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Horse Tracks: Future Foundations

If the Denver Broncos want to get back on the right track in 2016, they will have to improve their play in the trenches and their best bet for long-term success there is investing proper draft capital and free agent money on the offensive and defensive lines.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Good Morning, Broncos Country.

It all starts in the trenches.  It may be cliche, but it's self-evident -- if you lack efficacy at the line of scrimmage, your team is going to struggle.

In their past two games against the Atlanta Falcons and San Diego Chargers, the Denver Broncos' play in the trenches was quite poor and a primary culprit for two consecutive defeats. In fact, consistency has been a major issue for the team in that respect for most of the season.  A lot of it has to do with execution, but the wealth of injuries the Broncos have endured on the offensive line in the first six games of the season certainly hasn't helped matters.

To date, Denver ranks 19th in the league in rushing, averaging only 98.5 yards per game on the ground and a paltry 3.8 yards per carry.  Even worse is their 27th ranked passing offense, which is averaging a hair under 225 yards per contest.  The Broncos have faced some vulnerable defenses this year, but have not been able to capitalize in grand fashion against them.  Their 23.3 points per game is middle of the road, good enough for a ranking of 16th league wide.

Quite frankly, the Broncos poor offensive outings are a handicap to the team's weekly and long-term success.  A lot of criticism has been given towards Trevor Siemian, but it's important to remember that in order for a quarterback to perform well, he has to be given adequate time to make plays in the pocket and furthermore, has to have a legitimate running game that can consistently gain yardage on first and second downs in order to put him in the best position to convert third downs and other situations as routinely as possible.

It's something that Head Coach Gary Kubiak knows all to well, and was very blunt about the team's issues in that regard to date. In order for the offense to start clicking, they have to do a better job at the point of attack.

"Offensively we’ve been really struggling, struggling up front and having a bunch of penalties. We have to play better," stated Kubiak.

"We started the season playing really well up front, I would even say into week three going to Cincinnati, Ty’s first start. We have to get back on track here and stay away from negative football plays and we have to give our quarterback a chance to operate. We have to all play better, it’s everybody," added Kubiak.

It isn't just on offense that the Broncos are struggling in the trenches, it extends to the defense as well.

On the season, opponents are averaging 4 yards a carry on the ground against the Broncos and nearly 113 yards per contest.  Additionally, they have also allowed 6 rushing touchdowns so far this season. To put those numbers into perspective, Denver's defense only allowed 3.3 yards per carry in 2015, which roughly averaged out to 84 yards a game and only ten rushing touchdowns. That's a vast difference in performance.

Moreover, in 2015, opposing teams only had one gain of 40 yards or more, and only 5 runs of 20 yards or more on 408 rushing attempts. Six games into their 2016 campaign, the Broncos have allowed 2 runs of 40 yards or more and 4 runs of 30 or more on 169 rushing attempts. Those statistics help put into perspective that the team's defense has some issues going for it, especially with their play up front.

If the Broncos want to be better this year, they have to improve how they are playing up front. That's a big order to accomplish, especially given the lack of talent they have at defensive end and defensive tackle outside a few players.  One of the first switches I would make is placing Darius Kilgo as a starter over Sylvester Williams at nose tackle.  I feel that Kilgo's play against the run is much better, and would be a boost to the Broncos' rushing defense if he were to see more snaps.

If they want to be great long-term, it would be wise for them to allocate draft capital in the way of high round selections on the offensive and defensive lines that give them longevity for the future.  Better yet, the Broncos should be significant players (given the amount of cap space they have in 2017) and seek to add a top-tier addition on both sides of the line.

As always. thank you for reading and here is today's offering of Horse Tracks.

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