While Russell Wilson has finally dismantled the dreaded quarterback carousel graphic Denver Broncos fans have grown to know and hate, an equally depressing lineage of inefficiency has plagued Denver’s offense since 2013 at one of their tackle spots. I’m speaking, of course, about right tackle.
2022 will see Denver roll out a 9th different starter since the departure of Orlando Franklin many years ago. While they didn’t invest in a more long-term solution (whether it be through draft or a trade for former Cowboys’ OT La’el Collins) much to the disappointment of many, they did invest more capital in the position than seen since the year Ja’Wuan James was handed his contract, signing three average tackles to compete for the starting job and provide depth in the case of injury.
Those tackles are Tom Compton, Calvin Anderson, and Billy Turner, and while each is currently only under contract until the end of this season, I do believe they can provide league-average play throughout the year. League average right tackle play is something Broncos fans haven’t seen since Eric Decker was catching touchdowns in Orange and Blue.
While the starting job will be hotly debated throughout the offseason, it’s important to note the improvement in quality depth not only at right tackle, but along the offensive line as a whole. In past seasons, injuries have plagued Denver’s starting unit as much as poor play, but for the first time in years George Paton has this team well-equipped to battle the injury woes that could face Denver in 2022.
The most valuable depth piece along Denver’s line in my opinion?
Journeyman lineman Tom Compton.
WT: 315 lbs.
Tom Compton started the 2021 season as a backup behind 49ers tackle Mike McGlinchey, but after a torn quad ended McGlinchey’s ‘21 campaign Compton became the full-time starter. For the following 13 games, Compton helped San Francisco reach the Conference Championship, dominating defenders in the run-game ranking as PFF’s fourth rated run-blocker and showing off impressive mobility at 33. Compton excels sealing off running lanes and neutralizing second-level defenders with blocks. Additionally, his understanding of leverage and quick first step allows him to beat defenders to angles before they have a chance to recognize the play, and also open unexpected rushing lanes for the 49ers backs to run through.
Tom Compton's movement off the snap and ability to leverage off defenders from rushing lanes is exceptional. That combined with his experience at 4/5 o-line spots makes him one of the most valuable depth linemen in the entire league. pic.twitter.com/SxfDxAW4dY— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) June 16, 2022
Compton’s struggles came in pass-pro, where he surrendered 27 total pressures and 6 sacks, and was absolutely thrashed in the Divisional Round game by Rashaan Gary and the Packers in front of Hackett. Compton struggles against the more talented pass rushers in the league and in a division with Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa, Maxx Crosby, Chandler Jones, and Frank Clark, he’s going to be facing off against high-end talent quite a bit.
My first impression of Compton was... not great. Some context: much better run blocker which was apparent on tape, going against Rashan Gary one of the more athletic and underrated EDGEs in the league.— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) March 17, 2022
Regardless, Hackett got a front row seat to watch this in the CC game. pic.twitter.com/q6IijbExZ6
Compton follows new Broncos O-line coach Butch Barry from San Francisco (where Barry served as the assistant offensive line coach and also spent time with Hackett in Green Bay as an analyst in 2020) and notes his familiarity with the coaches, along with the zone-centric scheme he has thrived in, as playing a role in his signing with the Broncos.
One of Tom’s biggest strengths is his versatility, as he brings over 100 NFL snaps at every offensive line position besides center; 108 LT snaps, 962 LG snaps, 761 RG snaps, 1341 RT snaps. If Compton can’t solidify himself as the starting right tackle, which I personally don’t believe he will, he is instantly one of the more valuable backup linemen not only in Denver but league-wide. We saw Green Bay value this flexibility immensely while Hackett was there, and it appears he has brought that same approach to depth pieces with him to Denver with signings like Tom Compton.
I think the limitations from Compton in the pass game, combined with his unique ability to play nearly every position on the line, make him primed to act as the offensive line’s “sixth-man”, filling in wherever he’s needed without representing too big of a drop off in play.
Even though I don’t expect him to be rolled out the first play of opening day, it should come as no surprise to anyone if Compton sees meaningful snaps in 2022. Expecting a fully healthy line for the entirety of a season is insanity. The odds are good he manages a sixth consecutive season with triple-digit snaps, and I’m excited to see him running alongside guys like Meinerz and Bolles bulldozing defensive backs, should he get the chance.
The reality is the NFL is a passing league, and Compton is on a team that just made a massive investment in the passing attack. Prioritizing protecting that investment is a must, which likely means he will not be along the Broncos line week one . However, it is entirely possible that his familiarity with Butch Barry and his experience in both the league and in this specific scheme make him a more likely starting candidate than I give him credit for.
Who do you want to win the Broncos starting Right Tackle job?
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