Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Peyton Manning is the most important player on the Broncos roster. The team guaranteed him $40 million over the next two years after he passed his physical earlier this year in March. Keeping the 37-year-old upright and protected is priority number one for the Broncos.
During the preseason we saw the Broncos make multiple additions to the offensive line. Dan Koppen was re-signed as a free agent but was soon lost for the year to a knee injury. Steve Vallos, Ryan Lilja and John Moffitt were all added with varying results. Vallos and Moffitt made the final roster while Lilja ended up getting released when the Broncos announced their 53-man roster.
This preseason we saw a heated battle for the starting running back position. Ronnie Hillman enters the regular season at the top of the depth chart even though he fumbled three times in the preseason. Perhaps the team felt they couldn't yet trust rookie Montee Ball in pass protection.
During the second preseason game against the Seahawks, a missed block by Ball caused Manning to get slammed to the ground by linebacker Bobby Wagner.
After that game I asked offensive coordinator Adam Gase which was more important, pass blocking or ball security? This was his answer:
"I’d say both are equally as important. For ball security, when the ball is in your hand it can’t be on the ground. What happened the other day? I’m telling you—unacceptable. It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen anymore. We’re not going to put the ball on the ground, or else they’re not going to carry it. In pass protection, their job is to make sure 18 [QB Peyton Manning] doesn’t get touched, and that’s what they’re going to do."
With Hillman winning the starting job it seems like pass protection is of more importance than ball security.
The Broncos are a Super Bowl contender with Peyton Manning under center. They may struggle to win the division if he misses a huge chunk of time. The Broncos know their fate is in the hands of Manning and they must protect him at all costs.