There’s always a risk when you label someone a “savior.”
They might not save anything, and what constitutes “saving?” There are times, as the old saying goes, the best indicator of the future is the past. When someone has a track record, you’re confident the label will stick.
Enter Mike Munchak.
He was hired as the Denver Broncos offensive line coach and, more importantly, the unit’s “savior.” Munchak is widely considered the best offensive line coach in the NFL. He’s also a Hall-of-Fame offensive lineman. If anyone can “save” the Broncos offensive line, and a certain left tackle, Munchak is the guy.
With the Broncos set to open training camp today, Andrew Mason told Adam Malnati and me on the MHR Radio Podcast (ApplePodcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher) that the development and play of the offensive line is the most important aspect he wants to see heading into the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 3 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Come for the #Broncos training camp preview w/@MaseDenver, @AdamMalnati16 & me, stay for the Mase #OrangeRush prediction. Mase's insight will get #BroncosCountry more amped for the start of camp on the @MileHighReport Radio Podcast.@ApplePodcasts: https://t.co/rvQ0qusIX1— Ian St. Clair (@IanStClair) July 17, 2019
“What happens in OTAs and minicamp is the edge rushers, the interior pass rushers, they have an advantage when the pads aren’t on,” Mase said. “The pads go on, it equalizes a bit between the offensive line and the defensive line. So I want to see what the O-line does in terms of protecting Joe Flacco, because in OTAs and minicamp, if you went by that, Flacco, Kevin Hogan, Drew Lock, they were all under siege.
“I want to see the offensive line do better, and in particular Garett Bolles. He needs to have a good camp. I want to see Bolles in the first couple of weeks of training camp show tangible, palpable progress. Show that he can be an above average left tackle, which is what you drafted him to be. It’s why you used a first-round pick on him. And I need to see him use that athleticism, use that footwork, which is occasionally off. He’s got quick feet but they aren’t always in the right place. Use that natural quickness that he has to get himself setup, get in good position to block, and not be in a spot where he has to reach out and grab. If Bolles is sitting there this year and he leads offensive tackles in holding penalties again, you’re looking for a new left tackle in 2020.”
If anyone will get what Denver expects and hopes out of Bolles, Munchak is the one to do it. It’s time for Bolles to step up and take hold of the left tackle position. The Broncos have done their job by putting him in a position to have success. If he isn’t able to grab hold of it this season, that’s on him.
“Bingo. There are no excuses when you have Mike Munchak,” Mase told us. “Munchak has forgotten more about line play than almost anyone walking the Earth will ever know. He’s very relatable (with how he coaches). With Munchak, he has a certain gravatus when he walks into a room because he’s a Hall-of-Fame offensive lineman. But if you watch him during practice, he does very well at taking complex concepts and getting them down to their basic essentials to where guys can really grasp them.
“The other thing with Munchak is he is patient. He’s not a screamer. He’s a pat on the butt rather than a Bill Kollar diatribe-type of coach. Remember Alex Gibbs back in the day on the offensive line at training camp? He would string together a run of profanities that would, to borrow a line from a ‘Christmas Story,’ still hang space somewhere over Greeley. Muchak is quite the opposite of that.”
What should help Bolles and the entire offensive line is the Broncos will wear game jerseys throughout training camp, as they did in OTAs and minicamp. Remember “death by inches?” This is an example of that, and it’s a brilliant idea since it’s one step closer to game-like situations.
“I’m fascinated to see if that helps and really does see a reduction in holding penalties,” Mase said. “Is that something where we’re going to see some good habits develop? I certainly hope so.”
The million-dollar question, and it’s been one Broncos Country has asked since Munchak was hired: Is this the year that Bolles holds down the left tackle position? Will Bolles have the strong camp that he needs?
“I’m going to say yes,” Mase said. “I believe that much in Munchak’s teaching that Bolles will have a strong camp and that he will look better. You’ll see that as you get to preseason games. I think the thing you’re looking for in training camp, because you are going against Bradley Chubb and Von Miller, is persistence. You’re looking for a guy who holds his own. Who doesn’t let one penetration, one sack allowed, become two or three. Become a string of holding penalties. You want to see that he has that cornerback short memory — make the mistake, forget it, go on to the next play.”
If Bolles makes that happen, it’s a safe bet the Broncos offensive line is much better, the offense as a whole is much better and Munchak will earn the label of “savior.” In the same breath, that increases the odds he becomes a head coach in 2020.
Enter Chris Kuper, who has the same kind of approach and mindset as Munchak. The time Kuper gets with Munchak this season, on and off the field, is invaluable.
“If the Broncos O-line takes the leap and becomes one of the better units in football, then, once again, it underscores what kind of coach Munchak is,” Mase said. “And he is going to be on some radars; especially if some of these young coaches around the league flame out a little bit. You know how the NFL is a copy-cat league and everyone is wanting to go young and young? The Broncos zagged with Vic Fangio when everyone else zigged (by hiring younger coaches). But if some of these young coaches struggle, then inevitably the pendulum might go back to some of the experienced guys, which could mean in a year or two you’re talking about Munchak being a head coach again.”
When you’re around a savior, you cherish the time you get.
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Is this the year Garett Bolles takes control of the left tackle position?
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