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3 & Out with Brandon Thorn

For this week’s 3 & Out I spoke with Brandon Thorn. Thorn is a self described line of scrimmage enthusiast and works for both The Scouting Academy and USA Football.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens
Bolles has had an uneven sophomore year. Can he improve?
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

For this week’s 3 & Out I spoke with Brandon Thorn. In case you somehow didn’t know, Thorn is a self described line of scrimmage enthusiast and works for both The Scouting Academy and USA Football. He’s one of the best Twitter follows you can find if you like in depth line of scrimmage analysis. Our interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

1st and 10

This Broncos offensive line has been a bit of a revelation in how much they’ve improved. I saw you gave Paradis some love after Baltimore, you called McGovern a “pleasant surprise” through 2 weeks and I’ve seen Bolles get credit too. Do you think their performance is sustainable? Where can they most improve?

I do think their performance so far is sustainable in terms of being an average to above average OL. On an individual level in terms of skill-set, physical traits, and performance so far this season the strengths of the unit in order are C-LG-RG-LT-RT.

I view the interior as the strength of the unit right now, particularly in run-blocking. McGovern has been a pleasant surprise in the physicality, play strength, and overall run-blocking ability he brings to the unit. I’ve noticed him struggle at times with the timing and accuracy of his strike in pass-protection, along with hitting set points in his pass set (under/oversetting), but that is a pretty common struggle for a lot of inexperienced guards, especially having to go against the deepest position group in the NFL (interior defensive line).

Bolles looks a lot like the player he did coming out of Utah when I did a full evaluation on him. His athleticism, play speed, and competitive toughness show up on tape, whereas his inability to consistently anchor to stop power, and overall hand usage struggle. I haven’t seen much improvement from him since last season in these areas. Veldheer has been adequate, but ‘adequate’ is a stark improvement for this unit compared to the caliber of RT play we have seen over the last 2-3 years so it may appear to some as better than it is.

2nd and 5

I was lower on Bolles than most coming out because of his age so your assessment is definitely a bit discouraging. It also seems like he can really let the team down in pass protection here and there such as the ole’ against Terrell Suggs. Do you think he’s kind of a set product, or could he continue to improve at anchoring and using his hands?

I think he can improve things like technique..which is his biggest issue. Getting to the right spot in his pass set so he can establish an inside-out, half-man relationship with the defender is a big issue for him.

When he over or under sets a rusher, he tends to get grabby as a means to ‘recover’ rather than reposition his feet while maintaining his base and balance. If he can learn to get to his spot consistently in pass-protection against various defensive alignments (5-6-7-9 techniques) then he will be in optimal position to use his hands.

The problem is he struggles with set points AND proper hand placement/timing. This is also the root cause of him struggles transitioning to his anchor so he can stop power. I think his play strength is solid, so not much better than average. If his technique doesn’t improve significantly I’m afraid this will always be an issue. I had a 2nd round grade on him coming out for the Inside the Pylon Draft Guide, and my two biggest concerns were anchor and overall technique. Those seem to still be what are still restricting necessary growth.

3rd and 3

Moving to the defensive side of the ball. What do you see? It seemed like Elway’s plan before the season was to let Talib go in order to pay Keenum, but then Chubb fell into his lap and the defensive philosophy seemingly became: the Orange Rush will dominate up front and make up for the secondary, but it doesn’t seem to be working. I think Von Miller and the edge rushers have looked okay, and Peko has definitely impressed but can they do more?

I really haven’t seen the secondary enough to speak very intelligently on it. Run defense still very good. Their front 7 is strong.

Bradley Chubb has really stood out, particularly against the run. He sets a hard edge and is showing good play strength & competitive toughness. Had a really nice inside stab and counter for a sack vs. Ronnie Stanley. His get-off isn’t elite so his pass-rush moves need to be really developed & he has to have multiple to become a better rusher, which should happen in time. I think he’s showing some improvement in that regard, but right now he’s stout vs. the run and that’s a big part the defensive success as a whole.

4th and inches

You’re someone I definitely go to as a resource when it comes to draft time. I know it’s really early in that process for most, but have any prospects really jumped out at you? Anyone that Broncos fans should keep an eye on?

I honestly have not watched any CFB this season except maybe a few highlights. I have seen a lot of Jonah Williams over the years and thought he was the best OT in the country in 2017 not being draft eligible. So I’m a huge fan of his game.