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Heading into 2018, change has been a good thing for the Broncos' offensive line

Andre Simone Avatar
August 11, 2018

A new quarterback, new offensive coordinator, and two offensive line coaches; one for tackles and one for interior offensive linemen. That’s a lot of changes in one offseason for the most maligned group on the Denver Broncos the past several years.

Past struggles haven’t been lost on the men tasked with blocking for Denver’s new 36-million-dollar man, including new addition Jared Veldheer. 

“I think there’s always pressure on an offensive line and we know that we need to do our jobs for this football team to have success.”

Change can be hard to adjust to, especially for a group of five guys who have to play in unison, but so far the improvements have been encouraging, a big reason why this O-line is finally holding their own in training camp. 

“It makes you work because the D-line, we’re not getting as many clean wins off the ball as we did before,” explained defensive end, Shelby Harris. “It’s just working, and especially with how experienced our D-line is—and I feel like we have a lot of depth—so it’s good that our O-line is keeping up because it’s making us work harder and making us better at the end of the day.”

Defensive star Von Miller, who’s still wreaking havoc in camp, has also noticed a change so far, “the offensive line has gotten a whole lot better.”

Added experience and health have made a big difference throughout the start of training camp, but first and foremost, it’s been those changes that have had the greatest impact, just ask second-year left tackle, Garett Bolles.

“It works out fantastic. When guards have to do guard stuff, [interior line coach Sean Kugler] takes them off. When we have to do tackle stuff, Straus [tackle Coach Chris Strausser] takes us off. We really just get a breakdown of our position and really focus on that, instead of just doing different things all of the time. We actually get the practice that we need if we’re working against tackles or if we’re working against a nine technique. We just continue to get better like that so that when we break off we do the things that we need to do and the things we’re going to see every single day.”

The addition of Case Keenum, a veteran quarterback who was sorely missing last season in Denver, has also made a big difference for the big uglies tasked with battling it out in the trenches.

“It’s a blessing for sure,” said Bolles. “Having just one guy, knowing where he’s going to set up, knowing what he’s going to do every single day. The leadership that he brings, I keep telling you all this, but what happened last year to him was not a fluke thing. That’s who he is. He holds himself [to a high standard]. He’s a competitor, just his leadership and the demand that he holds and the position he holds himself to be is awesome. It just makes us feel grateful to block for him.”

Their real job starts now with the first preseason game quickly approaching and as the starting five of Bolles, Ronald Leary, Matt Paradis, Connor McGovern, and Veldheer have begun to gel, they’re still hard at work in building that chemistry to take them to the next level.

“I think it’s going out there and just being gritty every day—going into the film room and taking a good look at it, trying to practice as much as possible and just being on the same page,” explained the veteran starting right tackle. “I think that we’ve done a good job, especially Matt Paradis who’s awesome at communicating. He gets us on the same page and that’s huge. Then it kind of all trickles from there and it’s something that we come into work on every day. It’s big because you’ve got to know your assignment to block your assignment.”

The addition of Veldheer should make a big difference, as the right tackle spot has been a problem in the Mile High City dating back to the Super Bowl run of 2015.

In addition to the right tackle, consolidating the guard position opposite Leary is crucial, and the emergence of McGovern’s been as big as anything that’s happened so far in camp.

That hasn’t been lost on head coach Vance Joseph who’s witnessed the Missouri product’s development first hand, leading him to essentially locking up the starting spot early in camp.

“For Connor, it started last year. He got a chance to get four or five starts late in the season and he did a good job. Moving to the spring, he’s done a good job. Connor is a guy who doesn’t make mistakes. He’s a tough guy who does things right, so that’s a great trait for an offensive lineman. When you’re wrong, someone may get hurt. He’s right most of the time.”

That starting five being able to play together without any real outside competitors threatening the starting rotation has been big.

“Chemistry is the key to being a successful offensive line,” reiterated Bolles. “Us five up front working together as one unit is exactly what we need. We all need to be cohesive, we all need to communicate and we all need to talk, and having that this year has been the big jump I think I’ve seen over the last couple of months.”

After allowing 52 sacks a season ago, which was the third most in the NFL, a lot is hinging on the offensive line and that starting five to be in sync quickly.

The line playing at league average or better could mean a huge jump for the offense, while another season of poor play could lead to Denver’s attack staying stuck in the mud, which will have ripple effects for the entire team.

Early sings are encouraging, however, for all the changes to be justified, 2018 will have to be a season in which the group turns the corner or it could be trouble for everyone involved.

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