It's been a long week of speculation regarding this Broncos' offensive line, but we've got our own O-Line coach to step in and give us the lowdown. And boy does he have some worthwhile things to say.
The good news (so to speak), is that much of our O-Line issues are our own doing that can be undone if the guys move back to the positions they know and love.
Did you hear that, Adam Gase? Time to unshuffle the reshuffle.
Get the Funk Out
Early in the Oakland game, I noticed our quarterback seemed to have happy feet and was hearing footsteps. I wanted to comment on it then but I went in another direction with my article for Raiders week. I simply did not have enough evidence to support what I thought I was seeing.
With two games worth of film on the remixed Broncos O-Line, that picture is becoming clearer. My eyes weren't lying to me.
Peyton Manning is in a funk.
He's not comfortable in the pocket, and it is throwing a major wrench in the works for the Broncos offense. I know I have harped on continuity and cohesion a lot in the past week or so, and I think the reasons why are becoming as clear and concise as the picture I now have of the QB in a funk.
It's time for the Broncos to get the funk out!
The question on everybody's minds though has to be "Will they get out of the funk?" I think its Mile High time to put everybody back where they started the season and buckle down for the home stretch. The experiment is not having the desired effect, and it is hampering what was once the strength of the offense - the passing game!
The playoffs are not a foregone conclusion for this team all of a sudden. Sunday's loss puts a huge kink in Adam Gase's "eternity" time line that he spoke of last week. Eternity now looks like six weeks of must-win games to make it back to the dance and be in a position to make some noise. Will Gase finally admit that he is on a definite timeline? This week will be the "proof is in the pudding" week for our offensive coordinator. He may have to actually admit he was wrong and swallow some pride. We'll see what road the Broncos take.
Denver v. St.Louis
This was another road game hampered by issues with the silent snap count; issues magnified by players not playing positions where they are used to playing. On this revamped line, Manny Ramirez is our new signal man and he had some issues remembering to look back for the snap signal.
With about 1:10 left in the first quarter, I noticed Manning desperately calling for the snap. Manny finally comes to his senses and remembers to look back. His sudden movement causes Vasquez to come out of his stance for a false start penalty.
Little things like this appear when a line is working on regaining some continuity, and it wreaks havoc on an offensive game plan. This may seem like a mole hill, but in mid-November, it's really a mountain. More importantly, it is a mountain the Broncos shouldn't have to climb.
These issues are cascading through the offense and killing the Broncos. No wonder Peyton shows happy feet and appears to be hearing footsteps. Thank goodness that variable will be taken out of the equation against the Fins. That's one less thing this beleaguered bunch will have to worry about, but the Broncos have another road stretch coming up! Now is the time to work on it and get it fixed, no matter who they decide to march out there.
Mark Schlereth chimed in this week and didn't have any kind words for the current Broncos offensive line. Having watched a lot more than the last three games of Broncos O-Line play, I feel safe in saying Stink was throwing a little hyperbole out there for our guys and the rest of us to chew on. I could see a scenario like this playing out:
Elway: Hey Mark, how's it going over at ESPN?
Stink: Oh, you know, I get to be on TV and stroke my ego a little bit; it's a pretty good gig! Tough game on Sunday, anything I can do to help?
Elway: Funny you should ask! No, I don't think I need you to come out of retirement, but I need someone to light a fire under my O-Line's collective ass. We've tried everything from moving guys around and threatening to sign that head-case from Miami, but they just aren't playing the way we need them to. Someone needs to call them out, and I can't be the bad guy right now. I need you to call them out, challenge their manhood, whatever you think it will take to get these guys to play pissed off! Do you think you can do that for me?
Stink: Sure thing, Bud!
I'm just spit-balling here. The truth is, I don't know what motivated Stink to say the things he said, but I do know the situation isn't as bad as he made it out to be. There is some truth to what he is saying, though - these guys do need to play better. They also need to be put into a position to succeed, and right now that isn't happening.
When you only run the ball once in every six or seven plays, you're not letting the guys get into a rhythm. You're also sending a message to the line and your young backs that you don't have faith that they can get the job done. That effect on their mental state can be a detriment to the unit as a whole if they are put into a situation where they have to run the football.
Individual Breakdowns (No grades this week, sorry Kronk00!)
LT Ryan Clady (#78): Ryan appeared to be feeling the effects of a groin injury. Quinn was eating his lunch for the better part of the game. Ryan started the game off on the wrong foot by picking up a holding penalty on the first play of the game (Q1 9:08) and still allowed Quinn to get the hit on Manning.
LG Orlando Franklin (#74): Orlando's play didn't really jump out at me in a good or bad way. He had issues but not as many as some of his line mates. Franklin and Montgomery appeared to have a miscommunication with :19 left in the third that led to the first sack on Manning for the day.
C Will Montgomery (#64): Montgomery seemed to play a little better in his second start for the Broncos. He logged back-to-back knock-downs in the third quarter and kept his nose clean for the most part. Manny is still helping him with making line calls and I imagine that will probably continue for the next few games at least.
RG Manny Ramirez (#66): Manny had some issues in this game. We already explored his errors in his signal man duties. Ramirez was weak on a trap block and was guilty of blocking the wrong man early in the second quarter. The ManRam had a nice knockdown on Aaron Donald with 8:12 left in the third that allowed Anderson to rumble for a nine-yard gain.
RT Louis Vasquez (#65): Big Lou had his roughest game of the season. He was consistently beat to the outside by Eugene Sims. Vasquez also picked up a holding penalty and a false start. I said it after the Raiders game and I will say it again this week; Louis Vasquez does not look comfortable at all playing tackle. Chris Clark never gave up that many pressures in one game when he was the starter. Lou belongs on the inside and needs to go back to where he belongs. I hat seeing him play this poorly.
What to look for against Miami:
I want to see our guys succeed, but in order for them to do that, they need to be put in a position to succeed. It's tough to do that when they are consistently set up to fail by scheme.
I know there is trouble along the front with communication and cohesion. If I know that, everyone at Dove Valley should know that. When Cornick first started, the Broncos put on the training wheels. They need to do something similar here. If your line is struggling, you don't want to do this:
Notice the empty backfield? Granted this was late in the game and the Broncos were playing catch up, but if there is a possibility a blitz is coming, you need to be able to account for that by leaving an extra man in there to block.
This play was beautifully set up and executed by the Rams defense, and it's tough to defend with an empty backfield. The O-Line could have picked this up without the help, but if you don't know the guy next to you as well as you should, it makes it tough. Work on the communication and scheme to get the guys over this hump.
This is a self-inflicted wound, Broncos. Patch it up and get back to work!