I'm breaking down our team to look at what we have in the cupboard for this offseason. In doing so, I've gathered data from nflgsis.com to give us some stats to look at as we evaluate what our players did in the 2016 regular season. Also, overthecap.com contract info will be embedded when available. I'll add to that a synopsis of each player including their contract situation. Hopefully this helps Broncos Country here at MHR be better educated on the state of the team, it’s strengths and weaknesses, and what positions we’ll likely target in free agency and the draft.
The 2016 season was fairly woeful for this unit as a whole. The Denver Broncos couldn’t run the ball well at all and that led to a lot of offensive issues throughout the season regardless of QB and RB play. I do think the pass blocking shored itself up toward the back quarter of the season, but sadly the offense had too many issues in other areas to overcome and it made little difference with most not even noticing the improvement in their play.
Unfortunately, I’m not going to be including any advanced O-Line stats here for a couple of reasons: 1) O-Line play is largely subjective given that people reviewing the plays don’t know the assignments and 2) The NFL doesn’t track any appreciable stats as part of their base game statistics.
What I will do is give you my impressions on each player based off of my subjective reviews from the 2016 season and at least the snap counts. Do feel free to disagree as it is just my opinion which is subjective in nature just like anyone else’s.
Russell Okung wasn’t the world beater that Broncos Country hoped he would be. Nevertheless, his work was decent enough in my opinion at left tackle for him to stick around. He plays very hard which I like. He also would have looked better if a better guard was lined up next to him. He’s a better run blocker from what I saw than pass blocker at this point though his pass blocking wasn’t terrible.
I can see his future with Denver going either way. It is important to note that Denver can cut ties with him soon with no strings attached, no dead money, and no obligation. The problem Denver has is finding a equally qualified tackle for 2017. Any free agent you bring in is going to be just as costly in all likelihood and have as many question marks. This decision is one of the more interesting storylines to watch for from Dove Valley in the next month or so.
I had hoped that Donald Stephenson would have a resurgence in play in 2016, but it was not to be. He largely looked exactly like the kind of player Chiefs fans warned us about: horrible pass blocker and average run blocker.
One bright side story for 2016 was Michael Schofield moving inside and looking like a decent NFL guard. I’m not joking either. He was our 3rd best lineman behind Paradis and Okung. He still had some bad plays and was nowhere close to being a top 30 guard in the NFL, I felt like his play was good enough to keep his job secure in 2017 even if it is as a backup.
Max Garcia really seemed to take a step back in 2016 after a hopeful rookie season. He did start all 16 games, but really looked lost much of the time. It seemed to what I saw like he had trouble understanding blitz pick-ups in his area, how to handle stunts, and how to get leverage enough in pass defense situations to keep his QB clean.
Matt Paradis was simply the best lineman we had on the field at any time in the 2016 season. He’s a gem of a player who plays with grit and superb technique. You could easily argue for him to be the best center in the AFC and is definitely one of the best 3 centers in the league based on his play in 2016 according to what I saw.
Connor McGovern was a guy who I really liked coming out of the draft, but scratched my head at the selection because he just didn’t make sense for the Kubiak offense. He’s a powerful blocker who I noticed in some of his preseason action as very good. He’ll likely get a chance to fight for a starting position at guard for the Broncos in 2017.
This is a young guy that we didn’t get to see much of in 2016. I didn’t see enough to think he’ll be more than a practice squad guy for the Broncos, but honestly young guys like this step up every year and surprise us. The opportunity is there for Turner if he can take a step forward with hard work.
This is another young gun the Broncos were developing in 2016. He’s in the same boat as Turner in that he needs to get stronger, sharpen his technique, and bring the thunder to make an impression on the coaches if he wants anything other than to work on the practice squad for us. It doesn’t help his case that the guy in front of him is one of the best in the league and is as durable as it gets in the NFL.
Here’s my No Bull side calling it like it is: this player doesn’t belong on the NFL football field. His play was absolutely horrendous and the fact that we played Stephenson over him makes my football soul weep tears of blood. The only reason he’s on the team is because of where we drafted him and honestly the team would be better off cutting him this offseason and getting a UDFA as they likely would have a better chance of making something of themselves in the NFL.
Protip: if you are trying to block defenders by butt bumping at them, you probably can’t cut it in this league.
This group is probably the biggest target for Broncos Country on where we want to see improvements. With Kubiak gone, it will be interesting to see if we start looking to get bigger linemen (which I’m a big proponent of). I find it likely that we’ll see at least two new starters for 2017 and wouldn’t be surprised by a 3rd or 4th new face.
I’m not going to join the chorus of fans calling the whole unit trash as that simply isn’t true. We have an all-pro quality player at center, a functional starting left tackle, and at least one average quality guard on the roster today (Schofield). While I think we could possibly find upgrades to everything except center, I don’t see that many moves in the cards for the line in 2017 given our cap constraints and needs in other areas.
I would like to see McGovern take one of the guard positions. I think it is likely we will target a tackle and guard in the draft and / or free agency. I am not of the mind that we can just let Okung walk and be okay though. Our depth at tackle is just plainly nonexistent.
What do you guys think though? Should Denver scrap it all outside of Paradis and rebuild the line from scratch? What guys do you cut outright heading into OTAs? Hit up the comments and share your thoughts.