Offensive Line may Ground Orton's Career Year
The Denver Broncos have had a rough year on the offensive line. Their deficiencies have been evident in their lack of a running game. This uneven approach has made Kyle Orton go to the air more often. Defenses have also been able to penetrate and sack Orton an average of 3.5 times per game. This is the third highest in the NFL.
Will this early season issue plague the Broncos' season?
The O-Line is Full of Newcomers and Nagging Injuries.
LT - Ryan Clady - Reconstruction Knee Surgery on April 28, 2009 (Out All Training Camp and Preseason)
LG - Stanley Daniels - Undrafted College Free Agent - Four Games NFL Experience
C - J.D. Walton - Rookie Drafted 80th in 2010 - Four Games NFL Experience
RG - Chris Kuper - High Ankle Sprain in Preseason - Missed Week Two with Knee Injury
RT - Ryan Harris - Big Toe Surgery Last Season and Ankle Sprain (Missed Three Regular Season Games)
The Broncos O-Line has faced some serious adversity this season in terms of newcomers and injuries. They have had to grow up very quickly and it has shown. If they don't find some chemistry and get healthy it won't only be the running game will suffers.
Moreno and His Backfield Mates have had a Tough Times Gaining Yards
The explosive Knowshon Moreno has spent half of this season nursing injuries. In the games he did play in, the Broncos had at least the semblance of a running game. He accumulated 111 yards on 39 carries with a TD in each game against the Jaguars and Seahawks.
Only Correll Buckhalter and newly acquired Laurence Maroney have handled the ball from Orton. Neither have done particularly much with it. They have a combined rushing total of 78 yards and one TD.
The Broncos have often become a one-dimensional team without a rushing attack. These problems have led to inefficiency in the red zone and defenses line up to protect against the pass every down. The running game has averaged a league worst 2.2 yards/game.
Kyle Orton was Sacked in His First Snap Against the Ravens Last Year
Without a running game, Kyle Orton has had to carry the Denver Broncos on his back. In that role, he has led the league with 1419 yards (67.4% completion rate) and six TDs. However, another stat that the offensive line may not be fond of is the 11 times he has been sacked. Six of those sacks came last week against a vicious, dirty, and as Orton indicated "cheap" Tennessee Titan defense. This upcoming week, the Broncos face a defense known for their toughness, the Baltimore Ravens.
This season, two of the other three quarterbacks with 11 or more sacks are out this week. Most notably, is Jay Cutler who has been sacked 17 times thus far this season, who was knocked out with a concussion. The other injured quarterback with 11 or more sacks is Michael Vick, who suffered a rib injury trying to score in the first quarter against the Washington Redskins. Kyle Orton and the Denver Broncos may end up grounded if the offensive line doesn't step up.
The Broncos face Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5
In Week 5, the Denver Broncos face the Baltimore Ravens. The Broncos were thrashed last year by the Ravens. The game woke them up to the reality of many deficiencies they had on both sides of the ball. Josh McDaniels has indicated that last year the Broncos were unprepared for the Ravens and have vowed to put together a better showing this time around.
This season the game against the Ravens is again pivotal. If the Broncos can overcome the Ravens powerful defense it will give them a significant boost of confidence. The offensive line must keep Orton upright and the running backs must find some running room to keep Baltimore honest.
After four games, the Ravens rank 1st in pass defense allowing only 119 yards/game and 21st in rush defense allowing 116.8 yards/game.
Orton needs protection or the Broncos season will be done.
The bottom line: the Broncos' offensive line needs to step up, overcome adversity, band together and do better.
They need to be able to open up holes for the running backs and protect their quarterback. If Orton was knocked out this week or next against very strong defenses, the season would be over. In order to prevent this, the line needs to improve and do it this week! If not, it will only be a matter of time before the Orton show is grounded and the offense will really be in a world of hurt if that happens.