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Broncos training camp position battles: Guards

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We break down the last position group on the O-line today. One starting spot is completely up for grabs. Who gets it?!

NFL: Denver Broncos-Training Camp Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

We have covered the center position and the tackles over the last few days. Now it is the guards’ turn.

This position was one of the more solid ones on paper last year after we signed Evan Mathis. In reality it was a bit of a mixed bag with both he and Vasquez struggling with injury. Fortunately, Max Garcia stepped in nicely to rotate at both guard spots, and he and Mathis were absolutely dominant at times in the run game.

Fast forward six months and now Max Garcia is our “established veteran” at the guard position in his second year (similar to Paradis at center). Youth on the O-line is not necessarily a bad thing, but without reps and experience, these guys are likely to have some rough patches as they work the kinks out.

When your most solidified positions on the O-line are from two second-year players, you have a lot of upside, but that lack of experience could cause some problems.

With this in mind, here is my prognostication on where the Guards stand thus far in regard to making the team in 2016.

Locked In:

Max Garcia

I’ll be doing a 90 in 90 breakdown on Max coming up soon so I won’t say a ton about him here other than, I’m sure glad he has stepped up and shown flashes of being really good. We drafted two offensive linemen in last year’s draft, and it’s good to have at least one of them contributing. He looks to have the LG spot locked down. I’m sure it will be nice for him to only have to focus on one position this year instead of swapping out like he did last season.

Likely Candidates:

Ty Sambrailo, Darrion Weems, Connor McGovern

I could honestly list Michael Schofield here as well since he has been getting a lot of reps at guard as well. Ty Sambrailo would be in the category above as he was the favorite for the starting RG slot, but his recent injury news changes things. The door is now wide open for Weems and McGovern to step in at RG. Schofield could actually push for this spot as well if the coaches are looking at getting the best 5 on the field.

The word from my sources at camp (it’s MHR’s Ian Henson, but it sounds so much cooler to just say “sources”) is that the RG battle is currently between Schofield and Weems, with McGovern at second team LG, as he is likely behind those two in the starting battle.

Weems has been getting some praise from Kubiak in his pressers lately as they like what they see from the former Dallas swing tackle in his move to guard.

You have [G] Connor [McGovern] and you have [T Michael] Schofield who slides in and out. [T Darrion] Weems is really starting to look like a pretty good football player for this team.

“They are all going to be there, but this is training camp. I’d love for them all to be working together and everybody be perfect and healthy. That’s not happening right now. We’ll get them there eventually. What we’re finding out, you’re watching [T Darrion] Weems play, you’re watching [C James] Ferentz and you’re watching some guys really become some good players. I try to stay focused on the long haul. I’d like to have all five out there on a perfect day, but we’ll get there.”

“He was a tackle, but we’ve brought him inside. It’s a lot easier to move from outside in than inside out. We’re trying to take a look at him. He’s a bigger kid than what we’ve been playing with. He’s got good size. We’re just trying to give him an opportunity with [OL] Ty [Sambrailo] and [G] Max [Garcia] missing a little time. We’re going to see if he can compete in there with [G Connor] McGovern and those guys. I think he’s done that.”

Weems will also be your starting RG for Thursday’s pre-season game.

Of course all this could be moot if Sambrailo recovers quicker than anticipated and is able to claim the starting job, but I’m not holding my breath.

On The Bubble:

Robert Myers Jr., Aaron Neary, Justin Murray

These are all prime practice squad candidates as all have excellent athletic ability, but could use some polishing. Ozark will have to help me on Myers Jr.’s PS eligibility. Neary and Murray are both undrafted rookies. Neary has excellent lateral agility but reportedly lacks strength, and Murray is a super athletic tackle (70th percentile SPARQ score) that has seen snaps there but could also project over at guard.

Final Prediction:

Since I have done the other O-line position breakdowns, I am going to go ahead and put a bow on this whole thing and take a stab at projecting all the linemen we keep on the 53-man roster.

Last year we kept 9 O-linemen (2 OCs, 3 OTs, 4 OGs) and I think we follow a similar formula here (depending on how you want to classify each player’s position). Starting 5 is Okung, Garcia, Paradis, Schofield, Stephenson with the 4 reserves being Ferentz (C/G), Weems (G/T), McGovern (G), and Sambrailo (G/T). Dillon Day and Justin Murray make the practice squad.

You could shuffle the starters around with Schofield being the swing tackle and McGovern or Weems getting the nod at RG, but, for better or for worse, I think that’s the final 9.

Sound off in the comments section and give us your predictions on who you believe the Broncos final group guys at Guard will be!