Yesterday, I mentioned the Center position being the only position on the offensive line that is pretty solidified. Today we get to talk about one of the more fluid (that’s the nice way to say it’s a total mess!) positions on the line.
Of the four players who saw time at tackle last year, only one of them (Schofield) will be playing tackle again for the Broncos this year. This has been the story of the Broncos offensive line for the last two years.
This year in the offseason the team looked to bolster the position through free agency by signing Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson, the likely starters at LT and RT respectively.
The problem has been getting (and keeping) everyone on the field and playing together. Continuity and versatility are going to be the keys to this O-line group, and you’ll likely hear me continue to beat that drum tomorrow in the guard breakdown.
With this in mind, here is my prognostication on where the Tackles stand thus far in regard to making the team in 2016.
Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson
Okung has been slowly working his practice time up over the last few days of training camp as he is coming off of shoulder surgery this offseason. He’s a talented and savvy veteran when healthy and the key now is getting him to where he can practice and get reps with the other guys.
Coach Kubiak on Okung:
I like what I’ve seen. We just have to get him to where he is out there two hours a day right now. We are about there.”
Stephenson has looked good as well so far in camp and has taken most of the reps at first team RT. Yesterday he hurt his calf in practice so he was out today as well. I doubt we will see him or Okung in the first pre-season game next week.
Schofield is one guy who has been getting a lot of reps due to injuries along the offensive line.
When asked in his presser yesterday about Schofield’s development Kubiak said:
“Obviously Scho gets the hard end of the stick because he’s a guy we move everywhere. That’s what gives him a chance for him to become a good player. He’s got 13 starts in the NFL under his belt at right tackle. He played in the Super Bowl. Think about the things Michael has been in and now he is playing all over the place. It gives Michael a chance to be the best player he can be.”
Michael’s versatility is something that will serve him well on this team as he has taken reps at RT, LT, and some guard as well throughout training camp. He is likely your swing tackle this year.
On The Bubble:
Sam Carlson, Kyle Roberts, Justin Murray, Lars Hanson, Cameron Jefferson
If your response to this list was “who?”, you’re probably not alone (and should go read our 90 in 90 roster breakdowns).
Jefferson has been getting some LT reps with Okung out, and Kyle Roberts is working as the second team RT when Schofield gets reps at guard.
I think we end up only keeping three true tackles on the roster with Okung starting at LT, Stephenson at RT, and Schofield reserve/swing tackle. We have several players competing at guard right now that have some tackle experience as well that could help in a pinch.
Shane Ray also weighed in on the tackle position today after practice:
“[T] Russell [Okung], when we're talking about run blockers, he's probably one of the best that you'll see. He's so big and strong, you have to be able to be physical with a guy like that and he's got really nice feet. [T Michael] Schofield's getting a lot better with his technique. [T] Donald [Stephenson], what we love about him is that he's so aggressive and you need a guy like that on the offensive line that's going to go out there and be competitive and get chippy with guys. That's the kind of things that you like to see out of a physical position like that. All three guys are definitely getting better and better. I look forward to every time I get to go against Russell because he's such a bigger guy. I feel like if I can do well against him then, there are not too many other guys in the league that have that same size and ability. I'll be alright.”
Assuming everyone can get/stay healthy, this looks like a pretty solid group and should be an upgrade over last year’s starters.
Sound off in the comments section and give us your predictions on who you believe the Broncos final group guys at Tackle will be!