As the Denver Broncos move toward the April 26th NFL Draft, it’s worth noting there are still significant holes in the offensive line.
Being a sports fan can be stressful in 2019! With so many different avenues for the regular sports fan to get their news you always want to make sure you are getting the most accurate news, as quickly as you possibly can.
Sadly this desire for quick, and accurate news can also lead you to news that is quick, but not exactly accurate. As fans we accept that on some level we only get a portion of the news, and there are some things teams will keep close to their vest.
When I don’t have enough information I tend to research a topic more before taking a position on it, but there is one thing that is a universal fact in football on any level, and that is you must have good offensive, and defensive lines to be successful. I will say that as the sport has progressed it has become easier to hide vulnerabilities at defensive line, but there is no hiding a weakness at offensive line. This is why before there is any talk of potentially drafting a quarterback, or how many yards Phillip Lindsey is going to rush for, the Broncos must build this offensive line into one that is playoff caliber.
If you looked at our roster right now you would see Denver only has one lineman, Nico Falah, listed as a G/C. Other than that there is no center listed on this roster. Most Bronco fans are aware that Connor McGovern was the player who stepped in at center for Matt Paradis when he was injured, and who most likely will take over the center role next year.
Even though McGovern has had a fair amount of time playing center, it is still a new full time position, and he will still have to get use to a new quarterback in Joe Flacco. McGovern is just one example of a player being forced to play out of position last year. For a good portion of the year Denver was using two offensive tackles to play their vacant positions at guard.
To address this issue Denver hired Mike Munchak as their offensive line coach from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Munchak was also in the running for the head coaching job, but Denver ended up hiring Vic Fangio as their head coach, and Munchak as the offensive line coach, but I would guess he will play a bigger role than just the offensive line coach. Denver also made Ja’Wuan James the highest paid right tackle in the league to play opposite of Garett Bolles at left tackle.
The three interior line positions are not as cut and dried as the tackle positions. Denver is hoping Ron Leary can recover from his season ending Achilles injury. Those injuries are very tough to come back from, so Denver isn’t exactly comfortable at the right guard position. Conner McGovern is the only other guard with significant playing time. McGovern has Sam Jones and Austin Schlottman listed behind him. Keeping in mind McGovern most likely will stay at center Denver is left wit the questions of who can back up Leary if he were to take longer coming back? and Who is going to start at left guard?
Trying to put all this together can cause your head to spin, so I have tried to do the thinking for you. Ja’Wuan James is your starter at right tackle from day 1. Garett Bolles is your starting left tackle, and you hope Mike Munchak can correct all the holding calls he gets called on him. Ron Leary gets the benefit of the doubt, and he is penciled in as the starter at right guard. Connor McGovern gets penciled in at center so he and Flacco can get as much time together as possible.
At left guard I would say that Denver will most likely bring a veteran to be the starter, and then let Sam Jones and Elijah Wilkinson battle it out to see who is the back up guard to both Leary and whichever veteran you can bring in. Wilkinson did a fine job of filling in at left guard last season, and his natural position is at tackle. This makes him valuable as he can back up both the guards and the tackles. I would also go as far to say that I think he deserves a legitimate shot to start, as does Sam Jones, at the left guard position.
Whichever veteran Denver decides to sign will have to come in and earn that spot. Along with signing a veteran I think Denver needs to select two more offensive linemen in the later rounds of this years draft to develop for the future. The Denver Broncos can bring in all the skill position players they want, but if they do not have a solid line to be able to block for them it won’t matter.
As the famous wide receiver and kick returner Dante Hall once said, “defensive and offensive linemen control the game and true sports fans know that.” I am sure the front office of the Denver Broncos is aware of that as well, and hopefully will continue to make decisions to further the construction of our foundation.