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Denver Broncos depth: How offensive line is shaping up

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May 6, 2015


The Broncos’ biggest need heading into the NFL Draft last weekend wasn’t addressed in the first round, but it was in the second, fourth and in the signing of four college free agents post-draft.

John Elway and Co. understand the importance of depth along the offensive line, an undoubted weak point of the team throughout the Elway – Manning Era. There have been talented players in the trenches protecting Peyton Manning, but the turnover has been tumultuous and the lack of toughness led to the unit being bullied.

Elway and his fellow executives selected tackle Ty Sambrailo from Colorado State in the second round, then took former Florida center Max Garcia in the fourth. Unfortunately, neither of them is prepared to start right away. But what they will add to the team is versatility, an important characteristic for head coach Gary Kubiak.

Sambrailo started the last 25 games of his college career at left tackle, but he also played at every position besides center in his sophomore season for the Rams when there were multiple injuries up front. Garcia played all 12 games last season at center in Florida, but he’ll also be expected to play at either guard position as well.

“In this business, you have to be versatile,” Kubiak said. “It’s up to us coaches this is what you do best. Making your way in this business, you have to be a swing tackle. Schofield kind of tried to do that last year. Now he’s battling to possibly be a starter.

“To play inside in this league, a guy like Garcia comes in, you have to be able to play a lot of spots. You suit seven guys on game, some suit six, if you don’t have players that can move around, it makes it very difficult. I think that’s very important.”

Expect offensive linemen to bounce around, especially early, as the team finds its best starting five. And if an injury occurs, more shuffling will follow. At least Denver will be prepared this year.

Here’s how the Broncos offensive line is shaping up currently:

Starter (backup)

LT: Ryan Clady (Michael Schofield)

LG: Ben Garland / Shelley Smith (Max Garcia)

C: Shelley Smith / Ben Garland (Max Garcia)

RG: Louis Vasquez (Max Garcia)

RT: Chris Clark (Ty Sambrailo)

That starting five is a great blend of an Elway drafted player (Garland), two Elway free-agent signees (Smith, Vasquez) and the final player from the Shanahan Era (Clady).

Following multiple years of tremendous turnover on the offensive line, consistency will be key this time around. If Denver can find it early, the offense will prosper.


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