There is a battle, of some sort, for four of the five positions along the offensive line for the Denver Broncos. The only place there is no battle is at right guard. Louis Vasquez is sitting pretty as the starter and Max Garcia is set as his backup. Next to nothing can change that, except Garcia getting a shot at center, and potentially winning the job.
The biggest battle to watch is at the offensive tackle positions. Essentially, every player at offensive tackle is capable of playing left or right tackle. Ryan Harris and Chris Clark have experience at both positions and provide valuable veteran depth.
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Rookie Ty Sambrailo was looking at right tackle before Ryan Clady got hurt, then he was moved over to left tackle and has been doing really well. That leaves Michael Schofield, Connor Rains and Kyle Roberts. Schofield is a former third round pick from a year ago and the other two are both undrafted rookies.
Right now, Sambrailo is sitting as the starter at left tackle and Clark at right tackle. While Sambrailo doesn’t have his spot cemented, it will take him falling apart to open it up for another player to take it. Meanwhile, there is an open battle at right tackle between Clark, Harris and Schofield. If they decide to play the young guys, Schofield should get the job, and he is who I have getting the starting job at right tackle.
Sambrailo and Schofield have similar styles of play and similar weaknesses. Both of them are young and should be getting coached up to potentially be the bookend tackles of the Broncos future. One of the best ways to see what you have in a young player is getting them on the field. With so much depending on Peyton Manning, who relies on the offensive line, both young guys would have a short leash, if both ended up as starters.
Not only is there a battle for the starting right tackle spot open, there is a spot for the backups. That battle comes down to Clark, Harris, Rains and Robert. Harris and Clark both have a leg up on the two rookies. So, if they keep four offensive tackles, Clark and Harris have those jobs.
Then the battle becomes, who is the third and who is the fourth offensive tackle? In my roster projections, I have Harris making it and Clark on the way out. This is a battle to watch, but a lot depends on what the Broncos want to go with as their starters and backups, as well as cost efficiency.
The next battle is at the left guard position. Ben Garland is sitting as the starter and behind him is Shelley Smith and Andre Davis. This battle is for both starter and backup. Even though Garland is the starter, he lacks experience.
Meanwhile, Smith has the experience but has struggled whenever he's been a starter. Both of them have a leg up on Davis, but if he really does well in training camp and preseason, he could enter the battle for the backup position.
The options do not end there either. Right guard Max Garcia also can be an option to move over to left guard and start. Also, Gino Gradkowski is an option as well, though this depends on what happens with the battle at center.
If no one really sets themselves apart as the starter, it is possible to see the Broncos pick up a free agent to add to the competition. However, I find that unlikely to happen at offensive guard. I think Garland wins the job, and Smith ends up on the outside, as in getting cut. whether they keep a fourth or not. Doing so hurts building the roster at other positions. Smith has a decent cost, but has bad play. He would really have to step up to get a spot.
The final battle on the offensive line comes at the center position. The previous mentioned Gradkowski is in a battle with Matt Paradis and Dillon Day. Right now the battle could go either way between Paradis and Gradkowski. Paradis is a first-year player, after spending last year on the practice squad.
However, he has the skill-set and intelligence to be successful in the Broncos scheme. Gradkowski was in the scheme a year ago in Baltimore, but hardly played during the season. When he was the starter, it was memorable play, but in a bad way. Behind those two, Day is sitting as the odd man out and may just be a camp body. With how weak the center position looks, great play from Day could set him above the other two.
Also, if no one is able to set themselves above the others, the Broncos could look outside the organization. Veteran free agent Chris Myers is still available and has a great knowledge of the scheme. This is a more likely situation than bringing in someone at guard.
The battles along the offensive line are definitely ones to keep an eye on. Hopefully, the Broncos can get it all figured out and the offensive line put together.
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