2013 Denver Broncos Training Camp Previews: Interior Offensive Line

Doug Pensinger

Day five of our training camp preview series takes a look at perhaps one of the more intriguing and unsettled position groups on the team: Guards and Centers

The Starters

68 Zane Beadles, LG
Ht 6-4 Wt: 305
Age: 26 Exp: 4
Incoming Camp Status: Veteran starter

Beadles made the pro bowl in 2012 for the first time in his career. His athleticism fits the Broncos well as he is often the lineman that pulls and gets out ahead of the ball carrier to deliver valuable lead blocks. In 2012, Beadles ranked 15th overall in pass blocking efficiency amongst all NFL guards. In 613 pass blocking snaps, Beadles allowed 21 total pressures (via profootballfocus.com)

In the run game, Beadles rated just a tad higher with a score of 5.2 over the course of the season compared to a 3.6 mark as a pass blocker.

Zane is firmly entrenched at LG and will provide a valuable asset for Alex Gibbs as he implements techniques and philosophies of his zone blocking system.

Camp Outlook:

Not going anywhere

67 Dan Koppen, C
Ht 6-2 Wt: 300
Age: 30 Exp: 10
Incoming Camp Status: Veteran starter

Dan Koppen was signed shortly after J.D. Walton had corrective surgery on the plates and screws that were inserted into his ankle. Koppen stepped in nicely as the starter last season and was making line calls and adjustments from his very first start. He's not flashy but he is a nice vet to fall back on as J.D. continues the healing and rehabilitation process.

According to profootballfocus.com, Dan allowed 1 sack and 6 hurries out of 467 pass blocking snaps. He was the 3rd rated C in the league when using this metric and scored just behind Mike Pouncey and Stefen Wisniewski. Koppen did record an overall negative score of -2.0 in run blocking which is something we all saw with our eyes. Running in the gut of the line was slim pickings and most of our backs had a hard time consistently churning out decent yardage from the middle.

Camp Outlook:

Hard to imagine anyone pushing Koppen especially since Manny Ramirez (a guard last year) was taking 1st team snaps in OTA's. Bottom line, if the Broncos had an in house solution they were comfortable with in relief of JD, they wouldn't have signed Koppen.

65 Louis Vasquez, RG
Ht 6-5 Wt: 335
Age: 26 Exp: 5
Incoming Camp Status: Veteran starter

There are many different levels of implications to this signing. The most obvious would be the unknowns associated with Chris Kuper's rehabilitation after a couple of brutal injuries in close proximity to each other. The 2nd is the fact that outside of Kuper, the Broncos had no one on the interior line locked up past this season.

Vasquez and his size will give the Broncos approximately 670 lbs of beef on the right side of their line. PFF rated Vasquez lower than both Manny Ramirez and Zane Beadles in the pass blocking department. Louis allowed 2 sacks and 20 other pressures for an overall efficiency of 97.1 over the course of 584 pass blocking snaps. Still more troubling was his -2.0 score over the season in run blocking. Still, it's hard to fault a guy when he was by far the best and most consistent lineman on a very poor and beat up Chargers front.

Camp Outlook:

Unless something miraculous happens in regards to Chris Kuper, Vasquez will be the man.

Backups

64 Phillip Blake, G/C
Ht 6-3 Wt: 310
Age: 27 Exp: 2
Incoming Camp Status: depth

Phillip Blake is a hard guy to get a read on. On one hand, he helped RGIII run an effective and versatile offense at Baylor. On the other hand, he struggled mightily in camp last year at center. Tough to know what the Broncos think of this guy as he did make the final roster as a rookie before being placed on injured reserve two weeks into the season with a hand injury. The Broncos have several G/C utility players and the thing I still come back to is the fact that Manny Ramirez, who was a guard in 2012, was snapping the ball with the 1's while JD was rehabbing during OTA's. One would think if the Broncos wanted to give someone a shot Blake would be it.

If his issues with the game are mental, like I suspect they might be--given the demands of the position in this regard, perhaps that is what is holding Blake back from being the firmly-entrenched backup.

Camp Outlook:

??? Really not sure. He was drafted a bit older than other college players so the fact that he is already 27 in his 2nd season as a pro might tip the scale to someone else especially if they prove to be more effective.

72 Justin Boren, G
Ht 6-2 Wt: 315
Age: 25 Exp: 2
Incoming Camp Status: depth

Justin was signed by the Broncos in January of 2013 after having spent 2011 on Baltimore's practice squad and last season on the Detroit Lions' practice squad. He was signed to Baltimore's active roster for their 2011 postseason run but didn't log any playing time.

Camp Outlook:

Fighting for a spot. Is still PS eligible.

54 CJ Davis, G/C
Ht 6-2 Wt: 308
Age: 26 Exp: 4
Incoming Camp Status: depth

Davis spent time in Carolina in John Fox's final season as head coach. He was put on injured reserve in 2009 and played 7 games the following season with the Panthers. He appeared in 7 games last season as a Bronco and logged 51 offensive and special teams snaps. He no longer is eligible for the practice squad.

Camp Outlook:

As an experienced vet who found ways to contribute on special teams last season, Davis should nail down one of the 3-4 reserve spots along the offensive line. It's a numbers game, if the Broncos take 9 OL to their active roster, he should be a lock. If they take 8, gets more difficult especially with the unknowns surrounding the Chris Kuper situation.

60 Quentin Saulsberry, C
Ht 6-3 Wt: 305
Age: 24 Exp: 1
Incoming Camp Status: depth

Spent last season on the Broncos practice squad. Was originally signed by Minnesota and spent last TC as a Viking.

Camp Outlook:

Fighting for a spot, PS eligible

54 Ben Garland, G
Ht 6-5 Wt: 308
Age: 25 Exp: 1
Incoming Camp Status: depth

Was a 2010 college free agent signing who spent the 2010-11 season on the Broncos' reserve/military list while he was still a part of the Air Force Academy. Was placed on the Broncos practice squad last year as a defensive lineman and was converted this past offseason to Guard. Ben is earmarked for the practice squad in 2013, hard to imagine him winning a spot after one offseason in a completely new position.

Camp Outlook:

Practice Squad

66 Manny Ramirez, G/C
Ht 6-3 Wt: 320
Age: 30 Exp: 7
Incoming Camp Status: depth

Manny stepped in for injured G Chris Kuper in 2012. While he faced some growing pains, Manny seemed to pull things together by the last stretch of the regular season. He was supplanted in the starting lineup in the Baltimore playoff game by Chris Kuper. This was a bad mistake by the Broncos. Kuper was not ready and was frequently overmatched.

Manny recorded a positive pass blocking number and a negative run blocking number at least by PFF's standards. He allowed by far the most sacks of any starting Broncos offensive lineman at 6. As someone who was a critic of his play early on, I am proud to say that Manny changed my mind as the season progressed. Do you want him entrenched as the starter? Optimally no, but he is the sort of veteran depth any team is lucky to have on their line.

Camp Outlook:

Lock him in, he'll make the team.

Who the heck knows?

J.D. Walton will likely be placed on the PUP as he has an outside chance of making it back into the starting lineup near the end of the regular season.

Chris Kuper however is a different story. Kuper would have been my candidate for the PUP had Walton not experienced the setback he did. Kuper is signed through 2015, and one would think that if he is able to come back from his injuries and experience no further complications, he is an absolute lock.

In 2013, his cap number is 5.4 million and his dead money number is 2.75 million. It really wouldn't save the Broncos much by cutting him. I've always maintained the Broncos are a better team with Kuper on it even if his salary is a bit much for a backup in 2013. Thinking ahead, Kuper's deal is pretty team friendly and along with Vasquez represents the only interior linemen who are inked for multiple seasons down the road.

If Kuper stays healthy, he'll make the team

Numbers Game

Last season Broncos took 9 OL into the season on the active roster. Ramirez, Davis, Clark, and Blake were the backups to go along with the 5 starters. Take away 5 slots for the starters. Then subtract 1 for the swing tackle backup spot. That's 6. That leaves 3 spots open. Here's how I think it will shape up:

Clady, Beadles, Koppen, Vasquez, Franklin

one of Painter, Manase, and C. Clark (swing T)

Manny Ramirez

Chris Kuper

One of CJ Davis, Phillip Blake, Justin Boren

That's my take MHR what's yours? Will be very interesting to see how everything plays out. The OL will be something I watch closely over the course of TC.

Go Broncos!!!

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