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Packers-Broncos Q&A: Denver's offseason changes with Mile High Report

Denver went through major changes in the coaching staff this offseason, and our colleagues from MHR explain why that's a big reason for the team's performance so far.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers face a tough Denver Broncos team on Sunday Night, as both teams enter the week eight game undefeated at 6-0. Of course, playing in different conferences means that these teams have not met since 2011, when the Packers were victorious at Lambeau Field.

Four years in the NFL is an eternity, however, and since the teams have not played in the preseason in that time, we have had little opportunity to see how the Broncos franchise and roster has evolved over the last four years. Furthermore, Denver overhauled its coaching staff this offseason, bringing in Gary Kubiak to replace the departed John Fox.

Therefore, we thought that the best place to go to learn about those changes was to our partners in crime at Mile High Report. Our thanks go out to Sadaraine, one of MHR's writers who kindly answered our questions about the Broncos' 2015 offseason and current health status.

Finally, keep an eye out as we returned the favor at MHR with responses about the Packers' offseason as well.

APC: The Broncos' major overhaul of the coaching staff seemed a bit surprising to outsiders, given their recent success - what are the key changes from a John Fox-coached team to one with Gary Kubiak in charge, and how has that affected the team's play so far?

MHR: What a great question. Let's start with something that may not be apparent to those who don't follow the Broncos closely: John Fox had one foot out the door last season. We don't know why, but theories usually point to a rift between him and John Elway. Back in January, Elway said, "For two years, it didn't feel like we went out kicking and screaming."

In comes Gary Kubiak for his 2nd shot as a head coach in the NFL with the Denver Broncos. He typically runs the offense including play calling duties on game day. This is a significant change from last year where Adam Gase worked with Peyton Manning to run the offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, we've gone from Jack "I like prevent defense" Del Rio to Wade Phillips. This is the MVP change for the year in the minds of most Bronco fans. Wade couldn't be more philosophically different from JDR. Instead of a "bend but don't break" system, he runs an aggressive 1-gap defense designed to attack the offense instead of play reactively.

The other key change is Bill Kollar who is one of the best defensive line coaches in the league. He is doing wonders with our guys in the trenches just as you would expect from the guy who coached up J.J. Watt.

Offensively, the changes have been a bit of a hot mess. Peyton is not comfortable at all waiting for plays to come in and playing under center. He has always operated where he can get up to the line and spend time analyzing the defense before hiking the ball. New pass route concepts also appear to have him uncomfortable. All of this has led to more mistakes in the passing game.

The running game too has switched to the Kubiak zone block system largely which is taking time to get right. The running backs are still adjusting to the reads, the line is still getting on the same page, and solid running has been hard to come by.

Defensively, the changes have been incredible. We've always felt that we've had really great talent the past couple of years on defense as Broncos fans, but that it was oftentimes misused. It certainly appears that that opinion has some truth to it based off of the results so far this season. The stats speak for themselves. This defense is potent.

APC: What areas of the team were a focus in this offseason? Are there any position groups that have taken a major step forward or backward in talent level?

MHR: The offensive line was a huge focus this offseason. We only returned one starter from last year in Louis Vasquez who was pinch hitting at RT for us last year (he's a RG). We have a 2nd year guy at both C and RT. We also have a rookie starting at LT given that Ryan Clady is out for the season.

Our tight end group has taken a surprising step back. We lost Julius Thomas last year and were hoping that replacing him with Owen Daniels would be a nice fit. It has been disappointing to say the least and our #2 TE Virgil Green for whatever reason isn't helping us produce in that area.

Our outside linebacker group has taken a huge step forward. You wouldn't tend to think so given that they are led by Demarcus Ware and Von Miller, but the scheme change fits them so well. More importantly, our backup OLBs Shaquil Barrett and Shane Ray (rookie) look like legit starting talent players. We were without Demarcus for a game and a half and there was no drop-off in production whatsoever because of it.

APC: The Packers have been hit hard once again by the injury bug this year - how healthy are the Broncos and how have they adjusted to key injuries? (Also, will DeMarcus Ware be ready to go on Sunday?)

MHR: Demarcus from all reports is ready to go and is practicing this week. His injury appeared to be related to back spasms and the bye week timing appears to be just what he needed.

We've been fairly unlucky back in the offseason losing Ryan Clady and Jeff Heuerman (rookie pass catching TE) for the season. The only other significant injuries have been to Ware and Ty Sambrailo.

The Broncos are very healthy overall at this point and I'd consider them to be pretty lucky thus far in the season. Denver has a pretty deep team talent-wise and that hopefully affords the team the ability to rest up our dinged up guys to as close to 100% as possible instead of rushing them back.

The team has adjusted very well to the injuries we've had to deal with (like I said, the team has some of the best depth I've seen wearing the Orange and Blue). The biggest worry we had about them was Sambrailo going out at LT. Ryan Harris has filled in admirably well (he started the season as our RT) and has shown he can hold down the fort should Sambrailo not be ready to go.

We extend our thanks to Sadaraine for his great responses, and keep a look out over the next few days for more content with the fine folks over at Mile High Report.