Good morning, Broncos Country.
The Denver Broncos offense performed admirably in their season opening victory against the Los Angeles Chargers, but questionable play on the offensive line, particularly in pass protection, remains a significant cause for concern. Each team’s success lives or dies in the trenches, and if the Broncos’ unit up front can’t improve over the course of the season — the franchise’s aspirations of competing for a fourth world championship might come to a screeching halt.
John Elway has chalked up a plethora of achievements (many which GM’s could only dream of accomplishing) since taking over as General Manager and now President of Football Operations, yet finding a solution to the revolving door at right tackle during his tenure has not been one of them. And that’s a crying shame.
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. Significant draft capital has been a part of the equation, but unfortunately, Draft selections such as Ty Sambrailo and Michael Schofield never panned out as planned. You can make all the excuses you want, but it doesn’t take away from the fact the aforementioned players busted out hard after being highly-touted by the front office since their selections. To make matters worse, free agent acquisitions Donald Stephenson and Menelik Watson (to date), have not impressed at all — and they never will.
Menelik Watson, on the other hand, ranked 59th of the 61 tackles playing 25% of snaps or more with 6 total pressures allowed, inc. 4 sacks.— Sayre Bedinger (@SayreBedinger) September 12, 2017
“But it’s only the first week of the season, Watson can get better!”
Sure it can, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Would you?
It’s not often that a fifth-year, oft-injured, inexperienced and underdeveloped offensive tackle magically has the lights turn on and becomes a solid pro. For whatever reason, Elway and the Broncos’ front office felt good about the chances of that happening, and subsequently pushed a gigantic pile of guap ($18.375 million) toward Watson hoping that would happen. That’s one hell of a poorly placed bet.
Maybe it was desperation. Perhaps it’s that coupled with the simple fact that the team struggles significantly in their evaluation of professional and collegiate talent at the position. In consecutive free agency periods, the Broncos’ brass decided to acquire two division rival’s worst performing offensive linemen to be solutions to a never ending problem. That’s disastrous, inexcusable and a nightmare that has to come to a close.
Yes, Chargers pass-rushers are elite. Without a doubt. It's also true Menelik Watson was terrible on this particular night.— Mark Kiszla (@markkiszla) September 12, 2017
I’m not saying it’s easy to find good players on the offensive line, but I’ll be darned if it is as difficult as the Broncos are making it out to be. Instead of investing money and resources into both Stephenson (who actually took two pay cuts in the course of a year to stay on the team) and Watson, they could have entered the Mitchell Schwartz sweepstakes (who signed for just a little bit more in total value and guarantees that Stephenson and Watson did combined) and acquired a player that has actual valuable on the football field.
You know, one that could actually help them win games on a consistent basis.
Not only that, but they could have dug a bit deeper in the draft and had a tad bit more diligence in the prospect evaluation and placed priority on getting a player who was ready to make an impact from the moment he arrived at Dove Valley, but they didn’t. Maybe it is really just a game of throwing darts at a draft board after all, because it’s hard to imagine that being worse than whatever method they’ve concocted to date.
It’s time to find an answer that will be an actual solution at the right tackle position. Heck, you could throw left guard in there too if Max Garcia / Allen Barbre flop and flail in the trenches over the course of the year. If the team wants to get back to where the big boys play (playoffs), they best find a way to get some better big boys up front who can help make that happen.
It probably isn’t going to happen this year (barring a trade), but here is to hoping it can this coming offseason. The team will be much better off if it does.
As always, thank you for reading and here is today’s offering of Horse Tracks.
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