The Broncos will use the pistol

Aug 11, 2013 -- 10:07pm
By Cecil Lammey
Photo courtesy of
ESPN Denver            
Just like John Wayne in “True Grit,” the Broncos’ Peyton Manning will put the reins of the season in his teeth and ride into 2013 with guns blazing. That movie is one of the greatest westerns of all time and the Broncos are hoping to build one of the greatest teams the AFC West has ever seen.
The Broncos unveiled the Pistol formation in their first preseason game against the 49ers on Thursday night. I asked Manning if he wouldn’t mind running that style of offense last Tuesday but he declined to answer. Instead he praised the 49ers for their personnel and how they execute the pistol offense. “Well, like I said, they have a great team. They have great players. I’ve studied probably their defense a little bit more. We played them last year in the preseason. You see them play on TV. It’s a talented team all around. They have great coaches. I had a chance to visit with those coaches last year. It’s an impressive staff and they have great players.”
It’s unclear why the Broncos unveiled this formation now, but the fact they did gives opponents yet another wrinkle to worry about. Now defenses will have to prepare for that look when facing the Broncos. Opponents already have enough to worry about given the design of the offense (up tempo) and the talent in the passing game (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas). In fact, it’s a formation that makes a lot of sense given the personnel on the Broncos roster, specifically at the RB position.
The pistol offense is an American football formation and strategy developed by Michael Taylor and Tom Kaczkowski, and popularized by Chris Ault in 2005 while he was head coach at the University of Nevada. It sets the quarterback four yards back from the center with the running back lining up behind him. This is different from the shotgun formation where the quarterback is seven yards back and the running back lines up beside him.
The Pistol formation means Peyton Manning will have an easier time running the outside zone stretch play he used to run to perfection with the Colts. Manning will be able to see the defense nearly as clear as he does when in the shotgun and will be able to get rid of the ball quicker as a passer. In the shotgun a rushing play usually goes to the opposite side of there the running back has lined up. In the pistol a rushing play can go either way.
Both Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball are capable of rushing success in the outside zone scheme. Hillman has the big play ability to eat up huge chunks of yardage any time he touches the ball. He can also identify a cutback lane quickly and has the burst to change direction without losing much speed. Hillman is running with better patience this year and during training camp has shown the willingness to let his blocks fully develop before making his cut. Ball has struggled to get many yards in camp but his best runs have come to the outside of the tackles. Over the last two years of his college career Ball averaged 7.1 yards per carry outside the tackles and almost 37% of his rushes went to that spot. The Broncos are set to use a RBBC (running back by committee) in 2013 featuring primarily Hillman and Ball.
Throw in the zone blocking system under the guidance of Alex Gibbs and you can see why the Broncos ground game could be very effective in 2013. The Broncos are going to have a high tempo offense with one of the best passing games in the league. Now with the pistol formation we could see their ground game be quite dangerous as well.

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