All year long, the message out of Dove Valley was that the 2015 Denver Broncos were going to run the ball. With Gary Kubiak's experience with the zone blocking scheme and a proven track record, Broncos fans expected a renaissance of the days of yore.
It hasn't shaken out that way. Through two games, the Broncos have rushed for a grand total of 130 yards, averaging just 65 yards per game. Their inability to impose their will on the ground has led opposing defenses to key in on Peyton Manning and harrass him to the tune of seven sacks.
Perhaps fans expected a miracle from Kubiak. Those expectations were unrealistic.
After all, the Broncos returned just one starter from last year's offensive line, Louis Vasquez. Their most experienced and accomplished lineman, Ryan Clady, tore his ACL in May, forcing the Broncos to start rookie second round pick Ty Sambrailo in his place.
With the departure of last year's starting left guard, and arguably the best player in the unit, Orlando Franklin, the Broncos first tried rookie fourth round pick Max Garcia in his place. Garcia played well, but ultimately, the coaches felt like they needed more experience up front, so they signed Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis at the eleventh hour.
Joining the team at the end of August put Mathis behind the eightball. He's been playing catch-up ever since. Matt Paradis has played pretty good, considering he's a first year starter. But beyond the center, Vasquez and right tackle Ryan Harris have been a disappointment.
As a unit, this O-line is failing to get any push in the running game. They're not on the same page and they seem to be missing what could be the most important component to a successful running game—physicality.
C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman can only do so much. When their first point of contact comes behind the line of scrimmage more often than not, they can't get in a groove. Kubiak knows what's missing from the ground game and moving forward, he's going to demand his unit gives it to him.
“It just has to be demanded," Kubiak said Friday. "If you're going to be physical as a football team, then you've got to stay committed and demand it. It's not good enough."
Not good enough. That's the understatement of this young season. Even so, Kubiak isn't about to let off the gas. He's going to keep pushing his coaches and personnel to elevate their performance until they're at the level Kubiak expects them to be.
"I'm very disappointed," Kubiak continued. "I look at myself—okay, what are we doing? I go to the coaches—are we putting ourselves in the right positions? And I go to the players and say this is either good enough or not good enough. That's our approach and I'm going to demand that we be a physical football team and that we line up and can get a yard. I'm not going to run away from that. Regardless of what happens, we're going to work through that and demand that we get it done.”
Until the Broncos find a way to get their running game going, the offense will be vulnerable. Peyton Manning will be exposed to an unmitigated pass rush. Unfortunately, the only prescription is time. This O-line just needs more time together to gel, to create chemistry.
It's easy to forget the Broncos played two very good defenses to open the season. With time, and based on Kubiak's history, I don't doubt the Broncos will turn the running game around. They have too much talent up front not to. But the clock is ticking.
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