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Broncos' O-Line vaporizes the Cardinals' blitz, shows improvement in run-blocking

It was a solid day for the guys in the trenches, giving up just one sack on Peyton Manning and basically keeping Arizona's clever A-gap blitzes from being a factor. But we're not out of the woods yet, CH74 tells us...plenty more improvements to be had.

Justin Edmonds

CH74 is back with some "beautiful insight on your favorite Big Uglies." Though much of the talk post-game has been Bruce Arians and his incessant call for suspensions over a missed cut block, CH74 tells us (and the players) how to avoid that unfortunate penalty moving forward. And though our run-blocking is still a bit of a weak point, CH74 confirms what many have noticed - it's also up to the running backs to move north and south in those brief holes.

Welcome back MHR faithful! I survived the bye week and a quick recon mission in enemy territory to bring you the skinny on the big men for the Cardinals. It's good to be back in familiar territory and back among friends!

In the game against the Cardinals, the Broncos were able to find some success running the football, but it took nearly the entire first half to find that success. This game really was a tale of two halves, and I am here to attempt to explain why. In my observations, a few things stood out:


In the second quarter, the Broncos started consistently disrupting the backside pursuit on certain plays. They even slid a play side blocker (Julius Thomas) across the formation and quite literally cut the pursuit. Montee Ball's best run of the game came on just such a play. If you have been following these reports, you know how I feel about the Broncos ignoring backside pursuit!

Ball 1st D


In the third quarter, the Broncos used more man blocking concepts in the running game and were more successful with those concepts.

Zone blocking works well when your linemen know when to come off a tandem block. The Broncos' interior linemen are having trouble coming off the tandem block.   -CH74

Zone blocking works well when your linemen know when to come off a tandem block and go to the second level. The Broncos interior linemen, most notably Orlando Franklin, are having trouble coming off the tandem block and blocking into the second level. Sometimes they are coming off the block too early, and other times they are coming off too late. If they come off the block too early, that first level defender has an opportunity to make a play near the line of scrimmage. If they come off the block too late, they'll miss the second level block entirely.

I think what we are seeing here with Big O are some growing pains from the transition to guard. The Broncos were consistently hitting those transitions in the preseason, but every front is a little different and presents a new challenge. This is definitely something to keep an eye on when the Broncos run the ball with zone blocking.


Something many of you may have also noticed, Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson are running far more decisively. Both consistently stuck a foot in the ground and ran north and south to pick up all available yardage. For whatever reason, Ball has not been doing this on a consistent basis.


Calais Campbell was a big factor in the front seven for the Cardinals. He was having a solid game until the "chop heard round the world" sidelined him. Our offensive line had its hands full with Campbell, but even his play would not have been enough to stem the Orange tidal wave that swept over the once-vaunted Cardinals defense.

The Cardinals played right into the Broncos hands. The Broncos offense dared the Cardinals to blitz, and then systematically dismantled their defense. The Broncos were counting on the double A-gap blitz that was so highly praised by Danny Kelly in a recent SBNation post, and the Broncos O-Line was up for the challenge!

Individual Grades

LT Ryan Clady (#78): Clady played well but did have some issues with his run blocking again. Ryan matched up a lot with Calais Campbell and he challenged the fleet footed left tackle with power and aggression in both pass and run blocking. Clady was able to hold up until Campbell went out of the game. Clady had a nice block into the second level on Juwan Thompson's TD run with 4:37 left in the fourth quarter. Juwan helped the blocking out by hitting the crease with authority!

CH74's Grade: RB (=) PB (=) HD (=) LV (=) FT (=) PL/T () PNT (=)

LG Orlando Franklin (#74): Franklin probably had his best game playing inside against the Cardinals. He was a little slow on a fold block but still managed to make the block early in the first quarter. Franklin was solid in both pass protection and run blocking, especially when the Broncos moved to using more power blocking in the second half. Franklin did get called for a hold when he reached for a block on Bucannon at the second level.

CH74's Grade: RB (=) PB (=) HD (=) LV (=) FT (=) PL/T (=) PNT (-)

C Manny Ramirez (#66): Ramirez stood up well in the face of several double A-gap blitzes thrown at the Broncos. With 8:18 left in the second quarter, Ramirez was slowed on a pull-out for a sweep-left by Julius Thomas getting beat and knocked into the backfield. The delay allowed Bucannon to slice between Franklin and Ramirez and make a play for a one yard loss.


CH74's Grade: RB (=) PB (=) HD (=) LV (=) FT (=) PL/T (-) PNT (=)

RG Louis Vasquez (#65): I didn't notice Vasquez standing out in any way, good or bad. He flew under the radar and performed adequately.

CH74's Grade: RB (=) PB (=) HD (=) LV (=) FT (=) PL/T () PNT (=)

RT Chris Clark (#75): Clark was a little up and down. He had an impressive safety blitz pickup where he aggressively took out the safety who had gone airborne during the first quarter. But Clark added a false start penalty to the tally and also gave up the only sack of the game to open the third quarter when he lost leverage on Frostee Rucker.

manning sacked

CH74's Grade: RB (=) PB (-) HD (=) LV (-) FT (=) PL/T () PNT (=)

EXT Paul Cornick (#71): My favorite whipping boy, Paul Cornick, made it in the game on a few plays as an extra tackle. He was used as an extra pass blocker and his performance was unremarkable.

CH74's Grade: RB (=) PB (=) HD (=) LV (=) FT (=) PL/T (=) PNT (=)

Julius, I saw some good blocks from you in this game but there were still too many mess-ups. Your cut blocking would be more effective if you kept your head up and drove through the defender's thigh.   -CH74

CH74's Coach Up of the Week

Julius Thomas, I saw some good blocks from you in this game, but there were still too many mess ups. Your cut blocking is effective, but it would be more effective if you would keep your head up and drive through the defender's thigh. As big as you are Julius, you shouldn't have to cut to be an effective blocker. We'll keep working!

What to look for against the Jets

I would like to see the Broncos continue to utilize the man schemes that were successful against the Cardinals going forward. This is an early game and early games have traditionally been an issue for the Broncos. The Jets are a wounded animal that may be fighting for their coach's job.

If the Broncos maintain focus and play their game, they should be able to win this one going away again. Stay healthy and get out of Jersey with a win this time! If I can find time, I might try to get another recon mission in for the J-e-t-s Jets Jets Jets. I enjoyed the back and forth with the Cardinals fans from ROTB and proving to them that MHR is better.

Curious about previous reviews? Here you go:

Fanpost outlining the CH74 Score (aka the "KRONK Kode")

Preseason: Denver v. Seahawks

Preseason: Denver v. San Francisco

Preseason: Denver v. Houston

Preseason: Denver v. Dallas

Week 1: Denver v. Indianapolis

Week 2: Denver v. Chiefs

Week 3: Denver at Seahawks