Filling the Cracks: Denver Broncos Offensive Line Preview

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ENGLEWOOD, CO - JULY 29: Offensive guard Max Garcia #76, offensive guard Ronald Leary #65 and offensive tackle Jared Veldheer #66 changing drills on day 2 of Denver Broncos training camp at the UCHealth Training Center July 29, 2018 in Englewood, Colorado. (Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Poor, anemic, pathetic are all words used to describe the Denver Broncos offensive line in recent seasons. Since the departure of Orlando Franklin in 2014, the Broncos have had a revolving door of lineman: tackles specifically. Menelik Watson, Ty Sambrailo, Russell Okung are a few of the names that have attempted to fill the holes at either tackle spot, and all have failed. Sambrailo has been traded to the Falcons, Okung is now with the  Los Angeles Chargers, and Watson just completed a miserable, injury-plagued first season in Denver. General Manager John Elway is left praying 2017 first round pick, Garret Bolles becomes the franchise left tackle the Broncos desperately need.

The interior of the line has not been much better. The Max Garcia project looks like a failure, forcing Vance Joseph to consider journeyman Connor McGovern at left guard. And fans were unable to see a healthy Ron Leary. The only constant has been center Matt Paradis. He has played through injury after injury and be consistently rated as one of the top centers in the NFL.

After missing the playoffs in back to back seasons, Denver is looking at new quarterback Case Keenum to lead the team back to the postseason. However, as good as Keenum may be, without a quality front seven Denver will find themselves at home come January. So what will the offensive line look like come week one, and will it be good enough to protect Keenum?

What Do We Know?

First, let’s look at the locks for the Broncos offensive line. At left tackle, Garret Bolles will be the starter and must have a strong sophomore season for the Broncos to compete. In his rookie season, Bolles showed promise but struggled to contain pass rushers like Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa, and Justin Houston. The AFC West is full of dominant pass rushers and if Bolles remains poor the Broncos will suffer. Matt Paradis is the starting center and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. He has been the lone bright spot on the offensive line and has the center job locked up.

Next is newly acquired right tackle Jared Veldheer. Thanks to the awful play from Menelik Watson, John Elway has again been forced to find a player who can play right tackle. Veldheer should be an upgrade over Watson if he can maintain the quality of play he displayed in Arizona. Unfortunately, Ron Leary spent much of his first season in Denver injured. However, his history and performance in camp suggest he will once again be a dominant right guard. If he is able to stay healthy the former Cowboys lineman should be a leader on the offensive line.

Position Battles

That leaves the left guard spot open for grabs and two players competing for the final spot on the line, Max Garcia, Connor McGovern. Garcia has been the starting guard for the past few seasons and McGovern has played filler for whichever lineman gets injured over the course of a season. Since being drafted out of Florida, Garcia has never played to the potential many thought he had. It seems that the sole reason Garcia remained the starter last season because there was no better option. Does Vance Joseph prefer the constant underperformance of Garcia or the filler player in McGovern? His choice may determine the fate of his job as he is currently on the hot seat.

Prediction

Fans should be optimistic about the Denver Broncos offensive line in 2018. Garret Bolles has had a strong camp and Leary is showing why he was a top-three guard two seasons ago. The play of the line will likely determine the success of Broncos this upcoming season. The defense is primed to be another dominant force. Case Keenum is going to be an upgrade over the three quarterbacks under center last season. If the offensive line can stay healthy and keep Case Keenum upright there is no reason to believe the Broncos cannot return to playing postseason football.

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