Measurables: 6-foot-5, 308 pounds.
2014 stats: 47 snaps.
Ben Garland is the poster boy for ‘Colorado Kid Makes Good’. Native to the state, Garland excelled at Central High School in Grand Junction and at the next level, he played his college ball at the Air Force Academy—as a defensive lineman.
Although Garland didn’t hear his name called in the 2010 NFL Draft, Josh McDaniels signed him from the ubiquitous ranks of the undrafted and his Denver Broncos career began. He spent the preseason on the roster, before leaving to fulfill his obligations to the United States Air Force from 2010-11.
When he returned to the Broncos, Garland continued to compete as a defensive lineman, but wasn’t ever quite able to crack the final roster. Then, in the spring of 2013, the Broncos asked him to switch from defensive line to offensive line and it was likely the best thing that could have happened to him.
He spent 2013 on the practice squad. But it was last season that his big breakthrough occurred. Garland finally made the 53-man roster. He served as a backup guard, seeing action in eight games on offense and special teams.
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With the departure of John Fox and most of his staff and the arrival of Gary Kubiak and company, Garland’s prospects got even better. With his football I.Q., size and athleticism, Garland is an excellent fit in the zone blocking scheme.
Throughout the Broncos offseason training program, Garland competed with free agent acquisition Shelley Smith for snaps at left guard. When the Broncos wrapped their OTAs, Kubiak announced who the five first-team O-linemen were heading into training camp and Garland’s name was penciled in at left guard.
“I see Ben this way: work habits, effort and all those things, there is no question about Ben," said Kubiak following OTAs. "Really the thing that we've got to see is the playtime. Everybody is very impressed with Ben and how he’s handled himself here.”
One of the things that sets Garland apart from the competition is his relentless work ethic and motor, as Kubiak talked about back in June.
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“He’s the greatest kid in the world,” Kubiak said. “He works harder than anybody. He’s the first one here, last one to leave. I've never been here when I haven't seen Ben here at 5:15, 5:30 in the morning. So, all that’s in place but he’s got to get out there, he’s got to go through camp, he’s got to get the reps up. All the offensive reps, all the protections, those things. And we'll see. But we're rooting for him. He’s a wonderful young man and it’s a great opportunity for him right now with what’s going on with us upfront.”
Kubiak points out that Garland’s battle is not yet won. He might be penciled in as the first-team left guard heading into training camp, but he’s never started an NFL game. He has to continue to show the intensity he’s displayed thus far, if he hopes to hold on to his starting job.
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His competition is the aforementioned Smith and 2014 third round pick Michael Schofield, who is likely to get some reps at LG in camp. Rookie fourth round pick Max Garcia could factor in, but is likely more in line for reps at center and right guard.
He'll have his work cut out for him, especially playing next to a rookie left tackle in Ty Sambrailo, but knowing what we do about Garland, who was named the Broncos 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year this past December, I wouldn’t bet against him.
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