There is nothing to say about the Denver Broncos offense yesterday other than this—it was a mess. Sandwiched between the opening and closing offensive drives was a Bronco offense that failed to move the ball on the ground and through the air. Peyton Manning didn't have time to throw and his timing and accuracy were off.
C.J. Anderson had absolutely no room to run, eventually being replaced by Ronnie Hillman, in an attempt to see if his speed could make something happen. The main culprit in the deficiencies was the offensive line—a unit that has been a concern dating back to last season.
A cog brought in to solve the issues on the offensive line was Evan Mathis. After grading out as Pro Football Focus' best guard in the NFL over the last three seasons, Mathis became a highly sought after commodity the moment Chip Kelly released him. When Denver won the Mathis sweepstakes, the immediate thought process was that the middle of the line would be the team's strength.
It was seemingly forgotten that an offensive line requires time together to become cohesive. For this reason, I found it peculiar that the team chose to sit Mathis in the final two preseason games, after signing him. There is no substitute for game action. Mathis is also a guy who is in incredible shape and owns his own gym, Zone Athletic Performance. He was likely ready to play the moment he signed.
Fast forward to the Broncos opening game of the season vs. the Baltimore Ravens, the offensive line looked like the hadn't played together throughout the offseason and for Mathis that was a reality. He turned in his worst performance of his career, grading a -3.5 overall, including a -2.5 pass blocking rating via PFF. Mathis was also -0.2 as a run blocker, where he typically excels.
Today, he held nothing back in critiquing his performance.
"I was not really pleased with my performance," Mathis said today. "When I can say is that there are a few plays that I would like back, usually it doesn't mean that I played well in my mind. There are a few plays that I would like to have back. I'm aiming to have no plays that I would like to do over. It's definitely a starting point and something to build on. Most of the stuff that went wrong with me was just technical stuff, which is just having to focus. It wasn't something like getting overpowered. It's just a step here and a hand there.
I think that I was the worst of the group. I would have liked us to be able to run the ball a little better. Overall, we were a little inconsistent. There were some highs and lows. That kind of stuff is very valuable for it to happen where you can learn from it and not let it happen again. To be able to escape against a team like Baltimore with a win is always valuable in your experiences."
It isn't completely fair to Mathis to have been thrown in with a line he has never played with before, with limited practice time, expecting an All-Pro performance. The offensive line will have growing pains and Evan Mathis is not exempt from that. He's playing in a new offense with new teammates and hasn't even been in Denver a month yet.
As Aaron Rodgers would say, R-E-L-A-X.
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