The Denver Broncos offensive line has been a mystery for years. They can look elite one game, only to follow it looking like a high school team’s unit. With their inconsistencies have come many myths about the O-line that are simply untrue. It is time to put those myths to rest.
Myth 1: John Elway hasn’t tried to fix the offensive line, at all.
Just because things aren't panning out doesn't mean John Elway isn't trying. Ever since he took over the team, Elway has tried to fix the offensive line, and things beyond his control wrecked it. Players would get hurt and miss the season, or players wouldn’t progress like Elway and company thought they would. Let’s evaluate this year-by-year.
2011: To understand 2011, lets look at Denver's starting unit in 2010. At left tackle they had Ryan Clady, rookie Zane Beadles at left guard, J.D. Walton at center, Chris Kuper at right guard and Ryan Harris at right tackle.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1730268-broncos-top-5-mid-season-... The following offseason, Elway brought in many new faces on the O-line and let others go. However, the only big change was with rookie Orlando Franklin taking over at right tackle.
Clady, Beadles, Walton and Kuper all remained as the starters. They stayed healthy and all five started every game. They were a young unit with four of them 24 or 25 years old. They played well, but it was obvious some of them could be upgraded.
2012: The Broncos had two new starters in Manny Ramirez at right guard and Dan Koppen at center. Clady, Beadles and Franklin remained. They signed two free agent offensive linemen and drafted another in Philip Blake.
Blake never panned out and found himself on injured reserve. The unit again played well, but it was obvious they could be upgraded. There was a lot of hope that Blake would be a long term answer at guard, and that backfired. Yet, it was still a shot at improving the unit.
2013: The Broncos kept their two free agent offensive linemen in Chris Clark and Ryan Clady, signed three free agent linemen and drafted another. This was when Elway really went to work to upgrade the offensive line.
Injuries and lack of progress destroyed that. Louis Vasquez was one of the newly-signed, and he started for a couple of seasons. Ryan Clady got hurt in the second game, and missed the rest of the season.
Clark started at right tackle. Franklin missed a game, but Beadles stayed at left guard, Ramirez moved to center and Vasquez took over right guard. Again, they played well, but had room for improvement. No doubt Clady’s injury set them back.
2014: This is where the unit became “bad”. Clady was back and started all 16 games at left tackle, but everywhere else was a mess basically. Franklin moved to left guard from right tackle, with Clark taking over right tackle.
Clark was later benched and Vasquez moved from right guard to right tackle. Will Montgomery took over the center job from Ramirez during the season, and Ramirez moved to right guard.
In free agency, Denver let two O-linemen go, and brought two back — only to release them later. They only signed one, that is previously mentioned Montgomery. They also drafted two in Matt Paradis and Michael Schofield, though neither of them would play that year.
2015: The Broncos let three offensive linemen go, due to age, cost and lack of progression. However, they went out and signed eight linemen to try and boost their unit and drafted two more for the second year in a row.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1730968-inside-the-matchup-bronco... Injuries caused them to take a huge step back as their two starting tackles, Ryan Clady and rookie Ty Sambrailo, got hurt really early. This forced Denver to play their two backup tackles as their starters.
They also dealt with regression from their right guard in Louis Vasquez, and Evan Mathis at left guard was a roller coaster as he dealt with injuries. First-year player Matt Paradis at center was the only stable player they had.
2016: Denver signed two offensive linemen,and both ended up starting. Elway bet on the progression of second-year players Matt Paradis, Michael Schofield and Max Garcia. Schofield and Paradis were with the team three years, but never saw the field their rookie year. They also drafted another O-lineman.
Denver has drafted eight offensive linemen since Elway took over and have signed many others. Yes, they let players like Zane Beadles and Orlando Franklin walk, but they couldn’t afford to sign them.
They brought in big time left tackle Russell Okung, who when healthy, used to be considered top-five in the NFL. They also brought in players who they felt fit the scheme perfectly, like Donald Stephenson.
They did a lot to fix the offensive line. Injuries have plagued them, as has poor player progression. Now, that could be poor coaching, or the players just not having it in them.
Either way, when you draft eight O-linemen you shouldn’t have the issues the Broncos have. So, the myth that they have done nothing, or very little to fix the line is busted.
They have done a lot — maybe not what fans have wanted. But they just haven’t had those “fixes” work out for them. If they had, the myth would be completely different.
Myth 2: Michael Schofield is the worst starter on the offensive line.
This statement couldn’t be less true. Many Broncos fans remember Schofield from a poor performance vs. Oakland when he allowed four sacks. But he had no help.
That was a year ago, when he was playing at a position he isn’t suited for. Now at right guard, he has played exceptionally well. Among the six linemen to start for the Broncos so far this season, here is where Schofield ranks:
Sacks: Fewest on the team.
QB hits: Second fewest behind Matt Paradis.
Hurries: Second fewest behind Matt Paradis.
Tackles for a loss: Second fewest behind Russell Okung.
Penalties: Second fewest on the team behind Matt Paradis
Rush yards per carry: Second and third most depending on the gap.
So how could he be the worst, when he is top-two in every category? Schofield isn’t perfect, but his play has been that of a long term guard option. Had he not surrendered that four-sack game last year, no one would talk about him in a bad way right now.
It is time to move on from that. His play at right guard has been nothing short of exceptional. No sacks allowed (his two sacks came at tackle), one hit (the other three came at tackle), four hurries and no tackles for a loss allowed at all from him at right guard.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1729822-broncos-have-yet-to-play-... If anyone saw that, even at the ten-game mark, they would talk about how that is a pro bowl level play. If Schofield isn’t the issue, than who is?
Well, you can look at your two right tackles — Donald Stephenson and Ty Sambrailo, or even at your left guard Max Garcia. Stephenson has allowed only three sacks, but has allowed seven hits, 18 hurries and two TFLs.
Sambrailo, only in three and a half games, has allowed five sacks, nine hits, 19 hurries and three TFLs. Garcia, who has improved his play over the last few weeks, has allowed three sacks, seven hits, 16 hurries and 10 TFLs. In the last four games, Garcia hasn’t allowed a sack, and only one hit, six hurries and one TFL.
Myth 3: Trevor Siemian deserves no blame for the offensive line play.
Simply put, this is the biggest load of hogwash I have ever heard. Trevor Siemian has been sacked 19 times this season, and seven of them were his own fault. That means he either failed to recognize a blitzer, ran into a sack despite a clean pocket, or ran into a sack when he had open room elsewhere.
Now, on some of these, the defense sent more rushers than Denver had blockers, but it is on Siemian to bring extra blockers. He could’ve signaled a running back from being out wide, or kept a tight end to help, but alas, he didn’t do so. This is basic quarterbacking.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1731396-can-trevor-siemian-be-10-... To add to the sacks, Siemian ran into a total of 10 hits, with at least one per game he's played in, and 15 hurries, with three of these ending in interceptions. He was also responsible for one TFL.
With the tackle for a loss, the defense had five defenders taking on two blockers. No change of direction, no move to add blockers, no audible, no nothing. Siemian ran the play and the running back was tackled as soon as he got the ball.
It isn’t all on Siemian, either. It is impossible to watch the Broncos offensive line and say they are blameless. They deserve their fair share of criticism.
However, they are blocking for a quarterback who doesn’t help them out when it comes to doing their job. They can give him a clean pocket, and he stills escapes it, despite no pressure. This has led to multiple mistakes and turnovers.
Of course, all the blame will fall on the offensive line. Fans will just see the pressure, and ignore what actually caused it.
That wraps up this myth-busting piece. Stay tuned for more, potentially, in the future.
Erick Trickel is a Draft Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ErickTrickel.
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