OK, I thought I might change the conversation up a little and throw out an idea, and that being that maybe our biggest weakness is the offensive line and not the defensive line. Unfortunately there are no blue chip O-lineman this year to spend a top 5 pick on, but I propose maybe we should look at addressing the idea of spending some other picks on the O-line later in the draft.
Now many of you would probably say we have young talent and that the problems the O-line experienced were based on coaching and scheme and having both our tackles coming back from surgeries. But lets take a realistic look at the lineman we have:
LT - Ryan Clady – Obviously Clady has elite NFL talent, yet the past two seasons he has looked less than stellar. Maybe the past two seasons you can chalk up to playing in a new scheme and coming back from knee surgery. But what concerns me is his apparent step back from his pass blocking, which was amazing his rookie season, but has seemed to get sloppier every year. He was routinely caught out of position and reaching for guys last year, some of that I blame on the scheme as it seemed he was trying to cover for missed assignments from the interior lineman (watch the 49ers game from last year to see some horrible missed assignments), but at this point he is somewhat questionable. My hope is a new coach and scheme and a full year to recover will return him to a pro-bowl level.
RG – Zane Beadles – His season could be summed up as pretty unremarkable at best to severely disappointing at best, unable to crack the starting lineup until mid season, he did show some improvement later in the season, but seemed lost and overmatched most of the time. For a high 2nd rounder, he should have been starting over the likes of Stanely Daniels, but basically had to wait for Daniels to loss the job before he got a shot. Beadles looks like he will get first crack at RT, which may be a more natural position; however, he doesn’t seem to have the base or feet to be an effective RT with a left handed QB, again, maybe good coaching can turn him around, but I also see him as very suspect at this point.
C – JD Walton – I have said he looked awful and is probably the worst starting Center in the NFL. He missed assignments all season, was routinely blown up by DT’s, and didn’t look like he should be anything more than a back-up. I found it quit ironic that we got rid of Wiegman and he went to KC and helped lead the best rushing attack in the NFL. JD Walton probably should have spent a few seasons on the bench, but we are now stuck with him as our center. I have serious doubts that he will be the center after this season. Maybe you can chalk it up to being a rookie and poor coaching, but again, I don’t see him being the long term answer and he seems like a career back-up at best.
RG – Chris Kuper – Had what I would call a disappointing season, he should be a dominating G for what he is getting paid, but again he struggled, maybe that was due to the rotation at Tackle and having JD Walton next to him. But again, he seems to have peeked and is not a dominating player. This will be a make or break year for Kuper (IMO), and if his production doesn’t increase, I think he is gone after this season.
RT – Ryan Harris – I thought Harris played well at the end of the season, but definitely struggled coming back from another injury. When healthy I think he is one of the better RT in football and it probably was no coincidence that the team struggled in 2009 after he went down. It looks like the Broncos have no intention of resigning him for the money he will want and he likely will be gone.
Bench – I really don’t see anybody with exceptional talent that has the potential to be an NFL starter here.
I agree that our defense must be addressed in the draft; however, one of the best ways to make your defense better is the ability to run the ball, play ball control, and keep drive alive. That all starts with the offensive line. Lets look at some stats last year:
Rushing Yards a Game: 96.5 yds per game or 26th in the league, by comparison the Chiefs had 164.2 yds per game and were 1st, coincidentally they also won the AFC West.
Lets look even deeper: We had the 6th most negative rushing plays on the right side plays, and and the 19th most and 17th most for the Center and Left sides respectively.
What this tells me is that we lacked a good scheme, but we also lack talent on the O-line. If the Broncos want to get better on Defense, one way will be addressing the offensive line and being able to imrpve the above stats. Let the debate or screaming match begin.