When it comes to Broncos centers, who better to weigh-in than Denver's greatest center of all-time?
Starting center J.D. Walton is out until at least mid-October, and he could be out longer. Let's look at the Broncos options at replacing J.D. - and what 2013 Ring of Fame inductee Tom Nalen thinks of each option.
Koppen replaced Walton last year following his Week 4 injury and did a solid job. The veteran had experience with another future Hall of Fame quarterback familiar with the hurry-up offense in Tom Brady, so Peyton Manning's offense hardly missed a beat. On top of that, Koppen was just plain solid: he wasn't an upgrade over Walton, who was on the verge of a career year, but he was close.
Koppen is currently a free agent.
What does Nalen think? "Gotta get Dan Koppen," Nalen said on ESPN Denver Radio Wednesday. Nalen said many times that Koppen is the best option to replace Walton this year, whether it's for six weeks or the entire season, and we agree.
With Koppen in free agency and J.D. Walton still recuperating, Manny Ramirez has been the man in the middle of the Broncos' line during OTAs and minicamp. A versatile backup for the Broncos over the past few years, Ramirez had his best year yet in 2012 as right guard with Chris Kuper sidelined with injury.
What does Nalen think? "I think it could be catastrophic," Nalen said. "I just don't think he's a center." Nalen talked at length about the differences between playing right guard and center (Nalen pretty much said being a run-blocking right guard in the NFL is easy), and about the significant technical and mental challenge playing center presents.
That being said, maybe Nalen isn't giving Ramirez enough of a chance. I found it interesting that Ramirez's profile on the team's official site mentions that he called the offensive line's blocking schemes his final two years in college. Maybe ManRam is more cut out for this promotion than Nalen thinks - at least mentally if not technically.
Philip Blake enters 2013 looking to make up for lost time. Already 27 years old (older than Ryan Clady), Blake missed his rookie season after suffering a thumb injury in practice early in the regular season. He has all the physical tools you look for - the question is whether Blake is ready for the challenge to start in the NFL.
What does Nalen think? Nalen put it simply - he doesn't think Blake is ready.
Chris Kuper is getting paid a lot of money to ride the bench this season - in fact, he'll be Denver's fifth-highest paid player in 2013. So why not give him a chance to make a big impact in the middle of that offensive line?
What does Nalen think? "I think he can play center," said Nalen.
We have to admit, the idea of moving Kuper to center is intriguing. We feel he has the technical know-how and ability to perform in a new position - he played both right guard and left tackle in college. The only question is whether he can take the reins in calling the offensive line's scheme. As the most experienced member of the offensive line, he'd have a head start.
What do you think?
Let us know who you think the Broncos should tap to work in Walton's stead in the poll and comments!