” he said when asked whether he’ll consider that approach. “We want to make it so the guys are playing. The thing we say here is, ‘Hear the call. know the call Do your job.’ We want to be sure that they’re doing that at a high level, and right now it’s not. It starts with me. It starts with me as the play caller, as the one that’s in there deciding on a lot of the plays and then it goes to the coaches and then to the players. Between all of us, we have to make sure that we’re calling the things and doing the things that they can execute at a high level and know what to do. I think that’s so important and know where those big plays are going to go because those opportunities are out there. They can be out there, but if we can’t convert them or execute them, then the play doesn’t really matter. You’re right, we’re definitely going to look at that and make sure that we’re efficient and doing all the things that are good for those guys.”

That’s the most tactful way possible for Hackett to say that Wilson is having a hard time executing the plays that Hackett is calling. And thus it falls on Hackett to focus on designing and picking plays that he believes Wilson will be able to properly execute.

That’s the real issue here. Wilson is struggling with his progressions. He’s not using his legs. He’s locking in on one receiver and throwing the ball to him, regardless of how closely he’s covered.

Ultimately, Hackett needs to adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of his players. The basic problem at this point seems to be that Wilson has more weaknesses than strengths at this point.

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