While just about every aspect of the Broncos' performance on Sunday night met and/or exceeded expectations (granted, we have pretty high ones around here), there was one head-scratcher that definitely opened debate on the MHR threads - the Broncos' move to start Paul Cornick at right tackle over Chris Clark.
The Broncos didn't say why they made this move, but post-game compliments from Peyton Manning and some additional ones yesterday from offensive coordinator Adam Gase indicate the possibility Cornick will start again.
"There is room for improvement. We had the little slip up there on the sack and then the false start the second play of the game, but he did a good job. He stayed calm," Gase said of Cornick's performance Sunday, acknowledging that Cornick was "sucking wind" at the end. "The move was more that he was practicing well. He was playing well, he did a good job against the Jets and we thought that it was a good idea to put him out there and see what he could bring to the table."
Lucky for us at MHR, our own offensive line coach CH74 is here to tell us what he thought Cornick can - and did - bring to the table...and it's probably no secret that coach doesn't think too much. But on a positive note, CH74 is liking how our line is coming together, particularly Orlando Franklin's comfort with the left guard position, so overall things are looking good.
For those new to this awesome series, here is a key to CH74's "grades" on our Big Uglies:
- PB - Pass Blocking
- RB - Run Blocking
- HD - Hand Placement
- LV - Leverage/Pad Height
- FT - Footwork
- PL/T - Pull and Trap Blocking
- PNT - Penalties
- (=) Average Performance
- (+) Above Average Performance
- (-) Below Average Performance
Paul Cornick in preseason review:
The Broncos have a new starting right tackle. I thought this would be a perfect time to get everyone up to speed on Paul Cornick's preseason performances. This move is more baffling to me than Cornick sticking on the 53-man roster.
I don't know why Cornick was named the starter for the San Francisco game, but I would not be surprised if there is more to the situation than meets the eye. I do know that the Paul Cornick I saw Sunday night is the same player I saw in the preseason. Let's take a quick trip down memory lane:
LT Paul Cornick (#71) vs. Seattle: Cornick had a rough night. He has the slowest feet of the entire second unit, and he also plays high without leverage. Cornick did manage to get a nice pancake on a DE late in the game, but it was too little, too late. Cornick has to be on the outside looking in at this point.
LT Paul Cornick (#71) at San Francisco: I don't know if Cornick reads MHR, but he appeared to have heard my critique of him! Though Cornick did play better, he still had issues with his footwork and his pad level. He did have a nice kick-out block on the back side and showed some power on C.J. Anderson's goal-line TD.
CH74's Score: PB (=) RB (+) HD (=) FT (-) LV (=) PL/T () PNT (=)
LT Paul Cornick (#71) vs. Houston: Cornick turned in another subpar performance Saturday night. Cornick looked lazy. He looked like he had lead in his cleats and often looked lost. Cornick missed two obvious blitz pickups and got knocked down in pass protection because he was playing too high. Cornick was beat by a bull rush that led to the pressure on Brock Osweiler's interception.
CH74's Score: PB (-) RB (=) HD (=) LV (-) FT (-) PL/T () PNT (=)
LT Paul Cornick (#71) at Dallas: Cornick had another rough outing against the Cowboys. He was stood up by his man on three consecutive plays. It seems as if Cornick refuses to play with any leverage and relies on brute force to win his matchups. Cornick also got hit with a holding penalty that stalled a drive and followed it up with an allowed sack on Osweiler. Cornick was beaten by a strong outside move and was caught reaching on the play.
CH4's Score: PB (-) RB (=) HD (=) LV (-) FT (-) PL/T () PNT (-)
Cornick had these issues in preseason against backups and players who are no longer in the league. Playing with the big boys will be a big leap. Knowing what I know, my concerns are very legitimate with Cornick. I realize that Chris Clark has had some struggles, but those struggles pale in comparison to the issues Cornick has shown me. This situation bears some scrutiny and my full attention.
There is a false narrative out there that Cornick settled in and played better in the second half. Looking at the tape, this is not really the case. Cornick still had some issues in both pass protection and in the run game that flew under the radar due to a couple quick scores and the game going into garbage time in the third quarter. Folks are saying that Cornick is a better run blocker, yet the Broncos aren't running behind him and he had a few whiffs in the run game because he reaches and doesn't move his feet. Cornick's edge as a run blocker is debatable and I don't see the upside.
Cornick still has issues with playing high and losing leverage. He still has slow and lazy feet that will get him in trouble against speed rushers. The Broncos are aware of the issue, and they have Paul cheating outside a little on his line split - not unlike the tactic the Cardinals employ with another club-footed tackle, Jared Veldheer. This tactic can be exploited if it is picked up by defensive coordinators.
Cornick does appear to have more upper body strength than Clark, and he does have a nasty streak as evidenced by his willingness to trip defenders when he gets beat. That is a habit that concerns me because it's a 15-yard penalty that will get called every time. So far, Cornick's upper body strength is the only plus I can identify in Cornick vs. Clark. If Cornick had Clark's technique, he would be a monster on the O-Line.
Late in the game, it became evident that Cornick was gassed. In All-22, you can visibly see that he is winded. He's not close to being in game shape. This factor on top of all the others should concern all Broncos fans.
If the Broncos get into a heated battle with the Chargers and have to pass late in the game, No. 71 is going to be a liability. Getting starter's reps in practice should help him progress, but I don't know if it is going to be enough to get him over the hump. If Cornick starts against the Chargers, I hope the Broncos are ready to put Clark back in the lineup; it could save Peyton's season!
LT Ryan Clady (#78): Clady quietly had a nice game. He stood up well in pass protection against Ahmad Brooks. Clady is still having some issues with run blocking. He lost leverage on Justin Smith on a backside block in the first quarter, allowing Smith to make a stop on Hillman for only a yard.
CH74's Score: PB (+) RB (=) HD (=) FT (=) LV (=) PL/T () PNT (=)
LG Orlando Franklin (#74): Big O had a solid game, but he logged a silly unnecessary roughness penalty early in the third quarter that stalled the Broncos opening drive of the half. Franklin is looking more and more at home on the inside. He's getting some of his swagger and nastiness back.
CH74's Score: PB (=) RB (+) HD (=) FT (=) LV (=) PL/T (=) PNT (-)
C Manny Ramirez (#66): The ManRam performed well on Sunday, but also logged a costly holding penalty. Manny had a nice second-level on Michael Wilhoite at 9:33 left in the third to help spring Hillman for a 37-yard TD.
CH74's Score: PB (=) RB (=) HD (=) FT (=) LV (=) PL/T () PNT (-)
RG Louis Vasquez (#65): Vasquez looked to be getting back to normal in Sunday night's game. He stood up well in pass protection and picked up a stunt seamlessly early in the first quarter. Lou missed on a trap block midway through the third quarter.
CH74's Score: PB (=) RB (=) HD (=) FT (=) LV (=) PL/T (-) PNT (=)
RT Paul Cornick (#71): Cornick is still showing very poor footwork. He had a false start penalty on the second play of the game. At 8:34 left in the first quarter, Cornick was beaten by Aaron Lynch on a nice outside rip move. This was to be the first of three pressures and one sack tallied by Cornick on the night. On this play, he is bailed out by Manning.
With :26 ticks left in the first quarter, Cornick gave up the only legitimate sack of Manning in the game. Once again, he was beaten by Lynch to the outside. Cornick was caught flat-footed on the play and tried to trip the defender as he went by. The play looks eerily similar to a pressure Cornick gave up in the preseason game against the Seahawks.
At 3:15 left in the second quarter, Cornick gave up yet another pressure to Lynch and got away with grabbing a handful of jersey on the play. This play ended up being the record breaker, and it could have been nullified if the officials had caught this infraction.
CH4's Score: PB (-) RB (=) HD (=) LV (-) FT (-) PL/T () PNT (=)
Chris Clark saw some spot duty as the extra tackle in heavy sets. Will Montgomery saw limited action at right guard for the Broncos and Clark also saw some snaps a left tackle for Ryan Clady to close out the game. This was pure garbage time, and I did not review those six snaps.
What to look for against the Chargers
The offensive line appears to be gelling quite well, in spite of the shake up. The left side probably had its best game of the season Sunday, and hopefully it can build off that success and turn in another solid performance on a short week.
If Cornick is the starter again tonight, the Broncos may need to help him out with a tight end or a chip. I want to see Cornick move his feet and abandon the trip tactic. The penalties appeared to be cleaned up in this game, but this crew was a little lenient on holding calls, compared to the crew at the Meadowlands. No matter who starts tonight, I want to see a continued group effort to get better running the football and continued consistency in pass blocking.
There are still some scheme issues that need to be addressed. In the first drive, the Broncos attempted to run a zone stretch play out of the heavy set near the goal line. Both guards and the center were covered up by D-Linemen. This is a bad play call in this scenario because there is no one who can block the second level, and it leaves the linebackers free to make a play in the first crease that opens up. It looked to me like the Broncos were going to run regardless of what the defense gave them.
Once again, it's game time - no rest for the weary!