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Column: Broncos could suffer bumpy road in 2015

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May 26, 2015

 

Life is about the journey, not the destination.

This can get lost in our everyday lives as well as in the football world, where in Broncos Country, the expectation is “Super Bowl or Bust.” John Elway charged the team with “Chasing Lombardi” in March of 2013; with Peyton Manning, Von Miller, Chris Harris and more other-worldly talents on the team, they have a strong chance of accomplishing the feat.

At the same time, everyone realizes this could be it for Manning as Denver’s Super Bowl window is closing quickly.

And while the coaching change from John Fox to Gary Kubiak and his Broncos coaching buddies was applauded by many, it will almost certainly also mean a bumpy road to the big game in Denver.

Why? Kubiak not only brought back a different attitude to the Mile High City – one which will benefit the team – but his offensive philosophies are a giant shift from the team we’ve seen the last three years with Manning under center.

Kubiak’s Broncos will run the ball much more than they have in recent years. It’s not a bad thing, necessarily; Denver die-hards recall the days of Kubiak’s offense dominating the NFL with zone-blocking and any dude with two legs running for 1,000-plus yards. But the dramatic shift from pass-first to run-first will mean major changes for the offensive line.

That offensive line is the biggest question mark, caught in a state of tumultuous turmoil.

Think back to 2012 and the last time Denver’s offensive philosophies shifted so drastically; that time from a Tim Tebow-led run-first attack to Manning’s gun-slingin’ fun. During the first five weeks, the Broncos went 2-3, losing by turning the ball over eight times in those three losses. What hurt the offense’s production? A lack of cohesiveness by the offensive line.

Manning had to verbally discipline lineman multiple times during that season, especially early, and the movement on the line cannot be ignored. At the beginning of the season, the starters were as follows: Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton, Manny Ramirez and Orlando Franklin. Look forward to Week 6 and both Walton and Ramirez were replaced by Dan Koppen and Chris Kuper.

Denver and the offense righted the ship, propelled to an 11-game winning streak with that unbelievable 24-point comeback in San Diego, but the road was bumpy to begin.

This year, just like in 2012, the offense’s identity has changed and the offensive line is in a state of flux. Gone is Orlando Franklin, the right tackle turned left guard and road-grading run-blocker. Traded away is Ramirez, who also excelled in run-blocking. Louis Vasquez playing his natural right guard position in pace of Ramirez is an upgrade while Ben Garland still has to prove himself at left guard. As does Chris Clark at right tackle, who has shown spots of brilliance mixed in with head-scratching blunders.

Will Manning have to jump on his linemen this season? It’s likely and it could mean changes in the trenches. But, even if the road starts out bumpy, expect the Broncos to adapt and survive the regular season.

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