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Denver Broncos 2017 ‘No Bull’ Storylines: Building an NFL-quality offensive line

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We’re ramping up to start of the Denver Broncos 2017 season as training camp approaches. As we wait for the last couple of excruciating weeks before football returns to life, let’s whet our appetite with what I see as the most interesting storylines for the Broncos this season.

NFL: Denver Broncos-Minicamp Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

There are many things we can point to as reasons for the Broncos offensive ineptitude of the 2016 season (because it was some of the worst offensive football I’ve seen since Tebow):

  • Young, inexperienced sub-par talent at QB (calm your pants...I’m talking about both)
  • Lack of talent at RB
  • An Offensive Coordinator who couldn’t scheme the proper way to tie his shoes
  • A head coach who was stuck in the 2000s with his system

But for anyone who knows anything about the Xs and Os of football, the core problem for the Broncos attack was simple: its offensive line was by and large inept.

What we saw in 2016

Let’s start with where we were. We had arguably the best center in the NFL in Matt Paradis. Sadly, hardly anyone outside of Broncos Country would know that because the other four positions on the line were average at best, but mostly poor.

Russell Okung was our left tackle. He was one of the average guys. It was honestly a bit of a loss to see him leave the team, but obviously the market for LTs was too pricey for the team.

Max Garcia handled left guard and was an abomination on the field of play. I have a really hard time with any ideas of him still being a starter somewhere on our line, but can wait to see how he looks in a scheme that better suits him.

Michael Schofield was the right guard and he was mostly average. I’d rate him as the third best lineman of 2016, but honestly it wasn’t anything worth writing home about. I do think he’s a very solid backup player, but the team could easily find a better guard.

Donald Stephenson was mostly the right tackle for us and only kept the job because Ty Sambrailo was simply the most laughable excuse for an NFL tackle I’ve seen in all my years of watching football. Stephenson was a very below-average player. He truly sucked at pass blocking and was only passable as a run blocker.

What the team has in 2017

The biggest signing for the team is Ronald Leary. He is a player that is a better guard than anything the Broncos have to offer from 2016. He’s also a grinder and the kind of presence you want on the line that will help set the tone for strong play across the line.

The team also drafted Garett Bolles in the first round, and though he may not see the field, it is likely the team is going to push for that to happen and develop him as quickly as possible.

At right tackle, the team has a possible upgrade in Menelik Watson who signed with us after tiring of the stench of the Raiders and their organization. He’s got a history of injury issues, but if he can find a way to stay healthy is a far better tackle than anything the Broncos had in 2016.

For our other guard position, there looks to be shaping up a pretty interesting battle with Max Garcia and Connor McGovern duking it out to be the starter. I’d think the team would also look at Michael Schofield as an option as he played at guard far better than he ever played at tackle last year, but currently the team lists him as a tackle.

If you like line play, the two positions to pay close attention to are going to be left tackle and whatever guard position Leary isn’t playing. The line hopefully will get a ton of coaching attention this year in hopes that it can perform at least at an average NFL level of competence.

The sleeper angle to watch out for is Ty Sambrailo at left tackle. He looked decent in his rookie year, then subpar ever since with an injury causing him tons of trouble with his upper body strength. With a rookie LT coming in who doesn’t look polished for the NFL from what I’ve seen of his college tape, the left tackle position could be up for grabs and Sambrailo’s career is going to be a short one if he doesn’t show something this year.