In Part 1 of my series of completely random thoughts regarding the Broncos, I talked about how the loss of Peyton Hillis, while tough, shouldn't derail our season.
While providing some reasons for that in the post, my main motivation for feeling that way comes from the 5 guys that are the true key to any success we are going to have the rest of the season and into the Playoffs . That group, of course, is the Offensive Line -- LT Ryan Clady, LG Ben Hamilton, C Casey Wiegmann, RG Chris Kuper and RT Ryan Harris.
It is pretty simple to me. There have been few constants on the field for the Broncos this season. Jay Cutler is one, and that is obviously very important, but after Cutler the most important area of the offense is the line and the Broncos have gotten everything they needed and more from the big guys up front. Let's talk about them a bit, shall we??
The Denver Broncos Offensive Line is the Best in the National Football League
I'm not joking either. Most talking heads are quick to hand the title of Best O-Line to the New York Giants. Don;t get me wrong, that is a great unit, but the Broncos are having a historic season along the front.
Let's take a look at some of the numbers. The most important might be 6. That is how many running backs the Broncos have gone through in 2008. There have also been times the Broncos have flat out given up on the run, whether by design or dictated by the score. Through it all, through undrafted FA's, late round rookies and aging veterans, the Broncos o-line has gotten it done run-blocking.
Despite being 23rd in the NFL in rush attempts(327), the Broncos are an impressive 6th in yards per carry at 4.5. So while pure rush yards are down, the O-Line is making the most of every opportunity.
The Giants, to their credit, are #1 in YPC(4.9) and 5th in rushing attempts(414). Those are impressive numbers, but one cannot forget that the Giants have an awesome set of running backs to hand the ball too. Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw can do some things even when the line play isn't that good. I'm not saying the Giants aren't a great O-Line, I'm just pointing out the fact that the Broncos are getting it done with Practice Squad guys.
What about pass blocking? Again, the Broncos are near the top in every category. Denver comes into Week Fifteen 4th in Pass Attempts(493) and 3rd in yards(280 per game) The Broncos are also an impressive 9th in yards per attempt(7.50). That is important because it means the Broncos are not only throwing the ball all over the field but they are picking up large chunks of yards when they do.
The most impressive of all the stats, however, is how clean the Broncos O-Line have kept Jay Cutler. He has been sacked just 8 times in 493 pass attempts. Think about that. 8 times in 493 chances. That works out to 1 sack every 62 times Jay Cutler drops back. That number is the lowest since the 1988 Dolphins(1/88), and second lowest ever.
Where does the Giants O-Line stack up? The Giants are a running team to be sure so their passing numbers are as impressive as Denver's -- 22nd in attempts(399), 17th in yards(204) and 16th in yards per attempt(6.90).
If Eli doesn't throw the ball as much, he shouldn't get sacked that much either, right? Well, you decide. Eli has been sacked 15 times in 2008. That's 15 sacks in 399 chances. The ratio -- 1 sack every 27 attempts. That means Eli gets sacked, on average, nearly 3 times more than Cutler, all things being equal.
I used the Giants in the exercise simply because they are usually associated with have the best O-Line, not to mention they are a dominating running team. Pass protection, on the other hand, is above average to say the least. The Broncos are a Top-10 run-blocking team along with being historically good as a pass blocking team. To me, the choice is clear. The Denver Broncos have the best O-Line in football.
Oh, one more thing -- 22, 31, 35, 25, 23 -- those are the ages of the 5 starters. Clady at 22 and Harris at 23 are the bookends. Not many teams can lay claim to that kind talent/youth combination. Scary.....