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Starting O-line clicking; second group has problems but promise

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Heading into our final preseason game, CH74 once again breaks down the performance of the Denver Broncos starting and second team offensive lines. As he notes, analyzing the twos was some "tough sledding" during the Houston game, but the starters are showing good chemistry.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The big headlines out of Saturday's game against the Texans were mostly about receivers who made big plays and Peyton Manning getting fired up at the Texans defense.

The fact that there wasn't a lot of talk about the starting offensive line is a good thing. It means they did their jobs and got the main job done, save a few miscues, says CH74 in his third offensive line analysis for Mile High Report.

As for the second team offense, CH74 has a harsher critique but did find several bright spots with Will Montgomery and Michael Schofield. That group has one more chance this week to prove their worth to coaches as the team prepares for final cuts to get down to its 53-man roster.

We're going to have a lot of guys getting a lot of reps in [the Cowboys] game, and we'll find out who's ready to take the next step.   -Adam Gase, offensive coordinator

"We're going to have a lot of guys getting a lot of reps in this game, and we'll find out who's ready to take the next step," offensive coordinator Adam Gase said Tuesday.

As we head into our final preseason game this Thursday against the Dallas Cowboys, let's see what kind of play we should be expecting from the guys whose job it is to keep the QB upright and the running backs moving forward.

Once again we have a secret code to help us decipher just how well each player performed. Formerly known as the KRONK Kode, it is now the CH74 Score.

And just in case you want a refresher on why CH74 knows what he's talking about:

He 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."

Let's get this party started!

Key

  • PB - Pass Blocking
  • RB - Run Blocking
  • HD - Hand Placement
  • LV - Leverage/Pad Height
  • FT - Footwork
  • PL/T - Pull and Trap Blocking
  • PNT - Penalties

Grades

  • (=) Average Performance
  • (+) Above Average Performance
  • (-) Below Average Performance

First Team Offense

Manning_sack_hou_preseason_medium
A breakdown in communication between Chris Clark and Louis Vasquez led to Peyton Manning's sack against the Texans.

LT Ryan Clady (#78): Ryan Clady turned in another solid performance against the Texans. He is showing no signs of the injury that knocked him out for most of the 2013 season. I did notice Clady miss on a couple backside seal blocks, but the plays were blocked well enough on the front side to mitigate the damage. Other than that, Clady was his typical dominant self.

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

LG Orlando Franklin (#74): Franklin put in another stellar performance. The only negative I took away from his game was a holding penalty. Franklin stood up well against JJ Watt and owned the smaller Tim Jamison on several occasions, even logging a pancake. Franklin is blocking better in space at the second level and is showing more and more comfort and consistency when pulling.

Franklin put in another stellar performance. He stood up well against J.J. Watt and owned Tim Jamison, even logging a pancake. -CH74

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

C Manny Ramirez (#66): Ramirez also played well against the Texans. Manny is moving opposing linemen in the running game, logging a nice pancake on Jamison. Manny is showing a lot of improvement as a pass blocker.

He did miss a run block on a blitzing Brian Cushing on a stretch play to the left. Manny managed to give Cushing a shove when he should have put a hat on him. Ramirez had another outstanding showing in tandem blocking with his guards. He and Vasquez totally neutralized Watt on a nice double team in pass protection.

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

RG Louis Vasquez (#65): Vasquez had some issues in this game. He missed on a fold block on the first play of the game and whiffed on a backside block going against Watt. He and Clark had a breakdown in communication that led to the sack on Manning above. Vasquez and Clark did have a couple nice tandem blocks on Watt. Vasquez also had a chance to abuse Brian Jamison in pass protection, completing the hat trick for the Broncos interior O-line vs. Jamison.

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

RT Chris Clark (#75): There is a narrative out there that Clark struggled in this game. When you look at his whole body of work for the game, it is easy to see that narrative is wrong.

Clark owned Brooks Reed in several one-on-ones and had a nice knockdown of Ricardo Mathews in pass protection. Clark had one "Oh crap" that wiped out all those "Atta Boys" when he gave up a sack on Manning, but there is more to it than that.

On the play, Clark is working in tandem with Vasquez on Ricardo Mathews. Mathews slashes to the outside. Brooks Reed then comes on a delayed stunt back to the inside and times it perfectly. Vasquez goes to pick up Reed at the same time Clark attempts to pass off Mathews to Vasquez. The result is a free run at Manning for Mathews. This was a simple case of miscommunication between Tackle and Guard that can - and most definitely will - be corrected going into the regular season.

Hopefully both Vasquez and Clark learned something from the play.

CH 74's Score: PB (-) RB (=) HD (+) LV (+) FT (=) PL/T () PNT (=)

Starters Notes:

The starters played well as a unit, even though they were tested by Houston's front seven. On several plays, protection was slid to JJ Watt and the dominant defensive end was held pretty much in check.

In the last three games, I have identified some disturbing trends in the run game. I am noticing a lot of outside runs being run down by the backside pursuit. On a lot of these plays, the Broncos aren't even attempting to block the backside end or linebacker. This tells me the Broncos expect the Back to outrun the pursuit, and it isn't happening. The Broncos may need to adjust this philosophy going forward.

Another trend I have noticed is weak blocking by the tight ends and H-backs. Julius Thomas has come a long way in his blocking, but he has a ways yet to go to master the craft. I would like to see him work on getting lower and playing with leverage when he is run blocking. With his size, he should be able to kill it as a run blocker. Jacob Tamme has been crushed at the point on quite a few occasions playing the H-back role. This issue needs to be addressed if Tamme will be seeing extended action in that role.

My conclusion - this offense is missing Virgil Green in the run game.


Second Team Offense

LT Paul Cornick (#71): Cornick turned in another subpar performance Saturday night. The same problems we identified in the Seattle game were evident. Cornick looked lazy. He looked like he had lead in his cleats and often looked lost.

Cornick missed two obvious blitz pickups and got knocked down in pass protection because he was playing too high. Cornick was beat by a bull rush that led to the pressure on Osweiler's interception. It is clear to me where Cornick is most likely heading.

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

LG Ben Garland (#63): Ben played a decent game on Saturday night, but he logged two costly penalties on what looked to be a promising drive. The first was an offsides penalty and the last was a very questionable holding call that stalled the would-be game-winning drive in the fourth. I still think Garland will make the roster on his technique and hustle alone.

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

C Will Montgomery (#64): Montgomery had a bounce-back performance against Houston. The one negative I noticed was on Osweiler's scramble to end the twos' first drive. Montgomery got caught playing high and was knocked off balance, leading to the pressure that spooked Brock out of the pocket.

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

RG Vinston Painter (#70): Painter played a decent game and showed some improvement. His technique has improved a great deal in the last three games. I did not notice any overwhelming negatives in his game, but he didn't really stand out either. Painter and Schofield had a nice tandem block in the run game on the long drive that ended in a missed field goal attempt.

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

RT Michael Schofield (#79): Schofield showed me in the Houston game why he was a third-round draft pick. He got after it in the run and was killing it toward the end of the game. Schofield displayed the toughness we have all been craving for in the run. Juwan Thompson should buy Schofield a steak dinner because he was a big part of his gaudy YPC average. Schofield is most definitely a keeper.

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

Twos Notes:

Scouting the twos was tough sledding due to all the short drives. The fan in me kept getting frustrated with the three-and-outs and turnovers, but I soldiered on!

I have seen enough of Paul Cornick to know I wouldn't want him blocking for Peyton.  -CH74

I did see some promising play on their long drive to go along with some obvious hiccups.

I have seen enough of Paul Cornick to know I wouldn't want him blocking for Peyton. After this last game, my last four keepers haven't changed. My keepers from this group are still Montgomery, Garland, Schofield and Painter. Good luck Winston Justice, and thank you for your service.

I am anxious to see where the upcoming cuts take this group. I wonder if my keepers will look anything like the final eight or nine to make the roster?!

What to look for against the Cowboys:

Mainly, get everyone out healthy and ready to go for the season opener Sept. 7 against the Colts!

I want to see the guys who do stick to play well against a Dallas defense that probably doesn't have a lot of depth at this point. Those guys will need to be ready to step in.

I like our depth in spite of the rocks that have been thrown at them. Each of the players has his own strengths and weaknesses. Young Michael Schofield has shown some promise in these last two games, and I think he is a big part of the future of this group - but only time will tell.

GO BRONCOS!