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Grading the O-Line: Seattle game gives promise while improvement still needed

In a preseason series, MHR member CH74 takes a closer look at how the offensive linemen are doing in each of the preseason games plus a little info to help us know what to look for in the upcoming game as we armchair quarterback (er, block?) the first and second team offensive lines.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Huge thanks to CH74 for doing a little Offensive Line game analysis for Mile High Report during each of the Denver Broncos preseason games. Since we've all been wondering about the health and strength of the unit that has one of the most important jobs on this football team, we thought it would be great to utilize some of the expertise of one of our own!

CH74 spent six seasons learning the offensive and defensive line under some great coaches (Lee Leslie, Alema Te'o, and Tiko Johnson). Coach Te'o founded the All Poly Football camp in Utah and has coached up players who are currently playing in the NFL, most notably Ravens' nose tackle Haloti Ngata. CH74 played in a run-and-shoot system that emphasized technique over brute force, and he is still a firm believer that "technique is a lineman's best asset."

Also having coached youth football, CH74 spent a season playing offensive line for the Third Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion WolfPack and was selected to the All Base team for the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif.

"I consider myself a student of the game, and sharing knowledge is my goal," says CH74.

Can you say, "perfect segue?"

Grading the First Team Offense

78 Ryan Clady:
Ryan Clady did look a little rusty early on, despite former Broncos safety John Lynch ranting and raving about Clady's return. The left tackle appeared to be testing his injury. His footwork still looked pretty solid, and he seemed to settle in more in the second series. In fact, the whole unit looked better in its second series.

Orlando Franklin did not look comfortable pulling in this game. We need to keep an eye on him to see if he can adjust to playing back inside.

74 Orlando Franklin:
Of all the starters, Orlando Franklin had the roughest outing. The Broncos had him pulling on several plays in the first series, and he pulled a couple more times in the second series. Franklin did not look comfortable pulling in this game. I saw him play high and lose leverage on a few plays. He got caught high on one particular play and was knocked back into the play. We need to keep an eye on Franklin to see if he can adjust to playing back inside.

66 Manny Ramirez:
Manny Ramirez looked pretty solid against the Seahawks. The Hawks threw several different looks at Ramirez - from the nose tackle lining up in a tilt technique, to double stacking the tackles over Center. Ramirez took these looks on without blinking. His run blocking was solid.

Ramirez had a heads-up play in the second series where he knocked the pile forward and helped Demaryius Thomas pick up a first down. Manny did have a couple snaps that were off target, but they got to where they needed to go.

65 Louis Vasquez:
Vasquez looked very solid in pass protection. He did lose leverage on his first run-blocking assignment after a decent initial block. His holding call during the second series appeared to be a phantom call - very ticky tacky! Overall, Vasquez was sound.

75 Chris Clark:
Clark looked pretty solid overall. His footwork has improved dramatically in the last year. His pass protection is sound, but he did get caught playing high and lost leverage on a play in the second series.

First team notes:

Overall, the starters looked good. Pass protection is still this offensive line's strong suit. The whole unit looked out of sorts in the first series that went heavy on two and three TE sets. The line seemed to settle in and looked a lot more comfortable when it went back to the bread and butter 11 personnel for the second series. They just looked more confident on who to block when the offense was in 11.

I was impressed by the line staying at home and holding its water on the hard counts that Manning caught the Seahawks with two times during the touchdown drive. Starting the game in heavy set looked like an experiment for the Broncos. Franklin was pulling on the majority of the plays in that series, which tells me coaches are concerned with Franklin pulling. This is something that should be watched going forward.

Grading the Second Team Offense


77 Winston Justice
From watching Justice, I can tell why he was third LT in the game - Justice played like he was a three. There is still a lot of room for the back up right tackle to grow. Justice has a tendency to play high and lose leverage. His footwork is lacking and he has trouble figuring out who he should block on occasion. When faced with a speed rusher, he has a tendency to give up too much ground. That tendency, plus the fact that he often plays high, means he gets beat often. I do not see Justice as a capable enough tackle to fill in on the left side. He will work as a spot starter at RT if that need ever arises. I hope Schofield proves to be a better option there, though.

The wait for Garland making the roster is finally over. He is moving his feet well and he plays with leverage.The thing that jumps out is his hustle.

63 Ben Garland
The wait for Garland making the roster is finally over. Garland had by far the best outing of any of the twos. He is moving his feet well, and he plays with leverage. The thing that jumps out when watching Garland is his hustle. He busts his hump to get to the second level when blocking on the back side. The one negative play I saw from Garland came in pass protection when he was beat by a strong inside rip move, forcing Osweiler to scramble out of trouble.

64 Will Montgomery:
Montgomery looked solid, smart and heady. He knows right where to set up in pass protection. He did appear to tire on occasion. Conditioning may be an issue.

70 Vinston Painter
Painter is a mixed bag. He showed good footwork in pass-pro, but he also has a tendency to play high and lose leverage. Painter was beat by a strong outside swim move. He had a nice block kicking outside in the run game. Painter has difficulty getting to the second level and transitioning on tandem blocking with the tackle. This could be a continuity issue more than it is an issue with Painter's game. Painter could prove to be a serviceable backup.

71 Paul Cornick
Paul Cornick had a rough night. He has the slowest feet of the entire second unit, and he also plays high without leverage. Cornick got beat bad by an outside speed rush that Robinson also missed. 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.

Areas to improve for San Francisco game:

  • I would like to see the starters get after it a little more in the run game. When in two and three TE sets, they need to identify their initial blocks. When in doubt, put a hat on the closest defender!
  • Franklin needs to improve his pull and trap blocking. I think we'll see him start to settle in with a little more time playing on the inside.
  • With Clady, we need to see more confidence in the injured foot.
  • Ramirez needs to be more on target with his long snaps. The Seahawks stacking the tackles and running the tilt technique at him may have played a role in his accuracy issues. Clark needs to have a perfect game to help silence his many critics.
  • The Niners front seven represent another tough test for our boys. Though they have been depleted due to injury, the 49ers defensive line will be a good test for our offense. I hope to see some improvement running the ball.
  • For the reserve guys, they need to play with leverage and work on tandem blocking. I also would like to see Schofield with the twos. Justice and Cornick both need to work on their footwork. Cornick needs to have a much better outing against the Niners, or his days with the team are numbered.