Russ Hochstein is a player who has had his ups and downs during his three years with the Broncos, being active for forty-five games with sixteen starts.
Russ Hochstein came to the Broncos after two seasons with Tampa Bay and seven seasons with New England. He was brought in by new Head Coach Josh McDaniels as part of the move to transition the Broncos from a primarily zone-blocking offensive line to one more suited for a power running game. Now with John Fox returning the Broncos to more of a zone-blocking team, will Hochstein continue to be a good fit for Denver?
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Hochstein came to Denver through a trade with New England in August of 2009. He played in fifteen games and garnered a career high in starts with ten. Those ten starts came at three different positions along the offensive line: eight starts at left guard, one at right guard and one at tight end. He was used at times as a fullback when the Broncos were in a goal-line situation. He suffered a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve at the end of December, 2009. Hochstein returned from his knee injury in time to participate in training camp in 2010. He played in all sixteen games in 2010 and had six starts. He repeated his pattern of playing multiple positions with starts at left guard, right guard and tight end. In 2011, Hochstein appeared in fifteen games, mostly on special teams. When G Chris Kuper went down with a season ending injury against Kansas City in Week 17, Hochstein was called upon to take Kuper's place. Hochstein went on to start both of Denver's playoff games in Kuper's place.
Hochstein was used primarily as a backup during his first three years with Denver, gaining starts primarily with another player was incapacitated. He tended to be an able, though unremarkable, back up who was mainly noticed when he made a mistake. There appeared to be a large number of fans who were not particularly impressed by him during the 2009 season, but as he fell more and more into the role of special teamer and back up, much of the criticism disappeared.
Hochstein played for $865,000 in 2011 and is projected to earn $925,000 if resigned in 2012. This does not seem like an excessive price for a veteran back up.
Pros: Smart, technically sound. A "wall-off" player who gets good position. Plays with great leverage and can block on the move. Has good size.
Cons: Lacks great bulk and quickness. Doesn't generate much push. Can be beaten by elite defensive tackles. Needs help in pass protection. Not a regular performer.
WHAT TO DO?
If the question were, "Do we keep Hochstein as a starter?" my first impression would be to say "No." I would not be adverse, however, to keeping him in his current role as a special teams player and a back up. His ability to start in multiple positions (left guard, right guard, tight end, fullback) makes him a versatile, veteran depth player.