Good morning, Broncos Country!
Ryan Harris is switching from right tackle to left and sophomore tackle Michael Schofield will get his NFL regular season debut as a right tackle on Sunday when the Broncos take the field against the Vikings.
Both will be tasked with stopping one of the most formidable defensive lines in the league.
Welcome to the NFL.
But neither Harris nor Schofield seems to be as concerned about these moves as fans.
For Harris - who will now be protecting Peyton Manning's blind side while rookie Ty Sambrailo is out with a shoulder injury - protecting the quarterback is protecting the quarterback ... no matter what side.
"Why would there be?" Harris said Friday about more pressure protecting the blind side. "[Manning's] only like a future Hall of Famer, right?"
But point taken, Ryan.
"I mean I think all of us on the offensive line have handled that 'pressure' pretty well. It doesn't matter what side it comes from. You definitely want to protect him. Every time we do, good things happen," Harris said. "I think challenges are part of the process and pressure is man-made. We're looking forward to the challenge."
And it will be a big one. Between Everson Griffen, Chad Greenway, Anthony Barr and Sharrif Floyd, Minnesota's defense is going to be a huge test - make that a gargantuan test - for our this line that has barely played a week together.
But if you're worrying about the shuffling along our offensive line and starting to get a little nauseous because you remember last year's issues, consider how the Patriots are making O-line changeups part of a planned attack.
According to the Boston Herald, which broke down this innovative approach, the Patriots have been doing this all season at a breakneck pace:
"Against the Steelers, the Patriots didn't use the same line combination on back-to-back series until their sixth and seventh possessions. The Pats used the same combination for three consecutive series to open the Bills game, which is the only time that's happened all season, before changing their line personnel on nine consecutive possessions. And the Patriots didn't use the same group in back-to-back series a single time in nine series against the Jags."
And if you're still concerned about the Broncos trying this (perhaps more out of necessity than strategy), Harris has a paper bag for you to use (cue the hyperventilation gif!) because the eighth-year tackle has never been part of an offensive line that didn't change around a lot.
"I'd love to meet the guy who copyrighted continuity for an offensive line because ever since I've been an offensive lineman, things happen in the season," he said Friday. "Every play we have new personnel. For the offensive line, we just have to be on the same page. I've been next Evan [Mathis] this week, and I know Evan. We've been increasing our communication. I'm confident we're all going to be good."
Manning makes certain of that, Harris said, noting that "No. 18 makes sure that if you're in the huddle with him, you're a professional too. It's part of the challenge, part of the excitement."
Schofield, for one, is very excited to get his first regular season start - and he knows it's a big test.
"They drafted me last year in the third round, so I've got to prove I was worth that pick and come out there and dominate," Schofield said, admitting he'd probably have some butterflies. "I've just got to go out there, play with confidence and play with good technique."
That's possibly the biggest understatement of the day as this entire offensive line is going to need to dominate a very strong defense if it's quarterback is going to have time and the running game even a whisper of a chance.
Coach Gary Kubiak added it's possible the line will include recently acquired tackle Tyler Polumbus, who was released by the Falcons on Tuesday.
The fact that Polumbus had been actively playing the first three games of the season allows him to be plugged into a game situation if necessary.
"This guy has been active and been getting ready to play," Kubiak said. "Is it a lot to ask? Yes, but could we have been any more fortunate than to get a player who is in his position? Probably not."
The offense focused this week on playing better on first down - and not wasting downs with bad runs that ultimately force the offense to make plays throwing on every first down. While the offensive line is partly responsible for that, Kubiak emphasized the backs need to be better too.
"When you're evaluating the running game, we're talking about being better up front, getting more creases, doing that. That's a coaches' thing. We've got to create some space for these guys," Kubiak said. "Then you go to the backs and you say, 'Sometimes you've got to create your own space.'"
The head coach said starting running back C.J. Anderson looked good in Thursday's physical practice.
"Sometimes as a back, you've got to do a little bit more. You're in this league to make some plays that nobody else can make sometimes," Kubiak said. "We're calling on those guys to do some of that. We're all trying to get better and calling on everybody's best."
Part of that "best" includes Anderson playing hard, being patient and not trying to "see too many things," the coach added.
"You want guys to play. You want them to cut loose and play. I don't want him to press. I want him to get after it," Kubiak said. "We're going to make mistakes. Let's make them going full speed."
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