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Conditioning a factor as O-Line needs to improve run blocking

With his own successful preseason of evaluating the offensive line, CH74 has agreed to a full-season contract to bring us reports on (and practically from!) the trenches. Here he breaks down how the starters performed in their first full game against the Indianapolis Colts (hint: they may need a little more cardio in the gym) and helps us look forward to the much-anticipated matchup with Kansas City this Sunday.

Doug Pensinger

Real football is back, and school is in session, so CH74 is here to give us the inside scoop on our favorite Offensive Line with grades and comments. And take notes because there just may be a quiz at the end!

CH74: The preseason is over and the grading will be as real as the football. My scouting in the regular season will be a little different because I have access to the All 22 Coaches Film. I am able to see more, and it's almost like being back on the field! I will be spending a little more time looking at the unit as a whole rather than breaking down individual performances like I did in the preseason. But I will still be using the "KRONK Kode" and handing out individual grades.

I know the concern following Sunday's game has been in one area in particular - the running game. I was concerned about this area myself, so I dialed in and really scrutinized all the running plays. I have some observations, some of which I was able to identify in the preseason and others I observed due to the fantastic field view of the All 22!

  • Like we noticed in the preseason, backside seals are presenting a problem for the Broncos. I counted three runs that would have gained considerable more yardage if the pursuit had been disrupted. This play design just looks shoddy to me. The back is usually lined up on the weak side of the formation and runs a counter action to the strong side; giving the backside end a perfect view and read on the play. Please fix this, Gase.
  • Orange Julius, it's a good thing you hauled in three touchdown catches, because you had some whiffs, SON!
  • Right now, conditioning is an issue with the big fellas, they were looking gassed throughout the fourth quarter. Magazu, give the boys some more sprints!
  • Montee Ball needs to run more decisively and look to cut back on the outside zone plays where the backside end doesn't run him down. I noticed a couple plays that if TD were running the ball, they would have gone for big gains! Ball also looked tired in the fourth quarter, so more sprints for him too!

So, without further adieu, let's get into the meat and potatoes of the report, shall we?

LT Ryan Clady (#78): We've all become used to Clady being a dominant force from his left tackle position, and he was very dominant from a pass protection standpoint, but Clady had a rough night in the run blocking department. On the second run of the game, Clady put up a rather weak backside block and lost leverage. He followed that up on the next play by missing a combo block into the second level that would have helped spring Ball for some nice yardage. He steadied himself until late in the fourth when he was beat inside on an outside zone run. In the pass game, Clady was solid outside of one play early in the game where he was beaten by a strong outside rush. He was also flagged for a false start.

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

LG Orlando Franklin (#74): Orlando also had a rough night run blocking. On the first run of the game, Franklin was a little sloppy on a trap block, but it was effective enough. Julius Thomas didn't help matters by whiffing on a down block, but he was bailed out by Virgil Green who ended up taking out both linebackers with a well-timed cut block and barrel roll combo! Franklin atoned for his sins on this play by getting a nice tandem with Ramirez and combo blocking to the second level to spring CJ Anderson for a big play on a draw.

Just when Big O peaks, he falls down into a valley though. Later in the quarter, he lost leverage and was slow getting outside on back-to-back zone runs respectively. Franklin finally logged a nice trap block late in the game, but the play was nullified by a Vasquez holding penalty. On the last run of the game, a tired Big O failed to sustain his block on yet another outside zone play. Franklin did hold up well as a pass protector, but he did get beat by an outside swim in the second offensive series.

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

C Manny Ramirez (#66): The ManRam was a little up and down in the run blocking department. Early in the game, he missed on a second-level combo block that would have sprung the runner for a big gain. On the next running play, he was out-leveraged and knocked into the runner. In pass protection, Ramirez missed a well-timed stunt in the third quarter but was bailed out by Manning's quick release. On a rough night for our O-Line, Ramirez performed pretty consistently, and I noticed him far less than I did his peers.

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

RG Louis Vasquez (#65): Lou got caught with his hands in the cookie jar twice and neither of these calls was of the phantom variety like he was tagged with in the preseason. Outside of the holding calls, Vasquez did put together some nice blocking in both the run and the pass. He did get caught playing high on one particular play in the second series. Deep in the fourth when our boys were sucking wind, Vasquez managed to lose leverage and was unable to sustain a block on an outside zone play. If not for the penalties, which is very unlike Lou, he would have had a solid game.

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

RT Chris Clark #75): I know I have probably defended Chris Clark more than anyone here on MHR, but my man probably had the roughest night on the O-Line. Clark started the game off strong but started to fade as the game wore on. Toward the end of the first half, Clark was beaten by an inside rip move that blew up an inside run. Clark was gassed toward the end of the game. Late in the fourth quarter, Clark failed to sustain a block and was called for holding on the next run play. Early in the third quarter, Clark was beat by a strong outside rush, but it looked like he was expecting a chip from Montee Ball, who missed a cut block on the defender. Once again, Manning's release saved the day.

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

What to look for against the Chiefs:

The O-Line needs to clean up the penalties. Like I mentioned above, conditioning. Can the Broncos perform better in the late stages of the game? Better conditioning should also help to improve the penalty situation. Tired O-linemen forget to move their feet and get caught reaching. Tired linemen can be a recipe for disaster. It's still early in the season, and we should start to see improvement here week to week.

The O-Line needs to clean up the penalties; better conditioning should help. Tired O-linemen forget to move their feet and get caught reaching. Tired linemen is a recipe for disaster.   -CH74

If Julius Thomas hasn't been spending quality time with Magazu and the O-Line, he should start. With JT's frame, he should be a wrecking ball when run-blocking. If the O-Line won't take you in, spend some quality time with Virgil because that cat can block!

I want to see Ball run more decisive and use better vision to find the creases and cutback lanes and hit the hole quicker when it develops. Our guys can't keep a lane open indefinitely, and this isn't that Wisconsin O-Line that outclassed the competition week in and week out. You have to do your part too, SON!

I would like to see a solution to the backside pursuit fails that are becoming a trend with the outside running game of the Broncos.

It seems to me that these plays are designed to set up play action, and the Broncos may have the cart before the horse here. I come from the school of thought that you account for 10 out of the 11 defenders on the field when designing a run play, and the Broncos aren't doing that. The Broncos either need to slow up the pursuit, or the backs need to get north and south as soon as possible for these plays to be more effective than they have been. Get this fixed and we'll see a boost in the YPC average! Maybe a few more runs using man schemes and some well-executed draws can fill in the gap. CJ Anderson's draw play early in the game against the Colts was well executed and worked quite well, but I don't think the Broncos ever went back to it.

This Kansas City team was embarrassed by what was thought to be an inferior foe last week. They had some key injuries in their front seven, but this is still a potent group with Dontari Poe in the middle and Big Vick likely to see some time. Vick will be carrying a big chip on his big shoulder.

Our guys need to take care of business and not allow any tummy bumps on Peyton Manning.

Go Broncos!