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How much can this Broncos’ O-line improve in 2019?

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Pro Football Focus ranks the unit at No. 12 - a huge improvement over its final ranking of 2018.

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denverbroncos.com

Good morning, Broncos Country!

Pro Football Focus is at it again, but this time its rankings are favorable to the Broncos, so I’m not going to complain - but I will question ;)

PFF ranks the Broncos’ offensive line at No. 12 in the NFL, projecting the following starting lineup:

Left tackle: Garett Bolles

Left guard: Ronald Leary

Center: Connor McGovern

Right guard: Dalton Risner

Right tackle: Ja’Wuan James

Arguably the best thing this offensive line has going for it - besides bringing in Hall-of-Famer Mike Munchak as its position coach - is the two newest players.

With the free agency addition of James and the draft pick of Risner, the line will not only be significantly better than last season but also some of the more formidable players for defenders to get around/through this season.

PFF called the James’ acquisition a “strong move,” less for any stellar play but specifically for his consistently good play - something highly coveted in the NFL.

But it’s the second-round draft pick of Risner that really has this o-line improving over 2018. The former Kansas State guard - and also Wiggins, Colorado, native - held an 87 overall PFF college grade throughout his four years and even hit above 90 in overall and pass-blocking grades during his senior year. That’s why PFF called him the “most intriguing” offensive line change for the Broncos.

The biggest hopes will come as former first-round pick Bolles will be expected to make a big jump at left tackle that he has two years under his belt, and Leary will hopefully be able to remain healthy enough throughout the season to keep his guard spot from becoming a turnstile again.

But the biggest question mark will undoubtedly be McGovern as coaches and fans will be hoping he has made a gigantic leap in experience and performance over last season’s emergency fill-in at center when Matt Paradis went down with a season-ending injury.

Losing Paradis to free agency was one of John Elway’s few mistakes this offseason, in my opinion, but I’m hoping McGovern has gotten the necessary chops to make a big jump in his play this season, which will go a long way in predicting how good this offensive line will be.

With seven games under his belt and top-notch coaching from Munchak - plus a horrific PFF grade out of the way - McGovern should be able to improve significantly on his sub-39 pass-blocking grade for 2018.

Whether this line is a top 12 unit in the NFL is anyone’s guess at this point (c’mon PFF, we know you don’t really have any idea!) but given that it finished 24th overall by PFF’s ranking following Week 17 last season due to a very inexperienced McGovern at center, a mishmash of Elijah Wilkinson and Max Garcia to cover for Leary plus Billy Turner in for Jared Veldheer - it does not seem farfetched that the Broncos’ ranking moves up significantly in 2019.

Even if the Broncos have to dip into the reserves with Wilkinson, Chaz Green and Don Barclay, overall the group should be more experienced and with slightly better talent than recent seasons could offer.

And in case you’re wondering how the Broncos’ AFC West rivals fare in the rankings, the talent-rich Chargers are likely to suffer behind an offensive line anchored by Russell Okung and Michael Schofield for a 29th overall ranking while the Raiders aren’t much better with a predicted 26th overall ranking. All good news for the Broncos.

The Chiefs boast the best line in the division after the Broncos, with a 17th-ranked o-line behind possibly the league’s best right tackle in Michael Schwartz and solid left tackle Eric Fisher.

But between you and me, if the Broncos’ line just protects quarterback Joe Flacco long enough to get a decent pass downfield, all of it will be a thrilling improvement.

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