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Denver Broncos position breakdown, offensive line: New line will be tested

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July 9, 2015

BSN Denver is previewing the Denver Broncos, position by position, as the four-time defending AFC West champions prepare to kick off training camp July 31 at their new and improved Dove Valley headquarters. In this segment, we look at the offensive line.

Ah, the offensive line. When two tremendous teams come together on the gridiron, the game is almost always won in the trenches. It’s why the o-line is incredibly important, and in Gary Kubiak’s run-first, zone-blocking attack, the five must play as one. The mostly young and inexperienced line will be tested early and often, which could result in a bumpy road to start the season.

The offensive line has already seen a major influx of incoming players and now it’s their time to build trust, camaraderie and chemistry.

Right guard Louis Vasquez is unquestionably the anchor of this offensive line. He’s one of the most veteran players – with seven NFL seasons under his belt – and he’s almost certainly the best blocker. Following his acquisition during free agency in 2012, Vasquez performed at an All-Pro level and the Broncos will not only need his great play but leadership on the line as well.

Let’s take a look at how the entire offensive line is shaping up heading into training camp:

LT, Ty Sambrailo

Sambrailo, the rookie out of Colorado State, has impressed anyone who’s seen him practice. He’s got a toughness about him, which benefits the unit. Of course, he’s working diligently to not only learn the Broncos playbook but also learn what it means to prepare as a professional on a daily basis. Sambrailo is a solid pass-blocker – and is tasked with protecting Peyton Manning’s blindside – but must become a better run-blocker. Zone-blocking will help him, certainly.

LG, Ben Garland

Garland, the former Air Force cadet, seemed like a feel-good, hometown story. Not so much. The second-year guard has practiced well enough to head into training camp as the starter. At 6’5” and 308 pounds, he’s just the right size to be agile and beat defenders off the snap.

C, Gino Gradkowski

Gradkowski spent his first three seasons in Baltimore with the Ravens, starting every game at center in 2013, but then earning zero starts with eight games played last year. Kubiak must’ve seen something he likes in the young center, though, since Denver brought him in and now he’s likely to be the one calling out blocking assignments at the line as well as snapping to Manning.

RG, Louis Vasquez

Vasquez is simply a pro’s pro. He does everything right, including leading by example. When the Broncos’ line was underperforming and he was asked to move out to right tackle last season, Vasquez did it without hesitation, even though it was clear he’s more well suited to play guard. When he moves back to that natural position this year, he should be able to flourish once again, as both a mauler in the run game as well as an astute pass-blocking guard.

RT, Chris Clark

Clark is a fringe starter/backup who’s floated in between for a few years. When Ryan Clady was injured in 2013 with a lis franc ailment, Clark stepped in and started at left tackle. He was infamously overrun by Seattle Seahawks defenders in Super Bowl XLVIII. Last season, he saw seven starts at right tackle, beginning the season as the starter but then being replaced mid-year. Clark gets another shot at starting at tackle; the seventh-year pro must make this opportunity count.


LT, Michael Schofield

Schofield is a second-year man who is currently in competition with Sambrailo for that starting left tackle position. It seems Sambrailo has outperformed him to date, but it will be interesting to see their battles in training camp.

G/C Shelley Smith

Smith is another Colorado State product, a sixth-year guard/center who can play anywhere inside. He’s a wonderful run-blocker and came over from the Miami Dolphins. Unfortunately, he’s nursing an injury and will likely end up as a valuable backup to start the season.

RT, Ryan Harris

Harris, in his eighth season, is actually the team’s most veteran offensive lineman. The backup tackle began his season in the Mile High City and played with the Broncos from 2007-2010. He then joined the Houston Texans and Kubiak from 2012-13 before starting 15 games for the Kansas City Chiefs last year.

Other offensive linemen currently on the roster:

-Center Max Garcia, rookie, Florida
-Center Matt Paradis, second year, Boise State
-Center Day Dillon, rookie, Mississippi State
-Tackle Connor Rains, rookie, Wyoming
-Tackle Kyle Roberts, rookie, Nevada


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