Sean Payton: Broncos may have to trim offense, “reduce the verbiage” after struggling with operation vs. Commanders

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Sean Payton had the play he wanted to run on second-and-2 from the Washington 5-yard line on the Broncos’ opening drive Sunday afternoon.

The process of getting to it, though, took too long. He appeared to start talking into his headset with the play clock at about 28 seconds. At 22, four Broncos players come off the field and four, including rookie running back Jaleel McLaughlin, rookie tight end Nate Adkins and fullback Michael Burton, run on.

Once Denver subbed, the Commanders did, too. Now the clock ticks under 10 and quarterback Russell Wilson and the offense don’t break the huddle until seven on the play clock.

Timeout.

In the end, the call was perhaps worth burning the timeout for. Adkins sealed off defensive end Chase Young, Burton provided the lead block and McLaughlin waltzed into the end zone for the Broncos’ opening score.

But this type of issue cost Denver its other two timeouts, too, later in the first half of the Broncos’ 35-33 loss. Multiple receivers and McLaughlin didn’t know how to line up before a timeout on another touchdown drive early in the second quarter. Burton and Javonte Williams had confusion and Williams ran off the field leaving Denver with 10 men one play before a Wilson fumble turned the tide of the game later in the second.

“I think, No. 1, the first thing that we always try to look at — but we have to do a better job of as coaches — is reduce the verbiage,” Payton said Monday. “If we have a longer play, then we can easily get to a wristband. We have to reduce the variables. I just finished saying this in the team meeting: If we’re making (mental errors) defensively and offensively, we’re having trouble breaking the huddle and getting lined up, then we have to look at if we have too much in (the game plan).

“Then, how do we reduce the verbiage at the line of scrimmage, or in the huddle? Because it goes from me to the QB, the QB to the offense, and then here we go.

“That’s going to improve.”

How? As Payton said, he may have to consider putting longer play-calls on a wristband for Wilson — the quarterback wore one Sunday already, so this would be more about adding to or adjusting what’s already listed — but he then still has to get the play communicated to the rest of the offense.

“We’ve done a really good job of getting in and out of the huddles,” Wilson said postgame. “I thought we had two or three plays where we could’ve been a little bit faster. In the first half, we called a timeout on one of them. We have to be cleaner. We’ll be cleaner next time.”

Indeed, the Broncos had very little in the way of noticeable operational problems during their Week 1 home loss to Las Vegas. That’s partially why the first-half issues stuck out. The other reason: It’s an issue that plagued Denver’s offense in 2022 under Nathaniel Hackett and one of the key things Payton pointed to when blasting last year’s performance as “maybe one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.”

Part of that criticism in July from Payton: “It wasn’t just Russell. He didn’t just flip. He still has it. This B.S. that he hit a wall? Shoot, they couldn’t get a play in.”

After Sunday’s game, Payton addressed a similar set of circumstances.

“We had to burn timeouts in the first half, and I’m not used to doing that,” Payton said after the game. “We have to be better. I have to be better. Russ has to be sharper with getting the play out.”

True, but getting the play out has nothing to do with instances where subs come on too late to get out of the huddle on time.

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