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Denver Broncos Week in Review: D.T. out, Peyton in as offensive line takes shape

Ken Pomponio Avatar
June 14, 2015

 

Another offseason week behind us and another week closer to training camp and the start of another NFL season.

Here’s a quick review of the news – with some accompanying views – from the week that was in Broncos Country:

Headline: Unhappy Demaryius Thomas skips Broncos’ mandatory minicamp

Bottom line: Since D.T. hasn’t signed his franchise tender, he’s not subject to fines as he seeks a long-term deal, but his absence is growing more damaging as the offseason progresses. His quarterback would like to have his top target – fresh off one of the elite three-year receiving runs in NFL history – in the huddle and on the field, and new head coach Gary Kubiak says he’s “confident” a new deal will get done. Meanwhile, the July 15 deadline to reach a long-term agreement is only a month away. John Elway has talked for a year or two now about “paying the Thomases.” Obviously, that didn’t happen – and arguably rightfully so – with new Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Julius, but it’s now time for the Broncos’ GM to put his money where his mouth is and pay an elite wide receiver who’s earned an elite contract.

Headline: Peyton Manning says he’s stimulated by team’s offensive changes

Bottom line: At age 39, Manning is working with his third offensive coordinator in four seasons in the Mile High City, but this change – to more of a run-heavy approach – looks to be nothing short of a late-career godsend for the aging future Hall of Famer, who’s averaged a whopping 631.7 drop-backs (passing attempts plus sacks) over the last three seasons. And with the questions surrounding the offensive line (see below) this definitely is one change for the better.

Headline: Broncos come in fifth in the NFL roster rankings according to ESPN and Pro Football Focus

Bottom line: The Orange and Blue has slipped two spots after coming in third in last season’s initial rankings, which tabulates the number of “elite or high-quality players each team can count among its starters.” The two-time defending NFC-champion Seahawks remain on top, while the Packers have climbed six rungs to No. 2, the Ravens have jumped a whopping 13 spots to No. 3 and the Patriots have climbed two places to No. 4. You can quibble over a place of a team or two, but all in all, the Broncos’ ranking sounds just about right considering the talent they’ve lost (including the injured Ryan Clady). The good news, though? The Broncos’ most direct competition for a playoff spot — their three AFC West rivals — are ranked in the league’s bottom half with the Chargers 18th, the Chiefs 19th and the Raiders 28th.

Headline: Several “surprises” are running with the Broncos’ first-team offensive line

Bottom line: The mild shockers are converted defensive lineman Ben Garland holding down the starting left-guard gig ahead of free-agent Shelley Smith and journeyman Chris Clark running No. 1 at right tackle. With second-round pick Ty Sambrailo at left tackle and free-agent Gino Gradkowski holding off Matt Paradis and rookie Max Garcia at center, the lone holdover – and known quantity – is right guard Louis Vasquez. Throw in the new offensive system, and that’s an awful lot of question marks and change for one unit over one offseason. But, barring any more injuries, at least the contingent has three months to grow and gel. They’re going to need it.

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