The NFL is a copycat league. That’s why teams are now trying to find their version of Taysom Hill. The New Orleans Saints third-string quarterback plays all over the field on offense, throwing passes, catching passes and running the ball.
On Monday, Eagles quarterback coach Press Taylor said that he feels the NFL’s next big trend could be getting multiple quarterbacks on the field at the same time. This is something they’ve done successfully in Philadelphia before (see Philly Special with tight Trey Burton, a former quarterback, and QB Nick Foles) and might be looking to do again even though they have a real franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz.
I actually had a conversation about this trend a few weeks ago with NFL Network’s James Palmer. We discussed players that could be Hill-like around the league, debating quarterbacks like Trace McSorley (Ravens), Nick Fitzgerald (Buccaneers), Easton Stick (Chargers) and John Lovett (Chiefs).
Will the Broncos be the next team to follow the NFL’s newest trend? Let’s take a look.
Been Here Before
Joe Flacco is the clear-cut starter for the Broncos. There is no quarterback controversy in Denver, even though the team selected Drew Lock in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Lock is not ready to see the field as the starter, but could he get some playing time as a change-of-pace quarterback?
Probably not. Lock is athletic and can make plays with his legs, either keeping plays alive while running to gain time to throw or actually just taking off to run. While Lock is athletic, he’s not on the elite level of athleticism that a player like Lamar Jackson is.
Last year, the Ravens selected Jackson in the first round with the idea that he could be a part-time player behind/alongside Flacco while developing into an eventual starter. In nine games with Flacco starting at quarterback, Jackson played 87 snaps as a trick quarterback. During these games, Jackson only threw the ball nine times.
Sometimes, Jackson would play a lot (in Week 1 against Buffalo, he played 31 snaps), while other times he’d barely play (there were two games where Jackson only saw two snaps). When Jackson came onto the field, he was a runner, receiver and quarterback. Sometimes, Flacco would flex out as a wide receiver, although he was not targeted with a pass when Jackson threw the ball.
Flacco has been here before and it didn’t work as intended. In fact, when Flacco goes out as a receiver, it’s almost like the offense is playing with 10 players instead of 11. That’s a situation that I don’t think the Broncos will put themselves in this season.
So if Lock is not a great option to be a trick quarterback for the Broncos, then who would be? The easy answer, and likely best answer, is wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
I’ve watched Sanders launch passes in practice between drills that look fantastic. Even when Sanders is playing catch, his arm strength, velocity and accuracy is outstanding for a player who doesn’t play quarterback.
Sanders had a passing touchdown last year for the Broncos. In Week 7 against the Cardinals, the wide receiver launched a 28-yard touchdown pass to Courtland Sutton. That was actually the second time Sanders has thrown a pass in the NFL and the third time he’s been considered a passer during his nine-year pro career.
If the Broncos wanted to, they could use Sanders on trick passes again. He’s got the arm strength to fit the ball into tight spots, and Sanders has proven that he can throw accurately on the run.
The Broncos offense comes from a Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak lineage. New offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello worked under Kyle Shanahan with the 49ers in 2018.
Last season, three players attempted a pass for the 49ers – and all of them were quarterbacks. Scangarello was the quarterbacks coach in the 2017 and 2018 season, and didn’t see anyone who wasn’t a quarterback attempt a pass for his team.
Looking back in history, Kyle Shanahan’s offense doesn’t feature any sort of trick quarterback. During the 2016 season, when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator of the Falcons, his passing offense was among the best in the NFL. Starting quarterback Matt Ryan had nearly 5,000 yards passing, 38 passing touchdowns and threw all but three passes that year. The other player to throw a pass for the Falcons that year? Long-time veteran quarterback Matt Schaub.
Simply put, this isn’t the offense to feature double passes or two quarterbacks on the field at the same time.
There’s no doubt about it, having a player like Taysom Hill come on the field as a change-of-pace quarterback is certainly exciting. The rest of the league is looking for wrinkles to attack an opposing defense, and adding quarterbacks like Hill is trendy.
The Broncos won’t follow the trend in 2019.
They are an “old school” offense that is going to be run in a traditional fashion. Flacco is going to be a drop-back passer who launches passes deep after faking a hand off. I doubt he lines up as a receiver for a single snap this year – even in practice or training camp.
The NFL is trending in a direction the Broncos aren’t built to go.
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