The Denver Broncos have plenty of need spots on both sides of the ball and the one that concerns me more is our offensive line. This unit looked crappy last season and had an awful season opener this year against the Raiders, but I was confident that it would be better and improve game-by-game. For a moment, I thought I was right and the line was having good games with glimpses of great plays. However, against the Dolphins and now the Lions, we all were able to face the reality: it didn't improve how I expected.
The good part. We have a great LT who was a Pro Bowler in 2009 and got hurt during that offseason. Ryan Clady is still struggling to reach his elite level again, but so far he is playing a great football. Chris Kuper, our RG, was drafted very late in 2006 (5th round) and is now a veteran of this line. He accomplishes his job very well and was the offensive co-captain last season.
The bad part. JD Walton has a great upside for the incoming years and is a prospect to become an anchor C of this league. He makes some very great plays sometimes but still struggles on idiot plays including making bad snaps. Zane Beadles is a LG very capable to create push and opening good gaps for the halfbacks, but he struggles more than he should to protect the passer. He is young, and by the way our offensive line is the younger of the entire NFL, but needs to learn his job better. Our RT Orlando Franklin is a beast, and I think nobody can deny it. He can push a defender several yards back and open a big gap for the ground attack. The problem I can see here is that he doesn't have enough fluidity to play the tackle position at this level of the game. He lacks too much in pass protection and allows a lot of sacks, besides being caught several times with the defenders just rushing around him.
Another thing to consider: Tim Tebow, the starting QB since the game we faced Miami, is a left-handed player. On this way, his blindside is on the right side of the line where Franklin is the man in charge to give him enough time to check the field and make his throws. Ok, this is the current big scenario... So now how could we fix it?
One of the solutions that our front-office could provide us, would be adding an extra offensive tackle on the right side of the line. They used Chris Clark on a few reps during this season so far, but it was only on rushing plays. I brokedown this package of one of our games (vs. Chargers) and you can read it HERE if you want to. With the backup tackle replacing a tight-end on the right, Franklin play as a false guard and Tebow's blindside is much more protected. The problem is that we can't give away an eligible target (a TE at this spot) every down, because if so, the offense would be even more predictable than McCoy is doing until now. Another point is that with our 3 tackles of the roster on the field, we should have to pray every single day for them to stay healthy.
In conclusion, we could use it on rush and passing downs a couple times each game and provide more tranquility to Tebow, who is holding the ball too much as he is still learning the job: mechanics, footwork, check-down and all the inherent skills of the QB position.
The best solution they could provide us, would be admit that Franklin is not working as a tackle and re-think this move. We could plug him back to play LG, starting Clark as the RT (he looked well in the end of the game against the Lions when Franklin was out due to an injury) and think about drafting a start-caliber RT on the next draft, or signing a decent one at the Free Agency market. Meanwhile, when Zane Beadles continues to improve and develop for us to see if he is or is not an NFL staring caliber guard, he could remain on the roster being the backup tackle. I admit I didn't like him playing the position when Ryan Harris was injured before, but this would be a complete different situation.
In conclusion, we could spend an early pick or a good amount of money to plug a new right tackle and get the best from Franklin playing his former position. Our Offensive Line would be much better with: Ryan Clady - Orlando Franklin - JD Walton - Chris Kuper - Chris Clark... and upgrade it more on the next draft and/or free agency. I do think that a great team is built trough the draft so this is my shot.