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Horse Tracks: Broncos must improve in trenches to make playoffs

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If the Denver Broncos want to have a shot at making the playoffs, they will have to improve their performance in the trenches.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country.

The Denver Broncos are 7-4 and on the outside looking in regarding the AFC's playoff hunt.  With five games remaining, they still have a great shot at making the playoffs if they are able to take care of business the rest of the way out.

None of the games are easy, but upcoming road battles against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans provide the team with an opportunity to gain some momentum before hosting the New England Patriots at home on December 18. But in order to put themselves in the dance with a shot at defending their Super Bowl championship, the Broncos will have to play much better in the trenches the rest of the way.

We have all been witness to a myriad of struggles for the Broncos this season.  Lapses in concentration, questionable coaching, a lack of discipline and struggles on first and third down.  Above all else, the greatest concern to me is the lack of execution and performance in the trenches along the offensive and defensive lines.

The loss to the Chiefs on Sunday night highlighted those issues even more.  We learned that Ty Sambrailo's ability to compete on the field with any modicum of efficacy paralleled that of a NFL combine dummy.  Witnessed once more was Max Garcia's penchant for mental mistakes in regard to pass protection and an inferior effort in boosting the running game.  Russell Okung had issues of his own, and it isn't for certain whether or not he will be the franchises solution at left tackle beyond the 2016 season.

On the defensive side of the ball, Sylvester Williams is still struggling immensely at the point of attack.  Jared Crick, even with a relentless motor, is too often washed out of running plays on his side of the line that has been a stark concern impeding the Broncos' success against opposing rushers all season long.

It's too late in the season to expect any key additions that can help improve this problem, but it will be important for the coaches to light a fire under their players trotting out each week to engage opposing players in trench warfare. Averaging a lowly 3.3 yard per carry isn't going to win many football games, and allowing opposing backs to gash and gut through the defense for consistent yardage and big plays isn't a formula for success.

In short, the biggest players on the Broncos' team need to have the best performances of their careers over the course of the next five games.  If they don't, it is almost a guaranteed certainty that the team will be watching the playoffs in the comfort of their own homes, as opposed to participating in them for the first time since 2010.

And you can bet your bottom dollar they will be doing the same in 2017 if significant upgrades and acquisitions aren't made via the draft, free agency or trade that address the abomination that is the Broncos' talent in the trenches this coming off-season.  (Feel free to discuss your strategy for improving the Broncos' offensive and defensive lines in the comments section.)

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

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