The Broncos turned uncertainty into franchise certitude with the monster signing of Peyton Manning in the off-season. The future hall of famer immediately upgraded the team to contender, but to what extent? Fans and critics immediately turned an eye to targets. The departure of Brandon Lloyd almost exactly a year ago left the Broncos receiver depth green to say the least. PFM can make receivers look good like no other but two young wideouts and no holdover tight ends would be asking a lot. Pundits, writers, and bloggers debated about who and what the Broncos should add on the offensive side of the ball. Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon made a ton of sense, so did long time Colt and Manning favorite Tight End Dallas Clark. All of the above were not meant to be nor was a blockbuster trade to bring receiver Mike Wallace to the mile high city. The Broncos stood pat except for moderate upgrades to the safety valve over the middle, the tight end position.
The Broncos added other former Colts in Brandon Stokley and Jacob Tamme, however they also picked up roll player Joel Dreessen a “blocking specialist” from the Texans. Sometimes a player can’t escape a label, especially when they’re paired with a talented teammate. In Joel’s case that was playing second fiddle to the consistently productive Owen Daniels. Looking at Dreessen’s career it tells the story of a guy who worked his way onto NFL rosters with a niche skill. Sometimes that’s special teams, long snapping, or effective blocking. But the Colorado native has performed like an excellent stock option pickup, doubling his receiving yards after his 3rd season in the league, and then doing it again the following season. 2010 was his peak in Houston, but he still put up a respectable season last year before signing on with Denver.
The Broncs certainly didn’t plan on Joel being an elite receiving tight end. After all John Fox likes himself a good ground game. It’s also no secret that things have started bumpy in the first half of the Broncos season as this cobbled together unit adjusts to itself. In a very un-Peytonlike way, they had struggled on 3rd down, becoming somewhat predictable out of the shotgun option formation. That’s where we get back to that famous phrase, safety valve. When you’re put in a predictable situation as an offense on 3rd down the defense is going to play the deep routes. Corners are going to have help over the top. It’s that time when you need your tight ends and backs to make it happen. Dreessen’s pseudo-wheel route on 3rd down against San Diego converted into a long gain for a first down along the sideline was a perfect example of this. It’s the type of play elite offenses make and average ones don’t even attempt.
Make no mistake, this isn’t an anomaly As Denver’s tight ends go, so the offense goes and more specifically Dreesen. If you take an average of his yards from this season, he will finish with the second best season of his career. However if you project up from the last four games, there’s hardly any drop off in yards and it would put Joel on pace to finish the season with 12 touchdowns. His situational stats put him as one of the most useful producers in the red zone. He is also one of the few Broncos putting up key stats, and specifically touchdowns in the first half of games. Something the team has sorely needed. Dreessen is becoming a difference maker, however it’s been done quietly Tamme was brought in as the “pass catcher” of the duo. But keep an eye out on the local. He’s showing he can produce in the Manning offense and when he does it counts.
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