The Denver Broncos will be better on offense this year because the offensive line will be massively improved.
There, I said it.
I hate making declarations but, frankly, they are more interesting to write and therefore, more fun to debate about. While the free agent signings of Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung to go along with the drafting of Connor McGovern, the Denver Broncos drove home the point that a major emphasis on this year’s team will be the improvement of the dancing bears on the front of the line.
Here is a quick projection of this year’s starters versus the starting line-up that played in the Super Bowl.
LT: Russell Okung
LG: Ty Sambrailo
C: Matt Paradis
RG: Max Garcia
LT: Ryan Harris
LG: Evan Mathis
C: Matt Paradis
RG: Louis Vasquez
Just on paper, this year’s group looks to be lightyears ahead of the starters from last year. An additional fact to keep in mind is that Harris and Schofield weren’t projected starters from last year’s team but were forced into duty for the now-departed Ryan Clady and injured Ty Sambrailo.
Anytime you have a coaching change, it comes with a change in philosophy and personnel. In looking at the last year’s offensive line, it becomes more apparent that the team just didn’t have the personnel to make a smooth transition in going from a power, one-block scheme to a more zone-based one.
It also didn’t make matters any easier that guards Mathis and Vasquez were hurt for the majority of the year. Couple that with the pressing of bench players like Harris and Schofield into service, and you have an average to slightly-below-average offensive line.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1676649-wr-jordan-taylor-earning-... From there, you have the trickle-down effect that came to be the offensive identity for the team. While the running game improved toward the end of the year, it could never seem to find consistency. For every eight-yard chunk running backs like C.J. Anderson or Ronnie Hillman would gain, there would be at least one play on the same drive where you wouldn’t find the surge from the line to get the back any kind of positive yardage.
This led to the little-to-no threat of the play-action pass (a Kubiak staple) from either Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler, which let opposing teams tee off on either signal caller. I also believe that the conflicting offensive philosophies between Manning and Kubiak led this unit to be perpetually confused and not able to really settle into one system from one down to the next.
Now imagine this; all the projected starters make it through the year relatively healthy and are able to play a full season together (very underrated aspect, especially for offensive line play). You can also bet that the interior of the line will be much more mobile with Sambrailo and Garcia, making the stretch runs and tosses that much more effective against defenses, with both lineman able to reach linebackers and creeping safeties.
Combine that with a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle in Okung and scheme-fit right tackle in Stephenson, and now you have the foundation for an improved and consistent offense. An offense that can play to the philosophy of its team’s play caller—Gary Kubiak.
Can you imagine more one-on-one matchups down the field for WR Emmanuel Sanders? Can you visualize Demaryius Thomas being able to use more of his open field running ability on drag routes coming off the bootleg?
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1675685-film-room-studying-denver... Does it make you salivate thinking about seeing Anderson tearing off five and six-yard gains in the first three quarters and seeing either Hillman or rookie Devontae Booker exploit tired defender's legs in the fourth quarter?
I can also see where QB Mark Sanchez can play to his strengths in short, quick passes against defenses that will send extra bodies into the trenches to stop the run.
How much will this help the best defensive unit in football? A rested Denver defense that can catch their breath while the Denver offense rattles off 10-play drives only makes the pass rushers they have that much more dangerous.
While there are still questions lingering about the contract of Von Miller and the Super Bowl hangover that affects all defending Champions, the Broncos will be better on the offensive side of the ball.
With the improvements made through free agency and the draft, the team is better equipped to play a version of the West Coast offense that just didn’t fit with the personnel on the roster last year. This will allow the skill-position players to be better playmakers, the defense to be fresher, and the goal of remaining Super Bowl Champions more manageable to defend.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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