Denver Broncos: Who Will and Won't Be Blocking Up Front In 2011

Michael Keller@@MichaelK_NFLAnalyst IIIJanuary 31, 2011

Denver Broncos: Who Will and Won't Be Blocking Up Front In 2011

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The 2010 edition of the Denver Broncos offensive line was a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Well, sort of.

    What looked to be one of the strengths of the team coming into the season turned out to be more of weakness.

    Part of this was due to injuries and part of it was due to bad trades and a lot of it was due to a poor judgement call on Josh "Mastermind II" McDaniels.

    McDaniels took a line that was built around and was anchored in the zone blocking scheme. The same scheme that opened holes for the likes of Terrell Davis and held the fort for John Elway to do his magic.

    Then came the fateful signing of McDaniels as the new head coach and the decision to convert to a power blocking scheme.

    This was a bit like taking a well-running Corvette and turning it into a dump truck using the Corvette parts.

    But with head coach John Fox, OC Mike McCoy and new O-line coach Dave Magazu, we will see a much tougher and meaner line next season.

    Magazu, who came over with Fox from Carolina, will make this line one that will punch holes for the Denver RBs and knock some people on their collective butts as we get back to the basics and running the rock. 

    So let's take a look at what we might see up front going forward next year, shall we?


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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Ryan Clady was drafted with the 12th pick out of Boise State and was a great pick, all 6'6", 325 pounds of him. He was named All-Pro in his first two seasons and was a starter on the Pro Bowl AFC Team in his second season.

    He was credited with only giving up .5 sacks in his rookie year. Not a misprint, that was actually one half of a sack playing arguably the toughest position in football, especially for a rookie.

    Clady, in his third season with the Broncos, was coming off a knee injury and subsequent surgery from a pickup basketball game where where he was completing a 360 underhanded dunk against LeBron James or something.

    In any event, he came into the season still recovering, and it showed in his early games. He didn't have the explosiveness off the snap and wasn't able to stay centered on his opponents as well and was not as effective as he had been in his first two seasons. 

    He looked back on his game and almost 100 percent in the last few games and will come back as strong as ever for next season.

    A lock on the LT position and one we don't have to worry about ...... unless he gets back on a basketball court.




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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Rookie Zane Beadles made quite a 'splash' as a rookie starting LG.

    Beadles was a four-year starter for his Utah Utes and was selected with the 45th pick in the second round of the 2010 draft.

    He was one of two rookies to start for the Broncos O-line and had his ups and downs. He has the size— 6'4", 305 pounds—to play the G position and has some mobility to pull and attack the second level.

    Beadles was a good pick but didn't have to be starting so soon, as Denver (McDaniels) let unrestricted free agent Ben Hamilton go. Ham was a stalwart at LG and could have been a great tutor for Beadles and provided some stability on an unstable O-line.

    Another decision that just makes you go "WTF?"

    But having Clady only at 75 percent or so playing next to him most of last season made his first year as a starter a rough go. He had some penalties, some missed assignments and was "schooled" by his more experienced opponents in some situations.

    But that experience and with a healthy Clady next to him, I see no reason to not expect Beadles to be a much better player going into the 2011 season.

    But still being  a "Ute," he can improve with age.



STILL UP FRONT: Center J.D.Walton

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    J.D. Walton, another rookie starter, was drafted out of Baylor with the 80th pick in the third round. He is an almost clone of fellow rook Zane Beadles, in that he is almost the exact same size, 6'3", 305 pounds and was thrust into a starting role almost from the beginning.

    Unfortunately for him and the Broncos, he didn't need to be put in that situation quite so soon. Denver had a great C already in Casey Wigmann.

    But in another of the Josh-Jokes, he was released with no backup in place. And Mr. Wigmann got the last laugh, as he re-signed with the Chiefs and went to the playoffs. And continued to add to his record streak of over 10,000 consecutive snaps.

    Just thinking about how Casey could have started last year and tutored Walton in the fine points of playing C makes me sigh. And who knows how much better our anemic run game and our pass blocking would have been?

    And to add to that, Walton had more stupid penalties for holding or personal fouls than any other lineman. He cost Orton and the team third-down conversions as well as red-zone infractions that cost potential TDs.

    He better get over that behavior or he will be out the door under Fox, who has no tolerance for bonehead plays by his players.




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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Chris Kuper was the reason that RG was the only stable position on the Bronco O-line. 

    Kuper finished his fifth year after being drafted with the 161st pick in the fifth round of the 2006 draft out of the University of North Dakota.

    At 6'4", 305 pounds, he has not only the size but also the athleticism, intelligence and experience to hold down the fort as this young line develops.

    And if he wasn't here, we would have been in even worse straits, if that is possible. We may have had negative running yardage and Orton would have been in intensive care after every game.

    He has also played the LG position so has versatility and experience to help rebuild the offensive line and recapture some pride and success.




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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Ryan Harris is the other player to provide the Broncos with the answer to the trivia question: "Which NFL team has two Ryans starting at tackle?"

    Harris was drafted out of Notre Dame in the third round in the 2007 draft. He was a very good pick  with his mobility and his 6'5" and 300 pound frame.

    And after the great season he and fellow Ryan, Mr. Clady, had in 2008, it was expected that this tackle tandem would be in place for years to come.

    But this may not come to happen as Harris was also coming off an injury and didn't look like he had fully healed and also like he wasn't playing at the same level as he had in the previous two years.

    The rumors have been floating around that he will not be signed to a new contract and be let go. If that happens, we will have no depth at RT and very little in the O-line overall.

    I would like to see him come back to provide some continuity during this rebuilding program. 


    ODDS TO BE BACK: 50-60%


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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Olsen, another Notre Dame alum like Harris, was selected in the sixth round and has similar size at 6'3" and 305 pounds.

    He played in spots this season in several line positions as well as on special teams.

    He was a decent pickup, especially where he was taken and is almost assured of still being on the team next season. Depending on the draft and FA.


    ODDS TO BE BACK: 75%

OUT THE BACK DOOR: Stanely Daniels

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    Maybe the only current Bronco with two last names and most likely neither of them will be on the back of a Denver jersey next season.

    Daniels is a second-year player out for the University of Washington and has the beef—6'4". 320 pounds—to be a good offensive lineman.

    But in his early starts this past year and in brief additional appearances, he proved that size doesn't necessarily matter.

    He looked like a swinging gate in many situations, turning and waving as his man went by him and right at the hapless QB or RB who happened to be carrying the football.

    And I don't know about you, but I would rather my offensive linemen at least make a valid effort to slow down those dudes in the other jerseys.




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    Russ Hochstein was a bring-along with the departed McDaniels from New England.

    He is a 10-year veteran from the University of Nebraska and has played for Tampa Bay, New England and the Broncos. He is a big corn-fed boy at 6'4" and 310 pounds.

    He did start one game for the Broncos and played in certain stints as well as on special teams. But with his age and his affiliation with Hoody West, I don't see him with a high percentage chance to be back, unless as a kind of semi-coach, semi-player.


    ODDS TO BE BACK: 15-20%


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    Jeff Golden/Getty Images

    Byers was rookie undrafted CFA out of USC signed by the Seattle Seahawks. He then ended up on the Denver practice squad and was on the active roster for the last two games, listed as a center.

    Byers, a 6'3", 301-pound player, has some potential. He came from a pro-style system at USC under Pete Carroll, which means he knows how to run and pass block. But how that will translate to staying on this roster will be up to the new regime and the other talent on the roster come training camp.


    ODDS TO BE HERE: 10-20%

FREE AGENT OPTION: Jammal Brown, RT, Washington Redskins

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    Jammal Brown is a fifth-year player and unrestricted free agent after a one-year stint with the Redskins. Brown is a two-time All-Pro out of the University of Oklahoma and a big one at 6'6" and 313 pounds.

    Brown has a somewhat checkered injury history with knee, hip and groin injuries, but if he were to be deemed healthy, he would be my first target, assuming Harris isn't coming back.

    But I see him looking for LT money, which is big bucks!. But with the possibility of Tebow playing, it would be good to have two LTs on the field, one on each side.



2011 DRAFT OPTION: Jah Reid, T, Central Florida

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    I am looking at who might be the best option for the draft but not using any high picks due to the need to bolster the defense with the higher picks.

    So, with that being said, I think a potential target would be Jah Reid out of UCF.  He is a 6'7" 330 pound  monster run blocker who has above average athleticism for his size.

    Reed has shown quick feet and raw power to help his team in the run game, an area that will be the focus of Fox's new offense. He does a great job of sealing the edge and has good power.  Reid may have some work to do on his pass blocking, but with good feet and a great attitude, I think he can be coached.

    One issue is how his stock may have risen in the Senior Bowl and his combine workouts. He may move up the draft if he shows well.

    And I do love that name, Jah!


    ODDS TO BE A BRONCO: 15-20%

OFFENSIVE LINE: The Final Roster

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    Whether the next Bronco offensive lineman Hall-of-Famer may already be on the roster remains to be seen and may be determined how the group looks after next season is over.

    As much work as has to be done, with a few additions and a whole lot of hard work by both the players and the coaches, we can have the O-line that we had back in the days of Gary Zimmerman and Stink Schlereth. 

    At least it is fun to dream!




    Final Roster

    LT Ryan Clady          

    LG Zane Beadles

    C J.D. Walton

    RG Chris Kuper

    RT Jammal Brown



    Eric Olsen

    Jeff Byers

    Jah Reid

    PTBNL (Player to be named later)


    Back to the Zone and some smash-mouth running football!

    I can't wait!


    Just one Bronco fan(atic)'s opinion