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Continuity On The Offensive Line Is Paramount To Denver's 2016 Success

For the Denver offense to take a step forward in 2016, there must be continuity on the offensive line.

If I were to say that the Denver Broncos have developed an identity marked by a suffocating defense, most fans would agree. While the defense still figures to be the most prominent and star-studded unit for the team, the front office has taken steps to make the team less dependent on the No Fly Zone.

In year two of the second coming of the Gary Kubiak offense, the Broncos are looking to establish a mindset different from the “hybrid” scheme utilized by both Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler in 2015.

Following Day Two's practice, Coach Kubiak admitted that improvements will be needed on the offensive side of the ball if the team is to continue to improve. 

"We're talking about a group," Kubiak said. "We're not talking about a position. You go back to last year and you look at us, we finished in the middle of the pack. I think we finished 16th. Out of 12 playoff teams, I think we we're like sixth offensively, but we feel like we did not play well at all. That tells you the standard that we have, the standard that I have and Rico [offensive coordinator Rick Dennison] has, and what we want to do. We've got to improve as a team."

Nobody could confuse last year’s offense with “The Greatest Show on Turf” in St. Louis with Kurt Warner at the helm, or even more recently the 2013 Broncos, who set a league record for points scored in a regular season. But in spite of what seemed like perceived ineptitude, the Broncos did have two 1,000-yard pass-catchers—Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders—and two rushers who went over 700 yards on the ground—1,500-plus yards as a group. Those numbers would lead us to ask why the offense didn't score more points last year.

Coach Kubiak identified that concern today and said that improvement could be made with continuity on the offensive line. With Ryan Clady going down for the year before training camp even started, to having to go with secondary options at both tackle spots, as well as injuries, a forced mismatch of players was created to fill in at spots on the O-line they wouldn’t have dealt with otherwise. Coach Kubiak spoke on the importance of the offensive line today,

"You've got to play together," he said. "We're at a stage right now where you're always thinking about your team four weeks from now. As a coach I've got some things going on. How I'm dealing with [T Russell] Okung stuff. He did practice more today, but you want them out there together, you want them working, that's how they get better and how they play. Last year we were playing with seven guys for the most part. I think we've got the chance to settle down, but we're going to settle down with five if they do their job." 

The bedrock for a team begins with chemistry along its offensive line. While the 2015 Broncos were not an offensive juggernaut, the margin was not as wide between explosive output and dormancy as some would think. With a team that has the weapons at the skill positions that are the envy of other teams in the league, it makes logical sense for the offense to mirror improvement along the offensive trenches. 

So instead of having an offensive series that stalls due to poor execution up front, you now have an offensive line that is capable of clock-chewing 10 and 12-play drives. The Denver offense leaned heavily on the leg of Brandon McManus last year with far too many drives ending in field goals. With more consistency on the line, those drives can hopefully end in touchdowns and put games away late. 

"We can't turn the ball over as much as we did last year and we've got to play better up front," Kubiak said. "If we do those things with the players we've got, we're going to be a better offense. That's what we're talking about. We're talking about a group, not a player."

Coach Kubiak is shaping the identity of an offense that will be different from the one we saw last year. With injuries and different offensive ideologies from play-caller to quarterback, this year’s team is shaping up to be more scheme-friendly for coaches and players alike. 

“What you try to do is let them be themselves, try to make sure we develop this team as best we can around them and then let them go do their job," he said. "That's what we're trying to do."

An improved offensive line has the ability to create a cascade effect on the offensive unit. By opening bigger holes for runners, giving ample time for quarterbacks to find wideouts and tight ends and keeping the defense fresher late in games, the offensive line will have a huge impact on the success of this year’s team.  

After three days of training camp with the new group of players, Kubiak offered up this review following Saturday's practice. 

“I really like the way we are coming off the ball," he said. "I know we have so much to do. I like to watch practice from the other side. I think we are coming off the ball really well. I think we have a chance to be really good up front. We have to settle those guys down. We are deeper right now, but I think it’s just a little bit of continuity. Even though Russell is new and he hasn’t practiced full time—you’ve got [T Michael] Schofield, who started 12, 13 games, [C Matt] Paradis had 1,300, 1,400 snaps under his belt and [G] Max [Garcia]. You can see that coming together.”

Let's hope the new-look O-line continues to gel as we get closer to preseason games. 

Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.

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