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HT: Things are looking up for the Broncos’ O-line

After years of disappointing play, the Broncos suddenly have a line they can rely on.

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Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

When the Denver Broncos selected Garett Bolles with the 20th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, there was plenty of debate. Some fans thought the Broncos should have chosen Ryan Ramczyk or Cam Robinson instead. Other fans pounded the table for a defensive playmaker. It was a pretty controversial pick in Broncos Country. And unfortunately, Bolles’ rookie season did little to alleviate the controversy. Penalties & pass blocking issues overshadowed good run blocking for a Broncos fanbase that was not inclined to be patient.

It was far from just Bolles, though. The Broncos did boast a Pro Bowl quality center & guard combo in Matt Paradis and Ron Leary, but Max Garcia had an awful season at left guard. And as for the right tackle position... well, the less said about that disaster, the better.

Now, quite a bit has changed.

The two biggest changes don’t even involve the offensive linemen directly:

  • The Broncos let Brock Osweiler walk, traded Trevor Siemian away, and cut Paxton Lynch. On the flipside, they signed Case Keenum & promoted Chad Kelly.
  • The Broncos fired offensive line coach Jeff Davidson. They replaced him with Chris Strausser, who they promoted from assistant o-line coach to Offensive Line-Tackles coach, and Sean Kugler. Kugler, the former head coach at the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP), is the Offensive Line-Guards/Centers coach.

With better coaching & greatly improved QB play, the entire Broncos offensive line is, well, flourishing. Connor McGovern has stepped in across from Leary, with Garcia now a backup. And John Elway pulled off a heck of an offseason trade, bringing veteran offensive tackle Jared Veldheer in from the Arizona Cardinals for the low, low price of a 6th round pick.

The results are speaking for themselves. Pro Football Focus has both Bolles & Veldheer among the top 25 offensive tackles in the NFL, and Paradis is among the best centers. Overall, they’re currently ranking the Broncos’ O-line as the 13th best in the NFL. That’s a huge step up from an abysmal 2017!

But perhaps even more telling is Football Outsiders’ take on the Broncos’ offensive line:

  • Adjusted Line Yards: 3rd
  • Power Running Rank: 7th
  • Stuffed Rank: 15th
  • 2nd Level Rank: 9th
  • Open Field Rank: 5th
  • Pass Protection: 4th

With just 2 sacks allowed, the Broncos are allowing an Adjusted Sack Rate of just 3.0%. One thing to note: opponent adjustments aren’t factored in until after Week 4 due to sample size, so we’ll see where things stand then.

For good measure, here’s how the Broncos rank on runs in each direction:

  • Left End: 9th
  • Left Tackle: 31st
  • Mid/Guard: 9th
  • Right Tackle: 8th
  • Right End: 5th

The low rank on runs toward the Left Tackle is a bit concerning, but let’s add a bit of context: only 4% of the Broncos’ runs have been headed that way, so each individual play’s impact is magnified. And besides- there are a whole lot more single digit rankings up there to get excited about.

Beyond just the stats, the offensive line’s progress has been clear to see for anyone watching the games. Success in the trenches is a big part of having a successful NFL offense, and the marked improvement in this area is helping turn one of the league’s worst 2017 offenses into one of its more intriguing 2018 units.

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