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Denver Broncos offensive line is NFL's most penalized unit

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The issues with the Denver Broncos offensive line have been accelerating in recent weeks as the "reshuffle" has plainly had the opposite effect that John Fox was hoping for. Can they right the wrong before its too late?

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The fury over the double-digit beat down the Denver Broncos suffered to the St. Louis Rams has begun to die down a bit, so I thought now would be a good time to stoke those flames to keep the pressure up by pointing out just how bad the offensive line has been coached up in 2014.

Not only have they broken the cardinal rule by reshuffling the offensive line to the point where only Ryan Clady is playing a position he played last season, but they compounded that mistake with some of the worst situational coaching decisions since Josh McDaniels was mucking things up in Denver.

The results are plainly evident. From Peyton Manning's happy feet and forced throws to a rushing attack that is nearing the league's worst in 2014.

Yet, there is one reason why reshuffling the line back to the way it was or bringing in a new guy like Richie Incognito will not likely fix these issues. Penalties.

Penalties is indicative of a much larger coaching problem that Denver has and it is something that has been a fairly consistent problem since Week 1 of the regular season. This tells me that even after 10 weeks of leading the league in penalties that coaches can't seem to figure out how to "fix" this problem.

Only once all season have the Denver Broncos as a team committed fewer than 7 penalties in a game. From Week 1 to 10 it goes 7, 11, 4, 7, 11, 8, 9, 10, 12, and 8. On the surface it looks like the team is very undisciplined by leading the league in penalties per game, but the four most penalized players on the team are offensive lineman. Let's break the calls down and see how the unit stacks up to the rest of the league.

PENALTY TYPE NO. CALLED NFL AVG. RANK
False Start 18 11.47 32nd
Offensive Holding 16 12.34 30th
Ineligible Man Downfield 2 0.44 30th

Without breaking it down even further into penalties that can be called on both side of the ball, the results are pretty clear and entirely damning. A unit widely considered one of the leagues premier offensive lines has been completely wrecked by a coaching staff following a kneejerk overreaction to a single game back in February.

I am not innocent here, as I felt the offensive line needed some attention at right tackle too, but I also knew Ryan Clady would be returning to the lineup. I wanted to believe - just like all of you - that moving Orlando Franklin inside and moving Chris Clark to right tackle was all that needed to happen. However, those in charge seem to think everyone playing a position they didn't play last season is exactly what needed to happen 8 games into the regular season. That reeks of a rudderless ship reacting to this or reacting to that and never really thinking about what these changes would do to team chemistry or hell, team efficiency!

Let's take a look at how each offensive lineman has done this year courtesy of NFLPenalties.com.

PLAYER NAME PENALTY COUNT PENALTIES BREAKDOWN
Orlando Franklin 9 False Start (5), Offensive Holding (3), Unnecessary Roughness (1)
Louis Vasquez 6 False Start (3), Offensive Holding (3)
Ryan Clady 5 Offensive Holding (3), False Start (2)
Chris Clark 5 Offensive Holding (2), False Start (1), Ineligible Downfield Pass (1), Clipping (1)
Paul Cornick 3 False Start (2), Offensive Holding (1)
Manny Ramirez 3 Offensive Holding (2), False Start (1)
Will Montgomery 1 Ineligible Downfield Pass (1)

I am not demanding that these guys play flawless football, but having seven of your 18 false starts at home is absolutely inexcusable. I am okay with an occasional holding call to keep Peyton Manning from getting demolished, but I can think of at least one time where an unnecessary hold cost the Broncos points. At the end of the day, six or seven players should not account for 40% of the penalties a team has in a season.

The offensive line has cost the Denver Broncos 30 yards per game in penalties. To me, that equates to killing at least one drive a game that would have netted points of some kind. Here in recent weeks, however, the penalties have escalated to new heights as the Broncos are putting up 10 penalties for an average of 76 yards per game in the last three weeks. In the last two weeks alone, probably thanks to this incredibly stupid reshuffling, the offensive line has accounted for 11 of the teams 20 penalties. If the results don't raise red flags, then the trends certainly do.

This is a coaching problem. Mental errors and execution issues are not excuses, John Fox, they are coaching failures. It seems, from the outside looking in, that you have lost the trust in some of your players, but your players are losing their trust in you. It's time to go get it back.