It’s a league wide problem — two thirds of NFL teams have average to sub-par offensive line play. Along with several others in the league, it’s safe to say the Denver Broncos O-line hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with its play of late.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1729370-a-look-at-denver-s-3-unsu... With so much contact being taken out of the pro game during training camp, in combination with the college game phasing out it’s camp contact as well, polished offensive linemen are becoming scarcer to find on Draft Day.
Recently, our friends at Pro Football Focus released a comprehensive grading of every NFL O-line and ranked them 1-32. The good news? The Broncos weren’t ranked last (hooray), coming in a No. 25. The bad news is our boys up front were rankedl in the bottom third of the league and only ahead of notables like the Los Angeles Rams at 65.8 and the New York Jets at 62.0.
The Denver Broncos line is actually okay, outside of one prohibitive position that threatens to sink the whole ship. At right tackle, Donald Stephenson and Ty Sambrailo alternate getting eviscerated by opposing pass-rushers, sometimes both within the same game. As a pair, they have surrendered six sacks and 46 total QB pressures on the season, which would be the most in the league if they were one right tackle. Russell Okung has been better, but he himself is responsible for 38 total QB pressures, second-most among left tackles in the league.
PFF points out the glaring fact that the O-line has mostly been brought down by the right tackle spot. Between free-agent signing Donald Stephenson and high-round draft pick Ty Sambrailo, it's been open season on Trevor Siemian off the right edge.
Left tackle Russell Okung has been better in the same way that a D- is better than a F, allowing the second-most QB hurries in the league. That deal GM John Elway signed Okung to is looking particularly team friendly right now.
On a positive note, the Denver defense is looking to be at full strength for the first time in recent memory. With DeMarcus Ware as close to 100 percent as possible, the pass rush will get the added boost to go against the average offensive lines of New England (ranked No. 14), Jacksonville (15) and most importantly, Kansas City (17). Denver still boasts a formidable pass-rush and the group as a whole changes the landscape of games when the pressure they create leads to turnovers or punts.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1719434-get-si-subscription-with-... Keeping that in mind, the O-line of both the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans graded out particularly well, with the former boasting the third-ranked unit in the league behind only the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Both the Raiders and Titans allow few pressures to opposing pass-rushers, while being effective in the ground game as well.
With a road game looming against Tennessee and the Raiders waiting for a New Year’s Day showdown at Mile High that could decide who wins the AFC West, Denver will need to play at high level to neutralize both groups.
The bye week is going to give lots of bodies an extra week to rest up the bumps and bruises that have accumulated through 10 games of a grueling NFL season. Nagging injuries to Okung (back) and Stephenson (calf) should be all healed up and give a boost for the final set of games coming down the stretch.
The Broncos have work to do along the trenches, something the coaches and front office have alluded to ad nauseum lately, but it's important to remember that the same group of guys up front started off the season strong and injuries played a bigger part in disrupting that cohesiveness than we would like to admit.
The Broncos O-line needs to play better — plain and simple — if the team is going to have any balance on offense. In helping take the pressure off Trevor Siemian, while also giving balance to an attack that is at it’s most effective when it can play even with the opposition or with a lead, it’ll go a long way toward catapulting the team back to the postseason.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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