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Broncos to rely on young players for success of offensive line

Ian St. Clair Avatar
March 25, 2015

The great aspect of the NFL is everyone is an expert.

That is especially true when it comes to the Denver Broncos. Broncos Country is full of Monday morning general managers who know better than John Elway. Since the dawn of free agency, each and every move (or non move) has been scrutinized, investigated and trashed by the “experts.”

Look no further than the Broncos offensive line. There is no question that unit was the biggest hindrance to Denver’s success last season – or lack there of. At one point, the Broncos had to use six offensive linemen and Virgil Green just to run the football. The only reason Denver could is because of the Herculean effort of C.J. Anderson, who basically did it by himself.

The Broncos offensive line only allowed 17 sacks last season but that’s more a product of Peyton Manning. That’s about all the good you could say about that unit.

Short of Elway inking guard Shelley Smith, Denver hasn’t done anything for the offensive line at this point. Elway may sign another veteran (Chris Meyers) and draft one or two linemen, but that’s it.

That’s enough for the “experts” to lose their cool.

“I feel good about our ability to develop these young guys,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said at the annual league meetings in Arizona. “That’s our job as coaches. We have a lot of confidence these guys have done this before. I talked to (tackle) Chris Clark. I said, ‘Chris, we’re going to let last year go and we’re going to start over.’ He’s done some good things. I think it’s a fresh start for everybody. There is still free agency and there is still the draft going on. The key is going to be the young guys we have. (center Matt) Paradis, (guard Ben) Garland, we’ve got to get these guys playing at a bigger level as they move to years two and three and those type of things.”

Mention those younger players and you best hide all objects the GMs in Broncos Country can heave. Remember, the guys Kubiak mentioned aren’t sexy enough. Too much is unknown about those players and the Broncos have too much on the line for unproven players.

Well, let me throw fuel on that fire and add another one: Michael Schofield.

One of the main reasons John Fox is no longer in Denver isn’t because he couldn’t win the big game. He’s no longer the head coach of the Broncos because he and his staff are incapable of developing young talent. It’s almost as if Fox wants no part of that huge aspect of being a coach.

If anything, Broncos fans should be floored to hear Kubiak say he trusts the young guys on Denver’s roster and has the confidence in himself and his staff to make those players great. Two of those coaches are offensive line coach Clancy Barone and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison.

“The one thing we have to find out about Ben is there are some people — Clancy and Rick — (who think) there may be some center (potential) there,” Kubiak said. “We don’t know. We’re going to kind of take it a step at a time and see how much progress we can make this offseason —make sure we settle down before we go to (training) camp.

“I know Shelley has played there for me. That’s something he’s done. I would like him to calm down and just play guard — because I think he can be very competitive from a starter’s standpoint at the guard position. But how the center position pans out probably has a lot to do with that. We have multiple players (who) we think are swing players.”

The three positions Kubiak and his staff have to figure out are left guard, center and right tackle. Who those three guys are remains to be seen. What combination they go with won’t get determined until at least training camp.

The real experts have no clue. They’re patient. They want to give everyone a fair shake. They know the best way to have success is to not limit their options from the get go, then panic and move the best right guard in the NFL to tackle.

Over the course of the offseason, the Broncos may find a unit that is the best in the history of the franchise.

One thing’s for certain: It can’t get any worse than a season ago.

In the mean time, leave it for the experts who know best.

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