In the Trenches: Denver Broncos Offensive Line Woes

The Denver Broncos have had one of the worst offensive lines in recent memory. Despite having one of the top WR duos in the league and great depth at running back; the team has still managed to lack on offense. This upcoming new year, the front office and fans alike are hoping for a turnaround. The first problem that must be fixed is the offensive line. Yes, there are other issues such as lacking adequate quarterbacks, and the fans having a general distaste for Head Coach Vance Joseph. The age old statement is that the team starts with the offensive line. As the 2009 movie, The Blind Side put it,

“The highest paid player on an NFL team is the quarterback. And you’d be right. But what you probably don’t know is that more often than not, the second highest paid player is, thanks to Lawrence Taylor, a left tackle.” (The Blind Side, 2009.)

Looking at the current Broncos roster lets see how the current depth chart looks:

  • Center
    • Starter: Matt Paradis
    • 2nd String: Connor McGovern
  • Left Guard
    • Starter: Allen Barbre
    • 2nd String: Max Garcia
  • Right Guard
    • Starter: Ronald Leary
    • 2nd String: Billy Turner
  • Left Tackle
    • Starter: Garett Bolles
    • 2nd String: Donald Stephenson
  • Right Tackle
    • Starter: Menelik Watson
    • 2nd String: Donald Stephenson

Looking at the roster for the line, the only bright parts are Matt Paradis, Garett Bolles, and Ronald Leary. Paradis was drafted in the 6th round in 2014 from Boise State. The following year he played every single snap on offense and has become a stud. Even despite some hip trouble in recent times he would still be a lock for this team. It would be ridiculous to let him go after such a great rookie year which saw him get a ring from the 2015 Super Bowl win. I see the Broncos keeping him around and getting him a long-term deal considering he is a restricted free agent coming into the 2018 year.

Ronald Leary was a free agent acquisition from the Dallas Cowboys last season during the new league year. He was the Right Guard Denver was in need for. He was incredible and showed why he was an important component of the Cowboys offensive line. He will be the starting guard without a doubt and I think in his second season with the team he will be even better.

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When Garett Bolles was drafted last year in the first round, he was criticized by many because of his age as a rookie and lack of experience. Despite that, however, he has been great given the amount of experience he has. He suffered an injury in week two against the Cowboys, and yet was starting the next week. He has shown that he is a tough player and is willing to work hard to improve. Bolles will probably be the starting left tackle going into next season unless some extreme event were to occur. The more experience he gets, the better he will become and his ceiling is very high.

Changes For the Future:

In the last week or two, there have been reports of changes coming to the weak offensive line. The first event was that the Broncos were going to void Donald Stephenson’s contract. This was a very good idea that fans especially loved. Stephenson had a terrible first season in Denver when he came from Kansas City. Somehow he was brought back for the 2017 season. He started at Right Tackle in 2016 and was more of a second string role for left and right tackle.This last season, Stephenson ranked out as one of the worst players at his position. His time with the team has come to end and lucky for Denver; he wasn’t starting talent and they aren’t losing an integral part of the line.

Allen Barbre was brought in last season in a summer trade from the Philadelphia Eagles. He played in all 16 games but only started four games total. Despite his playability, his age (33) is a huge concern. There were reports surfacing that the Broncos would not be keeping Barbre around for this next season. The odds are that they would be looking to free up cap space while trying to find a younger body to play in the position long term. The odds of him returning are slim.

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Menelik Watson spent his first season on the Broncos in 2017 and it was an utter failure. He graded out at the bottom of his position in the NFL. He was supposed to improve the RT position and he only hampered it and made it worse. Despite reports of Watson being kept on the roster for next year, I don’t think it would be a smart move to keep one of the worst graded tackles.

Free Agency Fits

One option that the Broncos could do is to look for some veteran talent in free agency to fix up the offensive line. It worked last year on the defensive line when the team brought it Domata Peko from Cincinnati. There are a number of tackles set to hit the open market next week. A few names are Justin Pugh and Nate Solder. If they were to somehow manage to snag one or both, then that would allow the team to solidify the line and help improve the offense overall. The most likely of these options is that they land Justin Pugh on a very team friendly deal.

Draft The Missing Pieces 

In this draft, there are a few prospects that could help the offensive woes that have plagued this team for a number of years. Some of the names are Quentin Nelson, Mike McGlinchey, and Orlando Brown. Nelson is looking to be the best offensive lineman in the draft. The only problem is that he isn’t a tackle. If the Broncos would pick him in the first round, that would mean either Nelson or someone would have to move from their position to play tackle. However, Mike McGlinchey is so far looking to be the best tackle in the draft right now. It’s probably safe to say given the chance, Denver selects him.

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Given the additions via free agency and the draft, let’s take a look at the theoretical updated depth chart

Updated Depth Chart:

  • Center
    • Starter: Matt Paradis
    • 2nd String: Conner McGovern
  • Left Guard
    • Starter: Max Garcia
    • 2nd String: Billy Turner
  • Right Guard
    • Starter: Ronald Leary
    • 2nd String: Billy Turner
  • Left Tackle
    • Starter: Garett Bolles
    • 2nd String: Mike McGlinchey
  • Right Tackle
    • Starter: Justin Pugh
    • 2nd String: Mike McGlinchey

Analysis

Looks like between last year and this year, there will be some tweaks and changes to the Broncos line. There are some bright solid spots ( Bolles, Paradis, and Leary); yet there are some glaring problems and holes that need to be filled. Between free agency and the draft, this offensive line could go from the laughing stock of the entire NFL to a hardened well-oiled machine. Given GM John Elway’s past and knowledge of the league and talent, he will try and do his best to help his former team.

Until next time, keep calm and Bronco on!

Nick Bowen

Nick Bowen

Lead Denver Broncos writer ProFootballTalkLine.com at SportsTalkLine
My passion is the NFL. Particularly the Denver Broncos. I was born into a Broncos family and have followed them since I was 3 years old when I met John Elway. I have made football and the Broncos a large part of my life. I love everything about the game.
Nick Bowen
Nick Bowen

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