Heading into the regular season, questions about the Denver Broncos starting five on the offensive line abounded. Many of those misgivings were assuaged, following the unit's impressive performance on opening night vs. the Carolina Panthers.
The Broncos rushed for 148 yards as a team, led by C.J. Anderson's 92, despite getting down 17-7 early in the game. That's a credit to Denver's O-line, who performed very well against Carolina's elite front seven.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... However, with Ty Sambrailo's return to full participation in practice on Monday, head coach Gary Kubiak had a decision to make. Would he put Sambrailo back at right guard, where he began training camp as the starter before he got hurt, or stick with Michael Schofield, who's played extremely well at the position since being inserted late in the preseason?
“Ty was our starting guard until he got nicked up, so we know what he’s capable of. Michael’s earned that opportunity and that right to start, and I think now it’s up to Ty to push his way back to playing a bunch," Kubiak said following Monday's practice session. "He’s doing that and he’s worked hard. I would say today was probably the first day that we sent him on the field with no limitations, so this week will be important.”
The Broncos would be flirting with disaster were they to demote Schofield back to the second team. Not only was Schofield arguably Denver's best offensive lineman last Thursday night, Sambrailo is still very inexperienced and unproven.
Sambrailo started three games at left tackle as a rookie in 2015, before suffering the shoulder injury that would end his season in Detroit. Since then, it's been a battle just to keep him on the field.
Meanwhile, Schofield started at right tackle for most of last season and although he had his ups and downs, he really steadied out in the postseason, after the coaches corrected a flaw in his technique they noticed in Week 17. Schofield's physicality, and the athleticism he brings to the table, are a winning combination for Kubiak's zone blocking scheme, if Schofield can manage to stay consistent.
“I think the big thing for me this year is that it’s my second year in the offense," Schofield said Monday. "I’ve become more used to the offense and know what my role is, what my job is and just knowing the offense better really helps.”
Thus far, there's no reason to doubt his ownership of the right guard position. But what to do with Sambrailo? He was a 2015 second round pick, after all. Second-rounders are supposed to play.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1688594-mhh-premium-how-you-can-s... “It’s going to get really competitive," Kubiak said. "The thing Ty can do is that Ty can swing at tackle. We know that he’s played tackle. Ty was our starting guard until he got nicked up, so we know what he’s capable of."
Translation: don't get too comfortable, Mike. The second you revert back to the player who relinquished four of Khalil Mack's five sacks in Week 14 of last year, you will be replaced.
Playing tackle and guard are two different things, though. Moving forward, that should help Michael Schofield tremendously.
Rolling out an inexperienced quarterback puts the onus on the running game to produce. The O-line did so, against the stiffest level of competition in Week 1.
If the starting five can continue to perform at that level and play ball-control offense, while building stronger cohesion and communication, the Denver Broncos will hard to beat in 2016.
Editor's note: Watch how well Michael Schofield executed his blocks in the C.J. Anderson highlight reel at the top of the page.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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