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'Lazy' offensive line play in recent weeks does not bode well heading in to playoffs

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From the time linemen start in Pee Wee football, they are taught not to give up their signals for play calls. CH74 has seen some lazy play by a beat-up, tired and not-very-strong-looking O-line - which is resulting in a lot of giveaways to our offensive scheme. This is NOT how we should be entering the end of the season just before the playoffs.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

In this holiday version of CH74's review of the Big Uglies, Coach tells us what we've been fearing all along and hoping wasn't (or wouldn't become) the case - the changes and deficiencies in the O-Line are not sustainable.

Broncos' offensive coordinator Adam Gase was questioned about his offense on Friday, and his answers might be a little disconcerting to some fans (me, being one of them).

"Everybody is trying to find a rhythm and it's just like, ‘Who's it going to be? Passing game? Run game? Is it going to be the quarterback, the running back, the wide receiver?' The whole group, everybody's trying to find their own personal rhythm," Gase said, adding that part of his job is figuring out how to get the whole group rolling in the right direction as fast as possible. "I think there have been some games where we've felt that way, where we've felt like, ‘Alright we're going pretty good.' And we've had a couple games where we've had some rough starts and didn't really get going until the middle of the game or in that third quarter. So we've just got to try to find it earlier. The sooner we can find that rhythm in a game, the better it's going to be for our offense."

Hmmm...he's just figuring this out now? Perhaps I'm being cynical but thanks to CH74's education all season, I'm wondering if Gase can figure out a scheme to get them into rhythm and/or if the personnel on the field can even get it done. (CH74 - consider that my first question in the comments!)

Apparently though, Gase feels confident in his staff's ability to figure out the game plan.

I feel like as a staff we've got a good handle on what we're doing. It's just what's going to be successful for that game.   -Adam Gase, offensive coordinator

"I feel like as a staff we've got a good handle on what we're doing. It's just what's going to be successful for that game," the coordinator said, pointing out that Cincinnati was doing a lot of stuff to cause negative runs. "Things weren't coming at us as easy as it was in the prior weeks. So we kind of had to change gears there a little bit."

Gase said the group got better at the end of the first half and into the second but lost steam again in the fourth.

"We just kind of got stuck in a couple of situations where we had some game-changing type things happen," he said. "We thought we were alright and we either have a penalty, or we have a drop, or a sack or a tackle for loss that kind of changed the momentum of what we were doing."

'Getting stuck' is not the kind of news Broncos Country wants to hear the day before the last game of the regular season, but as always, CH74 has some solutions. And since we prefer solutions over problems in this group, let's get going!

Happy Holidays

The holiday season is in full swing, and I have been extremely busy with work. As many of you may or may not know, I am the public safety director for a local retail shopping center. There are many parallels to my occupation and playing offensive line. I am there to keep the shopping center "safe and clean" in the same way that I once kept my QB. I am always on the lookout for safety and security issues, and when I find them, I try to put a hat on them. During this time of year, I am constantly putting a hat on something. The holiday season is a lot like going into overtime - it is crunch time, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I felt you as my loyal audience deserved to know why my reports haven't been as timely down the stretch. I thank all of you for reading these on a weekly basis and bearing with me on my challenging schedule. Happy Holidays, MHR and GO BRONCOS!!!

At San Diego: The Clincher

(Written on 12/18/14)

In Week 15, the Broncos clinched another AFC West title and another trip to the playoffs. Once again, Broncos fans were treated to the beauty of being able to win ugly. Ryan Clady left the game early due to a thigh injury and was replaced by Chris Clark who put up a less-than-stellar performance in relief. Ben Garland saw some snaps as the extra tackle, and the Broncos left the game with their fourth straight division title in as many years.

The Broncos appear to be beat up right now, and I am concerned with both tackle positions. A first-round bye will go a long way to help get these guys get right and ready for the tournament. The thought of going into the playoffs with Clark manning the left tackle should be very concerning to all Broncos fans.

It appears that he has regressed since being replaced in the starting lineup. I did not see the effort from Clark in this game to suggest he is ready to start again. Granted, Dwight Freeney is a tough draw for any left tackle, but Clady was getting beat consistently. I wonder if his benching may have pushed him in the wrong direction. I am also concerned with Clady missing time going into the playoffs.

What to look for against the Bengals

I want to see a consistent effort from everyone up front. If Clark is in the game as an extra tackle, or if he is manning the left side, I want to see him perform up to his potential. He wasn't cutting it in the Chargers game and Freeney came away with his lunch money in that game.

To be fair to Clark, Clady also had some issues and was beat like a drum by Melvin Ingram. If the game is well in hand, I want to see Clady and Vasquez on the sideline. Right now, the most important thing for the Broncos is to make it to the playoffs healthy and ready to make some noise. The Broncos need only to worry about what they can control. At this point in the season, watching what the Patriots are doing can only be counterproductive.

At Cincinnati: Lazy Line Play

From the time defensive linemen and linebackers are playing Pee-Wee football, they are taught to look for tells to diagnose what play is coming. On the other side of the ball, offensive linemen are taught not to "point" or give up their intentions. On this play with about 2:23 left in the first of the Bengals game, we can see five out of the six linemen and the tight end are squared up to the line of scrimmage.

One lineman however is not.

Part of Manny's stance here (pictured below) is due to his job as signal man, but if you look closely, you can see a key to what Ramirez plans to do at the snap of the ball. Notice that Manny has the majority of his weight on his left (inside) foot.

manny 1

This grab (below) is taken closer to the snap of the ball when Ramirez is still "pointing" or telegraphing his intentions.

Judging by Manny's stance and the formation, can you tell what type of play is coming and to what side of the formation. I haven't played a down of football in 20-plus years, and I can tell where Ramirez intends to go on the snap. If I can tell, so can the Bengals.

manny 2

In this grab (below), Manny has given Montgomery the signal to snap the ball. Ramirez has turned on a neon sign and told the defense right where the play is going.

OK, MHR, without cheating, can you tell me where the play is going?

manny3b

Here's one last hint (pictured below).

Manny is pulling to the left on this play and he gave us signals all through the pre-snap process. Notice Rey Maualuga's first step? He has keyed off Ramirez and has a good idea of where this play is going. Maualuga doesn't make the play here, but he gets in the running lane and takes on Manny. Penetration by Brandon Thompson on Orlando Franklin allows LB Vincent Rey to get downhill and take down C.J. Anderson for a five-yard loss.

manny 4

Several things factored into this big loss in the run game, but Ramirez turning on the neon sign was a big factor, dooming the play before the ball was even snapped. This play illustrates how one player in the offensive line playing lazy can cost your team a big play.

Manny, square up as much as you can and play every snap honest!

There was a good deal of lazy play in this game, and it showed up and down the stretch and on the scoreboard. When the tackles are struggling with injuries, everyone else along the front needs to step up his game, otherwise there will be breakdowns along the front that will adversely impact the offense's ability to execute. Clinching a spot in the tournament is no excuse to take plays off, especially early in a road game.

What to look for against the Raiders

I want to see more focus along the O-Line against the league's worst team. No pointing and no taking a play off. Close out the regular season with a win and prepare for the real season.

I know it's wishful thinking, but I would like to see the starters resting late in this game. A loss at home could jeopardize a much-needed first-round bye.   -CH74

I know it's wishful thinking, but I would like to see the starters resting late in this game. The Raiders have a decent front seven and they played this Broncos offense fairly tough in their last meeting. This game is at home and a loss could jeopardize a much-needed first-round bye. No late gifts for the Raiders!

I was a little pressed for time, so I did not include any grades for these last two games. I hope you understand. Time permitting, grades will return for the final game of the regular season and throughout the playoffs.