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Fangio wants Broncos offense to be more 'aggressive'

The Denver Broncos swapped offensive coordinators this offseason, wiping out Rich Scangarello in favor of Giants discarded coach Pat Shurmur.

Head coach Vic Fangio has given Shurmur at least one demand: Create explosive plays.

"That's what I like," Fangio said Thursday, via ESPN. "Contrary to the stereotype that's always out there, you know, defensive head coach, you know, wants to ground and pound, considers the pitch to the halfback a pass -- that's not me. I like to be aggressive."

As a defensive coach, Fangio knows how difficult it is to defend offenses that can stretch the field vertically, and strike from any patch of grass.

"I think it's important that you do attack the defense down the field," Shurmur said. "There are some games when teams won't allow it so you've got to do other things. But I think you have to challenge a defense, and one way to do it is to do it downfield. That's how you get points, that's how you move the ball. I know [Fangio], and I believe that's something with the players we have that we'll be able to do."

The Broncos offense did little of that in 2019, especially early in the season with a crumbling Joe Flacco and newb Brandon Allen under center. For the campaign, Denver scored 16 or fewer points nine times, ended the year 28th in scoring and passing, and 30th in third-down rate. Denver generated just 19 passing plays of at least 30 yards, tied for 17th in the NFL.

On the plus side for Fangio and Shurmur, second-year quarterback Drew Lock showed a greater proclivity to push the ball downfield. He had five passing plays of 30-plus yards in his five starts.

The combination of Lock and rising star Courtland Sutton is a duo that could give defenses nightmares. Tight end Noah Fant also flashed playmaking ability when he wasn't handcuffed by bad drops. A wide receiver depth chart including Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton is a start. Adding another field-tilting weapon for Lock could make the Broncos offense deadly.

The question is whether the change from Scangarello to Shurmur can make the difference. In his 11 years as either an offensive coordinator or head coach, Shurmur has guided offenses that have just twice finished in the top 10 in net yards per attempt for a season, per Pro Football Reference -- his top placement came in 2013 when it was Chip Kelly calling the plays in Philadelphia.

Shurmur's final season in Minnesota offered some promise that with the right pieces, he could lead a big-play offense. That 2017 campaign saw Case Keenum splash shots to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen regularly.

The past two years in New York, Shurmur didn't employ a dynamic offense, but when Daniel Jones took over, Big Blue did attempt to divebomb opponents, ranking eighth in the NFL with 24 pass plays of at least 30 yards.

"(You've) just got to throw it down there -- that's how you got to do it," Shurmur said. "I think we have some players that can be effective and make plays and be productive with the deep ball."

The biggest key for the Broncos to become that aggressive, explosive offense the coaching staff wants will be the offensive line. Lock needs time to work, and Sutton & Co. must have a chance to get open. The Denver O-line has been a mess for years. If that isn't fixed this time around, all the talk of a big-play offense will end up as offseason hot air.

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